Inter Press ServiceLabour – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 23 Oct 2018 09:14:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Is There a Remittance Trap?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/is-there-a-remittance-trap/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-there-a-remittance-trap http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/is-there-a-remittance-trap/#respond Thu, 18 Oct 2018 10:11:45 +0000 Ralph Chami http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158247 RALPH CHAMI is an assistant director in the IMF’s Institute for Capacity Development, EKKEHARD ERNST is chief of the macroeconomic policy and jobs unit at the International Labour Organization, CONNEL FULLENKAMP is professor of the practice of economics at Duke University, and ANNE OEKING is an economist in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department*.

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But research that digs deeper into the remittance-growth nexus increasingly suggests that remittances change economies in ways that reduce growth and increase dependence on these funds from abroad. In other words, there is increasing evidence of a remittance trap that causes economies to get stuck on a lower-growth, higher-emigration treadmill.

Beirut, Lebanon

By Ralph Chami, Ekkehard Ernst, Connel Fullenkamp, and Anne Oeking
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 18 2018 (IPS)

Workers’ remittances—the money migrants send home to their families—command the attention of economists and policymakers because of their potential to improve the lives of millions of people.

Amounting to over $400 billion in 2017, remittances rank between official development assistance and foreign direct investment in terms of size. Such massive financial flows have important consequences for the economies that receive them, especially when many countries receive flows that are large relative to the size of their exports or even their economies.

Many argue that remittances help economies in two ways. First, because remittances are person-to-person transfers motivated by family ties, these transfers from outside the country help relatives back home afford the necessities of life.

But remittances also have the potential to fuel economic growth, by funding investment in human or physical capital or by financing new businesses.

Economists have worked to measure both of these effects. Many studies confirm that remittances are essential in the battle against poverty, lifting millions of families out of deprivation or bare subsistence.

But at the same time, economic research has failed to find that remittances make a significant contribution to a country’s economic growth (see Chart 1).

The latter result is puzzling, especially given the finding that remittance income helps families consume more. Consumption spending is a driver of short-term economic growth, which in turn should also lead to longer-term growth as industries expand to meet the increased demand.

But research that digs deeper into the remittance-growth nexus increasingly suggests that remittances change economies in ways that reduce growth and increase dependence on these funds from abroad. In other words, there is increasing evidence of a remittance trap that causes economies to get stuck on a lower-growth, higher-emigration treadmill.

Consider the case of Lebanon. For many years, this country has been one of the leading recipients of remittances, in both absolute and relative terms. During the past decade, inflows have averaged over $6 billion a year, equal to 16 percent of GDP. Lebanon received $1,500 a person in 2016, more than any other nation, according to IMF data.

Given the size of these inflows, it should not be surprising that remittances play a key if not leading role in Lebanon’s economy. They constitute an essential part of the country’s social safety net, accounting on average for over 40 percent of the income of the families that receive them.

But research that digs deeper into the remittance-growth nexus increasingly suggests that remittances change economies in ways that reduce growth and increase dependence on these funds from abroad. In other words, there is increasing evidence of a remittance trap that causes economies to get stuck on a lower-growth, higher-emigration treadmill.
They have undoubtedly played a vital stabilizing role in a country that has endured civil war, invasions, and refugee crises in the past several decades. In addition, remittances are a valuable source of foreign exchange, amounting to 50 percent more than the country’s merchandise exports. This has helped Lebanon maintain a stable exchange rate despite high government debt.

While remittances have helped the Lebanese economy absorb shocks, there is no evidence that they have served as an engine of growth. Real per capita GDP in Lebanon grew only 0.32 percent on average annually between 1995 and 2015. Even during 2005–15, it grew at an average annual rate of only 0.79 percent.

Lebanon is not an isolated example. Of the 10 countries that receive the largest remittance inflows relative to their GDP—such as Honduras, Jamaica, the Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, and Tonga—none has per capita GDP growth higher than its regional peers.

And for most of these countries, growth rates are well below their peers. It is important to recognize that each of these countries is dealing with other issues that may also interfere with growth. But remittances appear to be an additional determining factor rather than just a consequence of slow growth. And remittances may even amplify some of the other problems that restrict growth and development.

Returning to the case of Lebanon, the country’s well-educated population could be expected to point to robust growth. Lebanese families, including those who receive remittances, spend much of their income on educating their young people, who score much higher on standardized mathematics tests than their peers in the region.

Lebanon is also home to three of the top 20 universities in the Middle East, and researchers at these universities produce more research than their regional peers. Lebanon’s abundant remittance inflows could provide seed capital to fund business start-ups led by its well-educated citizens.

But statistics show that Lebanon has much less entrepreneurial activity than it should, especially in the high-tech information and communication technology sector. The size of this sector is less than 1 percent of GDP, and Lebanon scores very low on international gauges of this sector’s development.

Studies of the overall spending habits of remittance-receiving households in Lebanon show that less than 2 percent of inflows goes toward starting businesses. Instead, these funds are typically spent on nontraded goods such as restaurant meals and services, and on imports.

Instead of starting new businesses—or even working in established ones—many young Lebanese choose to emigrate. The statistics are stark: up to two-thirds of male and nearly half of female university graduates leave the country. Employers complain of an emigration brain drain that has caused a dearth of highly skilled workers.

This shortage has been identified as a leading obstacle to diversifying Lebanon’s economy away from tourism, construction, and real estate, its traditional sources of growth. For their part, young people who choose to seek their fortune elsewhere cite a lack of attractive employment opportunities at home.

Part of the remittance trap thus appears to be the use of this source of income to prepare young people to emigrate rather than to invest in businesses at home. In other words, countries that receive remittances may come to rely on exporting labor, rather than commodities produced with this labor. In some countries, governments even encourage the development of institutions that specialize in producing skilled labor for export.

But why would this situation develop and persist?

Research into both the household-level and economy-wide effects of remittances on their recipients provides an answer to this question. The impact on individual countries that receive significant remittances—such as Egypt, Mexico, and Pakistan—has been studied, and cross-country analysis of a variety of countries that receive various amounts of remittances (and of those that send rather than receive remittances) has been performed as well. The insights from the academic literature can be combined into a consistent explanation of how and why economies that receive significant remittance inflows may become stuck at low levels of growth.

To begin with, remittances are spent mostly on household consumption, and the demand for all products (nontraded and traded) in an economy increases as remittances grow.

This places upward pressure on prices. The flood of foreign exchange, along with higher prices, makes exports less competitive, with the result that their production declines. Some have referred to this syndrome as Dutch disease (see Chart 2).

The effect of remittances on work incentives makes this problem worse, by increasing the so-called reservation wage—that is, the lowest wage at which a worker would be willing to accept a particular type of job. As remittances increase, workers drop out of the labor force, and the resulting increase in wages puts more upward pressure on prices, further reducing the competitiveness of exports.

Resources then flow away from industries producing tradable products that face international competition toward those that serve the domestic market. The result: a decline in the number of better-paid, high-skill jobs, which are typical in the traded sector, and an increase in low-skill, poorly paid jobs in the nontraded sector.

This shift in the labor market encourages higher- skilled workers to emigrate in search of better-paying jobs. Meanwhile, the cost of living for most families rises along with domestic prices, and the loss in competitiveness means that more products must be imported, hurting economic growth. This in turn increases the incentive for family members to emigrate so that they can send money home to help relatives shoulder the burden of the higher cost of living.

To make matters worse, remittances are often spent on real estate, causing home prices to rise and in some cases stoking property bubbles. This provides a motive to emigrate for young people seeking to earn enough to buy a home. The result of all this is a vicious circle of emigration, economic stagnation, rising cost of living, and more emigration.

Governments could potentially mitigate or break this cycle by taking steps to keep domestic industries competitive. But policies that can accomplish this, such as improving the education system and physical infrastructure, are expensive and take years to implement. And they require strong political will to succeed.

As research has shown, however, remittances have important political economy side effects (see Chart 3). In particular, large inflows allow governments to be less responsive to the needs of society.

The reasoning is simple: families that receive remittances are better insulated from economic shocks and are less motivated to demand change from their governments; government in turn feels less obligated to be accountable to its citizens.

Many politicians welcome the reduced public scrutiny and political pressure that come with remittance inflows. But politicians have other reasons to encourage remittances. To the extent that governments tax consumption—say through value-added taxes—remittances enlarge the tax base. This enables governments to continue spending on things that will win them popular support, which in turn helps politicians win reelection.

Given these benefits, it is little wonder that many governments actively encourage their citizens to emigrate and send money home, even establishing official offices or agencies to promote emigration in some cases.

Remittances make politicians’ job easier, by improving the economic conditions of individual families and making them less likely to complain to the government or scrutinize its activities. Official encouragement of migration and remittances then makes the remittance trap even more difficult to escape.

The absence of clear evidence linking remittances to increased economic growth—and the lack of examples of countries that experienced remittance-led growth—suggests that remittances do indeed interfere with economic growth. The example of Lebanon, moreover, gives a concrete example of how the remittance trap may operate.

And if a remittances trap does exist, then what?

Clearly, given their importance to the well-being of millions of families, remittances should not be discouraged. Is the remittance trap simply the cost societies must bear in exchange for a reduction in poverty? Not necessarily.

Preventing the two downsides of remittances—Dutch disease and weaker governance—could help countries avoid or escape the remittance trap. Improving the competitiveness of industries that face foreign competition is the general prescription for mitigating Dutch disease.

Specific measures include upgrading a country’s physical infrastructure, improving the education system, and reducing the cost of doing business. Governments could also play a more active role in stimulating new business formation, including seed funding or other financial assistance for start-ups. At the same time, remittance-receiving countries must also push for stronger institutions and better governance.

Enhancing economic competitiveness and strengthening governance and social institutions are already considered essential to the inclusive growth agenda. But the remittance trap lends urgency to these goals.

Avoiding this potentially serious pitfall of remittances may actually be the key to unlocking their development potential by removing a previously unrecognized obstacle to inclusive development.

*Opinions expressed in articles and other materials are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect IMF policy.

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Excerpt:

RALPH CHAMI is an assistant director in the IMF’s Institute for Capacity Development, EKKEHARD ERNST is chief of the macroeconomic policy and jobs unit at the International Labour Organization, CONNEL FULLENKAMP is professor of the practice of economics at Duke University, and ANNE OEKING is an economist in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department*.

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Women & Youth Key to Achieving Agenda 2030 in South-South Cooperationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-youth-key-achieving-agenda-2030-south-south-cooperation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-youth-key-achieving-agenda-2030-south-south-cooperation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/women-youth-key-achieving-agenda-2030-south-south-cooperation/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 10:52:12 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158159 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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India and Kenya signed agreements in the field of agriculture during Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to New Delhi. Credit: G.N. Jha

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

By 2050 Africa will have 830 million young people. Many countries in the global south, India included are seeing a youth(men and women) bulge. To reap a demographic dividend countries in the global south need to share and exchange knowledge to leapfrog socio-economic transformation.

When the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Technical Cooperation Amongst Developing Countries (BAPA) was adopted, few would have predicted that only 40 years later, developing countries would be accounting for the largest levels of global economic output.

It is an acknowledgement of the fact that new pillars of growth and influence have clearly emerged from the global south that the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stress the importance of South-South cooperation in implementing the 2030 agenda.

Goal 17 on revitalizing global partnerships for sustainable development stresses the role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in achieving the SDGs.

South-South Cooperation (SSC) is on the rise in scale and scope. It is recognized as crucial in collective efforts to address challenges such as poverty eradication, climate change, food security, social protection, public health and infrastructure development.

SSC is seen by various development actors as a vital complement to North-South Development Cooperation. It may also represent the fertilization of a debate on how Overseas Development Aid flows relate to broader financing for development flows.

This year, 49 of the 55 member states of the African Union signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which will come into effect once 22 countries ratify it. It will be the largest free trade area that creates an African market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of US$2.5 trillion.

At the moment, infrastructure projects account for just over half of South-South cooperation, with China leading in this area. India is a considerable player, with projects such as the Pan African E-Network Project that will connect African countries by a satellite and a fibre-optic network for tele-education, tele–medicine, internet and videoconferencing.

Yet the feeling persists that the potential of this cooperation has not been fully leveraged, and a key topic of discourse being how south to south cooperation can contribute to sustainable development and what more needs to be done to scale-up and improve such cooperation for sustainable development.

How do we ensure that trade, investment, technology transfer and knowledge sharing address the needs of recipient countries as prioritized in their development strategies?

These are the kind of questions that will preoccupy organisations such as the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and United Nations Development Programme(UNDP). These two are leading efforts to establish the South-South Global Thinkers initiative that will enable joint research and knowledge sharing to inform global policy dialogues on South-South cooperation for the SDGs.

Mr. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator emphasized UNDP’s role in addressing the knowledge gap that many countries face when confronting their poverty challenges and emphasized that South-South Cooperation has become a “way we conduct business on a daily basis” because it has proven to deliver results on the ground.

