Inter Press ServiceEconomy & Trade – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 21 May 2018 13:29:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 10:17:58 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155846 Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’ For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate […]

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Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Security - Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR AND SYDNEY, May 21 2018 (IPS)

Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’

For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate economic growth, presuming that a rising tide will lift all boats, no matter how fragile or leaky. Most believe that market liberalization, property rights, and perhaps some minimal government infrastructure provision is all that is needed.

Tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food. As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security

The government’s role should be restricted to strengthening the rule of law and ensuring open trade and investment policies. In such a business-friendly environment, the private sector will thrive. Accordingly, pro-active government interventions or agricultural development policy would be a mistake, preventing markets from functioning properly, it is claimed.

The possibility of market failure is denied by this view. Social disruption, due to the dispossession of smallholders, or livelihoods being undermined in other ways, simply cannot happen.

 

Flawed recipes

This approach was imposed on Africa and Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s through structural adjustment programmes of the Bretton Woods institutions (BWIs), contributing to their ‘lost decades’. In Africa, the World Bank’s influential Berg Report claimed that Africa’s supposed comparative advantage lay in agriculture, and its potential would be best realized by leaving things to the market.

If only the state would stop ‘squeezing’ agriculture through marketing boards and other price distortions, agricultural producers would achieve export-led growth spontaneously. Almost four decades later, Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential.

Examining the causes of this dismal outcome, a FAO report concluded that “arguments in support of further liberalization have tended to be based on analytical studies which either fail to recognize, or are unable to incorporate insights from the agricultural development literature”.

In fact, agricultural producers in many developing countries face widespread market failures, reducing their surpluses needed to invest in higher value activities. The FAO report also noted that “diversification into higher value added activities in cases of successful agriculture-led growth…require significant government intervention at early stages of development to alleviate the pervasive nature of market failures”.

 

Avoidable Haitian tragedy

In the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, former US President Bill Clinton apologized for destroying its rice production by forcing the island republic to import subsidized American rice, exacerbating greater poverty and food insecurity in Haiti.

For nearly two centuries after independence in 1804, Haiti was self-sufficient in rice until the early 1980s. When President Jean-Claude Duvalier turned to the BWIs in the 1970s, US companies quickly pushed for agricultural trade liberalization, upending earlier food security concerns.

US companies’ influence increased after the 1986 coup d’état brought General Henri Namphy to power. When the elected ‘populist’ Aristide Government met with farmers’ associations and unions to find ways to save Haitian rice production, the International Monetary Fund opposed such policy interventions.

Thus, by the 1990s, the tariff on imported rice was cut by half. Food aid from the late 1980s to the early 1990s further drove food prices down, wreaking havoc on Haitian rice production, as more costly, unsubsidized domestic rice could not compete against cheaper US rice imports.

From being self-sufficient in rice, sugar, poultry and pork, impoverished Haiti became the world’s fourth-largest importer of US rice and the largest Caribbean importer of US produced food. Thus, by 2010, it was importing 80% of rice consumed in Haiti, and 51% of its total food needs, compared to 19% in the 1970s.

 

Agricultural subsidies

While developing countries have been urged to dismantle food security and agricultural support policies, the developed world increased subsidies for its own agriculture, including food production. For example, the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) supported its own farmers and food production for over half a century.

This has been crucial for ensuring food security and safety in Europe after the Second World War. For Phil Hogan, the EU’s Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner, “The CAP is at the root of a vibrant agri-food sector, which provides for 44 million jobs in the EU. We should use this potential more”.

Despite less support in some OECD countries, farmers still receive prices about 10% above international market levels on average. An OECD policy brief observed, “the benefits from agriculture for developing countries could be increased substantially if many OECD member countries reformed their agricultural policies. Currently, agriculture is the area on which OECD countries are creating most trade distortions, by subsidising production and exports and by imposing tariffs and nontariff barriers on trade”.

 

Double standards

If rich countries can have agricultural policies, developing countries should also be allowed to adopt appropriate policies to support agriculture, to address not only hunger and malnutrition, but also other challenges including poverty, water and energy use, climate change, as well as unsustainable production and consumption.

After all, tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food.

As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security.

Hence, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to agricultural development, requiring the same rules to apply to all, with no regard for different circumstances, would be grossly unfair. Worse, it would also worsen the food insecurity, poverty and underdevelopment experienced by most African and other developing countries.


Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.
Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.

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Shipping and Industry Threaten Famed Home of the Bengal Tigerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 11:23:43 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155835 Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site. Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, […]

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A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 19 2018 (IPS)

Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site.

Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium, radium and many more into the waters. They’re killing plankton – a microscopic organism critical for the survival of marine life inside the wild forest."Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem." --Sharif Jamil

Scientific studies warn the sudden drastic fall in the plankton population may affect the entire food chain in the Sundarbans in the near future, starving the life in the rivers and in the forest.

The latest incident involved the sinking of a coal-loaded cargo ship on April 14 deep inside the forest, popularly known as the home of the endangered Royal Bengal Tigers, once again outraging environmentalists.

Despite strong opposition by leading environmental organizations vowing to protect the biodiversity in the Sundarbans, which measure about 10,000 square kilometers of forest facing the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh in South Asia, policy makers have largely ignored conservation laws that prioritise protecting the wildlife in the forest.

Critics say influential businessmen backed by politicians are more interested in building industries on cheap land around the forest that lie close to the sea for effortless import of the substances causing the environmental damage.

Divers from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) have traced the latest sunken vessel lying some 30 feet deep underwater, but they have not been able to salvage the ship.

It is the third to have capsized in less than two years in the ecologically sensitive region, some of which remains untouched by human habitation.

The deadliest accident occurred on Dec. 9, 2014. Amid low visibility, an oil tanker collided with a cargo vessel, spilling over 350,000 liters of crude oil into the Shela River, one of the many tributaries that crisscross the forest – home to rare wildlife species like the Bengal Tiger and Irrawaddy dolphin.

Then, in May 2017, a cargo ship carrying about 500 metric tons of fertilizer sank in the Bhola River in the Sundarbans. In October the same year, a coal-laden vessel carrying an almost equal weight of coal sunk into the meandering shallow Pashur River.

Each time toxic materials pollute the rivers, the government comes up with a consoling statement claiming that the coal has ‘safe’ levels of sulfur and mercury which are the main concern of the environmentalists.

Outraged by official inaction, many leading conservationists expressed their grievances at this “green-washing.”

Sharif Jamil, Joint Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon or BAPA, told IPS, “I feel ashamed to know that such a scientifically untrue and dishonest statement of one cargo owner (safe level of sulfur and mercury) was endorsed by our government in their reports and acts which significantly damages the credibility of the government and questions the competency of the concerned authorities.”

“Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem,” he said.

Jamil criticized the state agency responsible for protecting the environment, saying, “The department of environment or DoE has responsibility to monitor and control the pollution by ensuring punishment to the polluters. We have not witnessed any action from DoE so far, in this case particularly.”

While coal may not be as environmentally destructive as crude oil spill, the commercial shipping path across the Sundarbans has a long track record of disasters.

Professor Abdullah Harun, who teaches environmental science at the University of Khulna, told IPS, “The cargo ship disasters are proving to be catastrophic and destructive for the wildlife in the Sundarbans. We have already performed a series of studies titled ‘Impact of Oil Spillage on the Environment of Sundarbans’.

“Laboratory tests showed startling results as the toxic levels in many dead species and water samples were found way beyond our imagination. The most alarming is the loss of phytoplankton and zooplankton diversity and populations. Both these are known to play vital role in the food chain of the aquatic environment.”

Professor Harun fears that the embryos of oil-coated Sundari seeds, decomposed as a result of the spillage across 350 square km of land, will not be germinating. Sundari trees make up the mangrove forest and it has specialised roots which emerge above ground and help in gaseous exchange.

He said, “A primary producer of the aquatic ecosystems, source of food and nutrient of the many aquatic animals, has been affected by the oil spill in 2014. The aquatic population will be decreased and long-term impacts on aquatic lives like loss of breeding capacity, habitat loss, injury of respiratory organs, hearts and skins will occur.”

He said, “Our team of scientists tested for the fish larvae population. Before the 2014 disaster we found about 6,000 larvae in a litre of water collected from rivers in the Sundarbans. After the disaster we carried out the same test but found less than half (2,500 fish larvae) in the same amount of water. This is just one species I am talking about. Isn’t it alarming enough?”

Following the latest incident, the government imposed a ban on cargo ships using the narrow channels of the Pashur River where most of the vessels sail. But there are fears that the ban will only be a temporary measure as seen in the past. After the December 2014 oil spill, a similar ban on commercial cargo was lifted soon after.

These ‘ban games’ on cargo vessels will not solve the underlying problems in the Sundarbans. Several hundred activists recently marched towards the mangrove forest in Bagerhat to protest plans to build a coal-based power plant near the Sundarbans near Rampal. The activists called on the government to stop construction of the proposed 1.3-gigawatt Rampal Power Plant, which is located about 14-km upstream of the forest.

Environmentalists are also worried about rapid industrialization near the Sundarbans. The Department of Environment (DoE) has identified 190 commercial and industrial plants operating within 10 kilometres of the forest.

It has labeled ‘red’ 24 of these establishments as they are dangerously close to the world heritage site and polluting the soil, water and air of the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Eminent environmentalist Professor Ainun Nishat, told IPS, “My main worries are whether the main concerns for safety of the wildlife in the forest is being overlooked.”

Professor Nishat said, “If we allow movement of vessels to carry shipments through the forest then I like to question a few things like, where does the coal come from? What do we do with the fly ash from cement and other materials? How and where do we dispose of the waste and do we have the cooling waters for safety?”

“What we need is a strategic impact assessment before any such industrial plant is established so that we can be safe before we repeat such mishaps,” said Nishat.

Statistics from the Mongla (sea) Port Authority show that navigation in the Sundarbans waterways has increased 236 percent in the last seven years. This means vessel-based regular pollution may continue to impact the world’s largest mangrove habitat’s health even if disasters like the Sundarbans oil spill can be prevented.

Increasing volume of shipping and navigation indicates growing industrialisation in the Sundarbans Impact Zone and the Sundarbans Ecologically Critical Area, which in turn will increase the land-based source of pollution if not managed.

The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which hosts range of animals and fish like fishing cats, leopard cats, macaques, wild boar, fox, jungle cat, flying fox, pangolin, chital, sawfish, butter fish, electric rays, silver carp, starfish, common carp, horseshoe crabs, prawn, shrimps, Gangetic dolphins, skipping frogs, common toads and tree frogs.

There are over 260 species of birds, including openbill storks, black-capped kingfishers, black-headed ibis, water hens, coots, pheasant-tailed jacanas, pariah kites, brahminy kite, marsh harriers, swamp partridges and red junglefowl.

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Africa Gains Momentum in Green Climate Solutionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 13:07:54 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155804 Promoting the widespread use of innovative technologies will be critical to combat the hostile effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many African countries are already leading the way with science-based solutions. The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) provide support for countries in making sound policy, […]

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Kenyan farmer Veronicah Ngau shows off her young six-week old maize crops inside (left) and outside (right) of planting basins, an adaptation technique that conserves water. Credit: Ake Mamo/IPS

Kenyan farmer Veronicah Ngau shows off her young six-week old maize crops inside (left) and outside (right) of planting basins, an adaptation technique that conserves water. Credit: Ake Mamo/IPS

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 17 2018 (IPS)

Promoting the widespread use of innovative technologies will be critical to combat the hostile effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many African countries are already leading the way with science-based solutions.

The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) provide support for countries in making sound policy, technology, and investment choices that lead to better approaches for mitigation, adaptation and resilience.A satellite program in Kenya measures the progressive impact of drought on loss of forage, triggering timely insurance payouts to help vulnerable pastoralists.

From biogas to solar installations and improved water conservation, success stories abound on the continent. The challenge now, experts say, is to scale them up. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Africa’s renewable power installed capacity could increase by 290 percent between 2015 and 2030 — compared to 161 percent for Asia and 43 percent for Latin America.

The global Paris Accord is underpinned by its commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, securing funding for alternative sources of energy and adaptation of technology in everyday activities that are geared towards shrinking humanity’s carbon footprint on the planet.

