Inter Press ServiceLabour – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:51:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Struggles That Make the Land Proudhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/struggles-make-land-proud/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=struggles-make-land-proud http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/struggles-make-land-proud/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 15:50:35 +0000 Vijay Prashad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159687 From the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

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By Vijay Prashad
INDIA, Jan 17 2019 (Tricontinental)

Over two days – 8 and 9 January – over 160 million workers went on strike in India. This has been one of the largest general strikes in the world. The workers, exhausted by almost three decades of neo-liberal policies and by the attack on the rights of workers, came onto the streets to make their case for better livelihood and workplace democracy. Blockades on train tracks and on national highways closed down sections of the country. In Bengaluru, Information Technology (IT) workers joined the strike, while in Himachal Pradesh – see the picture above from the town of Hamirpur – workers gathered to demand an end to precarious employment in government service. Workers from a broad range of sectors, from industrial workers to health care workers, joined the strike. There has been no response from the government. Please read my report on the strike.

My report is written from Kerala, where almost the entire workforce went on strike. This strike comes after the powerful Woman’s Wall that was built on 1 January to defend Kerala’s renaissance traditions. For a fuller sense of that struggle that brought five and a half million women to form a Wall along Kerala, see my report. The title for this newsletter comes from a well-known poem by the radical poet Vayalar Ramavarma (1928-1975). When workers struggle, Vayalar wrote, ‘isn’t it something to make the land proud’?

This two-day strike comes as workers around the world greeted 2019 with a wave of demonstrations – from the ‘month of anger’ launched in Morocco by trade unions to the protests in Sudan over rising prices, from the potential strikes of teachers in Los Angeles (USA) to the potential general strike in Nigeria over wages. An International Trade Union Confederation report from last year showed that ‘More countries are excluding workers from labour laws’ – 65% of countries, at last count, excluding migrant workers and public sector employees and others from the rights afforded to them. There is every indication that the attack on workers’ rights and workplace democracy will continue despite the unrest amongst workers.

Brinda Karat, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), reflects – in our January Dossier – on the record of the current far right government in India (the BJP) and on the challenges before the Left to produce an alternative agenda to put before the people in the April 2019 General Election. Karat offers a sharp assessment of the attacks on women and the denigration of the project of women’s emancipation in India:

Over the past several decades, women have entered public spaces to work and to live. They have established their talents, their skills, and their capacities in numerous spheres. There has been a backlash against this increased assertion. The backlash is shaped by extreme misogyny – or a strong feeling in sections of our society that women have a specific place and anyone who crosses the boundary is liable to be punished. These cultural walls behind which women and girls are expected to live (with some exceptions for certain classes), are stronger than the high walls of a prison. When a woman is raped, she is blamed for entering public space, for being a free citizen, for the clothes she wears, for the person she speaks to, for the place and time where she was. It is the woman who is held responsible for the crime. That is the character of the misogyny.

Karat’s interview goes into depth about the difficult situation under the government of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. For example, she makes the following points:

    1. Because of India’s government policies, agrarian distress is acute: An average of 12,000 farmers committed suicide every year of this government’s rule. Unemployment is at its highest.
    2. India stands out for its increased inequalities in this period of Modi’s rule. Just 1% of the population holds 68% of all household wealth, an almost twenty-point increase in the last five years. On the other hand, according to the government’s socio-economic survey, over 90% of India’s people have an income of less than 10,000 rupees a year (US $143).

It is not axiomatic that high inequality and social distress lead to a progressive politics. In such a context, it is as likely that the culture of working-class solidarity erodes, and social violence grows, producing the seedbed of neo-fascist politics. To that end, Karat makes the case that the Left in India – but also elsewhere – needs to engage with the rigidities of our culture.

Cultures promoted by capitalism and the market promote and glorify individualism and promote individualistic solutions. All these add to the depoliticization of a whole generation of young people. This is certainly a challenge: how to find the most effective ways of taking our message to the youth. Then again in India class exploitation is intensified through the caste system and vice versa. To build resistance struggles against the caste system and caste oppression and to link such struggles with the fight against capitalism in terms of struggles and goals is also a challenge. Trade unions and other class organisations certainly have to be more assertive and attentive to these aspects.

The Left, Karat suggests, needs to enter fully into the struggle over how to define the terms of a culture. Questions of dignity as well as discrimination are fundamental to the development of a progressive politics. No emancipatory movement can turn its back on any form of social hierarchy. The democratic impulse must work its way into the most rigid of cultural forms.

The photographs in the dossier come from Rahul, an independent journalist based in Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh), whose work can be seen at the People’s Archive of Rural India.

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Excerpt:

From the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

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Time for a new Paradigmhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/time-new-paradigm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-new-paradigm http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/time-new-paradigm/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 10:42:40 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159534 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

The person most qualified to write the foreword for the latest work by Riccardo Petrella, In the Name of Humanity, would actually be Pope Francis, who, using other words but speaking of values and making denouncements, has often argued what the reader will find in its pages.

I quote him, because words like “solidarity”, “equality”, “social justice” or “participation” – now used only by Pope Francis I – have now disappeared from today’s political vocabulary. I was called to this task because I have spent my life in favour of information that would give citizens the tools to be conscious actors. But the reason why from a “professional” I have become an “activist” in the campaign for world governance is precisely because I see information as directly responsible for the drift in which we find ourselves.

Roberto Savio

Riccardo Petrella is a central point of reference for those who have not yet given up on seeing the governance of globalisation in terms of values and ideals. Riccardo has behind him a long series of struggles for a different economy and has denounced the dangers of neoliberal globalisation from the outset.

We owe it to him if the theme of “commons” began to be debated, in particular that of water as a public good, at a time when the Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi was pushing for its privatisation.

He did so in an era – the period immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall – which today seems distant but which was of exceptional intellectual and political violence. Anyone who did not blindly adhere to the “single thought” introduced by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Treasury (the so-called Washington Consensus) was seen as either a nostalgist of the Soviet era or a dangerous subversive.

Petrella, with few other economists, had the strength to oppose the Washington Consensus, deriding the general inebriation which reached levels that today seem impossible. I still remember a conference held by IPALMO in May 1991 in Milan, where the then director general of the World Trade Organization, Renato Ruggiero, described the world as still blocked by the concept of nation or regional agreements (such as the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement) now overtaken by the course of history.

Globalisation was to have eliminated all frontiers, we were to have had a single currency, there were to be no more wars and the benefits of globalisation were to have rained down on all the citizens of the world, something that the theory of development and redistribution had failed to do. It took a generation of disappointed and marginalised people for the truth to become evident.

This book is the result of forty years of study, research, and social and academic engagement by Riccardo, gathered here in an organic way. It is a holistic engagement, with a humanist vision of the economy, of society and of the consequences of the crisis that dominates us.

Reading it, faced with the wealth of data and reflections it offers, the African proverb comes to mind: “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground”. But beyond the contents, what makes the book stimulating is that it communicates a moral engagement and a human empathy rare in this era of transition from a world that is unsustainable to one that is inevitable, but which we cannot yet see well. In his Letters from Prison, Antonio Gramsci wrote that “in the interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”.

Petrella analyses these symptoms in a meticulous but clear way, and they are symptoms for which today’s politics and finance certainly have no answer. The book is an organic work, analysing each symptom on the basis of data and proposals, helping us to walk in the shadow evoked by Gramsci.

Finally we see that there are alternatives to the drift of a world of finance which – in the search for profit – comes into collision with the very productive economy of which it was only to have been a lubricant. And in turn politics, like the productive economy, is subject to the world of finance. Today, the production of goods and services, that is, the sphere in which men and women play a role, accounts for one-fortieth of financial transactions. Greed has led banks to engage in more and more criminal actions: since the Great Crisis of 2008, major banks have paid a total of 220 billion dollars in fines …

According to numerous historians, the course of history has been changed above all by two factors: Greed and Fear. After the fall of the Berlin Wall it even came to be said that history had ended, as Francis Fukuyama wrote, and that we were entering a post-ideological world.

The unification of the world into a single winning ideology, capitalism, was to have led to the end of clashes, in a united international reality dedicated to economic growth. What Fukuyama did not see is that capitalism without controls was to take the world back in time.

On this Petrella offers incontrovertible data and echoes Oxfam when it says that in 2020 social inequalities in Britain will be equal to those of the era of Queen Victoria, when an unknown German philosopher was writing some chapters of Das Kapital in the Reading Room of the British Museum … The statistics on inequality are known to all: in the last two decades, capital has become increasingly concentrated in a few hands and a large part of humanity sees its level of life, health and education decrease, to the point that the International Monetary Fund is even beginning to whisper that inequality is a brake on growth.

As for Fear, it took the Brexit to start seeing the rapidly growing nationalist, xenophobic and populist drift in European countries (and also in the United States with Donald Trump). Fear has transformed countries that once were a symbol of civic-mindedness and tolerance – like the Netherlands and the Nordic countries – into racist countries that even confiscate the few personal jewels of refugees (Denmark).

