Inter Press Service » Economy & Trade http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 28 Jul 2016 23:31:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Chronic Hunger Lingers in the Midst of Plentyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/chronic-hunger-lingers-in-the-midst-of-plenty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chronic-hunger-lingers-in-the-midst-of-plenty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/chronic-hunger-lingers-in-the-midst-of-plenty/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 23:31:42 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146290 Despite being one of the biggest grain producers of the world, India lags behind on food security with nearly 25 percent of its population going to bed hungry. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Despite being one of the biggest grain producers of the world, India lags behind on food security with nearly 25 percent of its population going to bed hungry. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jul 28 2016 (IPS)

In a fraught global economic environment, exacerbated by climate change and shrinking resources, ensuring food and nutrition security is a daunting challenge for many nations. India, Asia’s third largest economy and the world’s second most populous nation after China with 1.3 billion people, is no exception.

The World Health Organization defines food security as a situation when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preference for an active and healthy life. The lack of a balanced diet minus essential nutrients results in chronic malnutrition.The global food security challenge is unambiguous: by 2050, the world must feed nine billion people.

According to the Global Hunger Index 2014, India ranks 55 out of the world’s 120 hungriest countries even behind some of its smaller South Asian counterparts like Nepal (rank 44) and Sri Lanka (39).

Despite its self-sufficiency in food availability, and being one of the world’s largest grain producers, about 25 per cent of Indians go to bed without food. Describing malnutrition as India’s silent emergency, a World Bank report says that the rate of malnutrition cases among Indian children is almost five times more than in China, and twice that in Sub-Saharan Africa.

So what are the reasons for India not being able to rise to the challenge of feeding its poor with its own plentiful resources? Experts ascribe many reasons for this deficit. They say the concept of food security is a complex and multi-dimensional one which becomes even more complicated in the context of large and diverse country like India with its overwhelming population and pervasive poverty and malnutrition.

According to Shaleen Jain of Hidayatullah National Law University in India, food security has three broad dimensions — food availability, which encompasses total food production, including imports and buffer stocks maintained in government granaries. Food accessibility- food’s availability or accessibility to each and every person. And thirdly, food affordability- an individual’s capacity to purchase proper, safe, healthy and nutritious food to meet his dietary needs.

Pawan Ahuja, former Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, says India’s problems result mostly from a deeply flawed public distribution system than anything else. “Despite abundant production of grains and vegetables, distribution of food through a corruption-ridden public distribution system prevents the benefits from reaching the poor,” says Ahuja.

There are other challenges which India faces in attaining food security, adds the expert. “Natural calamities like excessive rainfall, accessibility of water for irrigation purpose, drought and soil erosion. Further, lack of improvement in agriculture facilities as well as population explosion have only made matters worse.”

India's agriculture sectors have to bolster productivity by adopting efficient business models and forging public-private partnerships. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

India’s agriculture sectors have to bolster productivity by adopting efficient business models and forging public-private partnerships. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

To grapple with its food security problem, India operates one of the largest food safety nets in the world — the National Food Security Act 2013. India’s Department of Food and Public Distribution, in collaboration with World Food Program, is implementing this scheme which provides a whopping 800 million people (67 percent of the country’s population or 10 percent of the world’s) with subsidised monthly household rations each year. Yet the results of the program have been largely a hit and miss affair, with experts blaming the country’s entrenched corruption in the distribution chain for its inefficacy.

The global food security challenge is unambiguous: by 2050, the world must feed nine billion people. To feed those hungry mouths, the demand for food will be 60 percent greater than it is today. The United Nations has set ending hunger and achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture as the second of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the year 2030.

“To achieve these objectives requires addressing a host of critical issues, from gender parity and ageing demographics to skills development and global warming,” elaborates Sumit Bose, an agriculture economist.

According to the economist, India’s agriculture sectors have to bolster productivity by adopting efficient business models and forging public-private partnerships. Achieving sustainability by addressing greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste are also crucial, he adds.

To work towards greater food security, India is also working in close synergy with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which is not only an implementer of development projects in the country, but also a knowledge partner, adding value to existing technologies and approaches. The agency has helped India take the holistic “seed to plate” approach.

Also being addressed are challenges like livelihoods and access to food by poorer communities, sustainability of water and natural resources and soil health have moved centre stage. The idea, say experts, is to augment India’s multilateral cooperation in areas such as trans-boundary pests and diseases, livestock production, fisheries management, food safety and climate change.

FAO also provides technical assistance and capacity building to enable the transfer of best practices as well as successful lessons from other countries to replicate them to India’s agriculture system. By strengthening the resilience of smallholder farmers, food security can be guaranteed for the planet’s increasingly hungry global population while also whittling down carbon emissions.

“Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and use natural resources wisely,” advises Bose. “It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through a number of initiatives including better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

“India is a long way off from all these goals. The current dispensation would do well to work towards them if it aims to bolster India’s food security and feed its poor.”

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US Government Report Exposes Exaggerated TPPA Growth Claimshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/us-government-report-exposes-exaggerated-tppa-growth-claims/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-government-report-exposes-exaggerated-tppa-growth-claims http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/us-government-report-exposes-exaggerated-tppa-growth-claims/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 13:29:22 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146283 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jul 28 2016 (IPS)

A US government agency acknowledges that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not deliver many economic benefits promised by its cheerleaders. The 2016 report by the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) acknowledges that the TPP will not deliver many gains claimed by the US Trade Representative (USTR) and the Peterson Institute of International Economics (PIIE) although it uses similar methodology and assumes that the TPP will not change the US trade deficit as a share of GDP.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

The ITC’s credibility has declined over the years as it earned a reputation for cheer-leading FTAs. It had grossly underestimated US trade deficit increases following virtually every ‘free trade’ pact it assessed. Its projections understated the large US deficit increase with Mexico following the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the huge trade deficit explosion with China following ‘permanent normal trade relations’, and the trade deficit spike with South Korea following the US-Korea trade agreement.

To assess the impact of the TPP, the ITC used its variant of a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model modified to take account of foreign direct investment (FDI) effects. To be sure, the ITC accepts growth to rise due to a significant increase in FDI, although there is no strong evidence or even logic that the TPP provisions will ensure the increase in FDI and growth projected. In fact, the procedure used involves many arbitrary elements, such as the impact on the OECD’s Regulatory Restrictiveness Index (RRI), and the impact of the latter on productivity, FDI flows and GDP, both in the US and abroad.

However, the ITC accepts only a fraction of the overall growth attributed to ‘non-trade measures’ (NTMs) by the 2016 PIIE — and World Bank — assessment, effectively rejecting many claims of growth attributed to other NTMs. Thus, for example, the ITC estimates exports will increase by only 1% due to NTMs by 2032 as against the PIIE’s estimate of 9.1% by 2030.

Thus, the economic gains from the TPP are much more modest for the ITC, with US GDP growing by only $42.7 billion (0.15%) by the year 2032, or by an average of less than 0.01% annually. Indeed, the ITC found that US manufacturing output in 2032 would be $10.843 billion lower with the TPP than without it, with manufacturing employment lowered by 0.2%! And while vehicles production would gain, automotive parts, textiles and chemicals output would contract.

Overall projected gains to US real national income are $57.3 billion, or 0.23%, by 2032, implying an average annual increase of slightly over 0.01% over the next 17 years. The much larger increase in US national income compared to GDP suggests that the TPP will significantly increase (mainly corporate) income from economic activity abroad, presumably from outward FDI. It is not clear how much of this is due to enhanced intellectual property rights (IPRs) or TPP-related financial liberalization, or if such income changes have been considered. An alternative possibility is that the terms of trade will change sufficiently in favour of the US.

US trade balance to worsen

The ITC expects the TPP to have small positive effects on the US economy. Dropping the usual CGE modelling assumption of an unchanging trade balance, it adopts a controversial methodology to project changing trade balances. According to the ITC, US exports and imports would be $27.2 billion (1.0%) and $48.9 billion (1.1%) higher than ‘baseline projections’ without the TPP, thus increasing the US trade deficit to $21.7 billion in 2032. It projects that US exports to new TPP and other FTA partners would grow by $34.6 billion (18.7%) while US imports from them would rise by $23.4 billion (10.4%).

The ITC projects increased exports of $27.2 billion in 2032 (in 2017 US dollars), less than a tenth of the PIIE’s projection of $357 billion in 2030 (in 2015 dollars). It expects manufactured exports to rise by $15.2 billion, while such imports would increase by $39.2 billion, increasing the net manufactures’ trade deficit by $24.0 billion.

Although US services’ output is projected to increase by $42.3 billion (0.1%) due to the TPP, the net services’ trade surplus is expected to contract as the increased services’ imports of $7.0 billion would exceed the increased exports of $4.8 billion. Exports of services to non-TPP partners are projected to fall by $11.8 billion, less than the projected increase of $16.6 billion to TPP partners.

The ITC report also projects worsening trade balances for 16 of the 25 US sectors it featured, including vehicles, wheat, corn, auto-parts, titanium products, chemicals, seafood, textiles and apparel, rice and even financial services. It projects a declining market share of US manufactures, natural resources and energy of $10.8 billion as such exports increase by $15.2 billion while imports rise by $39.2 billion by 2032. In the US, agriculture would gain most, with output $10.0 billion, or 0.5%, higher by 2032. However, the costs and implications of the still growing US agricultural – including biofuel – production subsidies are largely ignored in the report.

Who gains, who loses?

While dropping the typical CGE modelling assumption of constant labour supply, the ITC nevertheless seems to assume that the economy naturally tends to full employment. It thus projects overall employment will increase by 128,000 full-time jobs, or by 0.07%, due to the TPP. The trade deficit increase due to TPP implementation would result in 129,484 American job losses, including a manufacturing employment drop of 0.2%. Hence, this has to be largely attributed to services employment growth despite the expected fall in the services trade surplus.

Even if a more comprehensive and balanced assessment of the costs and risks of TPP provisions finds the potential for improved net economic welfare for all in all TPP countries (which the ITC report does not claim to show), TPP measures will not compensate losing participating economies and stakeholders. And while there may be measures available for beneficiaries to compensate losers in some national economies, nothing in the TPP itself will ensure such compensation, let alone adequately compensate those who will lose.

Furthermore, the ITC analysis does not seem to consider public health and consumer welfare losses due to higher prices, and reduced access due to broader, stronger and longer patent and copyright protection — although higher prices for pharmaceutical drugs, software and other forms of intellectual property will impose substantial costs on the public and governments.

Implementing the TPP will greatly profit some large corporations, especially those getting IPR and financial rents. Meanwhile, real incomes for employees, especially the less skilled, are likely to be further depressed, as in the past, due to international competition following trade liberalization. Compensation for such losers is virtually unheard of in developing countries, and declining in developed countries, as they are hardly ever advocated by current conventional wisdom, let alone in the TPP Agreement’s 6350 pages.

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African Leaders Driving Push for Industrialisation: UN Officialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:48:56 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146270 The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2016 (IPS/G77)

Industrialisation in Africa is being driven by African leaders who realise that industries as diverse as horticulture and leather production can help add value to the primary resources they currently export.

This is an “inside driven” process, Li Yong, Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) told IPS in a recent interview. “I’ve heard that message from the African leaders.”

The African Union ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’ sets out a plan to transform the economy of the 54 countries in Africa based on manufacturing, said Li.

The process received support from the UN General Assembly on Monday with a new resolution titled the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (2016-2025).

The resolution was sponsored by the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries and China in collaboration with the African Union, said Li.

“These steps create a momentum that all “industrialization stakeholders” in Africa must take advantage of,” said Li.

The resolution called on UNIDO to work together with the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Economic Commission for Africa to work towards sustainable industrialisation in Africa over the next 10 years.

The types of industrialisation African countries are embracing often involves adding value to the primary commodities, from mining or agriculture, that they are already producing.

It includes horticultural industry, notably in Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal, beneficiation, adding value to minerals mined in Botswana, and shoe and garment manufacturing in Ethiopia, said Li.

However Li noted that in order to attract foreign investment in industrialisation, developing countries need to “do their homework.”