African countries have internalised and made considerable efforts towards these goals despite budgetary constraints, with the United Nations lauding the continent for embracing technology and innovation in its journey to fight climate change.

Jukka Uosukainen, CTCN’s director, spoke with IPS during the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) Africa Regional Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya April 9–10, stressing that technology is already changing the fortunes of people in the continent.

For instance, Mali has successfully applied field contouring technology in rural areas such as Koutiala, reducing the volume of water runoff from 20 percent to 50 percent depending on the soil type.

“This has improved the yield of crops in an area that experienced severe drought and bettered the quality of livelihoods owing to a rise in income,” he noted.

Uosukainen said that Senegal has launched massive biogas digester projects through the National Biogas Program by implementing biomethanisation technologies that facilitate faster access to cleaner energy within the republic. The country also utilises tri-generation and co-generation technologies that use waste as raw materials for energy production.

Furthermore, Mauritius has aptly integrated the use of boiler economizers, which capture the waste heat from boiler stack gases (called flue gas) and transfer it to the boiler feedwater.

This has reduced the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, cutting energy costs and boosting socioeconomic growth amongst its citizens.

Morocco has adopted photovoltaic technology that harnesses solar power for greater energy production. The Noor Ouarzazate IV power station spans 137 square kilometres and generates 582 megawatts of renewable energy for over 1 million people. This has helped increase the nation’s uptake of renewable energy sources to an impressive 42 percent, lessening the rate of air pollution and enhancing quality of life.

In Kenya, a 630 MW geothermal plant has come on line, providing electricity for 500,000 households and 300,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. Kenya alone has the potential to generate 10,000 megawatts from its geothermal resources, says an analysis by Bridges Africa.

Tony Simons, director general of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), said that most African countries have chosen clean energy technologies as a part of their environmental solutions and ICRAF supports these efforts through its work in developing cleaner options for woody biomass-based energy, a key technology used across the continent.

According to ICRAF, Kenya is using water conservation technologies like sunken-bed kitchen gardens and terracing to successfully increase yield production and improve food security.

ICRAF has partnered with several eastern Africa countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi in a project dubbed Trees for Food Security Project which conducts extensive research and development into special tree species for each nation.

This involves detecting the seedlings suitable for specific areas and ensuring modern agricultural techniques are employed during planting. The forest cover helps prevent desertification, reduces carbon dioxide emissions through photosynthesis and enhances of the aesthetic beauty of the lands.

And the Green Cooling Africa Initiative implemented in Ghana and Namibia encompasses modern air conditioning and refrigeration appliances that use minimal electricity and generate lower volumes of toxins into the atmosphere.

Simons called for gender equality in any strategies to address climate change because in all communities, knowledge of agricultural and natural resource management differs by gender, making it is essential to include women’s perspectives in addressing climate change at the farm and local level.

Rehabilitation of water projects is another field that’s getting attention, as African countries seek to reduce the overexploitation of such resources for the benefit of all stakeholders.

For instance, in Kenya, a policy of “green water” technology has been operationalized with the support of various local and international partners with the aim of curbing water shortages and channeling it to better uses.

This technology has enabled arid and semi-arid areas to have regular instances of water supply which is used for irrigation, animal husbandry and subsistence in homesteads. Therefore, it has limited the struggles that rural people undergo in search of water and pasture.

Also the government of Kenya, in partnership with the World Bank Group, the International Livestock Research Institute, and Financial Sector Deepening Kenya, implemented the Kenya Livestock Insurance program (KLIP) in the northern part of the county. KLIP, which is Africa’s large scale public-private partnership livestock insurance program, uses satellite imagery technology to provide early warning of drought.

The satellite measures the progressive impact of drought on loss of forage in the vulnerable pastoral regions of Kenya. It then triggers timely insurance payouts to help vulnerable pastoralists to purchase fodder and animal feed supplements to keep their core breeding alive until the drought has passed.

Acceptance of climate change technologies and innovations has resulted in better farming methods, higher crop yields, lower energy consumption and a reduction in carbon emissions throughout Africa.

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Climate Finance: The Paris Agreement’s “Lifeblood”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/climate-finance-paris-agreements-lifeblood/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-finance-paris-agreements-lifeblood http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/climate-finance-paris-agreements-lifeblood/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 18:22:15 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155775 As negotiators concluded ten days of climate talks in Bonn last week, climate finance was underlined as a key element without which the Paris Agreement’s operational guidelines would be meaningless. The talks, held from April 30 to May 10, were aimed at finalising the PA’s implementation guidelines to be adopted at the annual climate conference […]

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UN Climate chief Patricia Espinosa making a point during a media roundtable. Credit: Friday Phiri

By Friday Phiri
BONN, May 15 2018 (IPS)

As negotiators concluded ten days of climate talks in Bonn last week, climate finance was underlined as a key element without which the Paris Agreement’s operational guidelines would be meaningless.

The talks, held from April 30 to May 10, were aimed at finalising the PA’s implementation guidelines to be adopted at the annual climate conference to be held in Katowice, Poland in December.

The guidelines are essential for determining whether total world emissions are declining fast enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, which include boosting adaptation and limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

Climate finance dialoge

However, the catch is that all this requires financing to achieve. For instance, the conditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) from developing countries in implementing the Paris Agreement are pegged at the cost of 4.3 trillion dollars to be achieved.

“Finance is a very critical component for us,” said Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, Zambian Delegation leader and UNFCCC focal point person. “Agriculture, general adaptation and the APA agenda for implementation modalities form the core issues we are following keenly but we believe all these are meaningless without finance.”

It has always been the cry of developing countries to receive support through predictable and sustainable finance for it is the lifeblood of implementation of mitigation and/or adaptation activities. And Least Developed Countries (LDC) Chair Gebru Jember Endalew agrees with Zambia’s Shitima on the importance of finance.

“Finance is key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the face of climate change, poor and vulnerable countries are forced to address loss and damage and adapt to a changing climate, all while striving to lift their people out of poverty without repeating the mistakes of an economy built on fossil fuels. This is not possible without predictable and sustainable support,” he said.

The civil society movement was particularly unhappy with the lukewarm finance dialogue outcome. “The radio silence on money has sown fears among poor countries that their wealthier counterparts are not serious about honouring their promises,” said Mohamed Adow, International Climate Lead, Christian Aid.

He said funding is not just a bargaining chip, but an essential tool for delivering the national plans that make up the Paris Agreement. And adding his voice to the debate, Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Justice Allaince (PACJA) expressed dismay at the lack of concrete commitments from developed country parties.

“We are dismayed with the shifting of goal posts by our partners who intend to delay the realization of actual financing of full costs of adaptation in Africa,” said Mwenda.

Civil society campaigners protest big polluters at the negotiating table in Bonn. Credit: Friday Phiri

Civil society campaigners protest big polluters at the negotiating table in Bonn. Credit: Friday Phiri

But for Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the final analysis of the talks revealed a more hopeful outlook.

“I am satisfied that some progress was made here in Bonn,” said Espinosa at the close of the ten-day talks. “But many voices are underlining the urgency of advancing more rapidly on finalizing the operational guidelines. The package being negotiated is highly technical and complex. We need to put it in place so that the world can monitor progress on climate action.”

According to Espinosa, the presiding officers of the three working bodies coordinated discussions on a wide range of items under the Paris Agreement Work Programme, and delegations tasked them to publish a “reflection note” to help governments prepare for the next round of talks.

She said the preparatory talks would continue at a supplementary meeting in Bangkok from September 3-8, at which the reflection note and the views and inputs by governments captured in various texts in Bonn would be considered.

The Bangkok meeting would then forward texts and draft decisions for adoption to the annual session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Poland.

“We have made progress here in Bonn, but we need now to accelerate the negotiations. Continuing intersessional streamlining of the text-based output from Bonn will greatly assist all governments, who will meet in Bangkok to work towards clear options for the final set of implementation guidelines,” she explained.

The Talanoa Dialogue

In parallel to the formal negotiations, the Bonn meeting hosted the long-awaited Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue.

Following the tradition in the Pacific region, the goal of a ‘talanoa’ is to share stories to find solutions for the common good. In this spirit, the dialogue witnessed some 250 participants share their stories, providing fresh ideas and renewed determination to raise ambition.

“Now is the time for action,” said Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and President of COP23. “Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make. We must complete the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement on time. And we must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our climate action plans.”

The dialogue wrote history when countries and non-Party stakeholders including cities, businesses, investors and regions engaged in interactive story-telling for the first time.

“The Talanoa Dialogue has provided a broad and real picture of where we are and has set a new standard of conversation,” said the President-designate of COP24, Michał Kurtyka of Poland. “Now it is time to move from this preparatory phase of the dialogue to prepare for its political phase, which will take place at COP24,” he added.

All input received to date and up to October 29, 2018 will feed into the Talanoa Dialogue’s second, more political phase at COP24.

The Koronovia work Programme on Agriculture  

Farmers are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as prolonged droughts and shifting rainfall patterns, and agriculture is an important source of emissions.

Despite this importance however, agriculture had been missing and was only discussed as an appendage at the UN climate negotiating table, until November 2017 when it was included as a work programme.

Recognising the urgency of addressing this sector, the Bonn conference made a significant advance on the “Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture” by adopting a roadmap for the next two-and-a-half years.

“From our perspective as Zambia, our interest is in line with the expectations of the African group which is seeking to protect our smallholders who are the majority producers from the negative impacts of climate change,” said Morton Mwanza, Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture focal point person on Climate Smart Agriculture.

And according to the outcome at the Bonn talks, the roadmap responds to the world’s farming community of more than 1 billion people and to the 800 million people who live in food-insecure circumstances, mainly in developing countries. It addresses a range of issues including the socio-economic and food-security dimensions of climate change, assessments of adaptation in agriculture, co-benefits and resilience, and livestock management.

Nevertheless, key to this roadmap is undoubtedly means of implementation—finance and technology. Developed countries pledged, since 2009, to deliver to developing countries 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 for climate action.

However, the withdrawal of 2 billion dollars’ worth of support by the Trump administration because of its decision to leave the Paris Agreement, leaves the climate finance debate unsettled, and a major sticking point in the talks.

Big polluters influence

And some campaigners now accuse some fossil fuel lobbyists allegedly sitting on the negotiating table to be behind delayed climate action.

According to a study, titled “Revolving doors and the fossil fuel industry,” carried out in 13 European countries, failure to deal with conflict of interest by the EU is due to cosy relationships built up with the fossil fuel sector over the years. It calls for the adoption of a strong conflict of interest policy that would avoid the disproportionate influence of the fossil fuel industry on the international climate change negotiations.

“There is a revolving door between politics and the fossil fuel lobby all across Europe,” said Max Andersson, Member of the European Parliament, at the Bonn Climate Talks. “It’s not just a handful of cases—it is systematic. The fossil fuel industry has an enormous economic interest in delaying climate action and the revolving door between politics and the fossil fuel lobby is a serious cause for alarm.”

According to Andersson, to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and keep global warming to as close as 1.5 degrees as possible, there is need to clamp down on conflicts of interest to stop coal, gas and oil from leaving “their dirty fingerprints over our climate policy.”

Interestingly, there was good news for the ‘big polluters out’ campaigners at the close of the talks. “No amount of obstruction from the US and its big polluter allies will ultimately prevent this movement from advancing,” Jesse Bragg of Corporate Accountability told IPS. “Global South leaders prevailed in securing a clear path forward for the conflict of interest movement, ensuring the issue will be front and center next year.”

And so, it seems, climate finance holds all the cards. Until it is sorted, the implementation of the Paris Agreement in two years’ time hangs in the balance.

 

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Fighting Inequality in Asia and the Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fighting-inequality-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fighting-inequality-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fighting-inequality-asia-pacific/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 13:46:12 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155771 Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand, May 15 2018 (IPS)

Inequality is increasing in Asia and the Pacific. Our region’s remarkable economic success story belies a widening gap between rich and poor. A gap that’s trapping people in poverty and, if not tackled urgently, could thwart our ambition to achieve sustainable development. This is the central challenge heads of state and government will be considering this week at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). A strengthened regional approach to more sustainable, inclusive growth must be this Commission’s outcome.