In just two years, the advance of the extreme right in Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – until now considered a series of local coincidences – is finally creating a debate in traditional parties that have no concrete response to the causes of Fear.

Also because, as Petrella says, we are faced with a system that is a factory of poverty, which is not a natural phenomenon but a creation of the system itself. The challenges to be solved all derive from wrong answers.

Peace is being tackled with an increase in military engagement, the environment with ecological devastation, democracy with the privatisation of political power. Justice is witnessing an increase in injustice, the economy is in a financial and speculative drift, and the sense of life of citizens – who have lost the value of solidarity and accept the commodification of all that surrounds them – is crumbling. No concern is voiced that more is being spent per person on marketing in the world than on education …

The drift in which we find ourselves is affecting democracy, which has become a formal process, devoid of the conscious and active participation of citizens. In the Name of Humanity observes what should now be clear to all and is certainly not to the system in power: we are at a global impasse that no one, with the paradigms in place, is able to solve.

In an analytical but communicative way, this is the starting point for the list of Gramsci’s shadows: the lack of representation of humanity, the use of God, Nation and Money to transform into destroyers those who are still convinced of being constructors; and the data of the global impasse. Herein lies the importance of the book.

The analysis of the transitional era in which we find ourselves is roughly divided into two schools of thought. The first is that of those who believe that the current system is perhaps in crisis but that the answer may come from politicians – perhaps new ones – who, in every country, are able to give concrete and efficient answers with bold reforms. The second, and growing, school of thought argues that the current system is the cause of the problems to be solved and that without deep changes in vision and strategies the drift will continue.

This latter school of thought – which, moreover, is followed only by a small number of victims, many of whom are on the margins of society or are so frustrated as to take refuge in individual pessimism without hope – is a school strong in analysis and denunciation but poor in proposals.

And it is here that the book offers its own positive originality: an organic and holistic plan of proposals which invoke a pact for Humanity as the basis for the re-foundation of society. A re-foundation that declares poverty illegal, that leads to disarmament and the end of speculative finance … However, in order to achieve this re-foundation, it is necessary to return to talking about values and finding a consensus and world participation around them, because without common values it is not possible to build together and without a global response national or local actions serve little. This book, as well as being an analysis, is also a manual for action.

In this sense it is important that In the Name of Humanity sees the light in a moment of generational sacrifice. My generation, overwhelmed by Greed and Fear, by selfishness and the decline of politics, lives parameters of retirement and security that young people can only dream of.

The British referendum clearly demonstrated how the older generations are above all self-referential and feel no inter-generational responsibility. The elderly voted 65% for Brexit, deciding the future of young people, who were 75% in favour of Remain. This is the result of the absence of common values and the dramatic lack of policies for engaging young people, while those of fiscal rigour and priorities for the survival of the financial system abound – the most emblematic demonstration of current priorities.

To save banks from the 2008 crisis, it is estimated that so far the contribution to finance has amounted to eight trillion dollars. Youth policies do not exceed 500 million dollars.

It is no wonder that young people take refuge in a pessimistic individualism, creating their own communities only virtually on the Internet; that they lack representation and participation and, above all, for the first time in modern history, idols and points of reference.

Petrella’s book is an important instrument for young people because it transmits a message of hope that does not exist today. It is not inevitable that the world will continue like this. We have the instruments to change it. But to do that we have to go back to talking about values and going back to speaking with and understanding each other. In the Name of Humanity should be distributed free in schools …

Fifteen years have passed since the first meeting of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, where we – protagonists of different stories – gathered to denounce the unsustainability of neoliberal globalisation.

The scepticism and rejection that accompanied the WSF process have not prevented the Washington Consensus from today being just a discredited instrument of the past and the proponents of globalisation from admitting that the denunciations of the WSF had a real basis. As Petrella says, we can only emerge from the crisis with bold measures.

This book will be received as a utopia, or rather a chimera, by the beneficiaries of the current system. In 15 years time, it will be interesting to see how many will have been forced to admit that the analyses and the actions that Petrella proposes were not so far from the course of history.

Those who shoot at the stars can take heart from a Sri Lankan legend … there was a young boy who shot an arrow at the stars every night and was laughed at until one day the king organised an archery contest and that boy won because he was the one who shot furthest!

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Excerpt:

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

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‘Slaves of the sea’http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/slaves-of-the-sea/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=slaves-of-the-sea http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/slaves-of-the-sea/#respond Sun, 06 Jan 2019 15:52:26 +0000 Mohammed Mamun Rashid http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159567 The long-forgotten Jaladas community and their need for policy inclusion

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Source: PATTAYAUNLIMITED.COM

By Mohammed Mamun Rashid
Jan 6 2019 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Employment in fisheries and aquaculture around the globe has grown faster than the world’s population. The sector provides jobs to tens of millions and supports the livelihoods of hundreds of millions.

Bangladesh, the world’s largest deltaic zone, is crisscrossed by big rivers and their tributaries and distributaries. Moreover, as a land with an abundance of torrential monsoon rains, most of the plain lands remain inundated during the monsoon season, thus turning the countryside into a big reservoir of freshwater for almost half the year. These huge, inland, sweet water bodies together with the expanse of saline water in the Bay of Bengal provide the basis for a large and diversified fisheries sector. Fisheries have always played an integral role in the lives of the people of Bangladesh. It is more ancient than the profession of agriculture itself.

The fisheries sector of Bangladesh contributes 3.69 percent to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and fish accounts for 60 percent of national animal protein consumption. The sector also plays an important role in rural employment generation and poverty alleviation. Traditionally, low-caste Hindus have been engaged in the fishing profession. The Jaladas (slaves of the sea) belong to the Hindu fisherfolk community which is made up of caste-bound people. In most cases, they live in segregated paras which are localities within a village. The high-caste Hindu and the Muslim aristocracy and gentry carefully avoid any social mingling with them. Traditional fishing communities, which mainly comprise Hindus, are being put under pressure by incoming Muslims who have taken up fishing as their profession. The newcomers are either self-employed or find employment as labourers. The majority of Muslims opt for fishing due to population pressure, economic constraints in agricultural sector, and adverse effects of climate change.

Many elite rich men entered the fisheries sector in the 1960s. The then aristocratic Bengali word motshojibi had been introduced instead of the word jele. What is noteworthy is that the word jele is not included in fisheries act, rules, ordinance, and policy though motshojibi and mach chashi are included in such documents. According to the National Fisheries Policy 1998, about 1.2 million people were engaged in full-time work in the fisheries sector and 12 million people were engaged in part-time work. It is important to include the word jele in policy documents in order to know their number and their contribution to the national economy. It would also help us to understand their socio-economic conditions and undertake different initiatives for improving the lives and livelihoods of fishing communities. However, there is no updated information on fishermen based on para, source of fishing, religion, socio-economic conditions and position. But we do get the number of fishermen from different studies, surveys and project reports. But these things are not always consistent or continuous. According to the Coastal District Information 2005 under Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan, the majority of traditional fishermen are Hindus in 19 coastal districts.

The majority of Jaladas families are in financial debt and receive short- and long-term loans from relatives, neighbours, and businessmen. Their incomes usually increase during Hilsa fishing season. The scope for savings for this community is limited. Due to their dire situation, they spend mostly on food rather than clothes and other things. It is during the off-season that they face financial crises which occur round the year. The majority of Jaladas don’t own boats but nets. Some don’t own either; they work in others’ boats or hire boats for fishing. Many adolescent boys accompany their fathers during fishing. A few of them receive primary education but fail to continue. Fishermen don’t get loan facilities from financial institutions due to a lack of mortgage-free loan provisions in government banks. The average size of many fishermen families is 5 to 7 which is higher than the national average. The rate of early marriage within this community is higher due to abject poverty and social insecurity. And youth delinquency is also a major problem.

Jaladas don’t own lands. They mainly live on khas (government-owned) land, embankments, and accreted char land in huts. Due to the depletion of fish, piracy, and lack of capital, these people remain stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty. They do not even have pure drinking water as they live in over-populated areas.

Even though they have been in the fisheries sector for generations, they do not have a voice when it comes to policies and laws. Furthermore, they are not well-informed about clauses of the fisheries law although they are punished under this law.

Jaladas believe that it is not easy for them to switch to other professions. This is a socio-psychological barrier. Some even consider themselves to be “sinners” as they earn a living by catching innocent fish. They identify themselves as “slaves of the sea” without hesitation. They also believe they are destined to carry this curse their whole life.

The Jaladas community has distinct socio-economic, political, cultural, technological and informational characteristics. Water, nets, boats, rivers and the sea are central to their lives and livelihood. They are socially neglected, economically insolvent, politically pressured, culturally ill-treated, technologically backward, not up-to-date with information, and geographically isolated and vulnerable. The government of Bangladesh should address these issues pertinent to the Jaladas community in relevant sectoral policies so that these people can live with dignity and their rights protected.