This can include building the necessary business infrastructure required for new industries in industrial parks.
“We have already seen some countries move ahead with attracting investments into industrial parks (including) Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa,” said Li.

Li pointed to recent examples from Ethiopia and Senegal, where the respective governments have invested millions of dollars in building industrial parks to attract foreign investors that create jobs and exports for these two Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Currently, there are 48 LDCs around the world, of which 34 are in Africa.

Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

The decent work and value addition that come with industrialisation are considered a key way that these LDCs can grow, transform and diversify their economies and become middle income countries. Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

LDCs in Africa have had “very low and declining shares of manufacturing value added in GDP since the 1970s”, noted Li.
By investing in industry, these countries can add value to their primary exports, including through agro-industry, as is the case in Ethiopia, whose main exports include coffee, gold, leather products and live animals. “Manufacturing connects agriculture to light industry” noted Li, such as through food processing, garments and textiles, wood and leather processing.

Moreover, industrialisation does not necessarily have to be incompatible with the shift to a low carbon economy, said Li, since use of resource and energy efficient production methods and renewable energy in productive activities such as agro-industry, beneficiation, and in manufacturing, in general, will lead the economy onto a low carbon path.

The world’s least developed countries are following in the footsteps of other countries which have already achieved development, in part due to the industrialisation of their economies.

LDCs are “really eager to learn from those countries (that have) already gone through this process so that is why we have established South-South cooperation,” said Li.

However industrialisation does not only benefit the developing countries which want to attract it.

“Firms in today’s manufacturing powerhouses such as China, India and Brazil that are faced with rising wages at home are searching for locations that offer competitive wages, and appropriate infrastructure,” said Li.

With populations in many countries around the world beginning to age, Africa also has a comparative advantage to offer with growing young populations in many African countries.

“With its young and growing population, some indications show that Africa has the potential to become the next region to benefit from industrialization, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing sectors,” said Li.

By providing employment and opportunities for these young people at home, industrialisation can also address other issues, including migration, inequalities and climate change, noted Li.

“Industry means creating jobs and incomes and industrial jobs partially reduce the pressure on migration and also resolve the root causes,” he said.

The Role of the G77

Li noted that UNIDO works closely with all developing countries, often through the Group of 77 and China, which represents 134 developing countries at the UN.

“The G77 and China has diverse membership, including Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries, Small Islands Developing States, and Middle Income Countries, located in almost all regions of the world and with diverse range of priorities with respect to industrial development,” he said.

“In LDCs, labor-intensive manufacturing is promoted to create jobs.”

“In middle-income countries moving up the technology ladder into higher value added manufacturing is targeted.”
This can include collaborations with “science, technology and research and development institutions, targeted foreign investment promotion, and other relevant services,” said Li.

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List of Acts President Must Do for Disaster Risk Reduction and Managementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/list-of-acts-president-must-do-for-disaster-risk-reduction-and-management/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=list-of-acts-president-must-do-for-disaster-risk-reduction-and-management http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/list-of-acts-president-must-do-for-disaster-risk-reduction-and-management/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:35:12 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146271 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Jul 27 2016 (Manila Times)

President Rody Dutuerte’s SONA could not possibly give details about every important program of his administration. But a SONA does mark for the people which activities a president thinks should be given top priority.

Disaster response together with disaster risk reduction should be treated as a high priority by any president. The people, specially the poorest among us, suffer a lot because of natural and recurring disasters brought about by heavy rains and typhoons. May God will the predicted earthquakes to never come. Our entire country suffers because these disasters cause heavy economic losses.

President Duterte apparently ranks disaster response as a high priority because he mentioned it along with some of the important concerns. He said, “We will continue to expand cooperation on human assistance, disaster response, maritime security and counter terrorism. We shall deepen security dialogues with other nations to build greater understanding and cooperation.” And in many parts of his speech, when talking about the environment and working with DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, he was obviously thinking of how to spare the people from suffering from weather and environmental degradation.

We agree with the civil society organization (CSO) Disaster Risk Reduction Network Philippines or NetPhils that the following are the most urgent and immediate priority acts the President and his DRR people should do–before anything else–for effective disaster risk reduction and management:

1. Certify as urgent the passage of an amendatory bill to Republic Act 10121 that will establish an independent National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority.

2. Certify as urgent the passage of a comprehensive legislation that will protect and promote the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially in disaster and conflict-affected areas.

3. Direct the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to immediately take action on Yolanda reconstruction and recovery issues and fast track implementation of reconstruction programs in Yolanda–affected areas particularly on resilient human settlements.

4. Direct the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to issue a clear policy guideline on the proactive use of the National DRRM Fund particularly for high risk and low-income LGUs.

5. Direct the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to intensify inclusive capacity building programs and ensure that Local DRRM Offices are functional and that permanent DRRM Officers are in place.

6. Direct the NDRRMC to create a program supporting the establishment of safe, resilient, and multi-purpose evacuation centers, prioritizing high-risk and vulnerable areas.

7. Direct the NDRRMC to issue a clear policy guideline to ensure inclusive participation and representation of CSOs at the local level.

8. Direct the NDRRMC to develop a Magna Carta for DRRM Workers and volunteers.

9. Direct the NDRRMC to ensure accountability of public officials as stipulated in Republic Act 10121.

NetPhils issued a press statement urging the President to really give this concern top priority. The statement contains these proposed actions.

We pray the President gets to read it or is at least made aware by his aides of this priority list.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Climate Migrants Lead Mass Migration to India’s Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 21:20:44 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146243 Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

Deepa Kumari, a 36-year-old farmer from Pithoragarh district in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, lives in a one-room tenement in south Delhi’s Mongolpuri slum with her three children. Fleeing devastating floods which killed her husband last year, the widow landed up in the national capital city last week after selling off her farm and two cows at cut-rate prices.

“I was tired of putting back life’s pieces again and again after massive floods in the region each year,” a disenchanted Kumari told IPS. “Many of my relatives have shifted to Delhi and are now living and working here. Reorganising life won’t be easy with three young kids and no husband to support me, but I’m determined not to go back.”Of Uttarakhand's 16,793 villages, 1,053 have no inhabitants and another 405 have less than 10 residents.

As flash floods and incessant rain engulf Uttarakhand year after year, with casualties running into thousands this year, burying hundreds under the debris of collapsing houses and wrecking property worth millions, many people like Kumari are abandoning their hilly homes to seek succour in the plains.

The problem, as acknowledged by Uttaranchal Chief Minister Harish Rawat recently, is acute. “Instances of landslips caused by heavy rains are increasing day by day. It is an issue that is of great concern,” he said.

Displacement for populations due to erratic and extreme weather, a fallout of climate change, has become a scary reality for millions of people across swathes of India. Flooding in Jammu and Kashmir last year, in Uttarakhand in 2013 and in Assam in 2012 displaced 1.5 million people.

Cyclone Phailin, which swamped the coastal Indian state of Orissa in October 2013, triggered large-scale migration of fishing communities. Researchers in the eastern Indian state of Assam and in Bangladesh have estimated that around a million people have been rendered homeless due to erosion in the Brahmaputra river basin over the last three decades.

With no homes to call their own, migrants displaced by flooding and drought live in unhygienic shanties upon arriving in Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

With no homes to call their own, migrants displaced by flooding and drought live in unhygienic shanties upon arriving in Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Daunting challenges

Research done by Michael Werz at the Center for American Progress forecasts that South Asia will continue to be hard hit by climate change, leading to significant migration away from drought-impacted regions and disruptions caused by severe weather. Higher temperatures, rising sea levels, more intense and frequent cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal, coupled with high population density levels will also create challenges for governments.

Experts say challenges for India will be particularly daunting as it is the seventh largest country in the world with a diversity of landscapes and regions, each with its own needs to adapt to and tackle the impacts of climate change.

Several regions across India are already witnessing large-scale migration to cities. Drought-impacted Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are seeing a wave of migration as crops fail. Many people have been forced to leave their parched fields for India’s cities in search of work. Drought has affected about a quarter of India’s 1.3 billion people, according to a submission to the Supreme Court by the central government in April.

Rural people have especially been forced to “migrate en masse”, according to a recent paper published by a group of NGOs. Evidence of mass migration is obvious in villages that are emptying out. In Uttaranchal, nine per cent of its villages are virtually uninhabited. As per Census 2011, of Uttarakhand’s 16,793 villages, 1,053 have no inhabitants and another 405 have less than 10 residents. The number of such phantom villages has surged particularly after the earthquake and flash floods of 2013.

The intersection of climate change, migration and governance will present new challenges for India, says Dr. Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank which does rehabilitation work in many flood- and drought-affected Indian states. “Both rural and urban areas need help dealing with climate change. Emerging urban areas which are witnessing inward migration, and where most of the urban population growth is taking place, are coming under severe strain.”

Tardy rescue and rehabilitation

Apparently, the Indian government is still struggling to come to terms with climate change-induced calamities. Rescue and rehabilitation has been tardy in Uttaranchal this year too with no long-term measures in place to minimise damage to life and property. In April, a group of more than 150 leading economists, activists, and academics wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling the government’s response “listless, lacking in both urgency and compassion”.

The government has also come under fire for allocating a meagre 52.8 million dollars for climate change adaptation over the next two financial years, a sum which environmental experts say is woefully inadequate given the size of the country and the challenges it faces.

Experts say climate migration hasn’t been high on India’s policy agenda due to more pressing challenges like poverty alleviation, population growth, and urbanisation. However, Shashank Shekhar, an assistant professor from the Department of Geology at the University of Delhi, asserts that given the current protracted agrarian and weather-related crises across the country, a cohesive reconstruction and rehabilitation policy for migrants becomes imperative. “Without it, we’re staring at a large-scale humanitarian crisis,” predicts the academician.

According to Kumari, climate change-related migration is not only disorienting entire families but also altering social dynamics. “Our studies indicate that it’s mostly men who migrate from the villages to towns or cities for livelihoods, leaving women behind to grapple with not only households, but also kids, the elderly, farms and the cattle. This brings in not only livelihood challenges but also socio-cultural ones.”

Geetika Singh of the Centre for Science and Environment, who has travelled extensively in the drought-stricken southern states of Maharashtra as well as Bundelhkand district in northern Uttar Pradesh, says the situation is dire.

“We’ve seen tiny packets of water in polythene bags being sold for Rs 10 across Bundelkhand,” Singh said. “People are deserting their homes, livestock and fields and fleeing towards towns and cities. This migration is also putting a severe strain on the urban population intensifying the crunch for precious resources like water and land.”

A study titled “Drinking Water Salinity and Maternal Health in Coastal Bangladesh: Implications of Climate Change” 2011 has highlighted the perils of drinking water from natural sources in coastal Bangladesh. The water, which has been contaminated by saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels, cyclone and storm surges, is creating hypertension, maternal health and pregnancy issues among the populace.

Singh, who travelled extensively in Bangladesh’s Sunderbans region says health issues like urinary infections among women due to lack of sanitation are pretty common. “High salinity of water is also causing conception problems among women,” she says.

Until the problem is addressed on a war footing, factoring in the needs of all stakeholders, hapless people like Deepa will continue to be uprooted from their beloved homes and forced to inhabit alien lands.

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Forests and Crops Make Friendly Neighbors in Costa Ricahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 18:55:58 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146239 Tapantí National Park lies east from the capital San José covering more than 50.000 hectares of forest, which in turn provides valuable watershed protection. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

Tapantí National Park lies east from the capital San José covering more than 50.000 hectares of forest, which in turn provides valuable watershed protection. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

While Latin America keeps expanding its agricultural frontier by converting large areas of forest, one country, Costa Rica, has taken a different path and is now a role model for a peaceful coexistence between food production and sustainable forestry.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) flagship publication The State of the World’s Forests revealed that commercial agriculture was responsible for 70 percent of forest conversion in Latin America between 2000 and 2010.