Shamshad Akhtar

It’s imperative, because ESCAP’s Sustainable Development Goal Progress Report shows that at the current rate of progress, Asia and the Pacific will fall short of achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda. There has been some welcome progress, including in some of the least developed countries of our region. Healthier lives are being led and wellbeing has increased. Poverty levels are declining, albeit too slowly. But only one SDG, focused on achieving quality education and lifelong learning, is on track to be met.

In several critical areas, the region’s heading in the wrong direction. Environmental stewardship has fallen seriously short. The health of our oceans has deteriorated since 2015. On land, our ecosystems’ biodiversity is threatened. Forest conservation and the protection of natural habitats has weakened. Greenhouse gas emissions are still too high. But it’s the widening inequalities during a period of robust growth that are particularly striking.

Wealth has become increasingly concentrated. Inequalities have increased both within and between countries. Over thirty years, the Gini coefficient increased in four of our most populous countries, home to over 70 per cent of the region’s population. Human, societal and economic costs are real. Had income inequality not increased over the past decade, close to 140 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty. More women would have had the opportunity to attend school and complete their secondary education. Access to healthcare, to basic sanitation or even bank accounts would have been denied to fewer citizens. Fewer people would have died from diseases caused by the fuels they cook with. Natural disasters would have wrought less havoc on the most vulnerable.

The uncomfortable truth is that inequality runs deep in many parts of Asia and the Pacific. There’s no silver bullet, no handy lever we can reach for to reduce it overnight. But an integrated, coordinated approach can over time return our economies and our societies to a sustainable footing. Recent ESCAP analysis provides recommendations on how to do just that.

At their heart is a call to in invest in our people: to improve access to healthcare and education.

Only a healthy population can study, work and become more prosperous. The universal basic healthcare schemes established by Bhutan and Thailand are success stories to build on. Expanding social protection to low income families through cash transfers can also help underpin a healthy society.

Increasing investment in education is fundamental to both development and equality. Here the key to success is making secondary education genuinely accessible and affordable, including for those living in rural areas. Where universal access has been achieved, the focus must be on improving quality. This means upskilling teachers and improving curricula, and tailoring education to future labour markets and new technologies.

Equipping people to exploit frontier technologies is becoming more important by the minute. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a rapidly expanding sector. It can quicken the pace of development. But it is also creating a digital divide which must be bridged. So investment in ICT infrastructure is key, to support innovative technologies and ensure no one is left behind. Put simply, we need better broadband access across our region. Geography can’t determine opportunity.

This is also true when it comes to tackling climate change, disasters and environmental degradation. We know these hazards are pushing people back into poverty and can entrench inequality. In response, we need investment to help people to adapt in the region’s disaster hotspots: targeted policies to mitigate the impacts of environmental degradation on those most vulnerable, particularly air pollution. Better urban planning, regular school health check-ups in poorer neighborhoods, and legislation guaranteeing the right to a clean, safe and healthy environment into constitutions should be part of our response.

The robust growth Asia and the Pacific continues to enjoy, gives us an opportunity to take decisive action across all these areas. But for this to happen, fiscal policy needs to be adjusted. More effective taxations systems would increase the tax take, and better governance would increase people’s willingness to contribute. Public expenditure could then be made more efficient and progressive, the proceeds of growth shared more widely, and inequalities reduced.

My hope is that leaders will seize the moment, strengthen our commitment to fighting inequality on all fronts and put us back on track to sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

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Excerpt:

Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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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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United Arab Emirates: Entering into a Sustainable Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/united-arab-emirates-entering-sustainable-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-arab-emirates-entering-sustainable-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/united-arab-emirates-entering-sustainable-future/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 20:35:53 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155763    The end of the oil age In the early 1970’s the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was an impoverished desert, with little access to food, water and well-paying jobs. Today, this country looks nothing like it was fifty years ago. Thanks to oil, the UAE has completely transformed and now is one of the most […]

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View from the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Credit: Ravin Vimesh

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 14 2018 (IPS)

 
 
The end of the oil age
In the early 1970’s the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was an impoverished desert, with little access to food, water and well-paying jobs. Today, this country looks nothing like it was fifty years ago. Thanks to oil, the UAE has completely transformed and now is one of the most developed economies in the Middle East, if not the world: its per capita GDP is equal to those of highly developed European nations ($68,000 – 2017 est.).

Wealth in the UAE, as in other Gulf countries, is derived mainly from oil but the black gold will run out someday soon. For this reason, the UAE, similar to other petro-rich countries in the region, is activating a list of local and national strategies and initiatives to build a new framework for the future. This framework aims to be run only by renewable energies but keeping the same level of wealth, if not improving it. Therefore rich, but without depending on oil.

Indeed, the UAE has recently embarked on a new path of investments, to end oil dependence and turn around most of its infrastructures run by renewable energies. Launched in 2017, the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims “to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25 percent to 50 percent by 2050 and reduce carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent, thus saving AED 700 billion by 2050.” The Strategy also seeks to increase consumption efficiency of individuals and corporates by 40 percent and it targets an energy mix that aims to combine renewable, nuclear and clean sources as follows: 44 percent clean energy, 38 percent gas, 12 percent clean coal and 6 percent nuclear.

For example, the city of Masdar is the first city in the world to have a zero carbon footprint and zero waste and it is a car-free city. The city is still not fully developed but it currently aims to be home to 40 to 50 thousand people in a total area of six kilometres.

Back to the future
Energy is not the only field in which the UAE is at the forefront for development and innovation. Transportation, health, education, tackling climate change, visionary architecture, tourism, cyber security and so forth: these and others are all sectors in which the UAE is showing the world its willingness to improve and possibly become the leader, shocking the planet in terms of innovation.

Today the UAE is a country where skyscrapers nearly touch the sky, streets are clean, electric and hybrid cars are gradually becoming more common than cars run on fuel and the crime rate is very low. According to Numbeo, which surveyed 50,175 people in 4,574 cities, Abu Dhabi is one of the safest cities in the world, ranking 16th and with a very low crime index (11.85) and a quite high safety index (88.15).

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Credit: Martin Adams

The UAE is also planning to build a high-speed train, named Hyperloop, which will be able to reach 1.200 kph and connect Dubai and Abu Dhabi (120 km) in 12 minutes by 2021. In addition, in 2016, the world applauded the first journey to be ever completed by a solar airplane, which, not surprisingly, was an UAE product. Solar Impulse 2 is a solar-powered aircraft equipped with more than 17,000 solar cells. The airplane landed in Abu Dhabi after a journey of 505 days and 26,000 miles at an average speed of about 70 kph. The UAE government is even planning to establish the first human settlements in Mars by 2117.

However, this is just a small portion of the wider picture that describes the UAE’s way to the future. In December 2016, Gulf News had launched “The Amazing Nation”, a book to celebrate UAE’s 45th anniversary that aimed to tell the story of the innovative and modern UAE while also exploring its deep cultural roots. The book shows – through 117 pages with more than 40 double-page spreads filled with highly informative vignettes and varying forms of visual illustrations, photographs and multi-dimensional renderings – how the UAE’s famed architectural prowess will be visible in intelligent and energy-efficient buildings in the coming future.

According to this book, homes of the future will be incredibly smart and capable of growing their own food in a sustainable way. 3D and 4D printing in construction will allow unique innovations in terms of sustainable architecture and homes will also be folded up and transported by drones to any location. The country is also planning to build below the waterline and make underwater living possible. If there is one country that is projecting itself into the future, that is certainly the UAE.

An attractive country: UAE aims to become a crucial business hub
The strong belief of Emirates policy makers in the importance of spending in education, innovation and development, has made the country one of the most attractive hubs for business people and corporations from all over the world. According to the Arcadis Global Infrastructure Investment Index, the UAE is the third most attractive place in the world to invest in infrastructure.

Indeed, the UAE is extremely conducive to private business and the free market. In the thirty-eight free trade zones of UAE, businesses and corporations, even those that are owned by foreigners, are exempt from all taxes. This lack of taxation is a feature of those known as “rentier States”. A “rentier State” gets most (or all) of its income from natural resources revenues. These revenues are used to modernize the economy and to finance the public sector and ultimately to guarantee a fixed income for its citizens. Due in no small part to this system, taxation is almost inexistent in rentier States and makes them the perfect place to invest.

Development in a conflict region
The UAE, like some other Gulf countries, is clearly projecting itself into the future. These countries want to diversify the portfolio of their investments and provide an alternative source of revenues away from those related to oil. This unfolding situation must be addressed and monitored in the long run. The unprecedented modernisation occurring in the Gulf region is inspired by a new and young leadership that is gradually replacing the elders. These leaders are showing a remarkable enthusiasm for innovation but, at the same time, they are the protagonists of a provocative foreign policy, which is ultimately contributing to fuel tensions and conflict across the Middle East. Therefore, this modernisation needs to be examined also assessing the constant political instability in the region.

Indeed, unless this region does not find political compromises which allows enduring peace and a reliable stability, those same people who would enjoy the remarkable technological innovations, will constantly be concerned because of the lack of security in their countries.

Economic and social development needs to be accompanied by a wise and peaceful foreign policy, particularly in the Gulf and in the broader Middle East.

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We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 14:27:23 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155759 Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. Credit: Stephane Yas / AFP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Consider this. Boko Haram, the ISIS-affiliated insurgent group has sent 80 women to their deaths in 2017 alone.

The majority of suicide bombers used by terror group Boko Haram to kill innocent victims are women and children, US study reveals.

The incident only highlighted a growing trend of young girls joining extremist groups and carrying out violent acts of terrorism globally.

In a recent survey conducted on suicide bomb attacks in Western Africa, UNICEF found that close to one in five attacks were carried out by women, and among child suicide bombers, three in four were girls.

May 15 marks the International Day of Families, and this year’s theme focuses on the role of families and family policies in advancing SDG 16 in terms of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

With terrorism posing a clear and present threat to peace today, and the recent trend where terrorists are using female recruits for increasingly chilling perpetrator roles, it is a good time to examine the various ways in which we are pushing our daughters towards the perilous guile of terror groups.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Online and offline, terror groups are deliberately seeking to attract women, especially those who harbour feelings of social and/or cultural exclusion and marginalization.

The Government of Kenya has focused on the often-overlooked promise of girls’ education. The young girl of today has higher ambition and a more competitive spirit. She no longer wants to go to school and only proceed to either the submissive housekeeper role, or token employment opportunities like her mother very likely did.

She wants a secure, equal-wage job like her male classmates, to have an equal opportunity to making it to management positions, and access to economic assets such as land and loans. Like her male counterparts, she wants equal participation in shaping economic and social policies in the country.

This is why education is a prime pillar in Kenya’s National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism, which was launched in September 2016. The strategy aims to work with communities to build their resilience to respond to violent extremism and to address structural issues that drive feelings of exclusion.

Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders. What young women now need is to feel that they have a future when they come out of the educational process. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment, are women.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Although Kenya does not have a separate policy for girls’ education, the country has put in place certain mechanisms to guarantee 100% transition from primary to secondary education. This policy will address the existing hindrances to girls’ education and particularly, transition from the primary to secondary level where Kenya has a 10% enrollment gender gap.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Quality education for the youth must not only incorporate relevant skills development for employability, but for girls we must go further to provide psychosocial support. Already, girls and women bear the greater burden of poverty, a fact that can only provide more tinder if they are then exposed to radicalization.

According to estimates, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages, ensuring that all girls get at least secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, would reduce child marriages by more than half.

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. The Kenyatta Trust for example, a non-profit organization, has beneficiaries who are students who have come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. President Kenyatta the founder of the Trust says, “my pledge is to continuously support and uplift the lives of all our beneficiaries, one family at a time.”

For success a convergence of partners is crucial, spanning foundations, trusts, faith based organizations, civil society, media and to work with the Government to advance this critical agenda.

The UN in Kenya is working with the government to understand the push and pull factors that lure our youth to radicalization. One such initiative is the Conflict Management and Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) programme in Marsabit and Mandera counties, supported by the Japanese Government.

The project, being implemented in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the two County Governments, is part of the larger Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic transformation.

UN Women and UNDP in Kenya are also working with relevant agencies to establish dynamic, action-ready and research-informed knowledge of current extremist ideologies and organisational models.