If we are to keep our eyes on the overall goal of the SDGs – reduction of poverty – it is time to bring support to social sectors on the same level as infrastructure. It is time for investments to target the women and youth. Empowerment of these two groups provides the quickest pathway to poverty reduction especially in Africa, with agriculture-based investments the most promising sector.

Kenya’s economy is anchored on agriculture, where 70% of the population finds its upkeep. While in many regions crop yields have remained a step ahead of population growth, helping free them of hunger and famine, Africa has not managed to keep up with this trend; the impact of new technologies has been less apparent and agricultural productivity has stagnated, and even fallen in some areas.

In Africa’s agriculture sector, two-thirds of the labour force comprises women. Unfortunately, women farmers have less access to essential inputs—land, credit, fertilizers, new technologies and extension services. As a result, their yields tend to be less than optimum.

In addition, while African women are highly entrepreneurial and own about a third of all businesses across Africa, they are more likely to be running microenterprises in the informal sector, engaging in low-value-added activities that reap marginal returns.

If south-south investments are not deliberately designed for gender-responsiveness, the development course will continue to miss out on the multiplier effect that has been so well documented regarding women’s income. Women reinvest a much higher part of their earnings in their families and communities than men, spreading wealth and creating a positive impact on future development.

The World Bank says that agriculture will be a one trillion dollar business in Africa by 2030. Is there a better way to prepare to reap from part of this business than positioning the continent’s richest resource – the youth?

In his acceptance speech as the global champion of the youth agenda at the UN General Assembly 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “progress for the youth means progress for the entire humanity”.

In Kenya for example, one million young people join the work force every year. Of these young people, only about one in five is likely to find a formal job, with the rest either being unemployed or engaged in some non-wage earning occupation.

This means that Kenya needs a million new jobs every year for the next 10 years to keep up with the rapidly-expanding youth bulge. The median age of Kenyan farmers is 61, yet the median age of the population is 18. This is a potential force that must be involved in Agriculture.

To do this, creative and sustainable ways must be found to create opportunities that will present youth with the allure and career progression currently lacking in agriculture. With one of the fastest internet penetration rates, the youth in the country can be supported to exploit information technology for various value-addition ventures in agri-business.

This can be even more useful when focusing on areas with untapped potential, such as what is now known as the Blue Economy. Africa’s economies have continued to post remarkable growth rates, largely driven by the richness of its land-based natural resources, yet 38 of the continent’s 54 states are coastal.

India and Kenya have already made initial moves in this direction. Following the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kenya two years ago, the two governments agreed to pursue initiatives in the sustainable management and extraction of ocean-based resources.

India will be sharing with Kenya expertise on space-based applications to address natural resources management and weather forecasting, expertise that can be exploited to improve food output in the country.

The rise of SSC introduces new dynamics to international development cooperation. SSC challenges traditional donor aid relationships inasmuch as it promotes economic independence and collective self-reliance of developing countries, and aspires for cooperation on the basis of equality, solidarity and mutual benefit.

There is a need to re-orient SSDC, along with international development cooperation more broadly, to adhere to norms and guidelines that consistently takes into account human rights, equity, gender equality, decent work, ecological sustainability, democratic ownership and other key elements of social justice.

As President Roosevelt said, “We cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.”

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Entrepreneurial about Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrepreneurial-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/#respond Mon, 01 Oct 2018 10:00:41 +0000 Hong Joo Hahm http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157901 Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

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Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

By Hong Joo Hahm
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 1 2018 (IPS)

Asia and the Pacific needs more women entrepreneurs. Women’s economic empowerment and gender equality depend on it, as does the inclusive economic growth needed to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This drives a new initiative by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, generously supported by Global Affairs Canada, focused on improving women entrepreneurs’ access to finance in our region.

Hong Joo Hahm

Establishing a business can be life-changing. Particularly for women in developing countries where it’s a passport to financial independence: a means of breaking out of poverty. More women in employment gives families financial security. It helps guarantee children a good diet, a solid education and reliable healthcare. And because women employ other women and spend more on their families, women entrepreneurs create more inclusive economies and prosperous communities. Potential GDP gains from gender equality in the workplace are enormous, up to 50 percent in parts of South Asia.

But for all this potential, businesswomen face considerable obstacles in Asia and the Pacific. Representation on company boards is lower than in any other region and women CEOs are precious few. Gender bias runs through inheritance, labour and social security laws. Many women work in the informal economy with no social protection and societal prejudice frustrates women’s entrepreneurial potential. Across Asia, women give up to six hours of unpaid care work a day: thwarting educational attainment and career prospects.

For women wanting to start or expand a business, access to finance is key. 70 percent of women-owned micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are underserved by financial institutions in developing countries. Women struggle to borrow in a region where land is required as collateral but where very few are landowners. So women-owned enterprises are consistently smaller and concentrated in less profitable sectors.

To overcome these challenges, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is launching a new initiative with generous financial support from Global Affairs Canada. Its goal: to support financing for women entrepreneurs and innovators, improve their access to information and communication technology (ICT), and create a policy environment in which their businesses can flourish. It will give twenty thousand women entrepreneurs greater access to ICT and finance.

ICT and innovative financing lie at the heart of the initiative. We want to support businesswomen mainstream ICT across business operations; to make their financial management more robust and their outlook more responsive to new technologies. We plan to launch “women bonds” for women entrepreneurs, channeling private sector investment from developed markets to support gender equality in the developing world. We will work with impact investment funds to target women-led investments. And encourage financial technology (fintech) solutions through advice on regulatory frameworks, training to help women access fintech services and new credit lines to support innovators.

Deeper gender analysis of the MSME sector will complement these activities. To inform policies which strengthen women’s rights and access to justice; reforms which update inheritance and property regimes; and legislation which stops credit being extended according to gender or marital status. For such a broad challenge, we will bring women entrepreneurs and policy makers together, to build a gender sensitive response across policy areas and governments.

The case for investing in women entrepreneurs is overwhelming. They are true agents of change whose innovation can lift communities, companies and countries. We are committed to improving their prospects, to unleashing women entrepreneurs’ full potential and putting gender equality squarely at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.

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Excerpt:

Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“In Two Years, Duterte Has Crushed All the Progress We’ve Made”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/two-years-duterte-crushed-progress-weve-made/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=two-years-duterte-crushed-progress-weve-made http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/two-years-duterte-crushed-progress-weve-made/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2018 10:38:22 +0000 Ivar Andersen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157461 The Philippines has been ranked one of the world’s ten worst countries for workers’ rights. Arbetet Global reports from a country which labour union activists brand as fascist.

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The post “In Two Years, Duterte Has Crushed All the Progress We’ve Made” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

The Philippines has been ranked one of the world’s ten worst countries for workers’ rights. Arbetet Global reports from a country which labour union activists brand as fascist.

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Demonizing State-Owned Enterpriseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/demonizing-state-owned-enterprises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=demonizing-state-owned-enterprises http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/demonizing-state-owned-enterprises/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 12:28:11 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157208 To make the case for privatization from the 1980s, their real problems were often caricatured and exaggerated.

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Privatization has not provided the miracle cure for the problems (especially the inefficiencies) associated with the public sector. Credit: IPS

Privatization has not provided the miracle cure for the problems (especially the inefficiencies) associated with the public sector. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR , Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

Historically, the private sector has been unable or unwilling to affordably provide needed services. Hence, meeting such needs could not be left to the market or private interests. Thus, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) emerged, often under colonial rule, due to such ‘market failure’ as the private sector could not meet the needs of colonial capitalist expansion.

Thus, the establishment of government departments, statutory bodies or even government-owned private companies were deemed essential for maintaining the status quo and to advance state and private, particularly powerful and influential commercial interests.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

SOEs have also been established to advance national public policy priorities. Again, these emerged owing to ‘market failures’ to those who believe that markets would serve the national interest or purpose.

However, neoliberal or libertarian economists do not recognize the existence of national or public interests, characterizing all associated policies as mere subterfuges for advancing particular interests under such guises.

Nevertheless, regardless of their original rationale or intent, many SOEs have undoubtedly become problematic and often inefficient. Yet, privatization is not, and has never been a universal panacea for the myriad problems faced by SOEs.

 

Causes of inefficiency

Undoubtedly, the track records of SOEs are very mixed and often vary by sector, activity and performance, with different governance and accountability arrangements. While many SOEs may have been quite inefficient, it is crucial to recognize the causes of and address such inefficiencies, rather than simply expect improvements from privatization.

First, SOEs often suffer from unclear, or sometimes even contradictory objectives. Some SOEs may be expected to deliver services to the entire population or to reduce geographical imbalances.

Other SOEs may be expected to enhance growth, promote technological progress or generate jobs. Over-regulation may worsen such problems by imposing contradictory rules.

Privatization has never been a universal panacea. One has to understand the specific nature of a problem; sustainable solutions can only come from careful understanding of the specific problems to be addressed.

To be sure, unclear and contradictory objectives – e.g., to simultaneously maximize sales revenue, address disparities and generate employment — often mean ambiguous performance criteria, open to abuse.

Typically, SOE failure by one criterion (such as cost efficiency) could be excused by citing fulfillment of other objectives (such as employment generation). Importantly, such ambiguity of objectives is not due to public or state ownership per se.

Second, performance criteria for evaluating SOEs — and privatization — are often ambiguous. SOE inefficiencies have often been justified by public policy objectives, such as employment generation, industrial or agricultural development, accelerating technological progress, regional development, affirmative action, or other considerations.

Ineffective monitoring, poor transparency and ambiguous accountability typically compromise SOE performance. Inadequate accountability requirements were a major problem as some public sectors grew rapidly, with policy objectives very loosely and broadly interpreted.

Third, coordination problems have often been exacerbated by inter-ministerial, inter-agency or inter-departmental rivalries. Some consequences included ineffective monitoring, inadequate accountability, or alternatively, over-regulation.

 

Hazard

Moral hazard has also been a problem as many SOE managements expected sustained financial support from the government due to weak fiscal discipline or ‘soft budget constraints’. In many former state-socialist countries, such as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, SOEs continued to be financed regardless of performance.

Excessive regulation has not helped as it generally proves counter-productive and ultimately ineffective. The powers of SOEs are widely acknowledged to have been abused, but privatization would simply transfer such powers to private hands.

Very often, inadequate managerial and technical skills and experience have weakened SOE performance, especially in developing countries, where the problem has sometimes been exacerbated by efforts to ‘nationalize’ managerial personnel.

Often, SOE managements have lacked adequate or relevant skills, but have also been constrained from addressing them expeditiously. Privatization, however, does not automatically overcome poor managerial capacities and capabilities.

Similarly, the privatization of SOEs which are natural monopolies (such as public utilities) will not overcome inefficiencies due to the monopolistic or monopsonistic nature of the industry or market. The key remaining question is whether privatization is an adequate or appropriate response to address SOE problems.

 

Throwing baby out with bathwater

SOEs often enjoy monopolistic powers, which can be abused, and hence require appropriate checks and balances. In this regard, there are instances where privatization may well be best. Two examples from Britain and Hungary may be helpful.

The most successful case of privatization in the United Kingdom during the Thatcher period involved National Freight, through a successful Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Thus, truck drivers and other staff co-owned National Freight and developed personal stakes in ensuring its success.

In Hungary, the state became involved in running small stores. Many were poorly run due to over-centralized control. After privatization, most were more successfully run by the new owners who were previously store managers.

Hence, there are circumstances when privatization can result in desirable outcomes, but a few such examples do not mean that privatization is the answer to all SOE problems.

Privatization has never been a universal panacea. One has to understand the specific nature of a problem; sustainable solutions can only come from careful understanding of the specific problems to be addressed.

 

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

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Excerpt:

To make the case for privatization from the 1980s, their real problems were often caricatured and exaggerated.

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The Sun Powers a Women’s Bakery in Brazil’s Semi-arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/sun-powers-womens-bakery-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 01:40:08 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157012 “The sun which used to torment us now blesses us,” said one of the 19 women who run the Community Bakery of Varzea Comprida dos Oliveiras, a settlement in the rural area of Pombal, a municipality of the state of Paraiba, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. “Without solar energy our bakery would be closed, we would […]

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‘Agromafia’ Exploits Hundreds of Thousands of Agricultural Workers in Italyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agromafia-exploits-hundreds-thousands-agricultural-workers-italy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agromafia-exploits-hundreds-thousands-agricultural-workers-italy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agromafia-exploits-hundreds-thousands-agricultural-workers-italy/#comments Fri, 27 Jul 2018 08:59:20 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156912 In Italy, over 400,000 agricultural labourers risk being illegally employed by mafia-like organisations, and more than 132,000 work in extremely vulnerable conditions, enduring high occupational suffering, warns the fourth report on Agromafie and Caporalato. The report, released this July by the Italian trade union for farmers, Flai Cgil, and the research institute Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto, […]

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Bitter gourds, or “ampalayas” are difficult to find in Italy, but easy to find in the Esquilino market in Rome. In Italy, over 400,000 agricultural labourers risk being illegally employed by mafia-like organisations, and more than 132,000 work in extremely vulnerable conditions. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

In Italy, over 400,000 agricultural labourers risk being illegally employed by mafia-like organisations, and more than 132,000 work in extremely vulnerable conditions, enduring high occupational suffering, warns the fourth report on Agromafie and Caporalato.