“What FAO mentions about the rest of Latin America, clearing forests for agriculture or livestock, happened in Costa Rica during the 1970s and 1980s,” Jorge Mario Rodríguez, the director of Costa Rica’s National Fund for Forestry Finance (Fonafifo), told IPS.“Agricultural development doesn’t necessarily require the expansion of croplands; rather, it demands the coexistence with the forest and the intensification of production by improving national farmers’ productivity and competitiveness" -- Octavio Ramírez.

At its worst moment, during the 1980s, Costa Rica’s forest cover was limited to 21 to 25 percent of its land area. Now, forests account for 53 percent of the country’s 51,000 square kilometers, with almost five million inhabitants.

The country has managed to hold and even push back the advance of the agricultural frontier while strengthening its food security, according to FAO, which says that Costa Rica’s malnutrition rate is under 5 percent, something the organisation accounts as “zero hunger”.

“Here’s a learned lesson: there’s no need to chop down forests to produce more crops,” FAO Costa Rica director Octavio Ramírez told IPS.

Despite the increase in forest cover, FAO states the average value of food production per person increased by 26 percent in the period 1990–1992 to 2011–2013.

FAO attributes this change “to structural changes in the economy and the priority given to forest conservation and sustainable management” which were seized upon by Costa Rican authorities in a specific context.

“It has to do with the livestock crisis during the 1980s but also the priority given by Costa Rica to forest management,” said Ramírez, born in Nicaragua but Costa Rican by naturalisation.

In The State of the World’s Forests report, launched on July 18, FAO explains that Costa Rican forests were regarded as “land banks” that could be converted as necessary to meet agricultural needs.

“To keep the forest intact was looked upon as a synonym of laziness and unwillingness to work,” Ramírez explained.

But there were two key elements during the 1980s that led to better forest protection, the environmental economist Juan Robalino told IPS.

José Alberto Chacón weeds between bean plants on his small farm in Pacayas, on the slopes of the Irazú volcano, in Costa Rica. The terraces help control water run-off that would otherwise cause soil erosion. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

José Alberto Chacón weeds between bean plants on his small farm in Pacayas, on the slopes of the Irazú volcano, in Costa Rica. The terraces help control water run-off that would otherwise cause soil erosion. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

Meat prices plummeted while eco-tourism became a leading economic activity in the country, explained the specialist from Universidad de Costa Rica and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center.

“This paved the way for very interesting policy-making, like the creation of the Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program,” said Robalino, one of the top experts in Costa Rican forest cover.

FAO states that a big part of Costa Rica’s success comes from PES, a financial incentive that acknowledges those ecosystem services resulting from forest conservation and management, reforestation, natural regeneration and agroforestry systems.

The program, established in 1997 and ran by Fonafifo, has a simple logic at its core: the Costa Rican state pays landowners who protect forest cover as they provide an ecosystem service.

From its launch until 2015, a total of 318 million dollars were invested in forest-related PES projects.  64 percent of the funding came from fossil fuel tax, 22 percent from World Bank credits and the remainder from other sources.

After studying PES impacts for years, Robalino explains the challenge for 2016 is to look for landowners with less incentives to protect their forests and bring them on board with the financial argument.

“The goal is to always look for those who’ll change their behavior because of the program,” Robalino stated.

Because of budget limitations, the program must decide which properties to work with, as applications exceed its capacity fivefold, according to Fonafifo director Rodríguez.

Priorities for PES funding include ecosystem services like watershed protection, carbon capture, scenic beauty and biodiversity conservation.

“Costa Rica learned that forests are worth more for their environmental services than because of their timber,” Rodríguez pointed out.

Fonafifo is now looking for new partnerships with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to launch a new program focused on small landowners who require more technical support, a road also favoured by FAO.

“Agricultural development doesn’t necessarily require the expansion of croplands; rather, it demands the coexistence with the forest and the intensification of production by improving national farmers’ productivity and competitiveness,” said Ramírez, FAO’s local representative.

Both FAO and local experts interviewed by IPS agreed that PES seized upon a national and international crossroads to launch a program that despite its success, is not the only cause for Costa Rica’s recovery.

“Costa Rica’s success cannot be exclusively attributed to PES since other policies, like the creation of the National Protected Areas System and its education system, also played a major role,” Rodríguez explained.

Beyond this program, the country has a longstanding environmental tradition: close to a quarter of its territory is under some type of protection, the forestry law bans forest conversion, and sports hunting, open-air metallic mining and oil exploitation are all illegal.

The country’s Constitution declares citizens’ right to a healthy environment in its article 50.

“I remember my school teacher telling us students that we had to protect the forest,” Robalino recalled.

However, Costa Rica’s forest recovery didn’t reach all ecosystems in the country and left mangroves behind. Their area has diminished in the past decades.

According to the country’s 2014 report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, mangrove coverage fell from 64.452 hectares in 1979 to 37.420 hectares in 2013, a 42 percent loss.

This ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to large monoculture plantations on the Pacific coast, where the local Environmental Administrative Tribunal denounced the disappearance of 400 hectares between 2010 and 2014, due to human-induced fire, logging and invasion.

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How Did We Arrive at This Chaos?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 13:28:11 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146233 Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News. ]]>

Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

A Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times”. That meant that too many events would disrupt the essential elements of harmony, on which the Chinese pantheon is based.

We certainly live in very interesting times where every day dramatic events pile on us, from terrorism to coup d’etat, from climate disaster to the decline of institutions and ever increasing social turmoil. It would be important, even if very difficult, to look in a nutshell why we are in this situation now – “lack of harmony” . So here goes a dramatically compressed explanation.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Let us start from a little known fact. After the Second World War, there was a general consensus on the need to avoid the repetition of its horrors. The United Nations served as the meeting place for all countries, and the Cold War created as a reaction, an association of the newly independent countries, the Non Aligned countries, which acted as a buffer between the East and West camps. More, the North South divide become the most important aspect of international relations. So much so that in 1973, the United Nations General Assembly adopted unanimously a resolution on a New International Economic Order (NIEO).The world agreed to establish a plan of action to reduce inequalities, foster global growth and make of cooperation and international law the basis for a world in harmony and peace.

After the adoption of the NIEO, the international community started to work in that direction and after a preparatory meeting in Paris in 1979, a summit of the most important heads of state was convened in Cancun, Mexico in 1981, to adopt a comprehensive plan of action. Among the 22 heads of state, came Ronald Reagan, who was elected a few weeks before, and this is where he found Margaret Thatcher who was elected in 1979. The two proceeded to cancel the NIEO and the idea of international cooperation. Countries would do policy according to their national interests, and did not bow to any abstract principle. The United Nations started its decline as the meeting place on governance.

The place for decisions became the G7, until then a technical body, and other organizations, which would defend the national interests of the powerful countries.

At the same time, three other events did help Reagan and Thatcher to change the direction of history.

One was the creation of the Washington’s consensus, elaborated in 1989 by the American Treasure, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, which imposed as policy that the market was the only real engine of societies. States were an obstacle, and they should shrink as much as possible (Reagan also considered abolishing the Ministry of Education). The impact of the Washington Consensus on the ‘Third World’ was a very painful one. Structural adjustments severely cut the fragile public system.

The second was the fall of the Berlin Wall, also in 1989, which brought an end to ideologies, and obliged adoption of neoliberal globalization, which turned out to be an even more strict ideology. The main points of neo-liberal globalization included: the rule of the market (liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government); cutting public expenditure for social services (and reducing the social safety net); deregulation (reducing government regulation of everything that could diminish profits); privatization (selling state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors); eliminating the concept of “the public good” or “community”and replacing it with “individual responsibility (pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves – then blame them, if they fail, as “lazy”).

The third was the progressive elimination of rules of the financial sector, started by Reagan and completed by Bill Clinton in 1999. Deposit banks were able to use the depositor’s money for speculation. Finance, that was considered to be the lubricant of economy, went on its own way, embarking on very risky operations, not any longer linked to the real economy. Now we have for every dollar of production for goods and services, 40 dollars of financial transactions.

Nobody defends any longer the Washington Consensus, and the neoliberal globalization. It is clear to all that while at macro level, globalization increased trade, finance and global growth, at microeconomic level it has been a disaster. The proponents of neoliberal globalization claimed that the growth would reach everyone in the planet. Instead, growth has been concentrating more and more in fewer and fewer hands. Six years ago, 388 individuals owned the same wealth as that of 3.6 billion people. In 2014, the number of the super wealthy come down to 80 individuals. In 2015, this number came down to 62 individuals. The IMF and the World Bank have been asking to reinforce the state as the indispensible regulator, reversing their policy. But the genie is out of the bottle. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe has lost 18 million of its middle class citizens and the US 24 million. On the other hand, there are now 1,830 billionaires with a net capital of 6.4 trillion dollars. In the UK, the level of inequality in 2025 is expected to be the same at the time of Queen Victoria in 1850 at the time of the birth of capitalism.

The new world created by Reagan is based on greed. Some historians claim that greed and fear are the two main engines of history; and values and priorities change in a society of greed.

Let us come to our days. We have again a new group of three horses of Apocalypse. The damages of the previous 20 years (1981-2001), are compounded by those of the continuing twenty years (2001-2021) and we are not through yet .

The first, was that in 2008 the banking system of the US went berserk for absurd speculations on mortgages. That crisis moved to Europe in 2009, caused by the falling value of the state’s title, like the Greek ones. Let us recall that to save the banking system, countries have spent close to 4 trillion dollars. An enormous amount, if we consider that banks still have toxic titles for 800 billion dollars. Meanwhile the banks have paid 220 billion dollars in fines for illegal activities. No banker has been incriminated. Europe is not yet back to its pre-crisis level of life. Meanwhile, many jobs have disappeared because of delocalization to the cheapest place of production, and jobs with substandard salaries have increased, together with precarious ones.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), today a worker makes in real terms 16% less than before the crisis. This has affected especially young people, with a European average of 10.5% of youth unemployment. Yet, the only stimulus for growth is for the banking system, into which the European Central Bank‚ is injecting 80 billion of dollars per month. This would have solved easily the youth’s unemployment.

Economists speak now of a “New Economy”, where unemployment is structural. From 1950 to 1973, world’s growth was over 5% per year. It came down to about 3% during 1973 and 2007 (OPEP’s blockade of petrol price in 1973 marked the shift.). Since 2007 we are not able to reach 1%. We have to add the growing unemployment that the technological development is causing. Factories need a fraction of the workers they had before. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (robotizing), will bring robot production, now at 12%, to 40% in 2025. Some mainstream economists, like Larry Summers, (the establishment voice) say that we are in a period of stagnation that will last for many years. Fear for the future has become a reality, fueled by terrorism and unemployment, with many dreaming that is possible to go back to the better yesterday. This is what populist leaders, from Donald Trump to Le Pen, are riding. A consequence of the crisis was that in several European countries populist parties, engaged in a nationalist call, riding xenophobia and nationalism have emerged, 47 at the last count. Several of them are already in coalitions that govern, or directly, like in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia. Now watch the next Austrian elections.

The second horse of Apocalypse has been the result of the interventions made in Iraq by US, and then Libya and Syria by Europe (with a particular role by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy).

As a result, in 2012 Europe started to receive massive immigration, for which there was no preparation. Suddenly, people were afraid of the human tide coming, and its impact in workplace, culture, religion, etc. That become a major factor for fear.

And then the third horse was the creation of ISIS in Syria, in 2013, one of the gifts of the invasion in Iraq. Let us not forget the global crisis started in 2008, and since then populism and nationalism were on the rise. But ISIS spectacular media impact and the radicalization of many young Europeans from Arab descent, usually from the margin of societies and laws, accentuated Fear, and was a gift for the populist, now able to use xenophobia for mobilizing disaffected and insecure citizens. The decline of European institutions has brought several countries (after Brexit), to call for a deep revision of the European project. Hungary is going for a referendum on 2 of October. Would you accept an immigrant quota imposed by the EU, against the will of the Hungarian parliament? The same day there will be the re-run of Austrian elections, that the extreme right wing lost for 36,000 votes. Then the Netherlands, France and Germany will follow, with an expected increase of the extreme right wing parties. At the same time, Poland and Slovakia also want to have a referendum about the EU. It could well be that at the end of 2017, European institutions will be deeply wounded.