To nip extremism before it sprouts, we must start within our families, to address the feelings of exclusion and lack of engagement among girls who are clearly the new frontier for recruitment by terror groups.

The post We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Sustainable Food Systems; Why We do Not Need New Recipeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/#comments Mon, 14 May 2018 05:14:37 +0000 Doaa Abdel-Motaal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155751 Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs […]

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By Doaa Abdel-Motaal
ROME, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs to create employment in rural areas while protecting forests and wildlife, improving landscapes, and preventing climate change through lower food production emissions. Well-functioning food systems are also considered essential for social stability and conflict prevention. In fact many politicians today go as far as to argue that food systems need to thrive so as to stem rural-to-urban migration and the cross-border flow of desperate people fleeing food insecure nations.

Doaa Abdel-Motaal

This sounds like a tall order, sufficient to make of food and agriculture an economic sector apart. Add to this mix that some want the agricultural sector to deliver energy in the form biomass and biofuels, and not just food, and you seem to have an almost impossible set of goals.

But let us take a minute to work through all of this. Is there any economic sector of which we do not expect abundance, safety, employment generation and environmental protection? Do we not expect, for example, when our cars are manufactured that there be a sufficient number of them to meet demand, that they be safe and generate employment, and that they not pollute either during their production or use? Do we not expect when cars or other manufactured products are produced, that our economies grow while delivering greater peace and security in the process?

The food and agricultural sector requires exactly what all other economic sectors do. Beyond government intervention to impose food safety and environmental regulations, governments need to invest in the infrastructure that is necessary for absolutely any economic sector to thrive. This infrastructure includes physical infrastructure such as roads and highways, but above all legal infrastructure too. By this I mean the rule of law, in the form of a functioning court system to which investors can have quick and easy recourse, and open trade and investment policies. This legal infrastructure is what allows non-governmental actors like the private sector to throw their hat into the ring.

But there is something about food that makes any discussion of it emotional. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 815 million people are chronically undernourished. This figure is as unacceptable as it is alarming, and is certainly cause for immediate action. However, what this number does not call for is a misdiagnosis.

An emotional response to what is a troubling reality is the last thing we need. Doubling down on government intervention to pick winners and losers in the food sector, or to create an ‘industrial policy’ for agriculture, would be a mistake. It would prevent market signals from functioning properly. In fact, the answer to current food insecurity is to double down on economic growth, pursuing it even more aggressively.

Clearly some social protection is needed as this transition occurs. While people do not die of a lack of cars, they do die of a lack of food. But social protection must be managed carefully. The safety nets must be targeted to those in need, must not create complacency and slow the pace of economic reform, and, above all, food aid must not grow into an industry of its own, with the associated vested interests that would make it impossible to dismantle.

I have worked on international trade issues for decades where I have watched some of the world’s most developed nations refuse to reduce their agricultural subsidies and escalating tariffs that inflict daily harm on the developing world’s agricultural sector. A beggar thy neighbour approach. In the same arena, I have watched many developing countries refuse to open their markets to imported food, making food more expensive for the poorest segments of their population. These are all examples of the unfortunate application of an industrial policy to food.

I have also worked extensively in the area of food aid. While I have seen this aid come to the rescue of millions of people in dire need, I have also seen it create dependence and delay desperately needed economic reforms. I now work on polar issues, where I am watching scientists in Antarctica harvest their first crop of vegetables grown without earth, daylight or pesticides as part of a project designed to cultivate fresh food where we would have previously thought impossible.

My message is this, let us apply simple economics to food and agriculture and not invent new industrial policy recipes for this sector every day. Let us also keep a watchful eye on where technology can take us. Research and development may well take this sector towards a very different future.

*Doaa Abdel-Motaal is former Executive Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health, former Chief of Staff of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and former Deputy Chief of Staff of the World Trade Organization. She is the author of “Antarctica, the Battle for the Seventh Continent.”

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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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Regional Cooperation Needs a Strategic Vehicle for Inclusive Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/regional-cooperation-needs-a-strategic-vehicle-for-inclusive-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=regional-cooperation-needs-a-strategic-vehicle-for-inclusive-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/regional-cooperation-needs-a-strategic-vehicle-for-inclusive-growth/#respond Fri, 11 May 2018 10:04:23 +0000 Winston Chow http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155721 Winston Chow is Country Representative for China at the Global Green Growth Institute

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Regional cooperation needs a strategic vehicle for inclusive growth

By Winston Chow
BEIJING, May 11 2018 (IPS)

There is growing recognition that regional cooperation is a crucial driver of growth. We should now also recognize if regional trade networks are to yield the intended benefit of inclusive growth, then there needs to be a strategic vehicle for development that can be scaled.

The China Belt Road initiative is an example of an ambitious regional cooperation programme that includes benefits for many other countries in its development plans.

The initiative's planned $150bn investment over the next five years is an opportunity for sector specialists across development institutions to work together even more closely. More importantly, the initiative should complement the work of other regional cooperation efforts.

Its importance lies in that the scheme offers an opportunity for GGGI and Asian Development Bank (ADB) member countries to narrow the inequality, technology and poverty gap by improving trade among themselves. The scheme also shows us that the prospects of a sustainable future rely heavily on countries working together.

The initiative’s planned $150bn investment over the next five years is an opportunity for sector specialists across development institutions to work together even more closely. More importantly, the initiative should complement the work of other regional cooperation efforts.

Some key examples of current regional partnerships are the Eurasia Initiative, Partnership for Quality Infrastructure, Steppe Road. The Belt Road Initiative stands out  because it is bold, it intends to connect Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf in a single strategic and more closely coordinated network.

 

Regional trade growth should be inclusive

The recent increase in regional trade between countries in the Asia region presents some opportunities. This makes the introduction of green technology to the Asia-Pacific region crucial.

Manufacturing of new technologies can help tackle structural distortions in Pacific Island countries. These economies are dominated by agriculture, fisheries and tourism.

South-South collaboration will assist in this spread of technology across the region to benefit countries that will start from a very low green technology base. China for instance has emerged as aworld leader in the manufacture and use of clean energy technology.

The energy sector’s growth will not only cater for energy needs, if low carbon energy is introduced it will generate positive spin-offs in regions and communities where they are hosted.

The sharing of knowledge between countries in this respect is a catalyst that can be used to fast-track growth in the green technology sector in countries that are lagging behind.

Research shows that Asian economies are deeply intertwined. This interdependency has been forged by supply chain activity that has extended to financial industries and regional infrastructure networks.

An efficient regional economic network will make the collaboration between GGGI, ADB and other development stakeholders in countries like Georgia much easier. It will make it easier for the government of Georgia to improve the security and stability of its electric power systems.

Another important opportunity for shared learning that avails itself is the GGGI-ADB partnership in Mongolia. Increasing investment in the country’s mining sector will slowly translate into an increase in energy demand. We have to anticipate these developments in the regional economy.

 

Governance

It is important that countries have a long term vision in their environmental sustainability policy approach. This involves the introduction of green growth guidelines into development planning policies.

For these guidelines to be effective their use must be scaled up to include local, provincial and national plans. It is important  to understand is that the local government level is crucial as it is at the frontline of climate change planning.

 

Green local currency bonds

The next important point for our collective consideration is how to increase socially and environmentally beneficial investments to the region and its partners. Here we have to think of ways of growing the green bonds market.

Growth in this market has proved to be an essential source of funding for programmes aimed at eradicating poverty and meeting the SDGs. The Asian region should continue being among the leading regions that invest in green bonds.

To stimulate growth in the sector we must remove barriers such as higher administration costs for green bonds. Another area that requires focused attention is the task of harmonizing Green Bond Principles (GBPs) that guide issuers about environmental benefits.

There has to be synergy between the widespread adoption of GBPs and the development of a framework that will make them available in local currencies. The aim is to make green bonds more attractive to investors.

I need to re-emphasize what makes responsible investment important. I’m convinced that responsible investors have an eye for solutions to the under employment and gender disparate labour market of the region.

The Pacific Island Countries are in a precarious situation because climate change could reduce tourism revenues considerably. This impact is expected to add to the numbers of migrant labourers, many of whom are women already disadvantaged by the labour markets.

The urgent task for us is to take advantage of the opportunities that mainstreaming green growth will avail. Regional cooperation is central to scaling up the impact of inclusive green growth.

Increased South-South cooperation on the basis of the shared objective of attaining environmentally sustainable economic growth will assist in the attainment of the SDGs.

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Winston Chow is Country Representative for China at the Global Green Growth Institute

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U.S. Signals New Approach to Horn of Africa Allyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally/#respond Thu, 10 May 2018 12:13:42 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155699 The April inauguration of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister came amid much fanfare and raised expectations for the future of true democracy in Ethiopia, while far less publicized though relevant developments in the American capital could also play a significant role in shaping that future. At a relatively youthful and spritely 42 years of age, Abiy […]

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Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, addresses press and supporters outside Washington’s Capitol Building after passage of House Resolution-128. Behind and to his left is Congressman Chris Smith and behind and to his right is Congressman Mike Coffman, both of whom played key roles in the resolution’s successful passage. Photo courtesy Tewodrose Tirfe/Congressman Mike Coffman’s office.

Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, addresses press and supporters outside Washington’s Capitol Building after passage of House Resolution-128. Behind and to his left is Congressman Chris Smith and behind and to his right is Congressman Mike Coffman, both of whom played key roles in the resolution’s successful passage. Photo courtesy Tewodrose Tirfe/Congressman Mike Coffman’s office.

By James Jeffrey
WASHINGTON, May 10 2018 (IPS)

The April inauguration of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister came amid much fanfare and raised expectations for the future of true democracy in Ethiopia, while far less publicized though relevant developments in the American capital could also play a significant role in shaping that future.

At a relatively youthful and spritely 42 years of age, Abiy Ahmed is widely seen as a reformer who can take the necessary steps to calm a nation that has been engulfed in unprecedented levels of political unrest since the end of 2015.“The new resolution by the US House of Representatives is a reminder to the Ethiopian government that should it fail to reform, it can no longer rely on US largesse to contain problems at home.” --Hassen Hussein

Crucially, he heralds from the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), which represents the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and who have spearheaded protests against the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition party, of which the OPDO is a key member.

After the resignation of previous Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, many warned that if the EPRDF chose a figure from its old guard it might well lead to more, perhaps worse, unrest.

That has been avoided with the party embracing a politician with greater public support, and the first Oromo head of government in Ethiopia has already traveled to several areas of the country, promising to address grievances and strengthen a range of political and civil rights.

But, as everyone knows and agrees on, Abiy faces numerous challenges domestically and externally in bringing stability back to Ethiopia and settling a discontented populace that is the second largest in Africa.

One problem is the state of emergency declared in Ethiopia in February following the last prime minister’s surprise resignation (and which is the second state of emergency after the first ended in August 2017). This could hinder Abiy in moving forward with any reform agenda, because the new prime minister’s hold on the state security apparatus is much reduced than normal during a state of emergency, with a group of military officers referred to as the “Command Post” effectively in control of the mechanism of the state.

Also, the very fact of Abiy’s reluctance to push for the lifting of the state of emergency illustrates, observers say, how the internal dynamics of the EPRDF that played a large part in the undoing of Desalegn are still a force to be reckoned with.

The historical dominance of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the EPRDF continues to wield force and means Ethiopia’s new, apparently reformist, prime minister will need to deal shrewdly with members of the establishment resistant to reform or reconciliation efforts—if Abiy is, in fact, genuinely for reform, that is.

“I like the things [Abiy] has been saying in public—most of the country and many in the opposition at home and abroad resonate with the sentiments expressed in his public statements,” says Alemante Selassie, emeritus professor at the William and Mary Law School in the US.  “Still, I cannot say that I have full confidence in him, because he is a party functionary who rose through the ranks of the EPRDF and probably remains committed to upholding its hegemonic rule for the foreseeable future.”

Nevertheless, whatever the inner workings of the new prime minister’s mind, as an ex-army officer he understands the military-security apparatus and its culture; he has a strong party mandate and public support behind him, and he comes to power at a time when those previously in charge are reviled by the populace, thereby putting him in a unique position to potentially resolve many of the country’s problems.

Furthermore, recent developments in the US Congress may also have a bearing on what happens next. On April 10, the US House of Representatives unanimously adopted House Resolution-128: “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.”