The report, released this July by the Italian trade union for farmers, Flai Cgil, and the research institute Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto, sheds light on a bitter reality that is defined by the report itself as “modern day slavery”. The criminal industry is estimated to generate almost five billion euros."We must rebuild the culture of respect for people, including migrants. These are people who bend their backs to collect the food we eat and who move our economy." -- Susanna Camusso, secretary general of CGIL

“The phenomenon of ‘Caporalato’ is a cancer for the entire community,” Roberto Iovino from Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto, told IPS. “Legal and illegal activities often intertwine in the agro-food sector and it ultimately becomes very difficult to know who is operating in the law and who is not.”

The criminal structure is called Caporalato or Agromafia when it touches a number of aspects of the agri-food chain. It is administered by ‘Caporali’, who decide on working hours and salaries of workers. The phenomenon is widespread across Italy. From Sicilian tomatoes, to the green salads from the province of Brescia, to the grape harvest used for producing the ‘Franciacorta’ sparkling wine in Lombardia, to the strawberries harvested in the region of Basilicata—many of these crops would have been harvested by illegally-employed workers, according to the report.

Miserable salaries and excessive working hours

The average wages of the exploited, warns the report, range between 20 and 30 euros per day, at an hourly rate of between three to four euros. Many reportedly work between eight to 14 hours per day, seven days a week. The majority of the collected testimonies show that many workers are paid less than their actual time worked and their salaries are 50 percent lower than the one outlined by the national contract for farmers.

In some areas like Puglia or Campania in southern Italy, most salaries are paid on a piecework basis or per task.

Some workers reported to Flai-Cgil that they were paid only one euro per hour and that they had to pay 1.5 euros for a small bottle of water, five euros for the transportation to reach the field and three euros for a sandwich at lunchtime each day. Day labourers are also required to pay between 100 to 200 euros for rent, often in abandoned, crumbling facilities or in remote and less-frequented hotels.

The money was paid to the ‘Caporale’ or supervisor.

According to the report, a ‘Caporale’ earns between 10 to 15 euros a day per labourer under their management, with each managing between 3,000 to 4,000 agricultural workers. It is estimated that their average monthly profit fluctuates between tens to hundreds of thousands of euros per month, depending on their position in the pyramid structure of the illegal business. It is alleged in the report that no tax is paid on the profits and this costs the state in lost income and also impacts on companies operating within the law.

“Those people [‘Caporali’] are not naive at all,” one of the workers told the trade union’s researchers. “They know the laws, they find ways of counterfeiting work contracts and mechanisms to [circumvent] the National Social Security Institute.” The institute is the largest social security and welfare institute in Italy.

“They have a certain criminal profile,” the worker explained.

Migrant victims

The ‘Caporali’ are not just Italians but Romanians, Bulgarians, Moroccans and Pakistanis, who manage their own criminal and recruiting organisations. The report warns that recruitment not only takes place in Italy but also in the home countries of migrants like Morocco or Pakistan.

In 2017, out of one million labourers, 286,940 were migrants. It is also estimated that there are an additional 220,000 foreigners who are not registered.

African migrants also reportedly receive a lower remuneration than that paid to workers of other nationalities.

These victims of Agromafia live in a continuous state of vulnerability, unable to claim their rights. The report points out that some workers have had their documents confiscated by ‘Caporali’ for the ultimate purpose of trapping the labourers. It also highlights the testimonies of abuse, ranging from physical violence, rape and intimidation. One Afghan migrant who asked to be paid after months without receiving any pay, said that he had been beaten up because of his protests.

The report also estimates that 5,000 Romanian women live in segregation in the Sicilian countryside, often with only their children. Because of their isolation many suffer sexual violence from farmers.

Luana told Flai-Cgil of her abuse. “He offered to accompany my children to school, which was very far to reach on foot,” she said. “If I did not consent to this requests, he threatened not to accompany them any more and even to deny us drinking water.”

“We have to put humanity first, and then profit”

Many of the victims hesitate to report their exploiters because they are fearful of losing their jobs. A Ghanaian boy working in Tuscany told Flai-Cgil that Italians have explained to him how to lay a complaint, but he holds back because he still has to send money to his family.

During the report release Susanna Camusso, secretary general of the country’s largest trade union, CGIL, said: “We must rebuild the culture of respect for people, including migrants. These are people who bend their backs to collect the food we eat and who move our economy.

“We must help these people to overcome fear, explaining to them that there is not only the monetary aspect to work. A person could be exploited even if he holds a decent salary. We have to put humanity first, and then profit .”

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Can Cities Reach the Zero Waste Goal?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/can-cities-reach-zero-waste-goal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-cities-reach-zero-waste-goal http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/can-cities-reach-zero-waste-goal/#comments Mon, 23 Jul 2018 08:48:57 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156811 How should cities address the problem of waste? The most important thing is to set a clear objective: that the day will come when nothing will be sent to final disposal or incineration, says an international expert on the subject, retired British professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology Paul Connett, author of the book “The […]

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Immigration, Lot of Myths and Little Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/immigration-lot-myths-little-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=immigration-lot-myths-little-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/immigration-lot-myths-little-reality/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2018 16:03:25 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156748 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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The Italian Navy rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the latest statistics, the total flow of immigrants that reached Europe so far in 2018 is 50.000 people, compared with 186,768 last year, 1,259,955 in 2016 and 1,327,825 in 2015. The difference between reality and perceptions is so astonishing, we are clearly witnessing one of the most brilliant manipulations in history.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The latest survey carried out of 23,000 citizens of France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States shows an enormous level of disinformation. In five of those countries, people believe that immigrants are three times higher than they actually are.

Italians believe they account for 30% of the population when the figure is actually 10%, an average which is lower than the media of the European Union. Swedes are those closest to reality: they believe immigrants account for 30%, when in fact the figure is 20%.

Italians also believe that 50% of the immigrants are Muslim, when in fact it is 30%; conversely, 60% of the immigrants are Christian, and Italians think they are 30%.

In all six countries, citizens think that immigrants are poorer and without education or knowledge, and therefore a heavy financial burden. Italians think that 40% of immigrants are jobless, when the figure is close to 10%, no different from the general rate of unemployment.

Meanwhile, the 7th report on the economic impact of immigration in Italy from the Leone Moressa Foundation, which based its research on Italian Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) data, has presented some totally ignored facts.

The 2.4 million immigrants in Italy have produced 130 billion euros, or 8.9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) – an amount larger than the GDP of Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia. In the last five years, out of a total of nearly 6 million Italian companies, 570.000 – or 9.4% of the total – were started by immigrants. Tito Boeri, president of Italy’s national pension agency INPS, has told Parliament that immigrants give 11.5 billion euro to the system, more than what they cost. He also stressed that Italy is going through a demographic crisis, with only seven births for every eleven deaths.

The old right was not against immigrants, also because they provided cheap labor. It was mildly nationalist but was never xenophobic (Jews apart). The alternative right is not interested in statistics and economics. It is interested only in stirring fear, to get to power.

Well, Matteo Salvini, the emerging Italian leader, who has based all his political success on making immigrants the greatest threat facing Italy, answered on Twitter: Boeri lives on Mars. And that was the end of the story. For more than 50% of Italians, Salvini’s tweet was more conclusive than real statistics.

The same happened with the outgoing Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), William Swing, who quoted a study conducted by the IOM and McKinsey Global Institute which “determined that although only 3.5% of the world’s population are migrants, they are producing nine percent of the global wealth measured in GDP terms, which is more than four percent than if they stayed at home”. This made no impact on Trump electors, white rural and red collars, who are convinced that immigration is a threat to the country, even though they all have immigrant roots.

In other words, facts are irrelevant. Perceptions count more.

Let us take Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is being weakened by the immigration issue, barely escaping a revolt of her Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, who is leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Merkel’s party.

The shy and timid Trump was glad to come to Seehofer’s help, tweeting that the people of Germany are “turning against” their government over the issue of migration, which has led to an increase in crime. The fact that Germany has witnessed a strong decrease in crime is, of course, irrelevant for someone who has made more than 3,750 false statements over his 38.187 tweets (as of July 14).

Now, Trump’s tweets have 53,111,505 followers (as of July 15). The total circulation of the 1,331 dailies newspapers in the United States is close to 62 million, but the total circulation of the 100 largest dailies is below 10 million copies. So, whatever they write is massively overwhelmed by Trump’s tweets.

Trump is not alone in his campaign … he has allies in Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Italy’s Matteo Salvini, Poland’s Jaroslaw Kazynscky, Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, Slovakia’s Peter Pellegrini and the Czech Republic’s Milos Zeman, all in power. Then, in the wings, we have Marine Le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in Great Britain and so on for nearly every European country, with the exception of Spain and Portugal. All together, they have been using immigration, nationalism and xenophobia as the tool of the new “alternative right” for success.

Let us go back to the case of Germany. Bavaria, which is threatening Berlin’s government, is the richest state in Germany, with a population of 12.2 million people. Munich is the third largest city, after Berlin and Hamburg, with 1.4 million people, is the second largest employer in the country, and has attracted immigrants, which are all together less than 200,000. The local daily, Suddeutsche Zeitung, estimates Muslims at 32.000.

Alternative for Germany (AfD), the extreme right-wing party that won 13% of the vote (and 92 seats in parliament) in the last elections, is essentially based on an anti-immigrant platform. In a poll in March it narrowly surpassed the centre-left Social Democrats for the first time in history. The poll, by INSA and commissioned by the newspaper Bild, showed AfD support at 16% compared with the SPD’s 15.5% – a  new low for what has traditionally been one of Germany’s largest parties.

In the last polls, AfD appears to win over CSU in Bavaria, where Muslim immigrants are rare. But the main base for AfD comes from the old East Germany, where immigrants are one-quarter of those in West Germany. So, there is no rational link between reacting to the presence of immigrants and votes. AfD wins more votes where there are fewer immigrants.

The CDU is now running frantically towards extreme right-wing, xenophobic positions in order not to lose out to the AfD. It will probably lose anyway since history shows that voters always prefer to vote the original than copies. But Germans, and Bavarians, are thought to be rational people.

The statistics are clear. Each year there are 300,000 less working people. Of the 80.6 million Germans, only 61% is of working age. In 2050, this will shrink to 51%, and those older than 65 will increase from 21% to 33%. The birth rate in Germany is 1.5%, while a birth rate of 2.1% is necessary to keep the population at the same level. The huge influx of immigrants has increased the birth rate to a modest 1.59%. Immigrants tend to imitate local trends and do not have many children.

Therefore, it is clear to all that within two decades productivity will decline dramatically (some say by 30%) because of less people working, and there will be not enough payers to keep the pension and social security systems going. It will be the end of the German locomotive.

The same consideration applies throughout Europe, which has a statistical birth rate of 1.6, meaning that it will lose close to one million people each year. The UN Population Division considers that Europe should have an influx of 20 million immigrants just to maintain its course. This is clearly impossible in today’s political system.

With impeccable observation, Spanish philosopher Adela Cortina has noted that football players, artists and rich people, even those who are Muslims, like princes are most welcome in Europe. Those who are not welcome are the poor. So, she wrote a book on why we are not faced with real xenophobia. What we face, she wrote, is aporofobia, a term she coined using the word ‘apora’, the Greek word for ‘poor’. In fact, this defence of European civilisation is an updated version of colonialism.

And yet we have plenty of data about the positive impact of immigration. The last is a very complex study over 30 years of immigration, carried out by the very respected French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and published by Science Advances, on the 15 European countries which received 89% of demands for asylum in 2015, the year of the great influx from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

After four years, partly due to the length of the bureaucratic process, GNP rises by 0.32%. Impacts on the fiscal system are also relevant. Prof. Hippolyte D’Albis, one of the authors, observes that initially immigrants are of course a cost, but this public money is reinvested in society, and for ten years they produce more wealth than the general population. After ten years they melt into the general statistics.

It is obvious that the dream of people who come in Europe to escape hunger or war is to find a job as soon as possible, pay taxes and contributions to ensure their stability and future, and work hard. At least for a decade.

And it is interesting to see the difference between the new right and the old right. The old right was not against immigrants, also because they provided cheap labor. It was mildly nationalist but was never xenophobic (Jews apart). The alternative right is not interested in statistics and economics. It is interested only in stirring fear, to get to power.

 

People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

 

Reality is fake news. Trump has claimed that the 250,000 demonstrators opposed to his visit to Great Britain and kept him out of the centre of London, were in fact his supporters. You need not be only a narcissist, you also need to reverse reality.

The question, therefore, is what has happened to people? Trump’s changing the intention of 250,000 demonstrators would once have attracted ridicule. Not now: for Trump’s supporters, his tweets are undisputed truth.

His meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought the vaguest of results, He walked out of the Iran deal, which had several pages of agreement, saying it did not address issues. At the July NATO summit in Brussels, he attacked everybody, and then said that all had engaged to increase to their military budget  to 4% (the United States stands at 3.6%). In his visit to the United Kingdom, he scolded beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May, defended a hard Brexit and saluted resigning Minister of Foreign Affairs and hard Brexiter Boris Johnson as his favorite. He told May that he had not come to negotiate, but to obtain what he wanted. He then met Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that the United States was responsible for the bad relations between the two countries, that Putin was to be believed when he said that there was no Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections, and that the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice, with the probe into those elections by special counsel Robert Mueller, were an American disgrace. When in US history has a president scolding his allies and praising enemies of the United States raised not even an eyebrow from the Republican US electorate, which is now Trumpian over and above anything else?

The fact of the matter is that, as a survey released in June last year by Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) shows, the concept of democracy itself is in danger.

The survey asked more than 3,000 scholars and country experts to evaluate each of 178 countries on the quality of core features of democracy. At the end of 2016, most people lived in democracies. Since then, one-third of the world population, or 2.5 billion people, have gone through “autocratisation”, in which a leader or group of leaders begins to limit democratic attributes and rule more unilaterally.

Four of the most populous countries – India, Russia, Brazil and the United States – have been affected by autocratisation. Other large countries in democratic decline in the past !0 years include Congo, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland.

The United States fell from 7th to 31st place in just two years. The US Congress does not like to be able to put reins on the president, the opposition party appears unable to have any influence over the governing party, and the Judiciary is becoming much more partisan than balanced. The US Supreme Court looked like a counterweight to the Executive, but now its ranking has slipped to 48th place.

A poll by the McKinsey Institute found that today a full 41% of Americans would not mind not living in democracy if the leader they liked were to remain in power beyond the constitutional term.

It is fact that people elect those they like, and therefore any country has the leader its voters elect, be it Putin, Erdogan, Orban, Trump … and not centuries ago Mussolini and Hitler. If they want to listen to saviours sent by God, who care nothing about reality, that is their right. We can only mourn the growing somnambulism of people.

The serious problem is that this view of the world will only bring with a disaster in the not too distant future. It is really urgent, for example, to create an immigration policy, to establish criteria for those that the industrialised countries need to be able to to remain in global competition.

This will not happen. All immigrants are presented as a threat, just as a cynical road to power, regardless of reality. Africa’s population will double in the next few decades. Nigeria will grow to 400 million, the present population of Europe. Sixty percent of Africa’s population is now under 25, compared with 32 percent in the United States and 27 percent in Europe.

Are Europeans going to machine gun the immigrants, (as some xenophobes are already asking) and decline to a region of old people, with little if no pension and a non-existent social system? Is Europe going to lose its original identity, and the values that are enshrined not only in the European constitution, but also in those at national level?

The French Parliament has eliminated the term “race” from its constitution, and the Portuguese government will give Portuguese citizenship to immigrants who have a stable job after one year.

On the other hand, the government of the Netherlands, with the support of parliament, has decided that will refuse to allow children born by Dutch parents enrolled with ISIS to return on the grounds that those children have been born and raised in a climate of hate and violence, and thus constitute a danger for Dutch society.

The Netherlands was once a symbol of tolerance, and for centuries refugees went there, fleeing from religious or political conflicts. Today, the Netherlands has a population of 17.2 million people, with a high standard of living. How many such ISIS children are there? The astounding number of 145! Would it not be possible to find 145 families where those children – who have no responsibility for their situation – could forget the horrors they went through and enjoy the benefits of their nationality which, by international law, is considered non-waiverable? Meanwhile, the United States is separating more than 5.000 children from their immigrant parents.

Under this unprecedented face of the West, is this the new Europe and United States that their citizens want?

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Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Japan: the Land of the Rising Robotshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/japan-land-rising-robots/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=japan-land-rising-robots http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/japan-land-rising-robots/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 12:39:31 +0000 Todd Schneider - Gee Hee Hong and Anh Van Le http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156697 Todd Schneider is deputy division chief, Gee Hee Hong is an economist, and Anh Van Le is a research assistant, in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

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Todd Schneider is deputy division chief, Gee Hee Hong is an economist, and Anh Van Le is a research assistant, in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

By Todd Schneider, Gee Hee Hong and Anh Van Le
WASHNGTON DC, Jul 13 2018 (IPS)

While automation will eliminate very few occupations entirely in the coming decades, it is likely to have an impact on portions of almost all jobs to some degree—depending on the type of work and the tasks involved.

Set to move beyond routine and repetitive manufacturing activities, automation has the potential to appear in a much broader range of activities than seen until now, and to redefine human labor and work style in services and other sectors.

In Japan, the rapid decline in the labor force and the limited influx of immigrants create a powerful incentive for automation, which makes the country a particularly useful laboratory for the study of the future landscape of work.

Japan’s estimated population fell by a record-breaking 264,000 people in 2017. Currently, deaths outnumber births by an average of 1,000 people a day. The Tohoku region in northern Japan, for example, now has fewer inhabitants than it did in 1950.

Japan’s birth rate has long been significantly below the 2.1 births a woman needed to sustain growth—it currently stands at about 1.4 births a woman—and unlike for many other advanced economies, immigration is not sufficient to fill the gap.

Nearly a third of Japanese citizens were older than 65 in 2015—research from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research suggests that number will rise to nearly 40 percent by 2050.

The Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs released an estimate for Japan that showed the country’s population will dip below 100 million shortly after the middle of the 21st century. By the century’s end, Japan stands to lose 34 percent of its current population.

Japan’s domestic labor force (those ages 15–64) is projected to decline even faster than the overall population, dropping by some 24 million between now and 2050. With immigration unlikely to rise enough to compensate for this dramatic decline anytime soon, Japan faces dim prospects for productivity, potential output, and income growth (see Chart 1).

Japan is no stranger to coping with limited resources—including labor—and has historically been a leader in technological development. Automation and robotics, either to replace or enhance human labor, are familiar concepts in Japanese society. Japanese companies have traditionally been at the forefront in robotic technology.

Firms such as FANUC, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Sony, and the Yaskawa Electric Corporation led the way in robotic development during Japan’s economic rise. Automation and the integration of robotic technology into industrial production have also been an integral part of Japan’s postwar economic success.

Kawasaki Robotics started commercial production of industrial robots over 40 years ago. About 700,000 industrial robots were used worldwide in 1995, 500,000 of them in Japan.

Japan is still a leader in robot production and industrial use. The country exported some $1.6 billion worth of industrial robots in 2016—more than the next five biggest exporters (Germany, France, Italy, United States, South Korea) combined.

Japan is also one of the most robot-integrated economies in the world in terms of “robot density”—measured as the number of robots relative to humans in manufacturing and industry. Japan led the world in this measure until 2009, when Korea’s use of industrial robots surged and Japan’s industrial production increasingly moved abroad (see Chart 2).

The success of the first marriage of Japan’s labor force with robotics—the automation of key sectors such as the automotive and electronics industries in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s—augurs well for the next wave of technology and artificial intelligence and for an impact on employment and wages beyond manufacturing.

First, the gap in productivity growth between the manufacturing and services sectors in Japan is extremely wide. While there are many causes, the largest gains in industrial productivity have been closely correlated with increased use of information and communication technology and automation.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the most productive manufacturing sectors in Japan—automotive and electronics—are the ones whose production processes are heavily reliant on automation.

By contrast, the services sector, which accounts for 75 percent of GDP, has seen little annual productivity growth—only about half that of the United States. Labor productivity has roughly tripled since 1970 in manufacturing, but improved by only about 25 percent in the nonmanufacturing sector.

The coming wave of automation technology and artificial intelligence promises new possibilities for replacing or augmenting labor in the nonmanufacturing sector (for example, in transportation, communications, retail services, storage, and others).

According to several government reports (including the Bank of Japan’s Regional Economic Report and the annual survey on planned capital spending by the Development Bank of Japan), even small and medium-sized firms are embracing new technology to compensate for scarce labor and stay competitive.

For example, Family Mart, a Japanese retail convenience store chain, is accelerating implementation of self-checkout registers, while the restaurant group Colowide and many other restaurant operators have installed touch-screen order terminals to streamline operations and reduce the need for staff.

Other examples abound in health care, financial, transportation, and other services—including robot chefs and hotel staff.

Second, empirical evidence suggests that—contrary to fears for the worst—automation and increased use of robotics have had an overall positive impact on domestic employment and income growth.

IMF staff calculations—based on an approach pioneered by Acemoglu and Restrepo (2017) using prefectural level data from Japan—found increased robot density in manufacturing to be associated not only with greater productivity, but also with local gains in employment and wages.

Notably, these findings—which exclude crisis periods—are the opposite of results of a similar exercise based on US data. It appears that Japan’s experience may differ significantly from that of other advanced economies.

Japan’s progress in automation, use of robots, and integration of artificial intelligence with daily living is likely to move at a faster pace than in many other advanced economies for several reasons:

Shrinking population and the more rapidly shrinking workforce
: As noted above, the constraint on productivity implied by a secular decline in the labor force will effectively push many industries to invest in new technology—as appears evident in Japan now, including among small and medium-sized enterprises, which have a more difficult time attracting and retaining labor. Japan is not alone in this demographic trend, but is well ahead of other advanced economies.

Aging population: The aging of Japan’s population— the so-called baby boom generation will reach 75 in just a few years—is creating substantial labor needs in health and eldercare that cannot be met by “natural” workforce entrants (that is, natives). As a result, the proliferation of robots will extend well beyond Japanese factories to include schools, hospitals, nursing homes, airports, train stations, and even temples.

Declining quality
of services: Surveys support the view that both the volume and quality of services in Japan are in decline. Recent work by the research arm of Japan’s Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (Morikawa 2018) shows that the quality of services is eroding as a result of labor shortages.

Most critically affected are parcel delivery services, hospitals, restaurants, elementary and high schools, convenience stores, and government services.

These same factors may explain why—in model- based simulations—Japan could experience higher and more immediate gains from the continued advance of robotics and artificial intelligence in the economy.

Looking at data across the Group of 20 industrialized countries, a simulation prepared by the IMF staff points to the risk of declining labor shares, income polarization, and rising inequality. This assumes substantial transition costs (unemployment, lower wages) as increasing automation substitutes for and displaces existing human labor.

However, applying this same approach only to Japan yields some very different results. Specifically, with a shrinking labor force, even fully substitutable automation could boost wages and economic growth.

In other words, with labor literally disappearing and dim prospects for relief through higher immigration, automation and robotics can fill the labor gap and result in higher output and greater income rather than replacement of the human workforce.

These positive results notwithstanding, Japan is not immune from societal and welfare risks linked to increased automation. Polarization of the labor force, in which a relatively small proportion of workers have the training and education needed to fully leverage productivity from robotics, is always a social risk.

Research suggests that the female labor force, which has swelled in the past five years, is particularly vulnerable to displacement, given the heavy concentration of women in nonregular jobs (that is, temporary, part-time, or other positions outside the mainstream of Japan’s lifetime employment system), whose tasks are more susceptible to automation (Hamaguchi and Kondo 2017).

There is no crystal ball that can accurately predict how fast and how far robotics and artificial intelligence will advance in the next few decades. Nor is there perfect foresight with regard to how these technologies will be adapted to substitute for human labor— particularly in sectors outside of manufacturing.

Aside from the nontrivial technological challenges, there are a range of hurdles related to supporting infrastructure— including the legal framework for the use of such technologies alongside the general population— that will need to be worked out. Key issues could include consumer protection, data protection, intellectual property, and commercial contracting.

But the wave of change is clearly coming and will affect virtually all professions in one way or another. Japan is a relatively unique case. Given the population and labor force dynamics, the net benefits from increased automation have been high and could be even higher, and such technology may offer a partial solution to the challenge of supporting long-term productivity and economic growth.

Japan’s experience could hold valuable lessons for such countries as China and Korea, which will face similar demographic trends in the future, and for Europe’s advanced economies.

For policymakers, the first hurdle is to accept that change is coming. The steam engine was likely just as disconcerting, but it came nonetheless—putting an end to some jobs but generating many new ones as well.

Artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation have the potential to make just as big a change, and the second hurdle may be to find ways to help the public prepare for and leverage this transformation to make lives better and incomes higher.

Strong and effective social safety nets will be crucial, since disruption of some traditional labor and social contracts seems inevitable. But education and skills development will also be necessary to enable more people to take advantage of jobs in a high-tech world.

And in Japan’s case, this also means a stronger effort to bring greater equality into the labor force—between men and women, between regular and nonregular employees, and even across regions—so that the benefits and risks of automation can be more equally shared.