Mohammed Mamun Rashid is Programme Manager, Civic Engagement, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).
Email: rashidmamuns@yahoo.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Excerpt:

The long-forgotten Jaladas community and their need for policy inclusion

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The Adolescent Girl Holds the Key to Kenya’s Economic Transformation and Prosperityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity/#respond Mon, 31 Dec 2018 12:58:09 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159448
Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Dr Natalia Kanem, Chief of UNFPA, “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”. Credit: UNFPA Tanzania

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 31 2018 (IPS)

Teenage pregnancy in Kenya is a crisis of hope, education and opportunity.

The countdown to a New Year has begun. Can 2019 be a year of affirmative action to ensure hope and opportunity for Kenya’s adolescent girl?

Consider this. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that when a young adolescent girl is not married during her childhood, is not forced to leave school nor exposed to pregnancies, when she is not high risk of illness and death nor suffering maternal morbidities, when she is not exposed to informal work, insecurity and displacement; and is not drawn into an insecure old age-she becomes an asset for a country’s potential to seize the demographic dividend.

So what is the demographic dividend?

It means when a household has fewer children that they need to take care of, and a larger number of people have decent jobs, the household can save and invest more money. Better nutrition, education and opportunities and more disposable income at the household level. When this happens on a large scale, economies can benefit from a boost of economic growth.

One of the goals of development policies is to create an environment for rapid economic growth. The economic successes of the “Asian Tigers” during the 1960s and 1970s have led to a comprehensive way of thinking about how different sectors can work together to make this growth a reality. This helps explain the experience of some countries in Asia, and later successes in Latin America, and optimism for improving the economic well-being of countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Republic of Korea is the classic example of how its gross domestic product (GDP) grew over 2,000 percent by investing in voluntary family planning coupled with educating the population and preparing them for the types of jobs that were going to be available.

With over 70% of Kenya’s population less than 30 years of age, the country’s favorable demographic ratios could unlock a potential source of demand and growth, Kenya is currently in a “sweet spot”. Fertility levels are declining gradually and Kenyans are living longer. There is reason for optimism that Kenya can benefit from a demographic dividend within 15 to 20 years. It is estimated that its working age population will grow to 73 per cent by 2050, bolstering the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present, with nearly 90 percent of the working age in employment.

The key to harnessing the demographic dividend is enabling young people and adolescent girls in particular, to enjoy their human rights and achieve their full human potential. Every girl must be empowered, educated and given opportunities for employment, and above all is able to plan her future family, this is the very essence of reaping a demographic dividend.

Each extra year a girl stays in high school, for example, delivers an 11.6 per cent increase in her average annual wage for the rest of her life.

The UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem has said: “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”.

So what can be done?

First, end all practices that harm girls. This means, for example, enforcing laws that end female genital mutilations and child marriage.

Second, enable girls to stay in school, at least through high school. Studies have shown the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to become pregnant as an adolescent and the more likely to grow up healthy and join the paid labour force.

Third, reach the marginalized and impoverished girls who have traditionally been left behind.

Forth, make sure girls, before they reach puberty, have access to information about their bodies. Later in adolescence, they need information and services to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Finally, take steps to protect girls’ – and everyone’s – rights.

As we countdown to 2019, let us prioritize the development of every girl’s full human potential. Our collective future depends on it. We must do everything in our power to ignite that potential-for her sake and for the sake of human development and humanity.

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Excerpt:


Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Aborted Fuel Tax Initiative in France: Its Ramifications for Green Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/aborted-fuel-tax-initiative-france-ramifications-green-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aborted-fuel-tax-initiative-france-ramifications-green-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/aborted-fuel-tax-initiative-france-ramifications-green-growth/#respond Thu, 27 Dec 2018 22:57:30 +0000 Mizan Khan and Dereje Senshaw http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159442 Mizan Khan, Ph.D., is professor, Environmental Management, North South University, and currently, visiting professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 
Dr Dereje Senshaw – Principal Scientist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

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Mizan Khan, Ph.D., is professor, Environmental Management, North South University, and currently, visiting professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 
Dr Dereje Senshaw – Principal Scientist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

By Mizan Khan and Dereje Senshaw
PARIS, Dec 27 2018 (IPS)

Emmanuel Macron was voted to French Presidency in 2017 with the mission of strengthening the integration of the European Union and pursuing economic and ecological reforms. So from the outset, he was set to distinguish himself, not just in Europe but on the world stage, especially after President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement. So Macron held the summit meeting on `One Planet’ in Paris last December to push for stronger environment and climate policy. He also spoke of the environment when he addressed the Congress in April 2018, stating that “Let us face it: There is no Planet B.”i

As part of the package Macron initiated the new tax on gasoline to finance ecological transition and reduce budget deficit. France was set to increase the diesel tax by 6.5 Euro cents per liter and the gasoline tax by 3.9 cents per liter, which had already increased its gas and diesel taxes by several cents this year, and this shift came after years in which France, and Europe, had encouraged the use of diesel fuel as being better for the environment. Macron defended the Contribution Climat Énergie (CCE), a French version of the carbon tax, whose steady increase in recent years has brought about a growing dispute over rising fuel prices. Since its adoption in 2013, the CCE has increased from year to year, putting pressure on fuel prices. In 2019, a ton of CO2 would have cost of €55 in France, the second highest in Europe.ii The CCE was decided when oil prices were still low. But it is way up now. Still fuel taxes are calculated lower than their social costs.iii

The increase this time was resented by the French voters, initially by the rural constituencies and then the city dwellers including the Parisians joined. The result was violent protests for two weeks led by the Yellow Vest Movement. Finally, the government gave in, with declarations of some concessions, both by the President and his Prime Minister, to deflate the protests and assuage the public. But the rating of the President has plummeted to the lowest since he occupied the Presidency. Finally, the proposed tax has been shelved at least for 2019.

Why was the reaction so violent? What has gone wrong?

Introduction of different types of eco-tax, or fuel/carbon tax is decades old in Europe and they have not met the same fate. Why? Media reports and post-mortem of the episode point to a range of factors:

1. Macron’s government is viewed by a large segment of general public as elitist, which bank on support from technocrats and business leaders. The voters at large feel they are marginalized from any consultations. Even the CCE is reported to be little-known among French people, many of whom have only recently discovered it when they are already feeling disgruntled with this year’s tax rises.

2. It is the increase in the price of oil this year that has added to the tax’s impact. The price of petrol in France is already the highest in Europe. The €55 cost of a CO2/ton in France compares with the European price of €17/ton.iv The French CCE affects both private individuals and businesses, generating almost €7 billion a year through the prices of all fuels, including fuel oil, gas, petroleum, diesel and coal.v

3. These tax inequalities are a problem, according to experts. The tax disproportionately hits those on the lowest incomes, who receive an ‘energy cheque’ of €150 if they do not pay any tax.vi So the CCE, a French version of the carbon tax, whose steady increase in recent years has brought about a growing dispute over rising fuel prices. Macron’s tax policies have alienated many in the middle class — and analysis of the 2018-19 budget showed incomes of the poorest households would get worse under his plans.vii

4. The target of spending the revenue generated by this new tax was misplaced – it was mostly meant for reduction of budget deficit. Of the €34 billion the government will raise on fuel taxes in 2018, a sum of only €7.2 billion is earmarked for environmental measures.viii

5. The most polluting industries are viewed to be paying less, and many industrial sectors are exempted, including agriculture, all of the industry sectors enjoy emissions allowances, including road, air and maritime transport, agriculture and fish farming. The French ecological tax hits private individuals harder than businesses due to these exceptions. The Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE), a think-tank in a memo clarified that removing these exemptions would bring in twice as much money for France, around €14 billion.ix

6. Analysts say the fuel tax will disproportionately affect residents of rural areas, fueling claims that Macron is out of touch with the French people. Most of the rural residents have to depend on private cars, and diesel fuel, unlike in larger cities served by central heating. This was the reason that the protests began in the provinces and then spread in the cities including Paris. The fuel taxes represent in the eyes of many an urban ignorance of the reality of life in rural areas relatively unserved by train lines or other forms of public transportation. At the same time the railway company is closing the non-TGV, less profitable lines in some routes.

7. So, a perception developed among the rural protesters that they have two Frances, Parisian France and the `other’ France. So Macron has been dubbed “President of the Rich” by many working-class citizens who saw him remove the wealth tax from his rich Paris constituency, then propose a gas tax on his “other” constituency.x Lionel Cucchi, a spokesman of YVM in Marseille, told BFM TV that protesters “demands are much bigger than this moratorium” … we have to stop stealing from the pockets of low-income taxpayers.”xi So, the issue here is about redistribution of income.