The resolution—uunusually outspoken for US public policy in it criticism of Ethiopia’s government—condemns “the killings of peaceful protesters and excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces; the detention of journalists, students, activists, and political leaders; and the regime’s abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic freedoms.”

The resolution and its wording deeply angered the Ethiopian government, which even suggested it might cut off security cooperation with the US if the resolution was passed. Ethiopia is viewed by the US as its most important ally in the volatile East African region, and hence receives one of the largest security and humanitarian aid packages among sub-Saharan African countries.

“The passage of HR-128 by the US House of Representatives without any opposition was a historical achievement,” says Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, a US-based advocacy group for the Amhara, Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group. “The main difference this time, compared to previous attempts to get legislation through, was Ethiopian-American advocacy organizations working in coordination with human rights groups to bring to the attention of [US state] representatives the humanitarian and political crisis that has been unfolding in Ethiopia, especially the past three years.”

Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee of Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, introduced HR-128, and played a major role, along with Congressman Mike Coffman, in achieving the passage of the resolution.

“Chairman Smith has held more hearings and authored more legislation on Ethiopia then anyone in Congress—he has been a voice for the Ethiopian diaspora for many years,” Tewodrose says. “Congressman Coffman put his political capital on the line for this resolution and helped us overcome every hurdle encountered.”

The vast sum of humanitarian aid and bi-lateral support Ethiopia receives from the US is not at risk—yet.  That said, Tewodrose notes, the Senate is considering a partner bill, which is even stronger in its wording. Senate Resolution 168 calls on the Department of State and USAID “to improve oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia and to ensure such assistance reinforces long-term goals for improved governance.”

Essentially, Tewodros explains, this would tie aid to improved governance and more scrutiny of support given, because even though resolutions aren’t laws and are non-binding, if they have strong bipartisan support—like HR-128—coupled with the fact that Congress has the power of oversight, then agencies named in the resolutions would seriously consider implementing the terms of these declarations.

Furthermore, the Amhara Association of America and other advocacy partners are working to introduce binding legislation that would be signed by the president and would become the law directing how the US deals with Ethiopia.

“We believe this is a much easier task now since the Ethiopian diaspora groups are activated and engaged, the policy makers are educated, and we have built strong bipartisan support in Congress,” Tewodrose says.

That said, opposition exists in the Senate to the senate resolution, and there is still some way to go before a new law guiding US foreign policy towards Ethiopia emerges. But any resolution about Ethiopia, such as HR-128, could still have an impact on the actions of the Ethiopian regime and the new prime minister’s reform agenda.

Previously, though the US government was aware of well-documented problems with regards to human rights abuses, lack of democracy promotion and corruption at the highest levels of the Ethiopian state, it didn’t forcefully act to pressure Ethiopia’s government.

But the House resolution signals a shift in that approach. Besides condemning killings, detentions, and abuse of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terror Proclamation, the resolution also makes more ambitious demands of the Ethiopian regime including reforms that would protect the Ethiopian people’s civil liberties and release political prisoners, views that the new prime minister is also believed to share.

“The resolution could give Abiy a freer hand to deal more decisively with those resisting change—so far he has been very conciliatory and accommodating,” says Hassen Hussein an academic and writer based in Minnesota.  “The new resolution by the US House of Representatives is a reminder to the Ethiopian government that should it fail to reform, it can no longer rely on US largesse to contain problems at home.”

While HR-128 is an important development, what further US legislation, if any, follows it, is likely to have the most tangible impact on strengthening—or not—the hand of the new prime minister in persuading those power brokers within the EPRDF who control country’s security apparatus and the intelligence and economic sectors, to participate in negotiations for reform.

“The TPLF has ruled Ethiopia for the last 27 years with the support of the US and the UK,” Alemante says. “If it loses this support— financial, military, diplomatic, etc.— it has very little else to stand on.”

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Poor Land Use Costs Countries 9 Percent Equivalent of Their GDPhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/poor-land-use-costs-countries-9-percent-equivalent-gdp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poor-land-use-costs-countries-9-percent-equivalent-gdp http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/poor-land-use-costs-countries-9-percent-equivalent-gdp/#respond Wed, 09 May 2018 15:19:39 +0000 UNCCD Press Release http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155716 The global economy will lose a whopping USD23 trillion by 2050 through land degradation, a review by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) warns. To take urgent action now and halt these alarming trends would cost USD4.6 trillion – only a fraction of the predicted losses. The outcomes of the review have been […]

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By UNCCD Press Release
BONN, Germany, May 9 2018 (UNCCD)

The global economy will lose a whopping USD23 trillion by 2050 through land degradation, a review by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) warns. To take urgent action now and halt these alarming trends would cost USD4.6 trillion – only a fraction of the predicted losses.

The outcomes of the review have been assembled into comprehensive and easy-to-use Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Country Profiles, of which 21 are already available online. The LDN Country Profiles reveal that average losses for these 21 countries are equivalent to 9 percent of GDP. This figure is even higher for some of the planet’s worst affected countries, such as the Central African Republic, where the total losses are estimated at a staggering 40 percent. Asia and Africa bear the highest costs, estimated at USD84 billion and 65 billion per year respectively.

“Healthy land is the primary asset that supports livelihoods around the globe – from food to jobs and decent incomes. Today, we face a crisis of unseen proportions: 1.5 billion people – mainly in the world’s most impoverished countries – are trapped on degrading agricultural land. This reality is fuelling extreme poverty, particularly in areas such as the Sahel and South Asia, where extreme and erratic weather events are on the rise due to the impacts of climate change,” says Juan Carlos Mendoza, Managing Director of the UNCCD Global Mechanism.

The LDN Country Profiles aim to help guide policy decisions on land use management. The profiles are based largely on the analytical work undertaken by the Center for Development Research of the University of Bonn, the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative and the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Globally, 169 countries are affected by land degradation and/or drought. Of these, 116 countries are committed to achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) under the UNCCD LDN Target-Setting Programme that supports countries in reaching target 15.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Target 15.3, on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), encourages countries to halt land degradation in order to ensure the quantity of productive land remains stable. The target is now also recognized as vital for accelerating other SDGs, such as: Goal 1 (No poverty), Goal 2 (Zero hunger), Goal 5 (Promote gender equality), Goal 6 (Clean water and sanitation), Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth), and Goal 13 (Climate action).

The 21 countries whose profiles have been released today are also engaged in the LDN target setting process, formulating targets and associated measures to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation. For example, the Central African Republic has committed to restoring more than 1 million hectares of degraded land – equal to 15 percent of its territory – which will limit its potential losses and economic burden nationwide.

“The LDN Country Profiles provide policy-makers with easily accessible and scientifically sound information that can help estimate the value of their investments in land restoration and make informed choices on the economic returns they can expect from taking assertive action now. Moreover, the profiles illustrate the equivalent monetary value of land degradation and its impact on the international community, while providing strong incentives for cooperation among countries,” Mendoza adds.

A broader picture of the economic costs of failing to act decisively and restore available land resources will emerge as additional country profiles are released.

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Ex-President Leaves ILO after Corruption Scandalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/ex-president-leaves-ilo-after-corruption-scandal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ex-president-leaves-ilo-after-corruption-scandal http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/ex-president-leaves-ilo-after-corruption-scandal/#respond Wed, 09 May 2018 09:06:07 +0000 Ivar Andersen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155688 Together with the president of Mauritius, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was to draw up a plan for the future focus of the UN-body ILO. But the work has hit an unexpected speed bump. Löfvens copartner has been forced out of office after a credit card scandal, where she shopped shoes and jewels in London for USD 26,000.

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Together with the president of Mauritius, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was to draw up a plan for the future focus of the UN-body ILO. But the work has hit an unexpected speed bump. Löfvens copartner has been forced out of office after a credit card scandal, where she shopped shoes and jewels in London for USD 26,000.

By Ivar Andersen
STOCKHOLM, May 9 2018 (IPS)

There is a compact silence surrounding how the corruption scandal affects ILO’s work on developing a plan to change the UN body.

In August 2017, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and the then President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​were appointed to lead the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work.

Their mission was to develop an overall strategy for how the ILO would ensure that the gains of globalization are more equally shared, and how the global labour market shall deal with challenges such as climate change, digitization and aging populations.

The Commission brought together twenty-one experts and politicians from all over the world, under the lead of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

”It’s time for everyone to take part in globalization. This is done by addressing the problems in the global labour market and building social cohesion and creating confidence that benefits everyone and does not oppress anyone,” said Stefan Löfven when the Commission was presented in Geneva in August 2017.

”When we look at the future, we must do it from many different perspectives and situations. We must place people’s well-being first and build the agenda around it,” added Ameenah Gurib-Fakim .

But the Commission barely had time to start working before one of its chairpersons found herself mixed up in a corruption scandal.

 

 Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and Stefan Löfven in Geneva when the Global Commission on the Future of Work was presented. Foto: ILO


Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and Stefan Löfven in Geneva when the Global Commission on the Future of Work was presented. Foto: ILO

 

The Mauritanian newspaper L’Express was able to publish documents that showed that Gurib-Fakim ​​had bought jewels and apparel for USD 26,000 during a shopping trip to London.

ILO

On May 28th , the ILO will launch its annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, where leading representatives of states, employers’ organizations and trade unions will discuss how they want to shape the global labor market.
On May 15th, the Global Commission on the Future of Work, led by Stefan Löfven, will meet in Geneva.
The ILO, or International Labour Organization, is a UN body that has existed since 1919 and brings together 187 countries.

Source: ILO
She paid for the luxury items with a credit card that she had received for an NGO for which she did pro bono work. The chairperson of the NGO, an Angolan businessman, had been granted permission to open an investment bank in Mauritius – prompting allegations of corruption.

Gurib-Fakim claimed to have used the NGO’s credit card by accident, and that she had paid back the full amount. But faced with harsh criticism Gurib-Fakim eventually decided to resign from the largely ceremonial president post earlier this spring.

When Arbetet Global writes to the Swedish Prime Minister’s Office to ask whether the controversy surrounding Gurib-Fakim in Mauritius is affecting the work of the Commission’s, the reply is a brief one.

”Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​has resigned as co-chair of the ILO Commission. If you have any other questions, I have to refer to the ILO,” states Dan Lundqvist Dahlin, press secretary to the Prime Minister.

The ILO appears equally unwilling to comment. In an e-mail, the Director-General’s cabinet writes that the decision to resign from the Commission was Gurib-Fakim’s own.

Would it have been inappropriate for Gurib-Fakim to stay on as co-chair after having resigned as president of Mauritius?

“We cannot comment on this hypothetical question since she took the decision to resign.”

The chairmanship of the Commission is attached to the person elected, and is not affected by changes in the chairpersons home country.

Stefan Löfven will remain chairperson regardless of whether the Social Democratic Party stay in power after the Swedish general election in September. In theory, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​could have stayed on as co-chair despite having stepped down in Mauritius.

However, a source with intimate knowledge of the internal politics of the ILO describes the appointments as being “incredibly sensitive”.

“There is a lot of politics behind the appointments and the composition of delegates is supposed to keep everyone happy and make sure the Commission has legitimacy. That she resigned was most probably politically motivated.”

Asked whether a new chairperson will be appointed or if Stefan Löfven is to lead the Commission by himself, the Director-General’s cabinet responded that ”consultations are ongoing based on this new situation”.

At the time of publication of this article, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​was still presented as Chairperson of the Commission, and President of Mauritius, on the ILO’s website.

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

The post Ex-President Leaves ILO after Corruption Scandal appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Together with the president of Mauritius, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was to draw up a plan for the future focus of the UN-body ILO. But the work has hit an unexpected speed bump. Löfvens copartner has been forced out of office after a credit card scandal, where she shopped shoes and jewels in London for USD 26,000.