The link to the original article: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/06/japan-labor-force-artificial-intelligence-and-robots/schneider.htm

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Excerpt:

Todd Schneider is deputy division chief, Gee Hee Hong is an economist, and Anh Van Le is a research assistant, in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

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Age Appropriate Sexuality Education for Youth Key to National Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 05:52:36 +0000 Josephine Kibaru and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156636 Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right. It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its […]

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A community health volunteer informs community members about various methods of family planning. Photo Credit: UNFPA Kenya

By Dr. Josephine Kibaru-Mbae and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right.

It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its youth, with parents shying off from the subject and policymakers largely equivocal. The result is that the continent has the highest numbers of teenagers joining the ranks of parenthood through unintended pregnancies.

The statistics are disquieting: as per the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2014), one in every five adolescent girls has either had a live birth, or is pregnant with her first child. Among the 19-year olds, this doubles to two out of ten. In a recent study, six out of ten girls surveyed in two Nairobi slums reported having had an unintended pregnancy.

Among sexually active unmarried adolescents, only about half use any form of contraceptives, yet only one in three women and one in four men, per the same study, knew the correct timing regarding when a woman is likely to get pregnant.

The World Population Day should awaken us all to the critical role of those in authority in ensuring children grow up not only in an atmosphere of love and understanding, but also that they live to their full potential.

Young mothers are four times more likely than those over 20, to die in pregnancy or childbirth, according to the World Health Organization. If they live, they are more likely to drop out of school and to be poor than if they didn’t get pregnant. And their children are more prone to have behavioral problems as adolescents, which means they are also more likely to stay poor. This cycle of poverty has to be stopped.

Unfortunately, ideological and cultural fault lines appear every time discussions about teaching the youth about taking responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health.

As debates continue, the toll is unrelenting, with complications in pregnancy and childbirth being the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. The rate of new HIV infections among adolescents is rising, from 29% in 2013 to 51% in 2015.

The traditional role of families and communities as primary sources of reproductive health information and support has dissipated, replaced by peers and social media. Though the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy of 2015 aims to address young people’s health and well-being, help realise gender equality and reduce inequalities, much remains to be done to implement the good intentions of the policy.

Yet evidence from many countries has shown that structured, age appropriate sexuality education provides a platform for providing information about sexuality and relationships, based on evidence and facts, in a manner that is positive, that builds their skills.

Scientific evidence shows that when young people are empowered with correct information they are less likely to engage in early or in unprotected sex. This is attributable to the fact that they can undertake risk analysis and make informed decisions.

The ultimate goal for Kenya’s population programmes should be anchored on the demographic dividend paradigm. In short, in which areas should we invest our resources so that we can achieve the rapid fertility decline that can change the age structure to one dominated by working-age adults?

Countries such as the Asian Tigers, that have achieved rapid economic growth have strong family planning programmes that help women to avoid unplanned pregnancies and have the smaller families. Family planning is a key tool for reducing poverty since it frees up women to work and leads to smaller families, allowing parents to devote more resources to each child’s health and education.

First, we must make the obvious investments in reproductive health information and services for all who need them. The other key enablers for the demographic dividend window of opportunity include quality education to match economic opportunities, investing in the creation of new jobs in growing economic sectors and good governance

Second, education, especially for girls, increases the average age at marriage and lowers family size preferences. However, it must also be education that aims to promote the supply of a large and highly educated labour force, which can be easily integrated into economic sectors.

Third, Kenya must therefore identify the skills that are specific to the country’s strongest growing economic sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

Finally, combining sound health and education policies with an economic and governance environment that favours capital accumulation and investment will move Kenya closer towards experiencing the economic spur of the demographic dividend.

As the country takes strides towards the achievement of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals targets, all stakeholders including the United Nations, the government of Kenya, faith based communities, parents and others should all work together to empower adolescents and young people for positive health outcomes.

Young people are the backbone of this country and we owe them the best investment for the future through a multi-sectoral approach. Failure to do that means any national transformative agenda, including the SDGs and the Big Four, will be difficult to achieve.

Josephine Kibaru-Mbae
(@NCPDKenya) is the Director-General, National Council for Population and Development, Govt of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Community Work Among Women Improves Lives in Peru’s Andes Highlandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/community-work-greenhouses-give-boost-women-families-perus-andes-highlands/#respond Sat, 30 Jun 2018 02:20:14 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156475 At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”. “We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what […]

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In the community of Paropucjio, several women stand next to the solar greenhouse they have just built together on the plot of land belonging to one of them, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the Cuzco highlands region in Peru. They get excited when they talk about how the greenhouses will improve their families' lives. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

In the community of Paropucjio, several women stand next to the solar greenhouse they have just built together on the plot of land belonging to one of them, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level in the Cuzco highlands region in Peru. They get excited when they talk about how the greenhouses will improve their families' lives. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

By Mariela Jara
CUSIPATA, Peru, Jun 30 2018 (IPS)

At more than 3,300 m above sea level, in the department of Cuzco, women are beating infertile soil and frost to grow organic food and revive community work practices that date back to the days of the Inca empire in Peru such as the “ayni” and “minka”.

“We grow maize, beans and potatoes, that’s what we eat, and we forget about other vegetables, but now we’re going to be able to naturally grow tomatoes, lettuce, and peas,” María Magdalena Condori told IPS, visibly pleased with the results, while showing her solar greenhouse, built recently in several days of community work.

She lives in the Andes highlands village of Paropucjio, located at more than 3,300 m above sea level, in Cusipata, a small district of less than 5,000 inhabitants."We want to help improve the quality of life of rural women by strengthening their capacities in agriculture. They work the land, they sow and harvest, they take care of their families, they are the mainstay of food security in their homes and their rights are not recognized." -- Elena Villanueva

The local population subsists on small-scale farming and animal husbandry, which is mainly done by women, while most of the men find paid work in districts in the area or even in the faraway city of Cuzco, to complete the family income.

The geographical location of Paropucjio is a factor in the low fertility of the soils, in addition to the cold, with temperatures that drop below freezing. “Here, frost can destroy all our crops overnight and we end up with no food to eat,” says Celia Mamani, one of Condori’s neighbors.

A similar or even worse situation can be found in the other 11 villages that make up Cusipata, most of which are at a higher altitude and are more isolated than Paropucjio, which is near the main population centre in Cusipata and has the largest number of families, about 120.

Climate change has exacerbated the harsh conditions facing women and their families in these rural areas, especially those who are furthest away from the towns, because they have fewer skills training opportunities to face the new challenges and have traditionally been neglected by public policy-makers.

“In Paropucjio there are 14 of us women who are going to have our own greenhouse and drip irrigation module; so far we have built five. This makes us very happy, we are proud of our work because we will be able to make better use of our land,” said Rosa Ysabel Mamani the day that IPS spent visiting the community.

The solar greenhouses will enable each of the beneficiaries to grow organic vegetables for their families and to sell the surplus production in the markets of Cusipata and nearby districts.

Women farmers from Paropucjio, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level, smile as they talk about the wooden structure for a solar greenhouse, which they jokingly refer to as a “skeleton”. The roof will be made of a special microfilm resistant to bad weather, intense ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures, and the greenhouses are built collectively, in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

Women farmers from Paropucjio, in the district of Cusipata, more than 3,300 metres above sea level, smile as they talk about the wooden structure for a solar greenhouse, which they jokingly refer to as a “skeleton”. The roof will be made of a special microfilm resistant to bad weather, intense ultraviolet radiation and extreme temperatures, and the greenhouses are built collectively, in the Andean region of Cuzco, Peru. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

With a broad smile, Mamani points to a 50-sq-m wooden structure that within the next few days will be covered with mesh on the sides and microfilm – a plastic resistant to extreme temperatures and hail – on the roof.

“We will all come with our husbands and children and we will finish building the greenhouse in ‘ayni’ (a Quechua word that means cooperation and solidarity), as our ancestors used to work,” she explains.

The ayni is one of the social forms of work of the Incas still preserved in Peru’s Andes highlands, where the community comes together to build homes, plant, harvest or perform other tasks. At the end of the task, in return, a hearty meal is shared.

The minga, another legacy of the Inca period, is similar but between communities, whose inhabitants go to help those of another community. In this case women from different villages and hamlets get together to build the greenhouses, especially the roofs, the hardest part of the job.

Training in production and rights

A total of 80 women from six rural highlands districts in Cuzco will benefit from the solar greenhouses and drip irrigation modules for their family organic gardens, as part of a project run by the non-governmental Peruvian Flora Tristán Women’s Centre with the support of the Spanish Basque Agency for Development Cooperation.

Women farmers from the community of Huasao, in the Andean highlands region of Cuzco, Peru, stand in front of one of the 50-sq-m solar tents, which has a 750-litre water tank for the drip irrigation module for their vegetables. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

Women farmers from the community of Huasao, in the Andean highlands region of Cuzco, Peru, stand in front of one of the 50-sq-m solar tents, which has a 750-litre water tank for the drip irrigation module for their vegetables. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

“We want to help improve the quality of life of rural women by strengthening their capacities in agriculture. They work the land, they sow and harvest, they take care of their families, they are the mainstay of food security in their homes and their rights are not recognised,” Elena Villanueva, a sociologist with the centre’s rural development programme, told IPS.

She said the aim was comprehensive training for women farmers, so that they can use agro-ecological techniques for the sustainable use of soil, water and seeds. They will also learn to defend their rights as women, farmers and citizens, in their homes, community spaces and before local authorities.

The expert said the solar greenhouses open up new opportunities for women because they protect crops from adverse weather and from the high levels of ultraviolet radiation in the area, allowing the women to grow crops that could not survive out in the open.

“Now they will have year-round food that is not currently part of their diet, such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and lettuce, that will enrich the nutrition and diets in their families – crops they will be able to plant and harvest with greater security,” she said.

The women have also been trained in the preparation of natural fertilisers and pesticides. “Our soils don’t yield much, they squeeze the roots of the plants, so we have to prepare them very well so that they can receive the seeds and then provide good harvests,” Condori explains.

In the 50 square metres covered by her new greenhouse, the local residents have worked steadily digging the soil to remove the stones, turn the soil and form the seed beds for planting.

Women and men from the community of Paropucjio, in Peru’s Andes highlands region of Cuzco, share lunch after completing the community work of building one of 80 small greenhouses, where women farmers will be able to grow organic vegetables despite the extreme temperatures in the area. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS


Women and men from the community of Paropucjio, in Peru’s Andes highlands region of Cuzco, share lunch after completing the community work of building one of 80 small greenhouses, where women farmers will be able to grow organic vegetables despite the extreme temperatures in the area. Credit: Mariela Jara/IPS

“To do that we have had to fertilise a lot using bocashi (fermented organic fertiliser) that we prepare in groups with the other women, working together in ayni. We brought guinea pig and chicken droppings and cattle manure, leaves, and ground eggshells,” she explains.

This active role in making decisions about the use of their productive resources has helped change the way their husbands see them and has brought a new appreciation for everything they do to support the household and their families.

Honorato Ninantay, from the community of Huasao, located more than 3,100 metres above sea level in the neighbouring district of Oropesa, confesses his surprise and admiration for the way his wife juggles all her responsibilities.

“It seems unbelievable that before, in all this time, I hadn’t noticed. Only when she has gone to the workshops and has been away from home for two days have I understood,” he says.

“I as a man have only one job, I work in construction. But my wife has aahh! (long exclamation). When she left I had to fetch the water, cook the meals, feed the animals, go to the farm and take care of my mother who is sick and lives with us. I couldn’t handle it all,” he adds.

His wife, Josefina Corihuamán, listens to her husband with a smile on her face, and confirms that he is now involved in household chores because he has understood that washing, cleaning and cooking are not just a “woman’s job.”

She also has a solar greenhouse and irrigation module and is confident that she will produce enough to feed her family and sell the surplus in the local market.

“What we will harvest will be healthy, organic, chemical-free food, and that is good for our families, for our children. I feel that I will finally make good use of my land,” she says.

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Breaking the Cycle of Child Labor in Peruhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/breaking-cycle-child-labor-peru/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-cycle-child-labor-peru http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/breaking-cycle-child-labor-peru/#respond Thu, 28 Jun 2018 11:39:13 +0000 Andrea Vale http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156436 Most laborers in Peru are forced into a vicious cycle by circumstance. Faced with low-paying, high-intensity work, they have no choice but to make their children work as well. Having spent their lives neglecting education for labor, those children in turn grow up with no options for income besides low-paying, high-intensity positions  – and so […]

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The brick site where children toil away, just down the road from the classroom. Credit: Andrea Vale/IPS

By Andrea Vale
LIMA, Jun 28 2018 (IPS)

Most laborers in Peru are forced into a vicious cycle by circumstance. Faced with low-paying, high-intensity work, they have no choice but to make their children work as well. Having spent their lives neglecting education for labor, those children in turn grow up with no options for income besides low-paying, high-intensity positions  – and so on. But in classrooms across one region, a handful of teachers are trying to break that cycle while the children are still young.