Experience in other countries

World Bank estimates that 46 countries and 25 sub-national entities charge some kind of carbon price, even if that policy applies to only one sector of their economy.xii Sweden and the United Kingdom have successfully run carbon taxes for years. Sweden as the pioneer has taxed all forms of energy since the 1950s and adjusted the levy to account for carbon in 1991, well before climate change became a high-profile global agenda. The result is its emissions declined by 26 percent in the years that followed.xiii

There are other examples of carbon taxes in Europe and beyond. Many European countries have imposed taxes on emissions of common air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Also, a number of countries have imposed energy taxes or energy taxes based partly on carbon content. Some other green growth and climate-conscious countries have adopted carbon taxes, including Chile, Spain, Ukraine, Ireland and nations in Scandinavia. Others have adopted cap-and-trade programs that effectively put prices on carbon emissions. Many developing countries including Bangladesh, China, India and some others also have introduced different kinds of eco-taxes including carbon pricing. However, only around 12 percent of global emissions are covered by pricing programs such as taxes on the carbon content of fossil fuels or permit trading programs that put a price on emissions, according to the International Monetary Fund.xiv

Britain may offer some relevant lessons. It only imposed a carbon tax on electricity generation in 2013, helping drive emissions lower. But climate policy has a long and cross-party history in the U.K with its parliament being almost unanimous in adopting an aggressive climate bill a decade ago. This cross-party commitment is the way to implement an enduring climate policy, which touches the very foundations of modern life. California, for instance, is the only U.S. state with a strong climate policy. Yet its first policies came in 2006 at the hand of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican. Subsequent Democratic governments have built on that initial foundation.

But Canada is about to offer a test case, with its province of British Columbia leading a successful case of carbon tax for several years. In the rest of Canada, despite the success story in British Columbia, other provinces are dragging their heels. Prime Minister Trudeau has unveiled a “backstop” carbon tax of $20 a ton, to take effect in January, for the four Canadian provinces that do not already have one. Trudeau’s policy, however, is designed pragmatically: about 90 percent of the revenue from the tax will be paid back to Canadians in the form of annual “climate action incentive.”xv Because of the progressive tax rates, about 70 percent of Canadians will get back more than they paid. If they choose to be more energy efficient, they could save even more.xvi

However, by design, the British Columbia plan was the simplest: it slapped a tax on any fossil fuels used for heating, electricity and transportation. Each person and business was expected to shoulder the burden of pricing pollution; no loopholes, no exemptions. This revenue-neutral carbon tax was unbiased: tax was based on pollution intensity of products or services. This has induced behavioral change among consumers. The move, the first of its kind in Canada, placated both conservative economists and environmentalists.

So, based on experience we can say that the prospects of carbon taxes may depend on what happens to the money raised. In the British Columbia case, all the tax money raised went back to the people. The World Bank has called it the text book instrument. The economist William Nordhaus, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for economics, supported the British Columbian model as an ideal for export to other economies. Fears that the tax would have a negative impact on the economy quickly dissipated when the numbers came in, as reports suggest. The province grew its economy by 16%, far outpacing any other region of the country.xvii

The revenue-neutral aspect of the tax is novel but has frustrated some environmental groups, who feel the tax does not do enough to reduce emissions. So the current British Columbia government is thinking of modifying the revenue-neutral aspect of the programme in order to allocate funding for green infrastructure, deviating from its original revenue neutrality. By 2012, when the tax reached its first maximum level ($30 per ton), 64% of the population supported it. By 2016, the support shot up to nearly 70% of residents.xviii

So a big difference between Canada’s carbon tax and France’s carbon tax is where the money is going. In the provinces that will use Canada’s carbon tax instead of their own plan, 90 per cent of the revenue from the taxes are expected to be refunded during tax time, the government says.xix But in France the overwhelming share was supposed to go for reduction of budget deficit. Without substantive dialogue with the main stakeholder groups before designing the programme, it has backfired.

Use of French experience by sceptics

The unhappy experience in France obviously gave fodder to feed the sceptics like the French Far Right, or Presidents Trump, who still remains a diehard climate denialist. In a tweeter Trump had to say that Macron’s setback showed he was right and justified again that US was not going to clean up pollution caused by others! Fuel taxes, however, generate revenue that stays inside home countries without going to pay for others’ pollution. And the Paris Agreement placed much greater responsibilities on developing countries than ever before. President Trump’s rugged nationalist tends to infect some other leaders at a time when there is the need for promoting multilateralism, as shown in the recent climate negotiations in Katowice.

Despite Trump’s self-righteous justification, 10 east coast states have a `cap & trade’ system for carbon emissions since 2009, under which companies have their emissions capped and then trade any surplus or deficit with others. But Barack Obama, while president, was unable to pass a nationwide system. Some prominent Republicans have backed for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, but with little success yet.

Future for green growth strategy

France’s abortive attempt offers some sobering lessons, with a dilemma: how do political leaders introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without losing their chances of re-election? The challenge is to consider the equity and distributional aspects of introducing environmental/carbon tax, together with ensuring universal access to clean fuel and transport. Suh argues that this requires income-group and spatially-specific policies. This kind of policies aimed at transition to a low-carbon economy need to be grounded on local and national level stakeholder consultations for a revenue-neutrality system, particularly for the poorest. Such a consensus can gradually mature with intensive campaign of public education and awareness aimed at behavioral change. The median voters need to be placated in that in this age of environmental crises, what a society needs is to penalize the Bads, such as pollution and incentivize the Goods, such as hard-earned income by the working class. With this policy for some time, the revenue generated from environmental Bads can gradually be shifted to a green growth strategy nationwide.

The tax rises appear to fit within a pro-Green agenda espoused by Macron’s government. His intentions were not bad in revamping the culture of polluting driving and the protesters are also not against climate change or green growth. Simply the time is bad for the working classes in France and elsewhere, where uneven globalization and lack of distributive justice do not provide any cushion to the poorest communities. So the climate-and green growth-friendly governments must remain in check in devising green policy instruments such a way that do not backfire & play into the hands of populist demagogue leaders around.

Finally, we can say that whatever skepticism is there, the outlook for green instruments like carbon taxes looks bright: reports show that 88 nations, representing more than half of global emissions, say they are or will use carbon pricing to tackle climate change. Furthermore, some states have suggested they would impose carbon border levies on imported goods from nations that do not tax carbon. However, this policy should be applied to major emitters across the aisle.

Let us recall that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal at a very bad time in the US was not a tax programme, even if it included taxes. Instead, it was the greatest of all stimulus and jobs bills. We now need to craft a Green New Deal based on growth and distributive justice.

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i https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/12/france-yellow-vest-climate-action/577642/
ii https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.70945e2904f8
iii Suh, S. 2018. Low-carbon transition: changing urgently and equitably. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/change-urgently-but-slowly-equitably-same-time-sangwon-suh/?articleId=6474975376325115904#comments-6474975376325115904&trk=prof-post
iv https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.70945e2904f8
v https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
vi https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
vii https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
viii https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/ ; https://globalnews.ca/news/4728184/france-carbon-tax-riots-canada/
ix https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/french-dispute-over-carbon-tax-highlights-flaws-of-its-ecological-tax/
x https://thefederalist.com/2018/12/17/carbon-tax-riots-may-breaking-point-frances-socialism/
xi https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/04/world/europe/france-fuel-tax-yellow-vests.html
xii https://carbonpricingdashboard.worldbank.org/
xiii https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/12/france-yellow-vest-climate-action/577642/
xiv https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.e7c114d785d3
xv https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.e7c114d785d3
xvi https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-protesters-are-part-of-a-global-backlash-against-climate-change-taxes/2018/12/04/08365882-f723-11e8-863c-9e2f864d47e7_story.html?utm_term=.24e04590073f
xvii https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/how-to-make-a-carbon-tax-popular-give-the-profits-to-the-people
xviii https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/how-to-make-a-carbon-tax-popular-give-the-profits-to-the-people
xixi https://globalnews.ca/news/4728184/france-carbon-tax-riots-canada/
xx Suh, 2018 (endnote ii).

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Excerpt:

Mizan Khan, Ph.D., is professor, Environmental Management, North South University, and currently, visiting professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. 
Dr Dereje Senshaw – Principal Scientist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

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Human Trafficking – Hidden in Plain Sighthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/human-trafficking-hidden-plain-sight/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-trafficking-hidden-plain-sight http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/human-trafficking-hidden-plain-sight/#respond Fri, 21 Dec 2018 13:50:54 +0000 Romy Hawatt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159417 The media globally tends to have a bias to negative, sensational and headline grabbing stories and events and this certainly applies to reporting related to human trafficking in the third world. With the abundance of stories around sweat shops, massage parlours and organ trafficking networks happening ‘somewhere else’, the West is generally desensitised, lacks empathy […]

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By Romy Hawatt
DUBAI, Dec 21 2018 (IPS)

The media globally tends to have a bias to negative, sensational and headline grabbing stories and events and this certainly applies to reporting related to human trafficking in the third world. With the abundance of stories around sweat shops, massage parlours and organ trafficking networks happening ‘somewhere else’, the West is generally desensitised, lacks empathy and fails to fully appreciate the scale of the problem which sits right under their noses and in plain sight.

Romy Hawatt

It is a fact that for a variety of reasons, this insidious trade tends to be more hidden away in the West whilst it is generally conducted more openly in developing countries.

“Human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in 2018 when the U.S. State Department released its 2018 Trafficking in Persons report, which assesses countries around the world based on how their governments work to prevent and respond to trafficking. “Human trafficking can be found in a favourite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbour’s home.”