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Optimal Use of Water Works Miracles in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 15:49:14 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155678 Cattle ranching has been severely affected by drought in Brazi’s Northeast region, but it has not only survived but has made a comeback in the Jacuípe river basin thanks to an optimal use of water. José Antonio Borges, who owns 98 hectares of land and 30 cows in Ipirá, one of the 14 municipalities in […]

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José Antonio Borges is surrounded by the forage cactus, ready to be harvested, that he planted on his farm. It is the basis of the diet of their 30 cows, which allows them to produce 400 litres of milk per day, using an automatic milking system twice a day, in Ipirá, in the Jacuípe basin, in Brazil’s northeastern semi-arid ecoregion, where the optimal use of water is transforming family farms. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

José Antonio Borges is surrounded by the forage cactus, ready to be harvested, that he planted on his farm. It is the basis of the diet of their 30 cows, which allows them to produce 400 litres of milk per day, using an automatic milking system twice a day, in Ipirá, in the Jacuípe basin, in Brazil’s northeastern semi-arid ecoregion, where the optimal use of water is transforming family farms. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
IPIRÁ-PINTADAS, Brazil, May 8 2018 (IPS)

Cattle ranching has been severely affected by drought in Brazi’s Northeast region, but it has not only survived but has made a comeback in the Jacuípe river basin thanks to an optimal use of water.

José Antonio Borges, who owns 98 hectares of land and 30 cows in Ipirá, one of the 14 municipalities in the basin, in the northeastern state of Bahia, almost tripled his milk production over the last two years, up to 400 litres per day, without increasing his herd.

To achieve this, he was assisted by technicians from Adapta Sertão, a project promoted by a coalition of organisations under the coordination of the Human Development Network (Redeh), based in Rio de Janeiro.

“If I wake up and I don’t hear the cows mooing, I cannot live,” said Borges to emphasise his vocation that prevented him from abandoning cattle farming in the worst moments of the drought which in the last six years lashed the semi-arid ecoregion, an area of low rainfall in the interior of the Brazilian Northeast.

But his wife, Eliete Brandão Borges, did give up and moved to Ipirá, the capital city of the municipality, where she works as a seamstress. Their 13-year-old son lives in town with her, in order to study. But he does not rule out returning to the farm, “if a good project comes up, like raising chickens.”

Borges, who “feels overwhelmed after a few hours in the city,” points out as factors for the increased dairy productivity the forage cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica Mill), a species from Mexico, which he uses as a food supplement for the cattle, and the second daily milking.

“The neighbours called me crazy for planting the cactus in an intensive way,” he said. “We used to use it, but we planted it more spread out.” Today, at the age of 39, Borges is an example to be followed and receives visits from other farmers interested in learning about how he has increased his productivity.

Normaleide de Oliveira stands in front of the pond on her farm that did not even run out of water during the six years of drought suffered by Brazil's Northeast region. Water availability is an advantage of family farmers in the Jacuípe river basin, compared to other areas of the country's semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Normaleide de Oliveira stands in front of the pond on her farm that did not even run out of water during the six years of drought suffered by Brazil’s Northeast region. Water availability is an advantage of family farmers in the Jacuípe river basin, compared to other areas of the country’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

He started after being taken to visit another property that used intensive planting, in an effort to convince him, said Jocivaldo Bastos, the Adapta Sertão technician who advised him. “Actually I don’t use cacti,” Borges acknowledged when he learned about the innovative tecnique.

The thornless, drought-resistant cactus became a lifesaving source of forage for livestock during drought, and is an efficient way to store water during the dry season in the Sertão, the popular name for the driest area in the Northeast, which also covers other areas of the sparsely populated and inhospitable interior of Brazil.

Also extending through the semi-arid region is the construction of concrete tanks designed to capture rainwater, which cost 12,000 reais (3,400 dollars) and can store up to 70,000 litres a year. With this money, 0.4 hectares of cactus can be planted, equivalent to 121,000 litres of water a year, according to a study by Adapta Sertão.

But that requires attention to the details, such as fertilisers, drip irrigation, clearing brush and selecting seedlings. Borges “lost everything” from his first intensive planting of the Opuntia forage cactus.

Parched, hard-packed land without vegetation is now green and fertile thanks to farmer and livestock breeder José Antonio Borges, who regenerated the land, supported by technicians from Adapta Sertão. It is now what he refers to as "the forest" where he grows watermelons and fruit trees, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Parched, hard-packed land without vegetation is now green and fertile thanks to farmer and livestock breeder José Antonio Borges, who regenerated the land, supported by technicians from Adapta Sertão. It is now what he refers to as “the forest” where he grows watermelons and fruit trees, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Then he received advice from agricultural technician Bastos and currently has three hectares of cactus plantations and plans to expand.

At the beginning, he was frightened by the need to increase investments, previously limited to 500 Brazilian reais (142 dollars) per month. Now he spends twelve times more, but he earns gross revenues of 13,000 reais (3,700 dollars), according to Bastos.

The second milking, in the afternoon, was also key for Normaleide de Oliveira, a 55-year-old widow, to almost double her milk production. Today it reaches between 150 and 200 liters a day with only 12 dairy cows, on her farm located 12 km from Pintadas, the city in the centre of the Jacuípe basin.

“It is the milk that provides the income I live on,” said the farmer, who owns 30 more cattle. “I used to have 60 in total, but I sold some because of the drought, which almost made me give it all up,” she said.

The Jacuípe basin is seen as privileged compared to other parts of the semi-arid Northeast. The rivers have dried up, but in the drilled wells there is abundant water that, when pumped, irrigates the crops and drinking troughs.

This concrete tank is being built on a large rock on the farm of Normaleide de Oliveira, in the municipality of Pintadas, to be used for fish farming. Stones were used to make the walls using cement, on top of a rock in order to facilitate irrigation by gravity, in an example of agricultural development that optimises the use of the scarce water in the Sertão eco-region in Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This concrete tank is being built on a large rock on the farm of Normaleide de Oliveira, in the municipality of Pintadas, to be used for fish farming. Stones were used to make the walls using cement, on top of a rock in order to facilitate irrigation by gravity, in an example of agricultural development that optimises the use of the scarce water in the Sertão eco-region in Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Oliveira has the advantage of having two natural ponds on her property, one of which never completely dried up during the six years of drought.

Now she is building a concrete tank on a large rock near her house that she will devote to raising fish and irrigating her gardens. Its location up on a rock will allow gravity-fed irrigation for the watermelon, squash and vegetables that Oliveira, who lives with her daughter and son-in-law, plans to grow.

The pond was proposed by Jorge Nava, an expert in permaculture who has been working with Adapta Sertão since last year, contributing new techniques to optimise the use of available water.

Adapta Sertão’s aims are to diversify production and strengthen conservation, and incorporate sustainability and adaptability to climate change in family farming.

In Ipirá, Borges has a pond one metre deep and six metres in diameter, with 23,000 litres of water, surrounded by his cilantro crop. In the pond he raises 1,000 tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species increasingly popular in fish farming.

Nearby is what he calls “the forest” – several dozen fruit trees on sloping ground with contour furrows, where he already used to plant watermelons using drip irrigation, which now coexist with the new project.

José Antonio Borges' family members enjoy themselves in the 23,000-litre concrete pond built on his farm to irrigate the orchards and raise fish, taking advantage of the water in boreholes drilled on his land in Ipirá , in the semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Nava.

José Antonio Borges’ family members enjoy themselves in the 23,000-litre concrete pond built on his farm to irrigate the orchards and raise fish, taking advantage of the water in boreholes drilled on his land in Ipirá , in the semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Nava.

“In 70 days he harvested 260 watermelons” and soil that was so dried up and hardened that the tractor had to plow several times, by thin layers each time, is now covered in vegetation, said Nava. “In 40 days the dry land became green,” he stated.

Contour furrows contain the water runoff and moisten the soil evenly. If the furrows were sloping they would flood the lower part, leaving the top dry, which would ruin the irrigation, the expert in permaculture explained.

This “forest” will fulfill the function of providing fruit and regenerating the landscape as well as making better use of water, boosting soil infiltration and acting as a barrier to the wind which increases evaporation, he said.

These are small gestures of respect for natural laws, to avoid waste and to multiply the water by reusing it, making it possible to live well on small farms with less water, he said.

In critical situations it is only about keeping plants alive with millilitres of water, until the next rain ensures production, as in the case of Borges’ watermelons.

Nava attributes his mission and dedication to seeking solutions in accordance with local conditions and demands to what happened to his family, who migrated from the southern tip of Brazil to Apuí, deep in the Amazon rainforest, in 1981, when he was three years old.

To go to school sometimes he had to travel nine days from his home, through the jungle. He became aware of the risk of desertification in the Amazon. The shallow-rooted forests are highly vulnerable to drought and deforestation, he learned.

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Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 12:04:47 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155665 “My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies […]

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Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, May 8 2018 (IPS)

“My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies while enabling economic and regional cooperation among countries in the Belt and Road route during the 51st annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that concluded over the weekend.The initiative covers more than 65 countries -- or more than 60% of the world's population -- that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years.

The forum took cues from Rijsberman’s story of living in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, one of the poorest countries that in 50 years became an example for many developing countries to demonstrate the importance of economic growth while being mindful of air quality and the overall livability of the environment.

The “Green Growth and Regional Cooperation” forum was a side event hosted by GGGI with an expert panel that discussed China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and, with many references to “green growth,” “green policies” and “green investments,” looked at putting in place policies to accelerate green investments and green technology while exploring ways to create opportunities that address poverty across countries.

“Climate change is already exacting its toll, particularly in the Asian region, so rapidly that technological and economic growth (that may have worsened issues like air quality) should also be our most immediate driver of action to do something,” said Rijsberman.

He said there is a need for countries to have “green growth,” a new development approach that delivers environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth that is low-carbon and climate resilient; prevents or remediates pollution; maintains healthy and productive ecosystems and creates green jobs, reduce poverty and enhance social inclusion.

Rijsberman said the GGGI will join the Green Belt and Road Coalition and currently cooperates with the China Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the ASEAN Center for Environmental Cooperation on regional cooperation and integration that facilitates sustainable urban development and supports high-level policies and impactful knowledge sharing on the adoption of sustainable growth in the Belt and Road countries.

Prof. Dongmei Guo, China state council expert of the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center, said the BRI brings together two regional trade corridors: the Silk Road Economic Belt that will link China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea though Central Asia and West Asia with three routes:  China-Central Asia-Russia-Europe through the Baltic Sea; China-Central Asia-West Asia-Persian Gulf through the Mediterranean Sea and China- Southeast Asia-South Asia through the Indian Ocean; and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road that stretches from the South Pacific Sea to Europe with two roads — Coastal China-South China Sea-Indian Ocean-Europe and Coastal China-South China Sea and South Pacific.

The initiative covers more than 65 countries — or more than 60% of the world’s population — that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years. Initiated in 2013, the BRI aims to create the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation, including policy coordination, trade and financing collaboration, and social and cultural cooperation.

“The BRI provides great opportunities for promoting green transformation and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030,” said Guo, mentioning environmental-related SGDs 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 as the same targets envisioned in the initiative.  “The global sustainable development process has entered a new stage through the BRI and it must be green.”

Goals 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 enjoin countries to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation and sustainable consumption and production patterns, to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development and to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Guo said among some of the concerns in the countries along the route are water shortages, water pollution, agricultural pollution, tailings, industrial wastes, and nuclear waste for Central Asia, biodiversity loss, water pollution and urbanization-led pollution in South Asia, and biodiversity, forest fire and haze brought by conventional pollution in Southeast Asia.

Winston Chow, GGGI country representative for China, said the program is still in its initial phase but is seeing an estimated investment of 500 billion dollars through 2030 that will be invested in the developing world along the BRI route, with 300 billion of that being carbon-related.

“What that means is that we have to consider the impacts of these economies in the long term and a major opportunity to decarbonize, which is a big step as we enhance global development,” he said. “We have to look at 2030 development goals and align our efforts at helping member countries contribute as they implement development projects.”

Organized under five guiding tasks of policy coordination, unimpeded trade, facilities connectivity financial integration, and people-to-people bond, Chow said the BRI aims to utilize Chinese government policy, financing and technology in enhancing strong projects in the developing world. The GGGI will facilitate the work with member states on how to deploy green projects and we have talked to a number of country governments such as those in Mongolia, Jordan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Vietnam and the Philippines.”

He cited the strong collaboration with Mongolia after its policy makers were introduced to energy efficiency with air quality restrictions and environmental impact reductions through the introduction of the electric vehicles tariff in the capital Ulaanbaatar that successfully reduced bad air from 2016 to 2017.