Passing out books every week in a tiny classroom that lies on the side of a dirt road, high up in the Andes overlooking the city of Cajamarca, volunteers are met with a crime that teachers would usually welcome – the children are trying to sneak out extra books so that they can read more.When they first begin coming to classes, virtually all of the children have self-esteem so low that they are cripplingly shy and can barely speak to others.

Once each has a book the air is filled with high voices while they excitedly compare with one another, sometimes swapping between friends, exclaiming in thrill.

Each one of them is a child laborer.

The overwhelming majority work in brick yards, although some in nearby towns work loading and unloading carts of fruit from trucks in the crowded mercado; as construction workers helping to build houses by carrying cement and heavy tools; farm hands; maids; or simply wandering the streets for hours picking up bottles for recycling departments.

The miniature brick workers – all aged around six years old – rise at six in the morning and walk for several hours to get to their work sites. They spend all day in the mud, molding dirt into bricks; carrying loads into large, industrial ovens; hauling piles of finished bricks into trucks; and unloading the same loads in construction sites and crowded mercados.

It’s a job that consumes a child’s daily life, taking up any time that he or she is not in school.  The work gradually eats in to school hours themselves more and more until the children eventually drop out completely around age 12, to allow themselves to spend more time working and earn a larger income. Unsurprisingly, almost all of them are constantly ill and malnourished.

The first week spent in the classroom, one volunteer picked up an unsuspecting-looking crossword puzzle and examined it off-handedly. What she found was a startling unintentional statement on the reality of child labor, a first-grader’s scrawl answering as casual vocab terms the names of laws and legal rights that ensured that his right to protect his body, and for adults to care for him and other children.

That disquieting intermingling of childish innocence alongside more menacing undertones characterized the classroom. Posters on the wall displayed ‘My Rights Are: A Family;” “My Rights Are: An Education;” and “My Rights Are: A Home,” with the same bright colors and cartoons that exhibited the ABCs in elementary school classrooms.

A child laborer’s crossword puzzle. Credit: Andrea Vale/IPS

Antonieta, the teacher, smiled over them all from her place at the front of the classroom. She augmented to the atmosphere of cheeriness, taking time to sit with the children at their tables to ask them, “What story are you writing in your journal?”; “What do you think the moral of the book you’re reading is?”

When interviewed sitting on a log by the outhouse behind the classroom without any children around, however, her demeanor is notably more sober.

“Going to school is the most expensive right in Peru,” Antonieta said in Spanish, “According to the laws, they say, ‘No, school doesn’t cost anything,’ but in reality, they ask for money for everything.”

Antonieta told me that child laborers come from illiterate parents, ones without stable jobs. At best, mothers find occasional work as housekeepers, clothes washers and nannies, earning a salary of 100 soles a month (30 dollars), 200 if they’re lucky. Fathers are blue-collar workers, resigned by their lack of education to low salaries and career instability.

To earn an income even close to what it takes to keep a family surviving, everyone has to work – including the smallest members. An average income for a family in which mothers, fathers and children all contribute is about 400 to 600 soles a month – the equivalent of about 120 to 180 U.S. dollars.

And what does 400 to 600 soles a month look like? A house comprised of one room, at most two. Mothers, fathers, children, aunts and uncles, and grandparents all live together in their simultaneous bedroom, dining room and kitchen. And housed inside with them are farm animals and pets. As a result, these children grow up without independence, constantly stricken with stomach infections, colds and other detrimental diseases. The Cajamarca region holds the second-most place in Peru for youth malnourishment.

According to the International Labor Organization, there are 3.3 million child laborers in Peru, and a third of them are under 12 years old. 26.5% – almost 1/3 – of the Peruvian population between the ages of six and 17 are currently working, and those numbers are projected to increase greatly over the next few years. Though most of the younger half of child laborers attempts to attend school alongside their labor, children seem to drop out of school completely around age 12. For instance, among children who labor as domestic workers, only 2.3% of those aged 6-11 don’t attend school at all – as compared to 97.7% of those aged 12-17.

One brick site sits just down the road from the classroom. Unshielded from the sharp Peruvian sun beating down is a field of meticulously organized piles of industrial-sized bricks, intercepted in places by mounds of dirt and one massive brick oven. It isn’t hard to picture the ghosts of activity that had filled it only hours before – little hands straightening those piles of bricks; tiny bodies stumbling inside that oven carrying loads of mud stacked higher than their heads.

“Last week we gave dolls to the children,” Antonieta said. “They identify certain parts of the body where emotion is connected, where they feel happy or sad. Many of them couldn’t.”

When they first begin coming to classes, virtually all of the children have self-esteem so low that they are cripplingly shy and can barely speak to others. They are totally unable and fearful of expressing their thoughts and feelings.

“The children don’t have places for recreation. They don’t have places to be together with their friends, they don’t have places to do homework, they don’t have places to have conversations with their parents,” Antonieta said, “After coming to a few classes, they are more expressive. They are able to communicate their feelings, they communicate more with their families. They are improving in their studies. We have them write in journals. There was a little boy who brought his in and had written, ‘If (class) didn’t exist anymore, my dreams would be broken. My dreams would be dead.’ “

Antonieta began to quietly weep.

“A lot of children have written very good things, beautiful things,” she persisted, “‘There is so much hope with these children, that they’ll be able to learn and grow, and they come here and they get that hope.”

She says that reading “will help tremendously with their knowledge, increase their abilities, and they will not be taken advantage of so easily. They will be able to defend their own rights.”

Antonieta says that of the 250 children enrolled this year, 200 have left work, and the rest have reduced their hours at work.

“There is still a lot of work to do,” Antonieta says. “We’ve made progress, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

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Food Sustainability, Migration, Nutrition and Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 Enrique Yeves http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156293 We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted. We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries, poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, […]

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Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Enrique Yeves
ROME, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted.

We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries, poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, Africa and in Europe.

Enrique Yeves

We want to empower women and girls, yet in every sector we still see serious disparities in terms of equal pay for equal wages and getting more women into senior management positions. We worry about the mass movement of people, many of them disenfranchised, and yet fail to stop the exploitation and even death that too often awaits those who try to migrate.

What is to be done? First, we must understand how each of these issues is interlinked and how they can be alleviated using an integrated approach involving agriculture, education, social services, health and infrastructure. If we channel development assistance in an integrated way, rather than towards specific sectors, we are more likely to achieve sustainable changes – these in turn can ease the burden of coordination and enhance our ability to help governments to achieve more effective and long term improvements.

For this to happen, we need the political will of governments to achieve change, coupled with adequate resources.

These issues are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments committed to the SDGs in 2015, pledging to end hunger, extreme poverty, and other social, environmental and health evils that have left over 815 million people undernourished, and in many areas barely surviving in squalid and inhumane conditions.

The role of governments is central. Only they can exert the political will to enforce the required changes and to set aside the critically needed resources.

The role of development organizations, including the UN, non-governmental organizations and international and regional financial institutions, is also critical. They exist to support governments determined to achieve the SDGs and in so doing to improve their overall social, economic and political wellbeing.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been working for over 70 years on both the policy front and on the ground, doing so globally, regionally, nationally and at the community level. We have been documenting the state of food insecurity in the world, exploring and emphasizing the all-important role of small producers in achieving food security. Small-scale farmers, fishers and foresters, constituting a vast number of the rural poor, are vulnerable to environmental and market forces often beyond their control.

Yet it is they who, using tried and tested traditional systems enhanced where possible by improved technologies adapted to their needs, hold the keys to a world without hunger. As FAO has documented, family farmers produce more than two-thirds of the world’s food, with smallholders producing more per unit of land.

In the long run, tackling the direct relationship between mass migration and poverty and instability entails addressing basic challenges in the countries that people are leaving, and by providing more integrated assistance to refugees to improve their health and capacity to earn livelihoods in the receiving countries.

An important but frequently underplayed aspect for governments in developing countries is their need for assistance in defining and quantifying their present situation through internationally accepted benchmarks. Reliable statistics are crucial in order to measure progress towards attainment of the SDGs and general progress in development.

FAO delivers a lot of services to its members in this regard. And the effort produces globally relevant information, some of it alarming. Right now, for example, the global number of undernourished people is estimated at 815 million and that figure is rising for the first time in more than a decade. The number of countries reliant on external food assistance is now 39, the highest it’s ever been since FAO started tracking.

Eradicating hunger is a lynchpin for the entire 2030 Agenda, and governments must raise awareness about why achieving the SDGs is critical. This effort will both enable and benefit from women’s empowerment.

Programmes such as food for work, food stamps or a mix of both – especially in situations where conflict or natural disaster have impacted local production – are all part of the toolkit and are demonstrably efficient in fostering women’s power and interests. Increasing access to food is a building block to goals ranging from nutrition to women’s rights and assuring resilient livelihoods for producers.

What is essential is to find synergies – not only to avoid wasteful duplication but to forge the basis for sustainable solutions. Otherwise our worries are in vain.

Enrique Yeves is Director of Communications, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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Trump is Here to Stay and Change the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/trump-stay-change-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-stay-change-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/trump-stay-change-world/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 15:05:37 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156274 Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality. If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump […]

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By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 18 2018 (IPS)

Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality.

If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump is here to stay, and he is a result and not a cause.

Roberto Savio

In his year and a half of government, Trump has not lost one of his battles. He has changed the political discourse worldwide, established new standards of ethics in politics, a new meaning of democracy, and his electoral basis has not been shrinking at all.

His critics are the media (which a large majority of Americans dislike), the elite (which is hated) and professionals (who are considered to be profiting at the expense of the lower section of the middle class).

There is now a strong divide with the rural world, the de-industrialised parts of the United States, miners with their mine closed, etc. In addition, white Americans feel increasingly threatened by immigrants, minorities, corporations and industries which have been using the government to their advantage. At every election their number shrinks by two percent.

Let us not forget that Trump was elected by the vote of the majority of white woman, in a country which is the bedrock of feminism.

I know that this could create some irate reactions. The United States is home to some of the best universities in the world, the most brilliant researchers as shown by the number of Nobel prizes awarded , very good orchestras, libraries, museums, a vibrant civil society, and so on. But the sad reality is that those elites count, at best, for no more than 20 percent of the population.

In 80 percent of cases, TV news is the only source of information on international affairs. Newspapers are usually only local, with exception of a few (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, in all less than ten), and have a readership of 35 percent of the population.

You have only to travel in the US hinterland to observe two striking facts: it is very rare to meet somebody who knows geography and history even minimally, and everybody is convinced that the United States has been helping the entire world for which nobody is grateful.

An investigation by the New York Times found out that Americans were convinced that their country has been giving at least 15 percent of its budget for support and philanthropy. In fact, in recent decades the real figure has been below 0.75 percent. At the same time, it has a number of institutes of international studies of the highest level with brilliant analysts, plus a large number of international NGOs. But only 34 percent of the member of the Senate, and 38 percent of members of the House of Representatives have a passport…

The country is divided into two worlds. Of course, the same happen in every country, and in Africa or Asia the division between elite and low-level population is even more extreme. But the United States is an affluent country, where for more than two centuries efforts have been made on the fronts of education and integration in a country which has also been called the “melting pot”, and where it is widely believed that it is the best – if not the only – democracy in the world.

Trump, therefore, has an easy and captive electorate, made up of strong believers, and we cannot understand why, if we do not go over the history of American politics, which is in fact parallel to the political history of Europe. The calls for a lengthy analysis which is what is missing in today’s media, and in which recent US politics can be divided (very roughly) into three historical cycles.

The first, from 1945 to 1981), saw the political class convinced that the priority was to avoid a new world war. For this, institutions for peace and cooperation had to be built, and individuals were to be happy with their status and destiny.

Internationally, that meant the creation of the United Nation, multilateralism as a way to negotiate on the basis of participation and consensus, and international cooperation as a way to help poor countries develop and reduce inequalities. Domestically, this was to be done by giving priority to labour over capital. Strong trade unions were created and in 1979 income from labour accounted for 70 percent of total income. A similar trend was also the seen in Europe.

The second cycle ran from 1981 to 2009, the year Barack Obama was named president. On behalf of the corporate world, Ronald Reagan had launched the neoliberal wave. He started by shutting down the trade union of air traffic controllers, and went on to dismantle much of the welfare and social net built over the previous four decades, eliminating regulations, giving free circulation to capital, creating unrestricted free trade, and so on.

That led to delocalisation of factories, the decline of trade unions and their ability to negotiate, and a very painful reduction of the labour share of wealth, which fell from 70 percent in 1979 to 63 percent in 2014, and has continued to decline ever since.

Unprecedented inequalities have become normal and accepted. Today, an employee at Live Nation Entertainment, an events promotion and ticketing company, who earns an average of 24, 000 dollars would need 2,893 years to earn the 70.6 million dollars that its CEO, Michael Rapino, earned last year.

Reagan had a counterpart in Europe, Margaret Thatcher, who dismantled trade unions, ridiculed the concept of community and common goods and aims (“… there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families …” ), partly followed by Gerard Schroeder in Germany. Globalisation became the undisputed new political vision, far from the rigid ideologies which had created communism and fascism, and were responsible for the Second World War. The market would solve all problems, and governments should keep their hands off.