Estimates vary depending on the agency reporting and also depends on specific categorisations. The International Labour Organization for example, estimates 21 million people are affected by forced labour whereas other reputable agencies estimate up to 48 million men, women and children are enslaved and trafficked around the world today.

According to the International Labour Organization, 68 percent are exploited in industry sectors like agriculture, mining, construction and domestic work creating profits of $150 billion annually.

There is therefore a gigantic financial motive for the maintaining and the growing of this illicit trade which sadly ‘has always been the way of the world’. The ideal of unalienable rights and universal liberty is actually still a relatively new concept in the history of time.

The proposition is diabolically simple in that some human beings will take advantage of and exploit other vulnerable categories of human beings unless there is a strong disincentive and a massive change in the contributing circumstances.

Whatever the cause and whatever the thinking, modern day slavery and human and human organ trafficking is now far more prevalent in the developed world than either the public knows about or was previously thought. Sadder is the fact that even with the best intent matched with state of the art resources, even the best law enforcement agencies do not appear to be able to keep up with the growing size and scale of the problem.

Even in the U.K., which after all gave the world the Magna Carta in the 13th century, a turning point in establishing human rights and arguably the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today in the English-speaking world, the numbers of people trafficked is estimated to number in the tens of thousands of victims, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

These victims in the UK are predominantly from places like Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, with a roughly equal balance between men and women in other than the sex industry in which women and girls make up the vast majority of those exploited.

There are also trafficked people of all genders working in more prosaic roles like car washes, construction, agriculture and food processing. They receive very little pay and are forced to put up with poor living conditions.

As a result, the NCA says, it is increasingly likely that someone going about their normal daily life in the U.K., engaging in the legitimate economy and accessing goods and services, will come across a victim who has been exploited in one of those sectors but may never recognise them unless they are educated to the signs.

General indicators of human trafficking or modern slavery tend to be harder to spot in the developed world but can include signs of physical or psychological abuse, fear of authorities, no ID documents, poor living conditions and working long hours for little or no pay.

A 2018 report by the Global Slavery Index estimated that some 403,000 people are trapped in modern slavery in the U.S. – seven times higher than previous figures. In the UK, that figure is estimated at 136,000, nearly 12 times higher than earlier estimates. Andrew Forrest, founder of the Global Slavery Index, called the report “a huge wakeup call.” The report includes forced marriages, noting that women and girls make up 71 percent of people trapped in modern-day slavery today.

The pernicious persistence of modern day slavery is one of the reasons it is addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 and these build off of many of the accomplishments achieved with the original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but which did not address human rights, slavery or human trafficking and were often criticized for being too narrow.

In particular, Sustainable Development Goal 8 of the 17 SDGs is the goal to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, whilst Goal 8.7 specifically addresses modern day slavery and human trafficking. It is worth noting that SDG 8.7 is also supported by two other SDG goals. SDG 5 for example aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, while SDG 16 seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

“Because modern-day slavery is a global tragedy, combating it requires international action,” said President Barack Obama, who in 2011 issued a Presidential Proclamation designating each January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. “As we work to dismantle trafficking networks and help survivors rebuild their lives, we must also address the underlying forces that push so many into bondage. We must develop economies that create legitimate jobs [and] build a global sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited.”

While progress has been made in addressing broader employment issues in some developed nations, such improvements remain overshadowed by the continuing scourge of human slaves being used in the supply chain at both a local and international level.

Whatever the future holds, what is constant is that human trafficking destroys lives, robs people of their dignity and basic human rights as it causes unfathomable misery to the immediate victims, their families and their communities.

Under the circumstances, there must be a seismic shift in awareness and a willingness to act no matter who you are or what community you live in. It is incumbent upon all of us to exercise a higher level diligence and situational awareness aimed at winning the freedom of anyone that is exploited and abused.

With individuals, educators, charity institutions, business and Government each taking incremental steps we can win.

Remember, to save one life is a step towards saving the whole of humanity.

The author, Romy Hawatt is a Founding Member of the Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) pursuing the United Nations Sustainability Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.

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What the COP24 Needs: A New Emerging Mindsethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/cop24-needs-new-emerging-mindset/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cop24-needs-new-emerging-mindset http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/cop24-needs-new-emerging-mindset/#comments Wed, 19 Dec 2018 20:15:19 +0000 William Mebane http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159372 William Mebane, former Director of Energy Efficiency Department, ENEA

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UNFCCC Secretariat | COP24 opening plenary

By William Mebane
ROME, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

An alternative framework of international development and new forms of consumption of good/services are implicit in achieving the goals of UN climate conference recently held in Poland.

With 4.3 billion persons living on $5 or less per day, we cannot expect these persons or their countries to initially participate in the cost of climate change improvement without more favorable development. The reduction of hunger and poverty are inherent in the fight for a better climate because the poor are exactly the most exposed and least protected to adverse climate change. Rather than favor the developing world, the advanced nations have encumbered them with debt and exportation of profits; the net financial flows for the developing world are negative by 26.5 trillion dollars between 1980 and 2012 (Hickel, 2017). A more radical and effective development framework is emerging as proposed by the same author in his book the Divide. Certainly it will be an uphill battle as it involves elimination of debt burdens of developing countries, more global democracy in international financial institutions, more just wages, tax justice and land security.

Obviously the current Western model of production and consumption is highly individualistic, targeting through advertising our desires, by following the trails of our digital lives through almost all of our Internet apps on cell phones and other digital devices. Even our political orientation can be influenced in this way. The consumption is short-term “sugar-high” satisfaction, to be repeated by purchase of another product shortly thereafter. This is extremely costly to the environment, overloading us with the production, consumption and transportation of products that serve secondary needs. The capitalization of companies selling consumer discretionary goods/services is 60 per cent of the capitalization of companies in the entire consumer sector of the S&P500 companies this year (Bespoke, 2018).

And this is in sharp contrast to what really makes us happy: strong social relationships. The famous Harvard Study of Adult Development has proved that embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier. Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Importantly, international studies on happiness indicate that happy countries have high social capital and strong friendship networks. A cross-national study of 143 countries revealed that high levels of social trust and having someone to count on in case of need are associated with more positive feelings, better life evaluations, and the absence of negative feelings in most countries of the world. Also persons who participate in volunteering activities and with a high level of social trust are more likely than their peers to have better life evaluations and more positive feelings (Calvo et al. 2012).

A new model of consumption is emerging based on social experience and sharing. The experience of culture in a social setting in the form of a concert or intelligent tourism staying with local natives and guides are examples. In the future, services that enhance our sociality will grow. We also have come to realize that we can share under-utilized capacity of our basic properties such as homes and automobiles; and the sharing economy has been born. In the past everyone enjoyed owning a car or a record, instead now use is more important that ownership. This greatly reduces the number of goods that must be produced. Sociality and sharing have a much lighter
ecological footprint than the continuation of individualistic consumption of goods. The long-term gains of the sharing economy in terms of better utilization of capacity have been estimated at 570 billion euro for the EU28, according to the European Parliamentary Research Service (Goudin, 2016).

Developing nations should be aware of these alternatives; otherwise they will develop slowly and fall into the trap of consumerism that business is so anxious to sell, which may lock them into energy infrastructures and greenhouse gas production that they could have, at least in part, avoided. We are reminded that according the latest data 670,000 MW of coal power plant capacity is currently in planning or already under construction in 59 countries (Urgewald, 2018). We are individuals and will always require some satisfaction of individual needs beyond the basic requirements of food, shelter, health and education; but at our best we are social, and should recognize that we have let individualism go too far in consumption and international relations.

References
Bespoke (2018) https://www.bespokepremium.com/think-big-blog/new-sp-500-sector-weightings-what-you-need-to-know/

Calvo R., Zheng Y., Kumar S., Olgiati, A., Berkman L., (2012), Well-Being and Social Capital on Planet Earth: Cross-National Evidence from 142 Countries, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0042793

Goudin, P., European Parliamentary Research Service, European Added Value Unit PE 558.777- January 2016

Hickel, J. (2017), The Divide, Windmill Books, London.

Urgewald (2018), https://coalexit.org/report-investments

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Excerpt:

William Mebane, former Director of Energy Efficiency Department, ENEA

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Global Anti-Human Trafficking Coalitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 18:27:12 +0000 Vladimir Bozovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159316 Vladimir Bozovic is Advisor of Government of the Republic of Serbia

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Child labourers rescued in Delhi waiting to be sent back to their villages. Credit: Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

By Vladimir Bozovic
BELGRADE, Serbia, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Entire human history is one great struggle for freedom. To many, slavery is a synonym for something in the past, for transatlantic slave trade, but, unfortunately, slavery still exists in many different forms.

Records show that over twenty seven million men, women and children still live today in conditions that characterized social form of the slave ownership. They are trapped in forced labor and debt bondage, in domicile work and forced marriages, or they are being exploited by the human traffickers. We can easily speak of slavery as of great tragedy, and the fact that in this day and age still exists, is a downfall of human kind.