The real problem is that since the failed Cancun Summit in 1981, countries have lost the ability to think together. India, Japan, China, and many other are going through a tide of nationalism. In Cancun, all participants, from Francois Mitterrand to Indira Gandhi, from Julius Nyerere to Pierre Trudeau shared a set of common values.: social justice, solidarity, the respect of international law, and the conviction that strong societies were the basis for democracy (except of course for Reagan and Thatcher). She famously declared: there is no such thing as a society, there are only individuals). They shared many books. They considered peace and development as the paradigm for governance. All this has been swept away. Politicians, left without ideologies, subordinated to finance, have turned mainly to an administrative debate, on singles issues, without a framework, where left or right have become difficult to discern. We are clearly in a period of Greed and Fear.

Time is not helping. In 1900 Europe had 24% of the world population. At the end of this century, Europe will be 4%. Nigeria will be more populous than the US. Africa, now at 1 billion, will be 2 billion by 2050, and 3 billion by 2100. It is time now to engage all together to discuss how to face the coming world. We took 25 years to reach an agreement on climate, maybe it is too late. On migration and employment, two and a half decades is an eternity. But this must be a global agreement, not just a kneejerk reflex by Chancellor Angela Merkel in total solitude, without even consulting French President Francois Hollande. But this kind of agenda is politically unimaginable. How to discuss these issues with Le Pen, Donald Trump, the other emerging populists and the nationalist tide that runs in the world?

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Fertilizer Access Grows Farmers, Food and Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:07:24 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146220 Smallholder farmers prosper if they have access to knowledge and use of inputs such as fertilizers and credit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Smallholder farmers prosper if they have access to knowledge and use of inputs such as fertilizers and credit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
LOUIS TRICHARDT, South Africa, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

Brightly coloured cans, bags of fertilizer and packets containing all types of seeds catch the eye upon entering Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop tucked at the corner of a roadside service station.

But her seeds and fertilizers have not exactly been flying off the shelves since Khorommbi opened the fledging shop six years ago. Her customers: smallholder farmers in the laid back town of Sibasa, 72 kilometers northeast of Louis Trichardt in Limpopo, one of South Africa’s provinces hard hit by drought this year. The reason for the slow business is that smallholder farmers cannot access, let alone effectively use plant-nourishing fertilizers to improve their low productivity.

“Some of the farmers who walk into my shop have never heard about fertilizers and those who have, do not know how to use them effectively,” Khorommbi told IPS said on the sidelines of a training workshop organised by the International Fertilizer Association (IFA)-supported African Fertilizer Volunteers Program (AFVP) to teach smallholders farmers and agro dealers like her about fertilizers in Limpopo.

Khorommbi, describing information as power, says fledging agro-dealer businesses are a critical link in the food production chain. Agro-dealers, who work at the village level, better understand and are more accessible to smallholder farmers, who in many cases rely on the often poorly resourced government extension service for information on improving productivity.

“Smallholder farmers can make the change in food security through better production, one of whose key elements is fertilizer,” said Khrorommbi, one of more than 100 agro-dealers in the Vhembe District of Limpopo.

An assistant checks stock in Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop in Vhembe District, Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

An assistant checks stock in Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop in Vhembe District, Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Growing knowledge, growing farmers

Noting the knowledge gap on fertilizers, the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), supported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and private sector partners, launched Agribusiness Support to the Limpopo Province (ASLP) in 2015 which has trained over 100 agro-dealers in the Province.

The project promotes the development of the agro dealer hub model, where established commercial agro dealers service smaller agro dealers and agents in the rural areas, who in turn better serve smallholder farmers by putting agricultural inputs within easy reach and at reasonable cost. The AFVP aims to attract the private sector in South Africa – a net fertilizer importer – to developing the SMEs sector in the fertilizer value chain focusing on smallholder farmers and agro dealers.

Smallholder farmers hold the key to feeding Africa, including South Africa, but their productivity is stymied by poor access to inputs and even effective markets for their produce, an issue the FAO believes private and public sector partnerships can solve.

AFAP and a private company, Kynoch Fertilizer, have embarked on an entrepreneurship development program for smallholder farmers and agro dealers in the Limpopo province, one of the country’s bread baskets, in an effort to help close the ‘yield gap’ among smallholder farmers.  Smallholder farmers and agro dealers have been trained on fertilisers, soils, plant nutrients, safe storage of fertilizers, environmental safety and business management skills.

“By using more fertilisers correctly, South Africa’s smallholder farmers can grow more and nutritious food, achieve household food security, create jobs, increase incomes and boost rural development,” AFAP’s Vice-President, Prof. Richard Mkandawire, told IPS. “To grow and support SMEs in Africa is the pathway if we are to reduce hunger and poverty. The future of South Africa is about growing those rural enterprises that will support smallholder farmers and employment creation.’

In 2006, African Heads of State and Government signed the Abuja Declaration at a Fertilizer Summit in Nigeria committing to increase the use of fertilizer in Africa from the then-average 8kg per hectare to 50kg per hectare by 2015 to boost productivity. Ten years later, only a few countries have attained this goal.

Mkandawire said research has established that for every kilogram of nutrients smallholder farmers apply to their soils, they can realize up to 30kg in additional products.

Research has shown that smallholder farmers in South Africa in general do not apply optimum levels of fertilizers owing to high cost, poor access and low awareness about the benefits of providing nutrition for the soil.

Fertilizer Registrar and Director in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests (DAFF) in Limpopo Province Jonathan Mudzunga says smallholder farmers have structural difficulties in getting much needed fertilizers, a critical input in raising crop yields and providing business and employment creation opportunities for agro dealers.

“Commercial farmers are successful because they have access to inputs such as fertilizers and knowledge and it does not mean smallholder farmers are having challenges because they do not know how to farm but the biggest issue is knowledge and access to affordable inputs,” Mudzunga said.

Agriculturalist at Kynoch, Schalk Grobbelaar, says smallholder agricultural production in Limpopo is hampered by, amongst other things, low use of productivity-enhancing inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and crop protection products; animal feeds and veterinary medicines for livestock.

“Fertilizer increase yields. We fertilize what crops will take away and we put back into the soil but farmers lack knowledge on the balancing fertilizers according to what crops need,” said Grobbelaar.

Agriculture support is food business

The South African government is promoting SME development and growth of smallholder farmers who are key to tackling food insecurity at household level.

Despite their high contribution to economic growth and job creation, SME’s are challenged by among other factors, funding and access to finance, according to the 2015/16 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report. Lack of finance is a major reason for SMEs – which contribute 45 percent to South Africa’s GDP- leaving a business in addition to the poor management skills which are a result of lack of adequate training and education.

While the country produces more than enough food for all, many South Africans do not access the right amount and type of food, says a 2014 report by the Southern Africa Food Lab, an organisation promoting food security in the region.

“Poor South Africans are not able to spend money on a diverse diet. Instead the only option to facilitate satiety and alleviate hunger is to feed family members large portions of maize meal porridge that do not address nutritional needs,” according to Laura Pereira, author of the Food Lab report.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, bemoaning underinvestment in Africa’s agriculture, said innovation from farm to market was one solution to turning the sector – employing half of the continent’s population – into a thriving business.

“African farmers need better tools to avoid disasters and grow a surplus – things like seeds that can tolerate droughts, floods, pests, and disease, affordable fertilizer that includes the right mix of nutrients to replenish the soil,” Gates said when he presented the 14th Nelson Mandela Lecture in Pretoria, South Africa last week.

Gates said farmers need to be connected to markets where they can buy inputs, sell their surplus and earn a profit and for them to reinvest in into the farm. That in turn provides on and off the farm employment opportunities and supports a range of local agribusinesses.

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Modern-day Slavery in Oman? Domestic Workers in Perilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 14:45:13 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146210 Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered  Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

By Dominique Von Rohr
ROME, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

In order to escape poverty and support their families back home, thousands of domestic workers from South and South-East Asia migrate to Oman with the promise of stable employment in local households.

Once they arrive in Oman, new employers often seize their passports so that they cannot depart when they want, ultimately, denying them their freedom of movement.

They are made subject to excessive working hours, sleep deprivation and starvation. Many suffer from verbal or sexual abuse.

All too often, the money they work so hard for is denied to them. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, a great number of female migrant domestic workers fall prey to such abusive employment, and become Oman’s modern-day slaves.

The country’s visa sponsorship system, known as kafala, as well as the absence of labour law protections for domestic workers make migrant workers highly vulnerable to exploitation.

The kafala creates an “unbreakable” tie between the migrant worker and their employer, which means that the migrant worker’s visa is directly conditioned by the employer.

This prohibits migrant workers from switching jobs, even if they face abuse at their workplace. At least 130’000 migrant domestic workers are affected by the kafala system.

Families in Oman acquire their services through recruitment companies, employing them to take care of their children, cook meals, and clean their homes.

The recruitment companies typically ask for a fee to be paid for the mediation, and several migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their employers demanded they pay them back the recruitment fee in order to be released from their service.

Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay, or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse”, Rothna Begum, a Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, confirms.

A report from Human Rights Watch also stated that women who decide to escape their abusive employment often face legal penalties.

Asma K., a domestic worker from Bangladesh, told Human Rights Watch that she was not only “sold” to a man, her passport had also been taken away from her, and she was forced to work 21 hours a day tending to the needs of 15 people.

Asma was both sexually and verbally abused, denied of her right to a fair wage in addition to being deprived of food. Many other female domestic workers share Asma K.’s story.

Once a migrant worker has escaped an abusive employer, very few options remain. If the women go back to the agencies that recruited them, the agents often beat them and forcefully place them into new families.

The Omani police offers little help, usually dismisses the domestic workers’ claim, and returns them to the family they came from, where in several cases, the workers are assaulted by their employers, Human Rights Watch says.

Some women risk getting reported as “absconded”, an offense which can lead to their deportation or even a criminal complaint against them.

While several Omani lawyers confirm that they have no confidence in Oman’s labour dispute settlement procedure or courts for redress for domestic workers, some embassy officials dissuade domestic workers from even fighting for their case, due to the lengthy process and the high probability of facing defeat.

This process eventually leads to workers returning to their home countries without pay, with the dream of providing for their families shattered and no hope for justice.

In order to protect its nationals from abusive employment, Indonesia has banned migration to Oman, as well as other countries with a similar history of migrant labour abuse.

However, such bans often have an opposite effect, leaving those most desperate for work vulnerable to traffickers or forced labour as they try to sidestep their own country’s restrictions.

Human Rights Watch states that several countries do not protect their nationals against abusive employment, nor do they provide help to those who fall victim to trafficking, abuse and mistreatment living abroad.

In 2012, Oman promised the United Nations Human Rights Council to look for alternatives to the kafala system, however, Human Rights Watch states that no concrete proposal has since been made, and up until now, Oman’s labour law does not protect domestic workers.

In April 2016, a Ministry of Manpower official stated in the Times of Oman that Oman is considering protecting domestic workers under its labour law, however, when requested for information on possible law reforms or other measures to protect domestic workers, the Omani government remained silent.

Human Rights Watch states that Oman was further criticized by the United States government for not demonstrating increased efforts to address human trafficking.

In 2015, there were only five prosecutions on sex trafficking, with no prosecutions on forced labour at all.

In order to provide protection for domestic workers, Human Rights Watch urges Oman to revise the kafala system, and advises it to cooperate with the countries of origin to help prevent exploitation.

Instead of punishing migrant domestic workers for escaping their appalling conditions, they should be granted justice by means of fair prosecutions against those who manipulated, scorned and abused them.

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Enemy Imageshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/enemy-images/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=enemy-images http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/enemy-images/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:55:15 +0000 Michael Krepon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146206 By Michael Krepon
Jul 25 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Members of Congress have embarrassed themselves, this time by a joint subcommittee hearing on whether Pakistan is a friend or foe. Framing a congressional hearing in this binary way reflects the sad state of political discourse on Capitol Hill, where complex issues are boiled down to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Members of Congress dress themselves in righteous indignation and confuse leadership with generating headlines.