Jordan, Indonesia and Ethiopia are also underway in their ecological restoration and water treatment practices. Transformative projects among Chinese technologies in solar energy use, e-transportation and e-mobility technology, land restoration, water and solid waste treatment and solar, wind and energy building efficiency projects will also be shared as well with participating countries.

But with BRI being recently introduced, Chow mentioned a few challenges in financing schemes such as gaps between what China wants to invest in and what developing countries are ready to do but have financial needs that are complex to underwrite. For instance, he said “the debate is still out on countries that have electricity grids not quite ready for global energy integration that may not necessarily yield benefits financially or socially.”

The gap is also shown in Chinese investments in green projects that can be worth 100 million dollars but some countries can only do projects in the 20 or 30 million range. He cited BRI large scale projects such as airports in Cambodia or Vietnam’s hydropower plants and dams.

In his press conference prior to the GGGI side event, ADB President Takehiko Nakao lauded China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a key program to connect countries and regions and to broaden integration and cooperation across Asia, and that the ADB will participate in this initiative when needed. He enjoined countries along the route to be careful not to take out excessive loans when they get involved in the initiative to finance their projects and to look closely at the benefits the projects can give to their citizens.

“If countries borrow too much for certain projects without seriously looking at the feasibility, it might bring more trouble in repayment,” he said, stressing the need to “look at debt sustainability issues very seriously.”

Ayumi Konishi, special senior adviser to the president of ADB, told the side event “the ADB intends to cooperate with BRI because of its strong preference for green projects such as renewable energy or sustaining transport projects.”

Since the BRI initiative was announced in September 2013 advocating for improved connectivity for shared prosperity and after China signed an agreement with six multilateral development banks, he said the ADB is in agreement as “we share the same vision; we need the entire portfolio of cooperation projects to make them greener and make them less vulnerable to potential bad impacts of climate change.”

Rijsberman, GGGI’s director-general, said the GGGI, a treaty-based international organization headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, is seeing good examples of green efforts such as the Pacific greening in Vanuatu, the eco-towns in the Philippines, the business models in Indonesia that prevent fires and rehabilitate forests, the efforts in Rwanda to eradicate plastics and the biodiversity protection efforts in the Greater Mekong area.

“Efforts go beyond protecting environment but more on promoting it,” he said, stressing that such initiatives are all anchored on landmark agreements such as the UN SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.

The 2018 ADB Annual Meeting, themed “Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Development,” was held on May 3-6 2018 in Manila, its headquarters. It gathered more than 4,000 delegates and brought together experts of different disciplines who discussed framing global economic shifts, re-examined governance structures, explored governments and development institutions’ adapting new opportunities while addressing challenges presented by an increasingly digital future.

The ADB estimates Asia’s infrastructure needs could reach 22.6 trillion dollars through 2030, or 1.5 trillion annually. If climate change adaptation measures are adopted, the cost would rise to over 26 trillion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled 32.2 billion dollars, including 11.9 billion in co-financing.

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Economic and Social Survey for Asia and the Pacific 2018 – Mobilizing finance for sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economic-social-survey-asia-pacific-2018/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-social-survey-asia-pacific-2018 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economic-social-survey-asia-pacific-2018/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 12:19:06 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155652 Asia and the Pacific remains the engine of the global economy. It continues to power trade, investment and jobs the world over. Two thirds of the region’s economies grew faster in 2017 than the previous year and the trend is expected to continue in 2018. The region’s challenge is now to ensure this growth is […]

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By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Asia and the Pacific remains the engine of the global economy. It continues to power trade, investment and jobs the world over. Two thirds of the region’s economies grew faster in 2017 than the previous year and the trend is expected to continue in 2018. The region’s challenge is now to ensure this growth is robust, sustainable and mobilised to provide more financing for development. It is certainly an opportunity to accelerate progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Shamshad Akhtar

Recent figures estimate economic growth across the region at 5.8 per cent in 2017 compared with 5.4 per cent in 2016. This reflects growing dynamism amid relatively favourable global economic conditions, underpinned by a revival of demand and steady inflation. Robust domestic consumption and recovering investment and trade all contributed to the 2017 growth trajectory and underpin a stable outlook.

Risks and challenges nevertheless remain. Rising private and corporate debt, particularly in China and countries in South-East Asia, low or declining foreign exchange reserves in a few South Asian economies, and trends in oil prices are among the chief concerns. Policy simulation for 18 countries suggests a $10 rise in the price of oil per barrel could dampen GDP growth by 0.14 to 0.4 per cent, widen external current account deficits by 0.5-to 1.0 percentage points and build inflationary pressures in oil-importing economies. Oil exporters, however, would see a positive impact.

These challenges come against the backdrop of looming trade protectionism. Inward-looking trade policies will create uncertainty and would entail widespread risks to region’s export and their backbone industries and labour markets. While prospects for the least developed countries in the region are close to 7 per cent, concerns persist given their inherent vulnerabilities to terms-of-trade shocks or exposure to natural disasters.

The key questions are how we can collectively take advantage of the solid pace of economic expansion to facilitate and improve the long-term prospects of economies and mobilize finance for development as well as whether multilateral institutions, such as the World Trade Organization membership can resolve the global gridlock on international trade?

Economic and financial stability along with liberal trade access to international markets will be critical for effective pursuit of the 2030 Agenda. Regional economies, whose tax potential remains untapped, now need to lift domestic resource mobilization and prudently manage fiscal affairs. Unleashing their financial resource potential need to be accompanied by renewed efforts to leverage private capital and deploy innovative financing mechanisms. The investment requirements to make economies resilient, inclusive and sustainable are sizeable − as high as $2.5 trillion per year on average for all developing countries worldwide. In the Asia-Pacific region, investment requirements are also substantial but so are potential resources. The combined value of international reserves, market capitalization of listed companies and assets held by financial institutions, insurance companies and various funds is estimated at some $56 trillion. Effectively channelling these resources to finance sustainable development is a key challenge for the region.

The need to come up with supplementary financial resources will remain. Public finances are frequently undermined by a narrow tax base, distorted taxation structures, weak tax administrations, and ineffective public expenditure management. This has created problems of balanced fiscalization of sustainable development, even if the national planning organizations have embraced and integrated sustainable development agenda in their forward looking plans.

Despite a vibrant business sector, the lack of enabling policies, legal and regulatory frameworks, and large informal sectors, have deterred sustainability and its appropriate financing. The external assistance from which some countries benefit is insufficient to meet sustainable development investment requirements, a problem often compounded by low inbound foreign direct investment. Capital markets in many countries are underdeveloped and bond markets are still in their infancy. Fiscal pre-emption of banking resources is quite common. For those emerging countries which have successfully tapped international capital markets, a tightening of global financial conditions means borrowing costs are on the rise.

Our ESCAP flagship report, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2018 (Survey 2018) which has been launched today calls for stronger political will and governments strengthening tax administrations and expanding the tax base. If the quality of the tax policy and administrations in Asia-Pacific economies matches developed economies, the incremental revenue impact could be as high as 3 to 4 per cent of GDP in major economies such as China, India and Indonesia and steeper in developing countries. Broadening the tax base by rationalizing tax incentives for foreign direct investment and introducing a carbon tax could generate almost $60 billion in additional tax revenue per year.

But government action must be complemented by the private sector to effectively pursue sustainable development. The right policy environment could encourage private investment by institutional investors in long-term infrastructure projects. Structural reforms should focus on developing enabling policy environment and institutional setting designed to facilitate public-private partnerships, stable macroeconomic conditions, relatively developed financial markets, and responsive legal and regulatory frameworks.

Finally, while much of the success in mobilizing development finance will depend on the design of national policies, regional cooperation is vital. Coordinated policy actions are needed to reduce tax incentives for foreign direct investment and to introduce a carbon tax. For many least developed countries, the role of external sources of finance remains critical. In many cases, the success of resource mobilization strategies in one country is conditional on closer regional cooperation. ESCAP’s remains engaged and its analysis can support the planning and cooperation needed to effectively mobilize finance for sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Low Awareness Restrains Growth of Solar Technologieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/low-awareness-restrains-growth-solar-technologies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=low-awareness-restrains-growth-solar-technologies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/low-awareness-restrains-growth-solar-technologies/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 00:04:46 +0000 Tonderayi Mukeredzi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155638 Every year, Amos Chandiringa, 43, a farmer in Nemaire village in Makoni district in northeastern Zimbabwe, laboriously waters his tobacco nursery with a watering can. The toil of the job often leaves him without the energy or time to do other household chores. “I live near a dam, so I’ve access to plenty of water, […]

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A young woman admires a parabolic solar cooker at a solar fair in Rusape, Zimbabwe. Credit: Tonderayi Mukeredzi/IPS

A young woman admires a parabolic solar cooker at a solar fair in Rusape, Zimbabwe. Credit: Tonderayi Mukeredzi/IPS

By Tonderayi Mukeredzi
RUSAPE, Zimbabwe, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Every year, Amos Chandiringa, 43, a farmer in Nemaire village in Makoni district in northeastern Zimbabwe, laboriously waters his tobacco nursery with a watering can. The toil of the job often leaves him without the energy or time to do other household chores.

“I live near a dam, so I’ve access to plenty of water, but I cannot do much with the water because I lack the necessary technology to mechanise my farming. Installing an electric or diesel water pump have been options, but that is expensive,” he tells IPS.Government, solar last mile distributors and development agencies say using solar electricity to power irrigation pumps, process harvests and for preservation of crops can transform rural lives.

In February, Chandiringa was privileged to host a combined farmers’ field day and solar fair at his homestead for the first time in his area and in the history of his farming career.

Solar entrepreneur Isaac Nyakusendwa says farmers like Chandiriga could make light work of their farming and multiply their yields if they used solar pumps to draw water from the dam to irrigate their crops or to use in the home.

Although farming is the occupation of most people in Rusape and other areas of rural Zimbabwe, the usage of solar photovoltaic systems remains limited mainly to lighting and entertainment.

Government, solar last mile distributors and development agencies say using solar electricity to power irrigation pumps, process harvests and for preservation of crops can transform rural lives by providing better crop yields, higher incomes and reducing the physical labor of farming.

Nemaire councillor Sam Maungwe says farmers in his area earn good money, mostly from tobacco farming, but due to poor knowledge of solar technologies, many of them spend their earnings on radios and household furniture.

“Farmers here largely grow tobacco, hence the area suffers from a double strain of wood cutting for tobacco curing and firewood. The use of solar in farming by our farmers would be good as it will lengthen their farming season and increase their income,” Maungwe tells IPS. “But more importantly, we want our farmers to extend the use of solar to tobacco barns so that they stop the indiscriminate cutting down of trees for tobacco curing.”

Petronella Karima, an extension officer, says there should be more platforms to educate rural farmers and expose them to new, affordable technologies because most of them are not aware of the capabilities of solar products.

“Many use solar for entertainment. Some have big solar home systems in their homes, but they don’t know that they can use it to water their crops and install water in their homes. With the knowledge they got from the solar exhibition, I believe many will now use solar to irrigate their crops and to harvest water,” Karima says.

Chiedza Mazaiwana, the Power for All Campaign Manager at Practical Action Zimbabwe, says awareness of renewable energy solutions is relatively low, with market penetration of solar lighting and home systems estimated at only 3%.

She says consumer literacy on renewable energy products is critical in unlocking the huge potential of renewable products in off grid rural communities.

“Lack of knowledge is a major barrier to the development of the solar market. Most potential rural customers are unaware of recent advances in solar technology, reductions in the cost of the technology, availability of financing solutions such as the pay-as you-go (PAYG) model that allows them to access technologies and products that would ordinarily be beyond their reach,” she adds.

The past distribution of poor quality products and installations have also undermined trust and reduced demand, making it very hard for businesses to establish a presence in rural areas.

However, as part of a rural solar market development effort, government, renewable energy firms and development agencies are concertedly using field days and solar fairs to encourage the use of solar energy as a way of improving livelihoods in rural areas.

Solar fairs are emerging as a key platform for awareness raising and consumer education on solar for off-grid communities and for solar distributors to create business linkages with farmers. Other methods include media campaigns and the use of trusted opinion leaders such as chiefs, head teachers and faith leaders to spread the word about the novelty of renewable energy solutions. This method has proved particularly effective in East Africa.