Modern slavery is a challenge for every democratic country. Suffering is the same as in the past, but methods are more sophisticated and perfidious, and most of those who suffer are the ones that should be protected the most – poor and socially excluded groups, who often live on the margins of our society, and young women and children. This is not an imaginary problem, it does not happen only to someone else and somewhere else; rather, it is a real threat and anyone can fall victim to.

The very first challenge in fight against slavery must be a cognizance: we must confess a bitter truth that slavery has been weakened, but still exists. Human trafficking is one of the growing forms of transnational crime, characterized by high profit and low risk, and it is followed by a grave statistics. It is crime of economic nature, and most efficiently organized, and we are currently fighting it on inconsistent and fragmented way. That is the dark side of globalization.

The issue of modern slavery is globally recognized by the UN in its millennium goals. Goal 8 is dedicated to increasing labor productivity, reducing the unemployment rate, especially for young people, improving access to financial services and benefits, fight against modern slavery and child labor. So many activities around this particular global goal prove that we don’t live anymore in a selfish world where we don’t consider other nations and their problems. No, the world of todays opens up to the misery of others, and everybody everywhere has to be good, for us to feel good. Employed, productive populations, sustainable economic growth, decent jobs with equal opportunities for fair salaries, safe working environments, social protection, these are all values that will ensure the progress of the entire world, and the whole world will benefit from the creativity, business and innovation of the free people.

Plenty has been done in delivering the Goal 8. UN reports that the average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita worldwide increased, the number of children from 5 to 17 years of age who are working has declined, access to financial services through automated teller machines increased… Plenty has been done, but also plenty has to be done. Child labor remains a serious concern with more than half of child laborers participate in dangerous work and 59% of them work in the agricultural sector; labor productivity has slowed down, the global unemployment rate hasn’t changed from 2016, with women more likely to be unemployed than men across all age groups. Youth were almost three times as likely as adults to be unemployed… It is clear that efforts provide results, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

There was a time we thought that the slavery is forever beaten, only to come back to us in new forms and shapes. That is why the solution must be fresh and brave. The only final answer to this problem is for every country, every government, every agency to work together, to unite and create an Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition that will engage entire society in fight against this crime, and combine all our efforts in protecting our citizens. It should be understood that eradicating the human trafficking is not solely a mission for the police or law enforcement agencies, this is a fight at all levels of society. We should campaign through media with the message that will define the problem, and develop the clear strategy that will unite countries and governments, churches and religious organizations, NGOs, youth, academic communities, media and all other important representatives of the society in one efficient and effective action with clear mechanisms of measuring the results. Everything should be designed in the way that those results are realistic and visible to the present victims, and to provide prevention and protection for potential victims. Time has clearly shown us, that this is one thing we can’t beat alone, nationally, rather, it’s a nick of time to do it globally.

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Excerpt:

Vladimir Bozovic is Advisor of Government of the Republic of Serbia

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Tunisia – the Exceptionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/tunisia-the-exception/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tunisia-the-exception http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/tunisia-the-exception/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 16:44:11 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159283 Eight years have passed since the Arab Spring. In many countries, the uprising was crushed, but in Tunisia democracy gained a foothold. Arbetet Global travelled to the small country town Side Bouzid to find out why. Through the car window, two boys around the age of 10 can be seen pushing a hen to the […]

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Pakistan: Food Security and Reducing the Price of Wheathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 09:05:26 +0000 Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159265 Robert W. Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, through his work on “efficiency wages”, pointed out that hungry and undernourished workers are not as productive as well fed and healthy workers.   At the level of an individual firm, it would thus make sense for an employer to pay wages that are high […]

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The staple food of Pakistan is wheat with an annual per capita consumption of 124 kgs/head/year. The world price of wheat currently hovers around US$ 234 per tonne (as of 01 November 2018). In Pakistan, the Government, during the last wheat harvest in May/June 2018, paid farmers Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms.

Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan
ROME, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

Robert W. Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, through his work on “efficiency wages”, pointed out that hungry and undernourished workers are not as productive as well fed and healthy workers.   At the level of an individual firm, it would thus make sense for an employer to pay wages that are high enough to allow workers access to food and other necessities – even if such wages are higher than the going market rate.

Some iconic and highly successful firms have in fact done this. Henry Ford, in 1914, caused quite a stir when he decided to offer his workers five dollars a day – double the going market pay at the time. This allowed him to not only have a healthy and satisfied work force but also to pick and choose his employees; to ensure that they stayed with the company; did not spend time looking for other opportunities as their experience and skill levels improved; and felt a stake in the success of the firm.

Other companies such as Guiness, Cadbury’s and Tata’s followed the same route providing not only good salaries but also housing, medical services and schools, as well as scholarship for the brightest children of their employees.

A food-secure, well-nourished, well-housed and educated labor force can enable countries to spur and sustain economic growth and foster shared prosperity.

In Karachi, a friend runs one of the most successful engineering companies in the country. He tells of how two fresh graduate engineers came looking for a job and asking for a salary of Rupees 10,000/month (about US$75 at today’s exchange rate).

My friend told them that this was “a ridiculous demand” and that as qualified engineers from a reputable university he was not prepared to pay a penny less than Rupees 20,000. This was 20 years back and much of the success of the firm was the result of the dedication and hard work on these two “overpaid” engineers.

For countries, the same principles and practices hold. A food-secure, well-nourished, well-housed and educated labor force can enable countries to spur and sustain economic growth and foster shared prosperity.

This was one of the key principles underlying the creation of the welfare state. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the rates of food insecurity and malnutrition are extremely high with approximately 60 percent of the population vulnerable to food insecurity.  Moreover, nearly half of children under the age of five suffering from stunted growth, which implies that their will most likely not reach their full physical and mental potential.

Prime Minister Imran Khan highlighted this issue in his inaugural speech and committed his Government to addressing the country’s nutrition emergency.  However, given the Government’s generally weak implementation capacity and tight fiscal situation there is a need to find suitable low cost means to achieve this goal. On such means is by reducing the price of food.

The staple food of Pakistan is wheat with an annual per capita consumption of 124 kgs/head/year.  The world price of wheat currently hovers around US$ 234 per tonne (as of 01 November 2018). In Pakistan, the Government, during the last wheat harvest in May/June 2018, paid farmers Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms.

This was a price approaching US$ 300/tonne (US Dollar to Pakistan Rupee exchange rate of Rupees 110 which was the rate prevailing at the time of the last wheat harvest) paid at farm-gate.  This is a price well above what farmers in most countries get.

To keep the price of wheat at Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms, the Government imposes import tariffs which currently stand at 60%. In addition huge outlays are incurred to buy, store and then dispose of this wheat. As wheat production has increased beyond domestic need and there is a subsidy given to exporters.

The impact of high wheat prices on consumers, particularly the poor, is very significant. Often it is argued that high prices for wheat and other food items help reduce poverty in rural areas.   This is simply not correct as the bulk of Pakistan’s poor rural population comprises of small scale farmers and landless who are net buyers of food.

High prices favor large farmers who have surpluses to sell; the big flour millers who get subsidized wheat from the Government; the large bureaucracy that has been created to run the wheat procurement system; and the banks, who lend to the Government for the purchase of wheat.  Direct budgetary costs of administering the system, according to the Government’s own estimates, amount to Rupees 200 billion (US$1.5 billion)/annum.

If the import restrictions on wheat are removed, domestic prices could fall considerably. In big centers such as Lahore and Karachi, where prices are 11% to 21% higher compared to international prices, a family of six people, consuming about 744 kilograms of wheat per year would save around Rupees 5,000 (almost US$40) per year.

In addition, the Government would save the costs incurred in running the system would amount to another Rupees 6,000 (over US$45) per family. This money could be used to fund targeted food assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable.

It would take some political courage to take on the lobbies of those who benefit from the current system of wheat procurement.  But if this can be done it would make a huge dent in addressing a fundamental problem without any extra outlay of public funds.

Ahmed Raza Gorsi works in international development specializing in food, agriculture and nutrition. Views expressed here are his own.

Daud Khan has more than 30 years of experience on global food security and rural development issues. Until recently, he was a staff member at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He has degrees in economics from the LSE and Oxford – where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Imperial College of Science and Technology.  

 

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Political Commitment Key to Health for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=political-commitment-key-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 13:46:45 +0000 Ban Ki-moon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159198 One of my proudest accomplishments as the former UN secretary-general was playing a part in the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development (SDGs), including the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030. Kenya’s leadership was key. To give momentum to the SDGs an Open Working Group was established in 2013. One of the co-chairs […]

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Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations Offices in Nairobi, October 30, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By Ban Ki-moon
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

One of my proudest accomplishments as the former UN secretary-general was playing a part in the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development (SDGs), including the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030.

Kenya’s leadership was key. To give momentum to the SDGs an Open Working Group was established in 2013. One of the co-chairs of the working group was Ambassador Macharia Kamau, who was the Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN.