579527735___The United States, like Pakistan, is prisoner to a repetitive news cycle loop filled with hot air, loose talk and the constant drip of poisonous insinuation. The demise of civic culture continues apace. Echo chambers are not conducive to learning. Capitol Hill has devolved into competing echo chambers.

Without learning, we repeat mistakes. This is true on a personal level and on a national level. Some in the US repeat the mistake of insisting that other countries are implacable enemies, disregarding common interests. Taking refuge in this default position has cost America dearly. To repeat it again with Pakistan would be an act of pure folly. India reliably repeats its painful mistakes in Indian Kashmir. Pakistan has its own costly repetitive behaviours.

The US has been insensitive in its dealings with Pakistan.

Pakistan’s national security interests are defined mostly by men in uniform who jealously defend this prerogative from civilian prime ministers and the foreign ministry. Pakistan’s prime minister — a man not known for his attention to detail and zealous work habits — has made these circumstances worse by not having a foreign minister.

Some within Pakistan argue for a greater sense of urgency and energy on the civilian side to reverse the drift in Pakistan’s relations with the US and its neighbours. More energy would be welcome, but it will come to naught unless Pakistan sheds talking points that have long ago lost their persuasiveness. The ‘trust deficit’ argument has no weight when the reasons for the deficit are papered over. The promise that violent extremist groups that have ruined Pakistan’s reputation will be tackled in due course has worn thin because it has been repeated for so long.

The US has been heavy-handed and insensitive in its dealings with Pakistan. It’s easy for the US embassy to lose touch when it operates behind walls and razor wire. Members of Congress have short memories. They forget that Pakistan played a central role in the US diplomatic opening to China and in expelling Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Bilateral ties will always be complicated. The US and Pakistan are on the same side of some issues but not others. Pakistan would like a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, but it wants to retain influence there. Pakistan is concerned about violent extremist groups that carry out explosions in India, but not enough to clamp down on them. These straddles have left Pakistan on a tightrope without the means to engineer outcomes in Afghanistan or to ramp up economic growth, which depends on normal ties with neighbours.

Washington’s mix of carrots and sticks hasn’t helped Pakistan down from its tightrope, and now US incentives are diminishing. If Pakistan changes course, more help will come, but the relationship is no longer transactional. Pakistan will do what it thinks it must.

Perceptions of Pakistan are now deeply grooved. They won’t change unless Islamabad is able to take steps that clarify new thinking towards India and Afghanistan. Mikhail Gorbachev called this strategy one of destroying the ‘enemy image’. Gorbachev destroyed the Soviet Union’s enemy image in the US, but the Soviet economy was also destroyed because it was incapable of reform. Pakistan can change its enemy image and grow its economy by improving ties with neighbours. In doing so, Pakistan can maintain decent relations with the United States as it improves ties with China. Islama¬bad achieved this significant feat in the past; it can do so again.

On Capitol Hill, it would be helpful if serious legislators convened serious hearings on how best to stabilise and improve US-Pakistan relations. The easy way for legislators to weigh in is to get on soapboxes — an old American colloquialism recalling a time when men with megaphones gained elevation on street corners. Television is the new soapbox. Denunciations make cheap headlines while making hard problems worse. Congressional hearings where learning takes place have become rare on Capitol Hill. Pakistan deserves better treatment, but the same policies will produce the same results.

US-Pakistan relations are worth salvaging. Both countries have been through hard times together, and have accomplished much together. Pakistan has a long list of grievances towards the US. The US has a long list of grievances towards Pakistan. Grievances don’t solve problems; they make problems worse.

This relationship can no longer rest on the resupply of US troops in Afghanistan, or on Pakistan’s role as a selective bulwark against violent extremist groups. A new relationship has to be forged; otherwise, enemy images will only harden.

The writer is the co-founder of the Stimson Centre.
Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Biswal’s Dreams Just Pretentious Prattlehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:14:15 +0000 Editor Sunday Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146199 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Jul 25 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

So Nisha Biswal, the US State Department’s point person on Sri Lanka, says that Sri Lanka could be another Singapore.

That will be the day. If after six visits to the country in 20 months she has still not grasped the basics of Sri Lanka’s socio-political culture and mores, the lack of respect for law and order and the rule of law infused by political interference and intimidation, she could hardly be a messenger of hope and good sense.

Nisha Biswal told a group of Sri Lankan business leaders that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to model his country on Ceylon and now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore

Nisha Biswal told a group of Sri Lankan business leaders that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to model his country on Ceylon and now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore

Perhaps she has become accustomed to the obsequiousness of foreign minister Samaraweera for things western and his habit of clinging on to the hands of every foreign visitor seemingly as a token of eternal friendship but actually in case they make a break for a quick getaway as some suspect.

The other day media carried a picture of our over-zealous foreign minister holding on to the hand of the visiting Chinese foreign minister leaving the latter looking rather perplexed. The Chinese reaction was not surprising given that the pro-western UNP leadership turned its back on Beijing shortly after the “good governance” coalition came to office possibly because China provided financial help to the Rajapaksa government when our so-called western friends would not do so and even refused to provide weaponry to fight an insurgency.

But now that the pro-western UNP finds itself in a financial mess it has no qualms about kowtowing and publicly displaying a willingness to accept its financial help with open arms and empty money bags.

An occasional peck on both cheeks might be considered by some in our diplomatic fraternity as a sign of undying friendship and gratitude. But in the world of diplomacy such over-familiarity especially in public might not always win friends and influence nations.

Speaking to a group of Sri Lankan business leaders during her recent visit, Nisha Biswal said that Singapore’s one time prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had wanted to model his country on Ceylon at the time. But now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore.

Does Biswal believe that Sri Lankans are gullible or is this an insidious move to make this strategically-located nation an integral cog in Washington’s pivot to Asia policy intended to stymie China’s economic and military advance westward in the Indian Ocean?

If Biswal was even faintly aware of the bedrock on which the nascent Southeast Asian city-state was built she would not be proposing that we turn ourselves into a soulless nation however economically advanced and rich it has turned out to be.

I do not know whether Biswal has met Lee Kuan Yew when he was leading his newly independent state and talked to him. I have when I was working in Hong Kong and Mr. Lee visited the then British colony for a major conference.

So meticulous was the Singaporean he was able to tell me what I had called him in some of my writings – a dictator, an autocrat and a politician who did not tolerate dissent.

He did not entirely disagree but he carefully adduced reasons why he had to act the way he did, to craft a policy framework for a majority Chinese population sandwiched between two huge Malay-dominated nations. He said even Singapore’s language policy was determined by this geopolitical consideration.

Mr. Lee said that when Singapore was heading for independence Ceylon was the model on which he hoped to build the emergent state. Ceylon had a high rate of literacy, an educated people with a good educational system, an efficient civil service, a well-functioning judiciary and a performing economy.

But all these important qualities that made the Ceylonese nation were dissipated and destroyed by over-bearing and obtrusive politics. In later years when his people asked him for democratic rights and political freedoms he asked them whether they wanted to be another Sri Lanka involved in ethnic conflict.

Those who know the real Singapore story – I nearly went to work there when the editor of a new newspaper scheduled for launch invited me to join – how Ceylon born J.B. Jeyaretnam, the only opposition MP was treated (or mistreated) after he entered parliament after several attempts, how several journalists suffered including a friend of mine on the Business Times, Kenneth James, for ‘offences’ that most journalists would have considered normal professional duties.

Space does not permit an elaboration of the restrictions Singapore places on its citizens including the use of laws that a public gathering of five persons or more requires a police permit and charges of contempt of court, criminal and civil defamation and sedition are used to rein in government critics.

Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2015 states that the “Singapore’s government limits political and civil rights—especially freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association—using overly broad legal provisions on security, public order, morality, and racial and religious harmony.”

Admittedly some advances have been made – however meager – in the way of democratic freedoms. But the Singapore that Biswal and others speak of glowingly was not build on democratic foundations and the rights and freedoms associated with a free society.

So is Biswal then asking Sri Lanka to dismantle the constitutional and other rights guaranteed to its people, the democratic political system that took root even before independence in 1948 and the free press that politicians unfailingly promise the country?

I dare say Sri Lanka can well do without the corrosive and corrupt politics practiced today by many equally corrupt and abrasive politicians. If a nuclear destruction of the existing political system was possible that would certainly be for the betterment of the country.

Is Biswal able to provide such purifying political cleansing that is surely needed if Sri Lanka is to become another Singapore? Despite the democratic deficit that marks Singapore’s years of independence, it was able to achieve an enviable economic record because there were certain prerequisites that its leaders laid down.

Singapore was founded on meritocracy where only the best entered public service and other institutions and followed professional careers. Equally corruption was stamped on wherever it appeared and the guilty were shown no mercy.

Respect for law and order was inculcated in the populace and those who violated the law paid for it. That was the social order that produce Singapore’s economic miracle and a people who called themselves Singaporeans rather than by their ethnicity.

Moreover the city-state has had a political leadership that placed the country before self and was truly committed to building a prosperous society where the majority of its people were able to lead a comfortable life.

The reverse is surely true of Sri Lanka. Why talk of meritocracy when some of those who occupy official positions probably do not know what it means, where relatives, friends and acolytes are handpicked and planted in jobs for which the public pays. The qualified are deposited in the closest dust bin because they do not belong to the correct party, have not paid pooja to the presiding almighty and have sought to expose corruption and abuse or to indulge in it.

How could we build a meritocracy which is what Singapore has done, if a fundamental principle on which Sri Lankan politics is founded is nepotism and clannishness which this government promised to eliminate but practices with the same vigour as its predecessor?

The promises that the current government made to introduce “good governance” have been shattered long before the first year of this National Unity Government has ended. A classic recent example is the admission in parliament by the Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella that he recruited 45 persons as consultants to the Southern Transport Development Project of the Road Development Authority at Rs.65,000 a month. If the highest qualification most of them have is the “O” level or some even lower how are they qualified to be consultants and consulted on what?

Lakshman Kiriella, who is increasing becoming an embarrassment to the UNP, admitted they were given these jobs because they helped in bringing his party into power. Whoever consults these unqualified consultants should seek psychiatric assistance.

It was not long ago that he wrote letters to two university authorities seeking to influence the appointment of persons known to him.

Just a few days ago I saw an article in which the writer says that the High Post Committee had advertised in newspaper calling for public comments on three persons whose names were listed for particular appointments.

It seemed that these three persons, one of whom is the President’s brother, was already functioning in those posts and have been doing so for some time. If the story is true then somebody should remind this committee of the bolting horses and the stable door.

So this is the country that Biswal wants to turn into another prosperous Singapore. Either she knows little of what she is talking about or is deliberately trying to sell these ideas to drag Sri Lanka into a tighter embrace with Washington so we will loosen our ties with China.

If this is the kind of rubbish that visiting diplomats oozing with spurious bon homie, lecture us about we could well do without it.

Before she comes here next and the Foreign Minister rushes to offer another handshake she should rid herself of the mental sloth that characterizes her advice.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Beyond Rhetoric: UN Member States Start Work on Global Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:05:23 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146182 Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 22 2016 (IPS)

UN member states “are going beyond rhetoric and earnestly working to achieve real progress” towards the Sustainable Goals, the members of the Group of 77 and China said in a ministerial statement delivered here on 18 July.

The statement was delivered by Ambassador Virachai Plasai, Chair of the Group Of 77 (G77) and China during the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) which took place at UN Headquarters in New York from 18 to 20 July.

During the forum, the 134 members of the G77 and China reaffirmed the importance of not only achieving the Sustainable Development Goals but also the driving principle of leaving no one behind.

“We must identify the “how” in reaching out to those furthest behind,” said Plasai who is also Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the UN.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours,” Plasai added.

The UN’s 193 member states unanimously adopted the 2030 Development Agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in September 2015. The goals reflect the importance of the three aspects of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental, and countries will work towards achieving them by the year 2030.

However more still needs to be done to ensure that developing countries have access to the resources they need to meet the goals, said Plasai.