Reagan was followed by Bush Sr., George H. W. Bush. who somewhat moderated Reagan’s policies. While he started the war with Iraq, he did not go on to invade the entire country. And he was followed by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who did not challenge neoliberal globalisation but tried to ride it, showing that the left (in American terms) could be more efficient than the right. To give just one example, it was Clinton who completed deregulation of banks by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act which separated savings and investment banking. That led to the transfer of billions of dollars from savings to investments, or speculation, with the result that today banks consider customer activity less lucrative than investments, and finance has become a sector that is totally separate from the production of goods and services. There are now 40 times more financial transactions in one day than output from industry and services, and finance is the only sector of human activity without any international control body.

Markets are now more important than the vote of citizens given that, in many cases, it is they that decide the viability of a government. Furthermore, this has become a sector with no ethics: since the financial crisis of 2008, banks have paid a whopping amount of 321 billion dollars in penalties for illegal activities.

Clinton’s conviction that the left could be successful also had its counterpart in Europe, like Reagan had Thatcher. It was Tony Blair, who constructed a theoretical design for explaining the submission of the left to neoliberal globalisation: this was the so-called Third Way which was, in fact, was a centrist position that tried to reconcile centre-right economic and centre-left social policies.

However, it became clear that neoliberal globalisation was in fact lifting only a few boats and that capital without regulation was becoming a threat. Social injustices continued to increase and legions of people in the rural area felt that towns were syphoning off all revenues and that the elite was ignoring them, and unemployed workers and the impoverished middle class no longer felt old loyalties to the left, which was now considered representative of the elite and professionals.

In the United States the Democratic Party, which also held a neoliberal view with Clinton, began to change its agenda from an economic approach to one of human rights, defending minorities, Afro-Americans and immigrants, and advocating their inclusion in the system.

The fight was no longer between corporations and trade unions, and Obama was the result of that fight, the champion of human rights also as an instrument of international affairs. In fact, while he had a brilliant agenda on human rights, he did very little on the social and economic front, beside the law on national health. But his alliance of minorities and progressive whites was a personal baggage, who could not pass on to an emblematic figure of the establishment like Hillary Clinton.

That led to a new situation in American politics. Those on the left began to see defence of their identity (and their past) as the new fight, now that the traditional division between left and right had waned. Religious identity, national identity, fight against the system and those who are different, become political action.

It should be stressed that the same process happened in Europe, albeit in a totally different cultural and social situation. Those left out deserted the traditional political system to vote for those who were against the system, and promised radical changes to restore the glories of the past.

Their message was necessary nationalist, because they denounced all international systems as merely supporting the elites who were the beneficiaries. It was also necessarily to find a scapegoat, like the Jews in the thirties. Immigrants were perfect because they aroused fear and a perceived loss of traditional identity, a threat in a period of large unemployment.

The new political message from the newcomers was to empower those left out, those who felt fear, those who had lost any trust in the political class, and promise to give them back their sovereignty, reject intruders and take power away from the traditional elites, the professionals of politics, to bring in real people.

Since the end of the financial crisis in 2008 – which brought about even further deterioration of the social and economic situation) – those parties known as populist parties started to grow and they now practically dominate the political panorama.

In the United States, the Republicans of the Tea Party, radical right-wing legislators, were able to change the Republican party, pushing out those called compassionate conservatives because they had social concern. In Europe, the media were startled to see workers voting for Marine Le Pen in France, but the left had lost any legitimacy as representative of the lower incomes; technological change led to the disappearance of social identities, like workers.

In a period of crisis, there was no capability for redistribution. The left had now found itself in the middle of a crisis of identity and it will not emerge from it soon.

Let us now come to today. In November 2016, to universal amazement, (and his own) Trump was elected president of the United States, and just four months later, in March 2017, Brexit came as a rude awakening for Europe. The resentful and fearful went to the polls to get Great Britain out of Europe. The fact that the campaign was plagued by falsehood – recognised by the winners after the referendum – was irrelevant. Who was against Brexit? The financial system, the international corporations, the big towns like London, university professors: in other words, the system. That was enough.

Here, I have deliberately lumped together the United States and Europe (the European Union) to show that globalisation has had a global impact. A United States, which had been the creator and guarantor of the international system, started to withdraw from it under Reagan when he felt that it was becoming a straitjacket for the United States.

This started the decline of the United Nations: on American initiative, trade was taken away from the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was created. Globalisation has two engines, trade and finance, and both are now out of the United Nations, which has become an institution for health, education, children, woman and other non-productive sectors, according to the market. It is no coincidence that Trump is now fighting against the globalisation that United States invented, and one of its main enemies is the WTO.

An old maxim is that people get the government they deserve. But we should also be aware that they are being pushed by a new alliance: the alternative right alliance. In all countries it has the same aim: destroy what exists. This network is fed at the same time by Russia and the United States. American alt-right ideologues like Steve Bannon are addressing European audiences to foster the end of the European Union, with clear support from the White House. The populists in power, like Viktor Orban in Hungary or Matteo Salvini in Italy (as well those not in power, like Le Pen) all consider Trump and Vladimir Putin as their points of references. Such alliances are new, and they will become very dangerous.

And now we come to Mr. Trump. After what has been said above, it is clear why he should be considered a symptom and not a cause, while his personality is obviously playing an additional important role. It should be noted that he has not lost any important battle since he came to power. He has been able to take over the Republican party completely, and it is now de facto the Trump Party.

In the primaries for the November 2017 elections (for all House of Representative seats and 50 percent of those of the Senate), he intervened to support candidates he liked, and their opponents always lost. In South Carolina, conservative Katie Arrington, who won against a much stronger opponent, Mark Sanford, declared in her acceptance speech: our party is the Trump party.

Trump knows exactly what his voters think, and he always acts in a way that strengthens his support, regardless of what he does. He is a known sexist, and is now involved in a scandal with a porno star? He has moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and he now has the support of the evangelists, a very large and puritan Protestant group which is an important source of votes. (Interestingly, Guatemala and Paraguay which decided to move their embassies to Jerusalem are also run by evangelists.)

Trump has refused to disclose his incomes and taxes, and he has not formally separated himself from his companies. In the United States, this is usually is enough to force people to resign.

He has removed from his cabinet all the representatives of finance and industry he had put in on his arrival (in order to be accepted by the establishment) and replaced them with right-wing hawks, highly efficient and not morons, from National Security Advisor John Bolton to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He has managed to obtain Gina Hastel, a notorious torturer, as director of the CIA with the votes of Democrats.

He has turned his back on a highly structured treaty with Iran (and other four major countries) to forge a totally unclear agreement with North Korea, which creates problems with Japan, an American ally by definition. He has decided to side with Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran, because that move has the support of a large American sector.

In addition to narcissism, what moves Trump are not values but money. He has quarreled with all historical allies of the United States and he is now engaging in a tariff war with them, while starting one with China, simply on the basis of money. However while erratic, Trump is not unpredictable. All that he has done, he announced during his electoral campaign.

Trump believes he is accountable to no one, and has created a direct relationship with his electors, bypassing the media. According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, which keeps track of Trump’s many misstatements, untruths and outright lies, he exceeded 3,000 untrue or misleading statements in his first 466 days – on average, 6.5 untruths a day. Nobody cares. Very few are able to judge.

When a president of United States announces that he is abandoning the treaty with Iran, because they are the main financier of ISIS and Al Qaida, the lack of public reaction is a good measure of the total ignorance of most Americans.

Americans have no idea that Islam is divided between Sunni and Shiite, and that the terrorists are Sunni and based on an extreme interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, or Salafism. Iranians, who are not Arabs, are Shiite, and are considered apostate by the Sunni extremists; Iran has lost thousands of men in the fight against ISIS.

This ignorance helps Trump win Republican voters, no matter what.

The fact that Trump knows exactly what his voters feel and think feeds his narcissism. After his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, at a press conference he said of previous US presidents: “I don’t think they’ve ever had the confidence, frankly, in a president that they have right now for getting things done and having the ability to get things done”.

He does not tolerate any criticism or dissent, as his staff well knows. The result is that he is surrounded by yes men, like no president before. His assistant for trade, Peter Navarro, has declared that there should be a special place in hell for foreign leaders who disagree with Trump.

According to the large majority of economists, the tariff war that he has now started now with US allies plus China will bring growth down all over the world, but nobody reacts in the United States. It is all irrelevant to his voters. He now has a 92 percent rate of confidence, the highest since the United States has existed.

Considering all he has done in less than two years against the existing order leads us to consider that the real danger is that he will be re-elected, and leave office only in 2024. By then, the changes in ethics and style will have become really irreversible.

With many candidates in various countries looking to him as a political example, he will certainly be able to change the world in which we have grown and which, albeit with many faults, has been able to bring about growth and peace.

It is true that the traditional political system needs a radical update, and it does appear able to do so. Meanwhile, it is difficult to foresee how a world based on nationalism and xenophobia – with a strong increase in military spending worldwide, and many other global problems from climate change to no policy for migration, and a global debt that has reached 225 percent of GNP in ten years – will be able to live without conflicts,

What we do know is that the world which emerged from the Second World War, based on the idea of peace and development, the world which is in our constitutions, will disappear.

Democracy, can be a perfect tool for the legitimacy of a dictator. This is what is happening in the various Russias, Turkeys, Hungarys or Polands. A strongman wins the elections, then starts to make changes to the constitution in order to have more power. The next step is to place cronies in institutional positions, reduce the independence of the judiciary, control the media, and so on. That is then followed by acting in name of the majority, against minorities.

This is not new in history. Hitler and Mussolini were at first elected, and today many “men of providence” are lining up.

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Sahel in the Throes of a Major Humanitarian Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 18:04:32 +0000 Mark Lowcock http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156214 Mark Lowcock is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

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A mother caresses the head of her sleeping malnourished baby, at the mother and child centre in the town of Diffa, Niger. Credit: UNICEF/Tremeau

By Mark Lowcock
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

I am increasingly concerned by the situation in the Sahel. In Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, nearly 6 million people are struggling to meet their daily food needs. Severe malnutrition threatens the lives of 1.6 million children. These are levels unseen since the crisis of 2012, and the most critical months are still ahead.

Governments in the region were successful in beating back the crisis six years ago. I am encouraged by the efforts of regional partners to scale up their operations following early warning signs. But the rapid deterioration over recent months reveals an urgent need for more donor support.

The crisis was triggered by scarce and erratic rainfall in 2017, resulting in water, crop and pasture shortages and livestock losses. Pastoralists had to undertake the earliest seasonal movement of livestock in 30 years – four months earlier and much further than usual. This has also increased the likelihood of conflict with farmer communities over scarce resources, water and land.

Food security across the region has deteriorated. Food stocks have already run out for millions of people. Families are cutting down on meals, withdrawing children from school and going without essential health treatment to save money for food.

Severe acute malnutrition rates in the six countries have increased by 50 per cent since last year. One child in six under the age of five now needs urgent life-saving treatment to survive.

In a severe lean season, anticipated to last until September, the number of people who need food and livelihood support may increase to 6.5 million.

I am most concerned about Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania. In Burkina Faso, for example, the number of people facing food insecurity has already jumped nearly threefold since last year. In Mali, the number of people in ‘emergency’ conditions have increased by 120 per cent. In Mauritania, severe acute malnutrition rates are at their highest since 2008.

With support from the United Nations and partners, national authorities have developed prioritized response plans that focus on pastoral and food security needs. A scale-up in operations to reach 3.6 million people with food security interventions is already underway.

Critical nutrition interventions are being scaled up in areas where emergency thresholds have been surpassed. Ongoing technical support to governments and regional organisations is helping mitigate conflict between farmers and herders.

While increased insecurity has complicated aid delivery in parts of the region, the humanitarian presence in the Sahel and capacity to deliver services are stronger than ever before. Regional, national and local organisations stand ready to step up assistance and help meet exceptional needs.

But UN response plans across the six affected countries are only 26 per cent funded. Last week, I released US$30 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to help scale up relief efforts in the region. I call on donors urgently to provide further funding. We can still avert the worst.

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Excerpt:

Mark Lowcock is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

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Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:20:44 +0000 Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156175 Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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12 June is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world's poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health

Although child abuse and exploitation is prohibited by the Kenyan constitution, some children are still engaged in manual labour. XINHUA PHOTO: SAM NDIRANGU

By Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

On 12 June every year is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world’s poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest proportion of child labourers (29 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 years) and is considered detrimental to their health and development.

Many children not yet in their teens, are sent out to work in farms, as sand harvesters, street hawkers, domestic workers, drug peddling and most piteously, as sex workers and child soldiers.

Of all child labourers in these and similar industries around the world, half are in Africa, indicating that the continent’s conscience must urgently be pricked into action.

Jacqueline Mogeni

Kenya has made some commendable moves towards eliminating child labour, primarily through the National Policy on the Elimination of Child Labour, and most recently the Computer and Cybercrime Bill with its provisions on child sexual exploitation. And worth mentioning is the Children’s Act which domesticated most international and continental conventions to enhance child rights and protection.