Nyakusenda, who is the chairman of the Renewable Energy Association of Zimbabwe, a grouping of solar distribution companies says, “Lack of knowledge about solar energy and its capabilities is one of the many barriers scuttling the development of the solar market. Through combined field day and solar fairs, we are facilitating, and giving farmers a perfect and rare opportunity to shop for and to interact with suppliers of solar products in one place thereby expose them to quality products and genuine companies.”

He says the PAYG model allows the farmers to pay a nominal deposit for a renewable product of their choice, and finish the payment in small, cheap monthly instalments.

During the fairs, young males and females have been particularly attracted to solar powered lighting, entertainment and communication gadgets while women liked solar cooking stoves and older males got attracted to water pumping systems.

Practical Action’s gender officer Tony Zibani says the use of solar technology can ease the triple burden of work on women and reduce gender-based violence in the homes as chores performed by women would be lessened by technology.

Over 60% of Zimbabwe’s population do not have access to energy and rely on solid biomass fuels such as firewood, charcoal and kerosene as their main cooking fuel – solutions that are expensive, unreliable and environmentally unsustainable.

While the demand for energy in rural areas is increasing, the provision of electricity is skewed greatly towards higher-income households and urban areas, leaving out a large proportion of the rural population.

Mazaiwana asserts that decentralized electrification solutions are the fastest, most cost-effective and sustainable approach to universal energy access, in addition to providing economic opportunities for communities.

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Protests, Strikes, Solidarity – France Revisits May ‘68http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68/#respond Sat, 05 May 2018 11:44:19 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155633 “It’s good to be in Paris on a sunny May day and see many universities occupied … and the strikes against neo-liberalism,” declared British Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali at an event in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on May 3. “That’s very pleasing.” Ali and the American civil rights icon Angela Davis were […]

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Nanterre conference poster. Credit: SAES

By A. D. McKenzie
NANTERRE, France, May 5 2018 (IPS)

“It’s good to be in Paris on a sunny May day and see many universities occupied … and the strikes against neo-liberalism,” declared British Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali at an event in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on May 3. “That’s very pleasing.”

Ali and the American civil rights icon Angela Davis were the speakers at the free public event, “Solidarité et Alliances”, to commemorate 50 years since the massive May 1968 civil unrest, which paralysed the French economy through nation-wide strikes and demonstrations.

As they spoke at a packed theatre, students were blocking buildings at nearby Paris Nanterre University, hence Ali’s comments. Similar action has been taking place at universities in Paris and other cities such as Toulouse and Rennes.

Echoing 1968, France is currently gripped by a series of strikes involving railway employees and other workers, while students are demonstrating against the government’s higher-education reforms that would make admittance to public universities more selective.

American civil rights icon Dr. Angela Davis. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

The students say the changes are contrary to the French tradition of offering all high school graduates a place at public universities and would adversely affect poorer students, who are already underrepresented on campuses. The government’s stance is that reform is necessary to deal with a high drop-out rate and overcrowded institutions.

Rail workers, meanwhile, object to the restructuring of the national railway company, the SNCF. On Labour Day, May 1, street marches in Paris erupted in violence, with masked far-Left “anarchist” agitators burning vehicles and smashing shop windows.

The widespread protests coincide with several conferences and cultural programmes that are reflecting on themes of revolution in remembrance of “May ‘68”.

Davis, for instance, will be back in France next month as the keynote speaker at a conference at Paris Nanterre University titled “Revolution(s)”. The organizers – La Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur (SAES) – are hoping the campus will by then be accessible to the 400 expected participants.

“Nanterre as a town doesn’t have much of a historical aspect; it’s not like Paris or Bordeaux. The one thing we have here is the university and the ’68 protests,” said Bernard Cros, the main organizer of the meeting and a lecturer in British and Commonwealth studies.

The 1968 student demonstrations actually started at Nanterre, when students occupied an administrative building to protest class discrimination and other societal issues. Subsequent confrontations with the university administration and law enforcement agents led to additional universities and the public joining the protests, and, at the height of the May ’68 movement, more than 10 million workers were on strike in France.

Fifty years later, the current protests at Nanterre began when a group of students occupied a classroom in April to voice disapproval of the government’s reforms. The situation escalated when the university’s president called in the police to remove them, and officers in riot gear descended on the university. That in turn caused others to join the protest in solidarity.

Since then, students have shut down the campus. Visitors can see iron barricades in front of doorways, along with graffiti such as “Make Nanterre great again”, a paraphrasing of the slogan used by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, and that used by French President Emmanuel Macron to show his support for climate action (“Make our planet great again”).

The conference with Davis may not make the university “great again” but her presence in France generates huge interest among students, faculty and the public.

Cros said that Davis’s name was the “first that came to mind” when Nanterre was chosen as the 2018 site of the annual congress of the SAES – an academic association for those researching and teaching English language, literatures and culture. The university awarded Davis an honorary doctorate in 2014, so she is “already linked” to the institution, he added.

“What is not revolutionary about Angela Davis is what you have to ask,” Cros said in an interview. “Where would the world be without people like her? She put her own safety on the line. It raises questions about what it means to be politically committed. Whether you agree with all her views or not, this is something that attracts support.”

Doorways barricaded at Paris Nanterre University. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

Indeed some 900 people filled the Nanterre-Amandiers Theatre at the May 3 event where Davis and Ali spoke (the event is separate from the coming university conference). As the activists walked onto the stage, there was deafening applause and several young people leapt to their feet with shouts of appreciation.

“I’m not a person who tends to be inspired by nostalgia, but sometimes I find myself wanting that closeness (from 1968) again,” said Davis, in response to a question from one of the evening’s moderators about whether the “historical memory of ‘68” could help the world to imagine a better future.

“I don’t know if you know my story, but I needed some solidarity myself … I take solidarity very seriously,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be here this evening.”

Davis was a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, and active in the civil rights movement before and after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King in April 1968. Later, in 1970, guns she had bought were used by a high-school student when he took over a courtroom to demand the freeing of black prisoners including his brother, and left the building with hostages, including the judge.

In a subsequent shootout with police, the perpetrator, two defendants he had freed and the judge were killed, and Davis was arrested following a huge manhunt, and charged with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder” of the judge, although she had not been in the courtroom.

She declared her innocence, and sympathisers in the United States and other countries, including France, mobilised to demand her freedom. After being incarcerated for 16 months, she was released on bail and eventually acquitted of the charges in 1972.

During the theatre discussion, Davis described the civil rights struggles in which she had participated, highlighting the gender battles in particular, and pointing out that the U.S. civil rights movement was “very much informed” by what was happening around the world at the time.

For Tariq Ali, the ’68 movement was a time of international solidarity. In contrast, “there is very little solidarity with the Arab countries” at present, he said.

Speaking of conflicts in the Middle East, Ali said: “All these wars create refugees … then you give the refugees a kick in the backside and say ‘we don’t want you’.”

He said that citizens should demand of countries that if they start a war they should “take 100,000” refugees.

Many in the audience reacted with applause to these words. (In another university near Paris -at Saint Denis – migrants have occupied a building for several months, largely with the support of students who’re also demonstrating).

Outside the theatre, the “revolutionary” fervor is continuing. General strikes are expected to last throughout May and June, and the Nanterre students have voted to continue the protests until May 7 for now.

“The university is a very mixed population, and some support the demonstrations while others don’t,” Cros told IPS. “But nearly everyone understands the reasons for the protests. If you tell students: ‘we’re not spending money on you’, what is the message you’re sending them?”

With more than 2 million students in higher education, France ranks 19th among 26 developed countries for the quality of the sector, according to statistics from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and other observers note that funding for public universities is decreasing. (The government has promised increased financing).

Meanwhile, some students just want to get on with their lives. One third-year student said that while he understood the motivations of his protesting peers, his concern was to take his exams and finish his programme.

“I’ve been preparing for a long time,” he said. “For me personally, all this is tough.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale

 

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FAO Releases Alarming Report on Soil Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 13:09:04 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155621 Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat.  FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A […]

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Soil pollution poses a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and to our health, says new report by FAO

Untreated urban waste is amongst those human activities that contaminate our soils. Credit: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 4 2018 (IPS)

Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat. 

FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A Hidden Reality” at the start of a global symposium which has been taking place 2-4 May, 2018 at FAO headquarters, participated by experts and policymakers to discuss the threat of soil pollution in order to build an effective framework for a cohesive international response.

 

Background: What is soil pollution?

“Soil pollution refers to the presence of a chemical or substance out of place and/or present at a higher than normal concentration that has adverse effects on any non-targeted organism. Soil pollution often cannot be directly assessed or visually perceived, making it a hidden danger” states the FAO report. As a “hidden danger” right below our feet, soil pollution turns out to be underestimated affecting everyone – humans and animals.

The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans


The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans.

The Global Symposium on Soil Pollution (GSOP18), aims to be a step to build a common platform to discuss the latest data on the status, trends and actions on soil pollution and its threatening consequences on human health, food safety and the environment.

The report prepared by FAO shows how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are deeply linked with the issue of addressing soil pollution. SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Wealth and Well-Being), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) have all targets which have direct refernceto soil resources, particularly soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.

Furthermore, the widespread consensus that was achieved on the Declaration on soil pollution during the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3, December 2017) is an obvious sign of global determination to tackle pollution and its causes, which mainly originate from human activities. Unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices are amongst the main causes of soil pollution, highlights FAO’s report.

 

Facts and figures to note

The FAO report is an updated benchmark of scientific research on soil pollution and it can be a critical tool to identify and plug global information gaps and therefore advance a cohesive international response to soil pollution.

According to findings of the report, the current situation is of high concern. For example, the amount of chemicals produced by the European chemical industry in 2015 was 319 million tonnes. Of that, 117 million tonnes were deemed hazardous to the environment.

Global production of municipal solid waste was around 1.3 billion tonnes per year in 2012 and it is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes annually by 2025. Some developing countries have notably increased their use of pesticides over the last decade. Rwanda and Ethiopia by over six times, Bangladesh by four times and Sudan by ten times.

The report also highlights that “the total number of contaminated sites is estimated at 80,000 across Australia; in China, the Chinese Environmental Protection Ministry, estimated that 16 per cent of all Chinese soils and 19 per cent of its agricultural soils are categorized as polluted”.

“In the European Economic Area and cooperating countries in the West Balkans” adding, “there are approximately 3 million potentially polluted sites”. While in the United States of America (USA) there are “more than 1,300 polluted or contaminated sites”. These facts are stunning and the international community needs to turn its urgent attention to preserve the state of our soils and to remediate polluted soils into concrete action.

The report also warns that studies which have been conducted, have largely been limited to developed economies because of the inadequacy of available information in developing countries and because of the differences in registering polluted sites across geographic regions.

This means that there are clearly massive information gaps regarding the nature and extent of soil pollution. Despite that, the limited information available, is enough for deep concern, the report adds.

 

A growing concern

“The more we learn, the more we know we need cleaner dirt,” said FAO’s Director of Communication, Enrique Yeves, confirming the urgency of the UN agency to address the issue of soil pollution as soon as possible.

Concern and awareness over soil pollution are increasing worldwide. The report highlights the positive increase in research conducted on soil pollution around the world and fortunately, determination is turning into action at international and national levels.

Soil pollution was at the centre of discussion during the Fifth Global Soil Partnership (GSP) Plenary Assembly (GSP, 2017) and not long ago, the UNE3 adopted a resolution calling for accelerated actions and collaboration to address and manage soil pollution. “This consensus” highlights FAO’s report, “achieved by more than 170 countries, is a clear sign of the global relevance of pollution and of the willingness of these countries to develop concrete solutions to address pollution problems”.

FAO’s World Soil Charter recommends that “national governments implement regulations on soil pollution and limit the accumulation of contaminants beyond established levels in order to guarantee human health and wellbeing. Governments are also urged to facilitate remediation of contaminated soils”.

“It is also essential to limit pollution from agricultural sources by the global implementation of sustainable soil management practices”. These recommendations need to be adequately addressed both at international and national levels, in line with the 2030 agenda.

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