“We reiterate that enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building, and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system,” he said.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda... but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours." -- Ambassador Virachai Plasai

“We urge the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including through the G20 Summit in China which will focus on developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

At a separate meeting during the High Level Political Forum the G77 and China noted some of the specific gaps that remain in financing for development.

During that meeting the G77 and China expressed concern that rich countries are failing to meet their commitments to deliver Official Development Assistance (ODA) – the official term for aid – to developing countries.

“We note with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in this year’s outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address (gaps in ODA),” said Chulamanee Chartsuwan, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative Of The Kingdom of Thailand to the UN, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Speaking during the forum on July 19, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of the High Level Political Forum, “as the global central platform for follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Ban presented the results of the first Sustainable Development Goals report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on July 20. The report used “data currently available to highlight the most significant gaps and challenges” in achieving the 2030 Agenda, said Ban.

“The latest data show that about one person in eight still lives in extreme poverty,” he said.

“Nearly 800 million people suffer from hunger.”

“The births of nearly a quarter of children under 5 have not been recorded.”

“1.1 billion people are living without electricity, and water scarcity affects more than 2 billion.”

Leaving No One Behind

Ban also noted that the importance of collecting data about the groups within countries that are more likely to be “left behind”, such as peoples with disabilities or indigenous peoples.

Collecting separate data about how these groups fare is considered one way for governments to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 10 which aims to decrease inequality within countries.

However SDG 10 also aims to address inequalities between countries, an important objective for the G77, as the main organisation bringing together developing countries at the UN the G77 wants to make sure that countries in special circumstances are not left behind.

Countries in special circumstances include “in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Small Island Developing States, as well as countries in conflict and post-conflict situations,” said Chartsuwan.

However while the world’s poorest and most fragile countries have specific challenges, many middle income countries also have challenges too, the G77 statement noted.

Climate Change Agreement Needs Implementation

Developing countries, and particularly countries with special circumstances, are among those that are most adversely affected by climate change, and therefore wish to see speedy adoption and implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement alongside the 2030 Agenda.

Ban told the forum that he will host a special event during the UN General Assembly at 8am on September 21 for countries to deposit their instruments of ratification.

“We have 178 countries who have signed this Paris Agreement, and 19 countries have deposited their instrument of ratification.”

“As you are well aware, we need the 55 countries to ratify, and 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions accounted.”

“These 19 countries all accounted is less than 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“So we need to do much more,” he said.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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San Juan City: The Smart City of the Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/san-juan-city-the-smart-city-of-the-future/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 17:47:11 +0000 Felino Palafox http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146173 By Felino A. Palafox, JR.
Jul 21 2016 (Manila Times)

The Philippines has so much to offer to the world, not only ecological treasures by way of tourism, but brilliant minds, visionaries, and craftsmen. Other nations find the uniqueness and diversity of our ecology unimaginable—such as having the third-longest coastline in the world as well as endemic species of plants and animals. Another unimaginable phenomenon, our economy remains strong despite the fact we are crossed by an average of 21 typhoons a year and is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire—prone to eruption of active volcanoes, and earthquakes.

FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

FELINO A. PALAFOX, JR.

Despite all this, and insurmountable corruption through the years, the world is proudly calling us as one of the emerging tiger economies in the world. Not many people know, today, we are the 39th largest economy in the world. And I believe if we address corruption, criminality, climate change, and other national issues, we can become part of the top 20 economies in the world by March 16, 2021, when the Philippines celebrates its 500 years.

Smart cities
Two concepts are used interchangeably: Green Cities and Smart Cities. There are only slight differences between the concepts. Green Cities refer more to the passive integration of architecture and urban plan to the overall ecosystem. This concept is concerned in keeping carbon emissions sustainable, and manageable enough for the livability of the city. Smart Cities, on the other hand, are more focused in pro-active actions in becoming a green city—integrating technology, innovation, and citizenship in making the entire ecosystem and city livable. Though slightly different, both concepts are actions toward a more livable and sustainable quality of life.

In 2013, a project titled “Reshaping San Juan City: Planning Toward a Future of Green Consciousness” was awarded in Berlin, Germany. The event called “Smart City: The Next Generation” was organized by Aedes East-International Architecture Forum.

The formulation of the “Comprehensive Land Use and Zoning Plan for San Juan City,” done by our firm Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture, was applauded by the international community as a model city plan. San Juan City was called the “Smart City of the Future.” I was invited to present in a forum in Berlin, New York, and Shanghai the plans for San Juan and “Postcards From the Future.”

San Juan: Smart City
At the peak or at the highest point of Barangay Addition Hills, one can enjoy the scenery of a beautiful sunset. A kilometer down the hill lays access to one of Manila’s main river systems: San Juan River. Going to Ortigas Ave., one will pass by a barangay fondly named “Little Baguio,” used to be known for its towering pine trees and cool temperature. Apart from the special ecological terrain of San Juan City, Pinaglabanan Shrine heritage site known as the site for the start of the Filipino-American war.

There are five emphases in the plan for San Juan: land use, zoning, mobility, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster responsiveness. San Juan has a hilly terrain that is situated along one of the major river systems of Manila, citizens who work and live in San Juan always experience floods. During the wrath of Typhoon Ondoy, in 2009, many portions of the city were submerged.

The mobility plan focuses on being mass-transit-engaged and pedestrian-oriented. It gives priority to walking, biking, and commuting over private cars and vehicles. One of the major causes of systemic traffic congestion is prioritizing cars over public transit, walking and biking. The plan dedicates bike lanes and elevated walkways that connect the buildings and streets to the LRT stations. An elevated monorail was also proposed to connect various areas of San Juan with the LRT stations in Aurora and EDSA-MRT.

By creating elevated walkways for pedestrians, it prepared the entire city during flooding. Instead of people bracing the floods going to work, school, or home, the elevated walkways allow people to move in safety. It also puts people out of harm’s way because they do need to walk beside speeding cars or very narrow streets.

On the other hand, the plan also integrated a flood detection and awareness system. The citizens were asked to be involved in identifying areas that always get flooded, and electric posts were painted with flood-height measurements. Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture created flood overlay zones and Hazard overlay zones for the city of San Juan when it was still not a national requirement for the Comprehensive Land Use Plans and Zoning Ordinance. (Thankfully, it is now a requirement.)

Another recommendation is to bring down of high walls. The concept is known as “Eyes on the street” and “Security by Design.” Lessons I’ve learned elsewhere say that criminals are not afraid of walls and high gates because people wouldn’t know a crime is happening inside the house. Compared to a street where everyone has a view, criminals are more afraid with more eyes on the street. They should also be coupled with the installation of CCTV cameras and integrated police patrol.

One of the recommendations for the zoning ordinance is the transfer of air rights. Lot owners can sell the air right of the property if they do not plan to construct a much taller structure.

Future city plan for implementation
The plan is feasible and viable. It helps that the international community is keeping an eye on San Juan City’s transformation based on our plan. Often, plans for the future are not implemented due to bureaucratic red tape.

In my observation of thousands of cities and 67countries I’ve been to, what we need are: visionary leadership, strong political will, good design, good planning, and good governance. With the vision, mission, values, and goals of San Juan translated in a plan, the city has a bright future.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Economic Recovery Needed To Enhance Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/economic-recovery-needed-to-enhance-food-security/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 12:40:15 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146164 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jul 21 2016 (IPS)

After a half century of decline, agricultural commodity prices rose with oil prices in the 1970s, and again for a decade until 2014. Food prices rose sharply from the middle of the last decade, but have been declining since 2012, and especially since last year, triggering concerns of declining investments by farmers.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Earlier predictions of permanently high food prices have thus become less credible. Higher prices were said to reflect slowing supply growth as demand continues to grow with rising food needs for humans and livestock, and bio-fuel mandates introduced a decade ago on both sides of the North Atlantic.

Prices had become increasingly volatile, with successively higher peaks in 2007-08, 2010-11 and mid-2012. Some food price volatility had its origins in climate change-related extreme weather events in key exporting countries.

‘Financialization’, including linking commodity derivatives with other financial asset markets, also worsened price volatility in the second half of the last decade.

With three food price spikes over five years, food insecurity was widely seen as a major challenge. Higher and more volatile food prices seemed to threaten the lives of billions. But the FAO food price index peaked in 2012, years after the 2007-2008 food price spike triggered many mass protests.

Official development assistance for agriculture has fallen for decades despite the expressed desire by many developing countries to raise such investments. Meanwhile, rich countries have continued to subsidize and protect their farmers, undermining food production in developing countries, and transforming Africa from a net food exporter in the 1980s into a net food importer in the new century.

Food investments for economic recovery

Meanwhile, economic recovery efforts are needed more than ever in the face of protracted economic stagnation. A global counter-cyclical recovery strategy in response to the crisis should contain three main elements.

First, stimulus packages in both developed and developing countries to catalyze and ‘green’ national economies. Second, international policy coordination to ensure that developed countries’ stimulus packages not only ensure recovery in the Northbut also have strong developmental impacts on developing countries, through collaborative initiatives between governments of rich and poor countries. Third, greater financial support to developing countries for their sustainable development efforts, not only aid but also to more effectively mobilize domestic economic resources.

We need more investments that will help put the world on a more sustainable path such as in renewable energy and ecologically sensitive agriculture. After well over half a decade of economic stagnation, with developing countries slowing down dramatically since late 2014, it is still urgent to prioritize economic recovery measures, but also other needed initiatives. Preferably, recovery strategies should help lay the foundations for sustainable development.

Given the large unmet needs for infrastructure, more appropriate investments can contribute to sustainable growth. Such investments should improve the lot of poor and vulnerable groups and regions. In other words, investments should lead to the revival of growth that is both ecologically sustainable and socially inclusive.

Enhancing food security and agricultural productivity should be an important feature of stimulus packages in developing countries dependent on agriculture. Re-invigorating agricultural research, development and extension is typically key to this effort.

The Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s – with considerable government and international philanthropic support – increased crop yields and food production. However, the efforts for wheat, maize, and rice were not extended to other crops, such as other major indigenous food crops and those associated with arid land agriculture.

We need a renewed effort to promote sustainable food agricultural productivity. Public investments, including social protection, can and must provide the support needed to accelerate needed farmer investments. There are many socially useful public works, but priorities must be appropriate, considering national and local conditions.

For Sustainable Development

Projects could improve water storage and drainage, and contribute to agricultural productivity or climate adaptation. For example, in many developing countries, simple storage dams, wells, and basic flood barriers/levees could be constructed, and existing drainage and canal networks rehabilitated. Public works programs could prioritize basic sanitation or regeneration of wetland ecosystems that serve as “filters” for watercourses – as appropriate.

To be sure, many complementary interventions will be needed. Food security cannot be achieved without better social protection. This will be critical for the protection of billions of people in developing countries directly affected by high underemployment and unemployment, to reduce their vulnerability to poverty and undernutrition.

But sustainable social protection requires major improvements in public finances. While more revenue generation requires greater national incomes, tax collection can also be greatly enhanced through improved international cooperation on tax and other related financial matters.

Clearly, such an agenda requires not only bold new national developmental initiatives but also far better and more equitable international cooperation offered by a strong revival of the inclusive multilateral United Nations system.

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International Trade Favours Multinational Corporationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/international-trade-favours-multinational-corporations-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-trade-favours-multinational-corporations-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/international-trade-favours-multinational-corporations-2/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 09:25:28 +0000 Roberto Azevedo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146151 Roberto Azevêdo is the Director-General of the World Trade Organization ]]>

Roberto Azevêdo is the Director-General of the World Trade Organization

By Roberto Azevêdo
GENEVA, Jul 20 2016 (IPS)

Trade is sometimes thought of as an economic activity that only favours the large corporations. While we may disagree, the reality of international trading is often harder and more expensive for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The smaller the business, the bigger the barriers can seem.

Roberto Azevêdo

Roberto Azevêdo

MSMEs are responsible for the largest share of employment opportunities in most economies, up to 90% in some countries, this is especially true when looking at equal opportunities for young workers and women.

The economic importance and centrality of MSMEs is at odds with their ability to participate in international trade. This is true in both developing and developed countries. There is a significant opportunity to provide a truly inclusive trading system- offering MSMEs a chance to develop their potential and help transform many lives around the world.