As the world celebrates UHC Day on 12 December 2018, more and more countries across Africa, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal, are taking up the mantle of health for all and providing strong leadership to make the vision a reality.

Health is a fundamental human right. Good health helps people escape poverty, and provides the basis for long-term economic development.

The UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres has said, “When we invest in health – particularly of women and adolescents – we build more inclusive and resilient societies.”

With 11 million Africans being pushed into extreme poverty each year because of high out-of-pocket expenses on health, there is an urgent need to explore innovative models that provide adequate care alongside financial protection.

One country which could provide a blueprint for others to follow is Kenya, where the president is personally invested in delivering UHC.

I forged a strong connection with President Uhuru Kenyatta over our shared commitment to maternal and child health. In 2015, at the UN General Assembly in our presence, a public-private partnership to improve the health of over 3.5 million women, newborns and children in Kenya was announced. Led by the Government of Kenya, it brought together the UN, the private sector and civil society to leapfrog improvements in maternal and child health.

We found a strong advocate in First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, whose Beyond Zero Campaign ensured the scale-up of proven interventions to improve maternal and child health. The government also moved to eliminate payments for primary and maternal health services in public facilities.

These were important first steps.

Now I am heartened by Kenya’s remarkable political commitment to expand UHC to include every man, women and child. Affordable health care is one of the top priorities of President Kenyatta’s “Big Four” development agenda for his second term in office.

To achieve progress at such a rapid pace, Kenya plans to increase health spending by nearly 20% between 2018 and 2021 and strengthen primary health care. The country has set out to design a model that provides quality health care while ensuring it remains affordable.

Approaches are being tested over one year in four counties – each with its particular health challenges. These pilots aim to identify gaps in delivering UHC before nationwide rollout so that lessons can be learned. The acid test will be how quickly the country can go to scale and ensure no one is left behind.

Big data, technology and innovation will be critical to achieve progress at scale. Eight countries in Africa, including Kenya, have committed to use data to identify priority areas for health systems improvement, track and trend progress over time, and enhance accountability by using a new Primary Health Care Performance Initiative tool.

According to a forthcoming analysis by McKinsey, Kenya will need an investment of US$6 billion over and above government resources and individual subscriptions in the next decade to reach government targets for primary health care.

The Government of Kenya and the UN family in Kenya have come together to form the Kenya Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Partnership Platform, which is bringing together civil society and the private sector to catalyze new models for quality, affordable health care delivery. They are seeking new ways to unlock health care financing, which has been identified by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation as a best practice.

The reforms Kenya is pursuing will have a major impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and help stem poverty. Nearly 1 million Kenyans are being pushed below the poverty line every year as a result of catastrophic out-of-pocket expenses.

With such high-level political commitment, I am confident that Kenya will forge its own way with courage and resolve by ensuring the health and well-being of all its citizens.

Ban Ki-moon is a former UN Secretary General, and former South Korean Foreign Minister. He is the co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. The Centre was founded in 2017 and is co-chaired by Ban Ki-moon and by Heinz Fischer, President of the Republic of Austria from 2004 – 2016.

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Lives of the poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/lives-of-the-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lives-of-the-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/lives-of-the-poor/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 20:07:15 +0000 Noman Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159186 The past few weeks in Karachi have seen an anti-encroachment drive that has affected livelihoods and living. Those spearheading the drive justify their actions, saying they are legal, and those using the spaces are painted as land grabbers. Meanwhile, another cause for concern is the intended clearing of land along the route of the moribund […]

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By Noman Ahmed
Dec 11 2018 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The past few weeks in Karachi have seen an anti-encroachment drive that has affected livelihoods and living. Those spearheading the drive justify their actions, saying they are legal, and those using the spaces are painted as land grabbers. Meanwhile, another cause for concern is the intended clearing of land along the route of the moribund Karachi Circular Railways.

Noman Ahmed

The underprivileged in Karachi require a comprehensive plan so that they can have a legal right to exist and operate, with the city benefiting from their services.

The foremost issue is land for housing. About half a century ago, land was distributed by city authorities to various categories of urban dwellers according to their need. Land use was determined on the basis of individual and collective social requirements. Today, land is acquired through clout, capital and clandestine coercion of the institutions concerned.

The poor cannot acquire land through purchase or force as they possess neither surplus capital nor political influence. The state institutions have a responsibility to ensure the poor can access the land market. Existing legal instruments such as the fair implementation of Sindh Katchi Abadis Authority (SKAA) Act, 1987, is an option.

Karachi’s poor must have the legal right to live and operate.

This law was promulgated during the tenure of prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo. The objective of the law was to regularise those squatter settlements which had come up and evolved till March 1985 (revised to June 1997), that existed in ecologically safe locations, had acquired the approval of the land-owning agency/ department concerned, and comprised over 40 households. By implementing the law, more than 300 squatter settlements were regularised. The past few years have seen the work of regularisation slowing down due administrative reasons.

As migrations to the city have continued unabated, survey and subsequent regularisation of squatter settlements must be undertaken along scientific lines. With advanced digital mapping tools available, the exercise can be done with greater accuracy.

In the absence of an institutionalised option of accessing shelter, Karachi’s poor developed settlements on left-over and marginal land. An elitist view of such neighbourhoods — referred to as katchi abadis — is that they are breeding grounds and safe havens for criminals and the inhabitants are not deserving of social interaction with the rest. In other words, katchi abadis are looked upon with contempt and as an eyesore. They are viewed as a part of the problem, not the solution.

In fact, katchi abadis are not built with criminal intent, isolated cases notwithstanding. They emerge from unusual sites as there are no alternative locations. When the residents of settlements along the KCR were interviewed recently, they said as much.

The right to run hawker stalls, small- to medium-sized shops and other services also require serious review. The poor do not have the means to purchase or rent shops and commercial spaces that are formally available. But their services and merchandise are needed in shopping areas, transport terminals, business districts, railway stations and traffic junctions.

In many parts of the world, open public spaces are made available to hawkers according to land-utilisation plans. These plans demarcate the limits and conditions within which vending activity is allowed. In India, the Street Vendors Act, 2014, is an important legislative tool that regulates this activity in urban areas. A town-vending committee, with representatives of street hawkers, is constituted to oversee the management of vending activity. Matters relating to space adjustments, vending licences and extortion and bribery are dealt with by the committee. Similar laws and provisions exist in the UK, the US and many other countries.

Sindh can consider introducing an amendment in the existing local government laws to make provisions for vending activity to exist on formal and legal grounds. The affectees of various anti-encroachment operations should be documented and accommodated in formally created places to save them from financial destruction.

The provincial government and KMC must identify locations for setting up temporary bazaars to facilitate vendors and retailers in areas where a greater number of shops and stalls have been razed. The design and construction of stalls should ensure both functionality and aesthetics. Women entrepreneurs and sales staff must be encouraged. The same support should be extended to the disabled.

Image lifting and communication is another strategy that can help in scaling up the operations of such bazaars. Innovative ads and campaigns can be designed to boost commercial potential. Introduction of banking kiosks and provision of credit card facility can enhance the performance of bazaars. Similarly bazaars can also become tools for stretching target subsidies in underprivileged localities.

The writer is chairman, Department of Architecture & Planning, NED University, Karachi.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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AI to map Chinese strikeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ai-map-chinese-strikes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ai-map-chinese-strikes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ai-map-chinese-strikes/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:38:41 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159166 29 years ago, Han Dongfang survived the hail of bullets at Tiananmen Square. Now, he lives in Hong Kong and maps Chinese labour market strikes. Arbetet Global caught up with him at the ITUC World Congress in Copenhagen. Between meetings at Bella Center in Copenhagen, Arbetet Global gets a chat with the man who’s been […]

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Big Business Capturing UN SDG Agenda?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/big-business-capturing-un-sdg-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=big-business-capturing-un-sdg-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/big-business-capturing-un-sdg-agenda/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 09:41:23 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159154 Over the last two decades since the Global Compact, the United Nations has increasingly embraced the corporate sector, most recently to raise finance needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), i.e., for Agenda 2030. But growing big business influence has also compromised analyses, recommendations, policies and programme implementation, undermining the SDGs. Changing financing arrangements […]

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By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR & SYDNEY, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

Over the last two decades since the Global Compact, the United Nations has increasingly embraced the corporate sector, most recently to raise finance needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), i.e., for Agenda 2030. But growing big business influence has also compromised analyses, recommendations, policies and programme implementation, undermining the SDGs.

Changing financing arrangements

Inadequate funding of the UN and its mandates by member States has required this search for additional finance, initially with philanthropy and ‘corporate social responsibility’ efforts by private business, but increasingly, by viewing profit-seeking investments as somehow contributing to achieve the SDGs.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

While the global economy grew 47 fold from $1.35 trillion in 1960 to $63 trillion in 2010, the UN organization’s regular core budget fell to 0.0037 per cent of global income. Meanwhile, ‘core’ un-earmarked resources fell from nearly half of all UN financial resources in 1997 to less than a quarter today. A recent UN Secretary-General’s report estimated that over 90 per cent of all UN development system activities in 2015 were funded with non-core, earmarked project resources.