Kenya has ratified most key international conventions concerning child labour including Minimum Age, Worst Forms of Child Labour, Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

The country must now also ratify the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Among the steps that will reduce the number of children ending up as workers is the policy on compulsory secondary education. Currently, only the primary level schooling is mandatory, which leaves an almost five-year gap between completion and the minimum working age of 18 years.

Officially, primary and secondary schools are prohibited from charging tuition fees, but unofficial school levies, books and uniforms still make it difficult for families to send their children to school. Partly because of that, transition to secondary school is at about 60%, leaving many children prone to exploitation.

While engaging children has been considered as more income, new analysis by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicates child labour is economically unjustified.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Sending such children out to work rather than to school means they miss out on education and the skills that might have landed them better jobs in the future. It means we are not investing in human capital, but rather ensuring the youth will remain mired in low-skilled jobs, thus jeopardising any hopes for reaping a demographic dividend. Efforts to empower, educate and employ young people will have a cascading effect on the rest of society.

Estimates indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, the last few years have witnessed a rise in child labour, where other major regions recorded declines. It is conceivable that the retrogression was driven largely by economic slow-down, but clearly, child labour is likely a cause rather than cure for poverty for families and for entire nations. “Child labor perpetuates poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, population growth, and other social problems”, says Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi.

A particularly obdurate form of child labour is early marriage, with statistics indicating that one in five girls under 15 years is married, invariably to a much older man. The cycle of abuse sets off immediately, with most of these ‘child brides’ being overworked in the home; often made to walk many kilometres to fetch water, sweep the house, prepare meals and give birth to many children while their peers are in school.

Childbirth is a deadly hit-or-miss proposition for them. Young mothers are four times likelier than those over 20 to die in pregnancy or childbirth, even without considering other perils such as fistula that are hazards for child mothers.

Even where such births are uneventful, it means that such children will most likely never go back to school, dashing any hopes of decent employment in future.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour.

With its current momentum including moves to clamp down on exploitation of children and increasing secondary school transition rates, Kenya can be a model for Africa in the global commitment.

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Excerpt:

Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Greece: SDGs a Way to End Economic Crisis?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 16:50:43 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156119 Seven years after being on the verge of a financial collapse, Greece is now seeing better times. Its economic accounts have clearly improved but what is not under the spotlight is how the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis. During these past years, the country has achieved some partial gains. […]

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Greece is now seeing better times: its economic accounts have clearly improved but the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis

A Greek flag waving in the locality of Oia, Greece. Credit: Matt Artz on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Seven years after being on the verge of a financial collapse, Greece is now seeing better times. Its economic accounts have clearly improved but what is not under the spotlight is how the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis.

During these past years, the country has achieved some partial gains. It is the first time, since 2011, that economic accounts of Greece are so encouraging that the country is looking with some optimism to the month of August 2018 when the last phase of European aid will be over definitely.

The purchasing power of the people has fallen by approximately 29% and unemployment has reached 23% for adult workers and, a stunning 40% for young people

The surplus during the first nine months of 2017 was 2.2% higher related to the 1.75% imposed by the European Union. The GDP growth was 1.9% in 2017 and estimates show it will reach 2.5% in 2018.

Among the most significant levers of the Greek recovery is the increase of its exports. In particular, the production and sale of liqueurs, as well as the car industry are both stimulating growth. Tourism remains a pillar of the Greek economy. In 2017, it was 17% higher than the year before.

However, despite these positive signs, the reality on the ground is bitter sweet. The purchasing power of the people has fallen by approximately 29% and unemployment has reached 23% for adult workers and, a stunning 40% for young people. Greece might not risk that default that was feared a few years ago but the ordinary people are facing tough challenges even to meet some basic needs such as covering rents and paying bills.

The people in general are far from being out of the crisis. However, while living this situation of high unemployment and uncertainty about their future, the Greeks have started, during these past few years, to turn back to the land in order to earn money.

Agriculture is the main sector that has not suffered in a substantial way and, has been constantly showing (relatively) positive signs. According to the Panhellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives, during the first years of the crisis, between 2008 and 2010, agriculture created 32,000 new jobs and the majority of these jobs were taken up by Greek nationals.

Those who owned a plot of land, in some cases inherited, on a small island or in the countryside, decided to leave the dramatic situation in Athens and return to their lands to work on ecotourism or farming.

Greece is now seeing better times: its economic accounts have clearly improved but the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis

Credit: Vesela Vaclavikova on Unsplash

Additionally, many young people started to show interest in the faculties of agriculture, as applications for such courses tripled in the past few years. However, among those who decided to abandon the urban areas to live and work in the rural ones, the majority are aged between 40 and 60 years old. The majority of these people had lost their jobs just before retirement, waiting to receive their pension.

According to the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017, which was developed in collaboration between the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) and the Economist Intelligence Unit with the objective to “promote knowledge on food sustainability”, Greece earned a positive score in sustainable agriculture.

The FSI ranks 34 countries according to their food system sustainability. It aims to highlight issues across three pillars: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. Despite having only a mid-level score for food loss and waste, and minimal scores for the policy response to food loss, “Greece earned a high score for sustainable agriculture, with a strong performance for the air category (GHG emissions), and for sub-indicators such as diversification of agricultural system, land ownership and sustainability of water withdrawal serving to bring up the score in the land and water categories”.

When considered in conjunction with the water scarcity situation of the country, this high score in the agricultural sector gains an additional prize. Indeed, according to the FSI, the average number of months of freshwater scarcity in Greece is six and despite that, the country has been able to maintain a high level of performance in the sector.

Not surprisingly, Greece has recently showed interest in sharing its high expertise and level of innovations in agro-technology with Qatar in a bid to develop and support the tiny Gulf country’s agriculture sector and self-sufficiency initiatives.

Greece’s third bailout is due to expire in August 2018 and the Hellenic country aims to return to a path of growth after years of crisis and uncertainty. During the Fourth Agricultural Business Summit, which took place in Larissa on May 3, 2018, organized by The Economist under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food, experts and policymakers gathered to discuss the priorities and challenges that need to be resolved as of 2018 and beyond in the field of agriculture in relation to business.

The analysts discussed if Greece could play a leading role in South-East Europe and whether the Greek Agribusiness sector will be able to transform uncertainty into stability, competitiveness and growth.

It is hard to forecast with accuracy the outcome of the next following months and years but, the fact that the Greek establishment (academia, businesses, policymakers, etc.) is showing its willingness to act and implement a concrete roadmap to end the crisis through the SDG Agenda, means that the country strongly believes in Agenda 2030which is the driving force to start growing again.

In addition, a study, published by SEV Business Council for Sustainable Development and conducted by the Climate Change and Sustainability Services Practice of Ernst & Young in Greece highlighted “to identify the current status in Greece, regarding the level of awareness, readiness and willingness of Greek companies towards integrating the SDGs in their strategy”. One of the key findings of the study brings some optimism for the future of Greece.

For example, regarding awareness and readiness on SDGs among Greek companies, the study revealed that “senior executives, regardless of company size, have a high level of knowledge of sustainable development issues related to the Goals. The engagement and awareness of middle management executives on sustainable development issues related to the Goals constitute a crucial factor for their successful implementation”.

Beginning in August 2018, the economic system of Greece will once again have to walk on its own legs. Many analysts believe that the commitment of Greek authorities in the past few years in planning and implementing a sustainable agenda will help Athens to develop in the next future without the support of the EU and IMF.

By the end of 2018, we will undoubtedly have the first answers to this dilemma and the 2019 elections will also tell us if the Greek people view the government’s efforts of the past few years as the best it could do and achieve.

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Experts Urge Lawmakers to Focus on Food-Migration Nexushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/experts-urge-lawmakers-focus-food-migration-nexus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experts-urge-lawmakers-focus-food-migration-nexus http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/experts-urge-lawmakers-focus-food-migration-nexus/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 12:31:36 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156114 Lawmakers at the highest levels urgently need a “revolution in thinking” to tackle the twin problem of sustainable food production and migration. Starting with an inaugural event in Brussels, then travelling on to New York and Milan, an international team of experts led by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) is urging far-reaching […]

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Pulses are good for nutrition and income, particularly for women farmers who look after household food security, like those shown here at a village outside Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Pulses are good for nutrition and income, particularly for women farmers who look after household food security, like those shown here at a village outside Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
BRUSSELS, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Lawmakers at the highest levels urgently need a “revolution in thinking” to tackle the twin problem of sustainable food production and migration. Starting with an inaugural event in Brussels, then travelling on to New York and Milan, an international team of experts led by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) is urging far-reaching reforms in agricultural and migration policy on an international scale.

“We should be scared about the situation that is in front of us, but we should also be fascinated by the solution,” Paolo Barilla, BCFN Vice Chairman, said at the start of the first International Forum on Food and Nutrition which took place June 6 in Brussels."As we see it right now, there is no strategy at all at governmental levels in the EU to deal with migration, let alone how food policy might help.” --Lucio Caracciolo

Barilla and several experts speaking at the event pointed out the many problems lying ahead involving world-wide sustainable food production.

“One third of all food worldwide is thrown away, nearly one billion people go to sleep hungry every night and in the meantime, 650 million are obese. We urgently need new comprehensive, multi-stakeholder food systems to fix this situation,” said Andrea Renda, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, organizer of the event together with BCFN and the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network (UN SDSN).

“In thirty years we will need to feed nine billion people. But at the same time, because of climate change the arable land is diminishing. The Sahara desert has increased ten percent in size the last decade and the South of Italy and Spain are drying up. How will we feed everyone?” asked Lucio Caracciolo, geostrategist and President of research company MacroGeo.

The experts called on all states that are signatory to the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to urgently establish an Intergovernmental Panel on Food and Nutrition, modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who succesfully achieved international consensus on how to tackle climate change.

Moreover, they called upon the EU to change the focus of its agricultural policies from simply increasing production to focusing on new systems that assure healthy, nutritious, affordable diets for everyone. Instead of a “Common Agricultural Policy,” the EU should shift to a “Agri-Food Policy.”

“In the current EU Common Agricultural Policy, two-thirds of the subsidies have nothing to do with sustainable development,” Andrea Renda tells IPS, “and one third is spent on innovation in agriculture, in a broader, more holistic approach. This must at least be reversed.”

Throughout the event, hunger and food insecurity were repeatedly cited as the long-term drivers of migration across the Mediterranean. For the occasion of the event, MacroGeo launched a 109-page report on the nexus between migration across the Mediterranean and food security in Africa.

The authors state that there is a particularly strong link between migration, food and conflicts. “Refugee outflows per 1000 population increase by 0.4 percent for each additional year of conflict and by 1.9 percent for each percentage increase of food insecurity,” the MacroGeo authors write, referring to recent research by the World Food Program.

“That might not seem a lot but in a country of fifty million that amounts to one million refugees per year,” said Valerie Guarnieri, assistant executive director of the World Food Program who repeated the statistics in front of the audience of 600 attendees on Wednesday.

“The connection between migration and food is heavily neglected in policy, this is a way to push it into the agenda,” Lucio Caracciolo told IPS, “because as we see it right now, there is no strategy at all at governmental levels in the EU to deal with migration, let alone how food policy might help.”

The contentious matter of dumping of European surplus produce – often named as one of the causes of hunger, food insecurity and migration – in Africa was accordingly dealt with in a talk with EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan, not coincidentally just ahead of long-awaited negotiations on the reform of the EU’s agricultural policy. The Commissioner pledged that the new Common Agriculture Policy 2021-2027 program will reduce spending on production of commodities often dumped in the developing world. At the same time, he said Europe was ending trade barriers on imports of food from the developing world.

As part of its ambitious list of policy recommendations, BCFN also calls for more awareness of the illegal exploitation of migrants in EU agriculture. According to the experts, specific EU programmes should provide funding for the fight against unethical practices. And spreading a message which does not go well with the current Italian government, MacroGeo’s Lucio Caraciolo called for a “normalisation of the presence of migrant labour. European agriculture in the South cannot survive without their help. So it is up to us to assure that their rights are respected,” he told IPS.

In its report, MacroGeo proposes a circular and seasonal migration model, in which temporary workers are contacted directly from their country of origin on a yearly basis and for determined periods. The workers are granted permits and ensured that they can return to their home country. “Intended results include disincentivizing unregulated economic migration, ensuring employees are granted work conditions as per the law, and the possibility to return to the same farms, enhancing human resources effectiveness,” the report says.

Bob Geldof, musician, activist and organizer of 1984’s Live Aid. closed the event with an at times bitter speech broadening the discussion. “We had a 1200 percent increase in consumption in the last eighty years and we’re talking about sustainability?” he asked. “Sustainability is simply impossible with this irrational economic logic, which boils down to ‘more for ourselves all the time.’”

In September, the International Forum will travel to New York to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly. In November, it will hold a third and final event in Milan.

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