This means tackling the barriers they face when participating in trade, these include tariffs, costly border procedures, and trade financing, in addition to the fixed costs involved with meeting particular national standards or other non-tariff barriers, all of which can become particularly difficult demands for MSMEs. All these are larger obstacles to MSMEs than bigger firms.

Slow and costly border procedures place a greater burden on MSMEs than larger firms. Additionally, MSMEs often struggle to access trade finance. Globally, banks reject over 50% of all requests for trade financing placed by smaller firms compared to just 7% of multinational companies.

Now the World Trade Organisation members want to explore more options to remove the above mentioned barriers, which is a promising start.

Since the Nairobi Ministerial Conference in December last year, WTO members have been discussing a number of issues, with MSMEs as a constant feature. But so far the discussion has been quite broad.

I think it would be useful to establish a detailed sense of what the major barriers and priorities are for MSMEs and what we can potentially do to help. This could be through Aid for Trade support, through the regular work of the WTO, through negotiating new trade agreements, or a whole range of other avenues.

Due to the success of Bali and Nairobi, the interest in our work here is extending to other constituencies. In response to requests, we have facilitated meetings with the private sector and the academic community in recent weeks.

About sixty business leaders attended the private sector discussions. I ensured that the organisers of the event invited representatives from a variety of small and large businesses, developed and developing countries, and a wide range of sectors. They debated the challenges they face in conducting trade operations and how the WTO can help in dealing with them.

Their suggestions included:
● improving the regulatory environment for MSMEs through the digitalization of government processes, improvement of access to public procurement markets, and reduction of compliance costs,
● developing coordinated capacity-building and certification programmes to facilitate the inclusion of MSMEs in global production networks,
● and conducting research on how MSMEs can fit into these global value chains.

These points are in line with those raised in the conversations between representatives and while a great beginning, will still need to be further developed. There are however, three elements where the debate is perhaps slightly more advanced.

Firstly, the quickest, simplest step we can take to support MSMEs, would be implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

MSMEs often cite burdensome customs procedures and regulations as major obstacles to their participation in trade. This is because large firms, especially multinational firms, are better equipped to navigate complex regulatory environments. The more time it takes to export, the more exporting is dominated by larger firms. Indeed, the evidence suggests that when the time spent to clear exports is reduced, MSMEs are more likely to increase their export shares than large firms.

So the Trade Facilitation Agreement has the capacity to boost MSMEs’ trading capacity. The latest ratification was received from Madagascar, taking the number to 83, and we expect to receive more in the coming days. We need to keep up the momentum on this front.

Furthermore, it’s clear that being technology-enabled helps small firms to export. A survey conducted by eBay in over 22 countries found that, on average, 97 per cent of tech-enabled firms export. In contrast, among more traditional MSMEs, the proportion of exporters ranged between 2 and 28 per cent. This highlights the importance of encouraging the further use and implementation of e-commerce technologies in MSMEs.

However, we can’t just assume that MSMEs will continue to benefit from greater opportunities once they are connected. Connectivity is fundamental, but not sufficient. The reality is that, if we just cross our arms and do nothing, we may see the opposite effect. E-commerce may actually promote the concentration of opportunities for big companies and services suppliers.

It is therefore useful to look at how new technologies can facilitate the participation of small players in digital trade, and in global value chains. We should look at how we can ensure that, through multilateral rules, MSMEs benefit from harmonized procedures, improved connectivity, and reduced operational costs.

In short, we should look to ensure that small suppliers can market their products, goods and services in a timely fashion, with competitive prices and reliable customer support. Only then will consumers have full confidence in buying from MSMEs in the digital environment.

Lastly, there are huge gaps in trade finance provisions for MSMEs, and this is a major trade barrier. Members will be aware that the WTO recently published a report setting out some of these issues in detail.

And we proposed some possible actions which included:
● working with partners to enhance existing trade finance facilitation programmes to reduce the gaps in trade finance,
● addressing the knowledge gaps in local institutions to help improve the capacity of local financial sectors,
● increasing dialogue with regulators to help ensure that trade and development considerations are fully reflected in the implementation of regulations,
● and improving the monitoring of trade finance provision, as better market intelligence would enable us to be more responsive to problems as they emerge.

These are just some reflections, based on the recent debates in and around the trading viability of MSMEs and the role WTO can play in encouraging and implementing new trade practices and regulations to boost support for MSMEs.

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We Ignore Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Livestock Industry at Our Own Perilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-ignore-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-the-livestock-industry-at-our-own-peril/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-ignore-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-the-livestock-industry-at-our-own-peril http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-ignore-greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-the-livestock-industry-at-our-own-peril/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:16:20 +0000 Risto Isomaki http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146142 Meat, Milk and Climate deals with the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries.]]>

Risto Isomaki is a science and science-fiction writer whose latest non-fiction book Meat, Milk and Climate deals with the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries.

By Risto Isomaki
HELSINKI, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, the production of meat and other animal-based products is responsible for around 18 to 20 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Risto Isomäki

Risto Isomäki

If FAO’s assessment is correct, animal waste and the use of nitrogen based fertilizers to grow fodder annually create about 6 million tons of nitrous oxide- 65-70 percent of our total emissions. The impact to global temperatures of this is equivalent to roughly two billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. Besides nitrous oxide, the livestock industry produces more than 100 million tons of methane per year, heating the planet as much as three and a half billion tons of carbon dioxide. This is further exacerbated by the clearing of vast swathes of tropical rainforests for pasture and growing fodder, annually releasing an additional 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Our total emissions of carbon dioxide currently amount to slightly more than 35 billion tons, in addition to which we also produce at least 350 million tons of methane and 9 million tons of nitrous oxide.

Many governments, municipalities and private companies have already started to implement programs aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a fraction of their current levels in the coming decades. In 2015, more than 90 percent of new energy investments have shifted to renewables, with fossil fuels and nuclear power struggling to attract the remaining 10 percent.

Similarly, new technological solutions for reducing vehicular emissions as well as industrial production, construction, lighting, and the heating and cooling of buildings are either being developed or already implemented. Even airlines and shipping companies have accepted the challenge. Some sectors have embraced these challenges with more enthusiasm than others, but there seems to be a general consensus that considerable changes are needed to prevent a full-scale environmental catastrophe.

The exception to the general shift toward environmental sustainability appears to be food production. Governments, and intergovernmental organizations like FAO are still discussing ways of increasing the global meat production from 200 million to 470 million tons by 2050.

This is of great concern even if meat, dairy and other animal products really were responsible for only 20 per cent of our combined greenhouse gas emissions. Even then, doubling the industry’s contribution would probably make it impossible to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, as agreed in Paris.

It is possible that the role of the livestock industry has been seriously underestimated. According to current estimates, natural lakes and ponds probably produce about 85 million tons and man-made reservoirs between 20-100 million tons of methane each year. While methane from reservoirs is considered to be a by-product of the energy industry, emissions from natural lakes, ponds and rivers are classified as “natural emissions”.

Research has shown that there are significant variations in the methane levels produced by bodies of freshwater. Heterotrophic lakes whose water and sediments only contain trace amounts of nutrients and organic matter produce very little methane. The smallest measured annual per hectare emissions from such lakes have been as little as 0.78 kilograms. At the other end of the spectrum, seriously eutrophic or nutrient-rich lakes with vast quantities of dead aquatic plants and algae, can release up to 190 tons of methane per hectare per year. In other words: there is a 243,590-fold difference between the largest and the smallest measured per hectare emissions, a spectrum covering almost six full orders of magnitude.

Can we therefore, really assume that the runoff from livestock and fertilizers has nothing to do with these emissions? Most of the methane released into the air from eutrophic lakes and reservoirs cannot really be considered natural emissions, and should not be counted as such. Similarly, much of the nitrous oxide currently defined as natural emissions from oceans or from natural soils should probably be re-classified as livestock-related.

Besides, there are many agricultural practices likely to reduce the amount of organic carbon stored in the trees and soils, as well as tropical deforestation which has historically been the centre of attention. According to studies made in China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Argentina, Brazil, Britain and the USA, vast tracts of pasture that used to be natural grasslands are still losing significant amounts of organic carbon due to overgrazing.

According to one assessment, humans annually burn 4.3 billion tons of biomass, classified as carbon. Of this, wood for fuel and the use of other biofuels account for 1.3 billion tons, whereas the remainder is linked to the livestock industry. This means that we could, at least in theory, reduce our carbon emissions by almost three billion tons by eliminating the biomass burning that is not related to energy production and by using the saved biomass to replace fossil fuels. Current biomass burning practises also produce very large amounts of soot, which has a strong impact on the global rise in temperatures, as well as creating an additional 40-50 million tons of methane and 1.3 million tons of nitrous oxide.

Currently, 3.5 billion hectares of permanent grazing lands and hundreds of millions of hectares of farmlands are being exploited for the cultivation of animal feed used for meat and dairy industries. If we reduced the consumption of animal products and replaced them with alternatives made from soy, wheat, oat or mushroom proteins or by culturing animal stem cells, we could convert huge areas of land to protected forests. These reclaimed forest can in turn absorb vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. Alternatively, we could use the same land for growing biofuels.

This means, today we should be focusing on the environmental degradation caused by the livestock industry, which itself is under pressure from an ever increasing demand for meat and dairy. Much of what has been mentioned deserves urgent and extensive attention and further research worldwide.

It may be impossible to stop global warming without reducing the consumption of meat. However, if we are able to replace a substantial portion of real meat with alternatives, reaching the goals adopted in Paris might actually become much easier than anybody could have ever imagined.

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Germany’s Energy Transition: The Good, the Bad and the Uglyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:19:42 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146128 In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
COLOGNE, Germany, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

Immerath, 90 km away from the German city of Cologne, has become a ghost town. The local church bells no longer ring and no children are seen in the streets riding their bicycles. Its former residents have even carried off their dead from its cemetery.

Expansion of Garzweiler, an open-pit lignite mine, has led to the town’s remaining residents being relocated to New Immerath, several kilometres away from the original town site, in North Rhine-Westphalia, whose biggest city is Cologne.

The fate of this small village, which in 2015 was home to 70 people, reflects the advances, retreats and contradictions of the world-renowned transition to renewable energy in Germany.

Since 2011, Germany has implemented a comprehensive energy transition policy, backed by a broad political consensus, seeking to make steps towards a low-carbon economy. This has encouraged the generation and consumption of alternative energy sources.

But so far these policies have not facilitated the release from the country’s industry based on coal and lignite, a highly polluting fossil fuel.

“The initial phases of the energy transition have been successful so far, with strong growth in renewables, broad public support for the idea of the transition and major medium and long term goals for government,” told IPS analyst Sascha Samadi of the non-governmental Wuppertal Institute, devoted to studies on energy transformation.

Renewable electricity generation accounted for 30 percent of the total of Germany’s electrical power in 2015, while lignite fuelled 24 percent, coal 18 percent, nuclear energy 14 percent, gas 8.8 percent and other sources the rest.

This European country is the third world power in renewable energies – excluding hydropower – and holds third place in wind power and biodiesel and fifth place in geothermal power.

Germany is also renowned for having the highest solar power capacity per capita in photovoltaic technology, even though its climate is not the most suitable for that purpose.

But the persistence of fossil fuels casts a shadow on this green energy matrix.

“The successful phasing out of fossil fuels entails a great deal of planning and organisation. If we do not promote renewables, we will have to import energy at some point,” Johannes Remmel, the minister for climate protection and the environment for North Rhine-Westphalia, told IPS.

Germany has nine lignite mines operating in three regions. Combined, the mines employ 16,000 people, produce 170 million tonnes of lignite a year and have combined reserves of three billion tonnes. China, Greece and Poland are other large world producers of lignite.

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Garzweiler, which is owned by the private company RWE, produces 35 million tonnes of lignite a year. From a distance it is possible to see its cut-out terraces and blackened soil, waiting for giant steel jaws to devour it and start to separate the lignite.

Lignite from this mine fuels nearby electricity generators at Frimmersdorf, Neurath, Niederaussen and Weisweiller, some of the most polluting power plants in Germany.

RWE is one of the four main power generation companies in Germany, together with E.ON, EnBW and Swedish-based Vattenfall.

Coal has an expiry date

The fate of coal is different. The government has already decided that its demise will be in 2018, when the two mines that are still currently active will cease to operate.

The Rhine watershed, comprising North Rhine-Westphalia together with other states, has traditionally been the hub of Germany’s industry. Mining and its consumers are an aftermath of that world, whose rattling is interspersed with the emergence of a decarbonized economy.

A tour of the mine and the adjoining power plant of  Ibberbüren in North Rhine-Westphalia shows the struggle between two models that still coexist.

In the mine compound, underground mouths splutter the coal that feeds the hungry plant at a pace of 157 kilowatt-hour per tonne.

In 2015 the mine produced 6.2 million tonnes of extracted coal, an amount projected to be reduced to 3.6 million tonnes this year and next, and to further drop to 2.9 million in 2018.

The mine employs 1,600 people and has a 300,000 tonne inventory which needs to be sold by 2018.

“I am a miner, and I am very much attached to my job. I speak on behalf of my co-workers. It is hard to close it down. There is a feeling of sadness, we are attending our own funeral”, told IPS the manager of the mine operator, Hubert Hüls.

Before the energy transition policy was in place, laws that promoted renewable energies had been passed in 1991 and 2000, with measures such as a special royalty fee included in electricity tariffs paid to generators that are fuelled by renewable energy sources.

The renewable energy sector invests some 20 billion dollars yearly and employs around 370.000 people.

Another measure, adopted in 2015 by the government in Berlin, sets out an auction plan for the purchase of photovoltaic solar power, but opponents have argued that large generation companies are being favoured over small ones as the successful bidder will be the one offering the lowest price.

Energy transition and climate change

Energy transition also seeks to meet Germany’s global warming mitigation commitments.

Germany has undertaken to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent in 2020 and by 95 per cent in 2015. Moreover, it has set itself the goal of increasing the share of renewable energies in the end-use power market from the current figure of 12 per cent to 60 per cent in 2050.

In the second half of the year, the German government will analyse the drafting of the 2050 Climate Action Plan, which envisages actions towards reducing by half the amount of emissions from the power sector and a fossil fuel phase-out programme.

In 2014, Germany reduced its emissions by 346 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 27.7 per cent of the 1990 total. However, the German Federal Agency for Environment warned that in 2015 emissions went up by six million tonnes, amounting to 0.7 per cent, reaching a total of 908 million tonnes.

Polluting gases are derived mainly from the generation and use of energy, transport and agriculture.

In 2019, the government will review the current incentives for the development of renewable energies and will seek to make adjustments aimed at fostering the sector.

Meanwhile, Germany’s last three nuclear power plants will cease operation in 2022. However, Garzweiler mine will continue to operate until 2045.

“There are technological, infrastructure, investment, political, social and innovation challenges to overcome. Recent decisions taken by the government are indicative of a lack of political will to undertake the tough decisions that are required for deep decarbonisation”, pointed out Samadi.

Companies “now try to mitigate the damage and leave the search for solutions in the hands of the (central) government. There will be fierce debate over how to expand renewable energies. The process may be slowed but not halted”, pointed out academic Heinz-J Bontrup, of the state University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen.

Meanwhile, the regional government has opted to reduce the Garzweiler mine extension plan, leaving 400 million tonnes of lignite underground.

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Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: The Sooner, the Betterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/implementing-the-sustainable-development-goals-the-sooner-the-better/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=implementing-the-sustainable-development-goals-the-sooner-the-better http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/implementing-the-sustainable-development-goals-the-sooner-the-better/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 04:05:53 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146119 The UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals are projected onto UN headquarters. UN Photo/Cia Pak

The UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals are projected onto UN headquarters. UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Phillip Kaeding
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

The first 1000 days after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals are critical, according to a report published last week, urging UN member states to take action quickly.

“It’s a little bit like a pension,” Elizabeth Stuart of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says, “the longer you leave paying into a pension, the more expensive it gets… The SDGs work the same way.”

The ODI compared current progress on some of the development goals with the goals and targets and showed that a delay of six years in Sub-Saharan Africa can almost double the effort that have to be put into achieving goals such as universal birth registration.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are supposed to be attained by 2030. A first review is in progress at the moment as part of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, although officially the goals have only been in place for 7 months, and most member states are yet to even gather baseline data, showing where they are beginning from.

Without explicit data, experts think that it will be difficult to motivate states to start working on the SDGs early. That is why the report “Leaving no one behind” emphasizes the benefits of tackling the most urgent development problems as soon as possible.

“It’s a little bit like a pension... the longer you leave paying into a pension, the more expensive it gets… The SDGs work the same way.” -- Elizabeth Stuart, ODI.

At a high-level meeting here on Monday, many states expressed their approval of a quick start to implementation. Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation stated that “you cannot only point at others, you also have to point to yourself”.

For Boima Kamara, Liberian Minister of Finance, it is important to “give voice to those who are marginalized” as a way to ensure that no one is left behind. Of course, apart from the unanimous approval of the 2030 Agenda, all participants at the event highlighted their own countries’ milestones.

However, one of the main issues is, as the Colombian representative Simon Gaviria said, that ‘leaving no one behind’ can mean “everything, and nothing, at the same time”. Each country therefore has to set a focus and re-structure the Agenda according to its own national context.

Developed countries like the UK, Germany or Canada explained that they would be splitting the work on sustainable development in aid for countries in greater need and particular areas of deficit in their own societies.

Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Program, and candidate for the position of UN Secretary General, identified the three most urgent steps for everyone:

“First, identifying what is actually driving inequalities… Second, understanding why people are falling back into poverty… And thirdly, identifying how critical it is to work across the different silos of the humanitarian, the development, the human rights, the peacebuilding. Working in silos just doesn’t get the best results for people.”

The ODI report also discusses the needs people want to see addressed. It argues that instead of specific goals, the people that are ‘left behind’ actually wish for government spending on key services like roads and electricity in general.

The report makes it clear that the costs of achieving the ambitious goals are high. But it also shows that delaying action will push them up even more.

“If countries are not travelling along this critical pathway, it may already be too late to reach the SDGs for all their citizens. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, countries already need to reduce preventable child deaths at a rate of 7 percent each year between 2015 and 2030 to meet the global target. If they wait until 2018, that rate increases to 9 percent”, the report states.

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Fast-track Development Threatens to Leave Indigenous Peoples Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 20:26:39 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146115 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/feed/ 0 China Showing Big-power Attitudehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/china-showing-big-power-attitude/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-showing-big-power-attitude http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/china-showing-big-power-attitude/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 14:19:05 +0000 Editor sunday http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146109 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Jul 18 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

China has been dealt a major setback this week at the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, a tribunal established as way back as 1899 and to which 121 member states are signatories. The tribunal this week ruled in favour of the Philippines over the sovereignty of small but strategically significant and resource rich islands in the South China Sea. The tribunal held that China had “no legal basis” to its claim for “indisputable sovereignty” over these islands and dismissed its “historic rights” argument – something that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister (who is making similar claims over the Palk Strait) might take note of.

That the Philippines could have had the moral support of the United States to take this matter up at the world arbitration court is an inference one can easily make. China now rejecting the order as a farce and “only a piece of paper” displays the archetypical big-power attitude in ignoring the global rule of law that hitherto has been the exclusive preserve of the West.

Since the initial knee-jerk reaction, however, China has climbed down from defiance to wanting to discuss matters further with countries in the South China Sea region.

Sri Lanka got it right last week when the Chinese Foreign Minister made a surprise overnight visit to Colombo to lobby support for its South China Sea policy ahead of the tribunal order. The Prime Minister was to tell the visiting Minister that as an Indian Ocean country, Sri Lanka respects the UN Law of the Sea Convention and the freedom of navigation in international waters reflecting the country’s national interest without taking sides. It was the same during talks the Sri Lankan counterpart who asked that the issue be resolved by negotiations, so much so that, our Political Editor wrote last week how when the Chinese interpreter translating her Minister’s remarks at a press conference referred to Sri Lanka’s “supports” for China’s position, the Minister corrected her to say, “understands”, not supports.

On the one hand, China is genuinely concerned that the US has extended its maritime presence to the South China Sea joining hands with countries sharing coastlines in these seas fearing China’s rise as a global power. On the other, China itself has been extending its maritime footprint not only in the South China Sea which its opponents refer to as the ‘nine-dash line’, but to a ‘Maritime Silk Route’ concept that includes Sri Lanka and goes as far as East Africa.

In this context, China’s Colombo Port City Project clearly had designs other than economic. It was an unsolicited project — i.e. a project proposed by China. It is understandable why emotions ran high in India, especially when the Mahinda Rajapaksa Administration agreed to give the Chinese free-hold property within the Port City and when nuclear submarines of the Chinese Navy started showing up at the Colombo harbour, India had had just enough with the former Government. With the Sri Lankan Premier, the Chinese Foreign Minister not just wanted to realign the relationship between the two countries that had strained over several controversial unsolicited Chinese projects begun by the former Administration like airports and harbours, but the two also discussed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow from China to Sri Lanka before the visits of the Chinese President and Premier in 2017 to Sri Lanka.

China has clearly not given up on Sri Lanka and financing unsolicited projects in Polonnaruwa under the Maithripala Sirisena Administration is not for nothing.

Foreign observers as compromise

Two US State Department officials arrived in Colombo this week, hot on the heels of the Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit. The duo’s visit was described in diplomatic circles as “routine”, to show that the new-fangled relationship with the US under the present dispensation in Colombo was on track; one, to update the February Partnership Dialogue that was held in the US capital and the other to update themselves on the UNHRC Geneva Resolution and to see how well Sri Lanka was coping with implementing it.

That the US-SL Partnership Dialogue has yet to ‘take off’ at least in the area of substantial trade or FDIs favouring Sri Lanka seems to have begun to sink in to Sri Lankan leaders. Privately, at least, they ask themselves the question, why the Americans don’t walk the talk. One of the more contentious areas that the US visitors walked into, however, is that of foreign judges being part of the ‘domestic mechanism’ that the Government has committed itself to in the Geneva Resolution, to probe allegations of violations of International Human Rights Law.

There still remains a certain amount of confusion within the Government of National Unity in that the President is unequivocally opposed to foreign judges, while the Foreign Minister is equally adamant that the President’s opinion is only a view. Though sticking to the ‘domestic mechanism’ nomenclature, he says what it means is open for discussion. Into this debate has come the latest recruit to the Foreign Minister’s party. He was the Army Commander who saw the battle with the LTTE through in the last phase of the war. He says ‘foreign observers’ will be permitted. This might seem the ultimate acceptable compromise between the two positions.

The US visitors were coy about saying too much specifically on the subject and thus being accused of rocking the boat in the midst of this debate. Back home in the US, reconciliation between the minorities, particularly the ‘Blacks’ and the Establishment ‘whites’ has now reached a nadir. Old wounds have reopened. The human rights of the minorities are now, and again, the subject of killings, street protests, public debate and election campaigns. One might think that it was one reason for the two senior US diplomats to keep a low-profile role this time and not preach too much on Human Rights and Reconciliation given the goings-on in their own country.

Added to that is the worldwide demand, re-ignited after the Chilcot Report in Britain, calling for the then leaders of the US and Britain to be tried for crimes against humanity by unleashing the mayhem we witness in West Asia and parts of Africa today – 13 years after the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Hillary Clinton, the likely next president of the US, recently said she would be giving tax concessions to US companies that invest their businesses in the US and heavily tax those who start businesses in other countries. She criticised the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) Agreement grouping several Pacific Rim countries and said she would review other FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) which were not in favour of the US. What then of the US-Sri Lanka Partnership and FDIs from the US?

One could not envy the Government, cash-strapped as it is, pressured to implement tough fiscal decisions on the orders of the International Monetary Fund and having to face mass protests all over the country. It seems to be caught between a rock and hard place dealing with China and the US.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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