An earlier report found total non-core resources for UN-related activities increased 182 per cent in real terms between 1999 and 2014, mostly going through a growing number of UN ‘vertical’ trust funds, beyond Member States’ control, while core resources increased only 14 per cent.

Such ‘siloed’ trust funds – with funding rising three-fold over the last decade – enable both donor governments and corporate interests to determine UN funding, bypassing established decision-making processes. Thus, UN development financing increasingly serves donor priorities.

 

New development finance discourse

Influential quarters claim that in order to achieve Agenda 2030, financing needs have to rise “from billions to trillions” of US dollars, and that this can only be done by engaging the corporate sector.

According to a 2015 World Bank report, while the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) needed billions in official development assistance, the SDGs require trillions in investments.

Anis Chowdhury

Although most development spending involves national public resources, most Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) governments opposed international tax cooperation at the 2015 Addis Ababa third UN Financing for Development conference.

Thus, instead of helping boost national revenue enhancing capacities and capabilities, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) claimed that private capital had “the potential for scaling up to achieve the demands of the Sustainable Development Goals”.

 

Corporate funding for sustainable development?

The three major multilateral agreements of 2015 – the AAAA, the Agenda 2030 for SDGs and the Paris climate agreement – were all premised on private financing, stressing the need to mobilize funding from private business, finance and investment. This premise has been criticized by the Agenda 2030 Reflection Group which argued for public financing instead.

Multi-stakeholder partnerships have long been advocated by many OECD governments, UN agencies and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. This envisaged big business working with governments in public-private partnerships (PPPs), blended finance and various other novel financing arrangements.

A 2015 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report emphasized the need to “access private capital at scale, with banking alone managing financial assets of almost US$140 trillion and institutional investors, notably pension funds, managing over US$100 trillion, and capital markets, including bond and equities, exceeding US$100 trillion and US$73 trillion respectively.”

 

Public-private partnerships

The AAAA promoted PPPs and blended finance arrangements, while the Global Infrastructure Forum was set up at Addis to close the ‘infrastructure gap’ in developing countries, estimated by the outcome document at between “$1 trillion to $1.5 trillion” annually.

Thus far, PPPs have been more significant in developed and upper middle-income countries, as low-income countries are rarely able to attract large private investors. Warnings that PPPs and other such modalities, already problematic in OECD member countries, are even less likely to succeed in developing countries, where cost recovery is more difficult, have been largely ignored.

Instead, PPPs have often worsened national budgetary positions in the long-run due to the contingent liabilities governments are required to take on. Consequently, in most cases, governments bear the most risk, subsidize ventures and guarantee revenues to the private partner.

While PPPs have clearly contributed to national financial difficulties, such problems were largely ignored until recently. With changing international relations, they are now being highlighted as leading to national ‘debt bondage’ to China and other non-traditional sources of finance.

Meanwhile, the US and other developed countries have announced major new infrastructure financing initiatives of their own, to draw developing countries from financial reliance on China. This unexpected political rivalry will have mixed consequences for borrowing developing countries.

PPPs involve many unpredictable risks, primarily borne by governments, as well as side and spill-over effects, with the private partners typically setting most terms. Moreover, PPPs in social sectors, such as health and water, are less inclusive, disadvantaging the poor and the less accessible.

Meanwhile concerns have been raised, even by The Economist, about enthusiasm for blended finance as ‘aid’, which typically favours private partners from the donor country. Such aid diversion — from budgetary support, social programmes and essential services — prioritizes private profits, rather than the public interest.

 

Checks and balances?

The UN Global Compact’s 10 principles from the turn of the century remain the main intergovernmental framework governing non-state partnerships, but remains ill-equipped for meaningful accountability, especially as it pre-dates the SDGs, and hence, are inadequate now.

Promoted and often required by OECD governments, PPPs and blended finance have not received enough critical scrutiny in terms of compatibility with UN mandates, while their extra-budgetary funding status has exempted them from rigorous audit, review and impact assessment.

With financing gap concerns accepted as the rationale for multi-stakeholder partnerships, the private sector is increasingly calling the shots, with occasional lip service to civil society engagement merely providing legitimacy, rather than adequate checks and balances.

 

  • This article was amended on January 10 2019.  An earlier version under the sub-heading, “Corporate funding for sustainable development?”,  inadvertently implied that the Agenda 2030 Reflection Group stressed the need to mobilize funding from private business, finance and investment. In fact, the Group stressed the need for public funding, and criticized the view that the SDGs can only be implemented effectively via  PPPs, blended finance, etc.

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Havana Charter’s Progressive Trade Vision Subvertedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/havana-charters-progressive-trade-vision-subverted/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=havana-charters-progressive-trade-vision-subverted http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/havana-charters-progressive-trade-vision-subverted/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 13:36:19 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159015 In criticizing the ‘free trade delusion’, UNCTAD’s 2018 Trade and Development Report proposes an alternative to both reactionary nationalism, recently revived by President Trump, and the corporate cosmopolitanism of neoliberal multilateral discourse in recent decades by revisiting the Havana Charter on its 70th anniversary. From ITO to WTO Instead, it urges reconsideration of lessons from […]

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By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR & SYDNEY, Dec 4 2018 (IPS)

In criticizing the ‘free trade delusion’, UNCTAD’s 2018 Trade and Development Report proposes an alternative to both reactionary nationalism, recently revived by President Trump, and the corporate cosmopolitanism of neoliberal multilateral discourse in recent decades by revisiting the Havana Charter on its 70th anniversary.

From ITO to WTO
Instead, it urges reconsideration of lessons from the struggle from 1947 for the Havana Charter. Although often depicted as the forerunner of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the Charter was far more ambitious.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Initially agreed to 70 years ago by over 50 countries — mainly from Latin America, as much of the rest of the developing world remained under European colonial rule — it was rejected by the US Congress, with GATT emerging as a poor compromise.

As envisaged at Bretton Woods in 1944, over 50 countries began to create the International Trade Organization (ITO) from 1945 to 1947. In 1947, 56 countries started negotiating the ITO charter in Havana following the 1947 United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment in Havana, eventually signed in 1948.

The idea of a multilateral trade organization to regulate trade — covering areas such as tariff reduction, business cartels, commodity agreements, economic development and foreign direct investment — was first mooted in the US Congress in 1916 by Representative Cordell Hull, later Roosevelt’s first Secretary of State in 1933.

However, the US Congress eventually rejected the Havana Charter, including establishment of the ITO, in 1948 following pressure from corporate lobbies unhappy about concessions to ‘underdeveloped’ countries. Thus, the Bretton Woods’ and Havana Charter’s promise of full employment and domestic industrialization in the post-war international trade order was aborted.

In their place, from 1948 to 1994, the GATT, a provisional compromise, became the main multilateral framework governing international trade, especially in manufactures, the basis for trade rules and regulations for most of the second half of the 20th century.

The Uruguay Round from 1986 to 1994, begun at Punta del Este, was the last round of multilateral trade negotiations under GATT. It ended the postwar trading order governed by GATT, replacing it with the new World Trade Organization (WTO) from 1995.

Developmental fair trade?
The UNCTAD report urges revisiting the Havana Charter in light of new challenges in recent decades such as the digital economy, environmental stress and financial vulnerabilities. So, what lessons can we draw from the Havana Charter in trying to reform the multilateral trading order?

Anis Chowdhury

In light of economic transformations over the last seven decades, it is crucial to consider how the Havana Charter tried to create a more developmental and equitable trading system, in contrast with actual changes in the world economy since.

After all, the Charter recognized that a healthy trading system must be based on economies seeking to ensure full employment while distributional issues have to be addressed at both national and international levels.

Profitable, but damaging business practices — by large international, multinational or transnational firms, abusing the international trading system — also need to be addressed.

The Charter recognized the crucial need for industrialization in developing countries as an essential part of a healthy trading system and multilateral world order, and sought to ensure that international trade rules would enable industrial policy.

The GATT compromise exceptionally allowed some such features in post-war trade rules, but even these were largely eliminated by the neoliberal Uruguay Round, as concerns about unemployment, decent work and deindustrialization were ignored.

Paths not taken
The evolution of the international trading system has been largely forgotten. Recent and current tensions in global trade are largely seen as threatening to the post-Second World War (WW2) international economic order first negotiated in the late 1940s and revised ever since.

But the international order of the post-WW2 period ended in the 1970s, as policymakers in the major developed economies embraced the counter-revolutionary neoliberal reforms of Thatcherism and Reaganism against Keynesian and development economics after Nixon unilaterally destroyed the Bretton Woods monetary arrangements.

Besides international trade liberalization as an end in itself, financial liberalization and globalization were facilitated as financial markets were deregulated, not only within national economies, but also across international borders.

Industrial policy, public enterprise and mixed economies were purged by the new neoliberal fundamentalists as the very idea of public intervention for healthy, equitable and balanced development was discredited by the counter-revolution against economic progress for all.

With multilateralism and the Doha Development Round under assault, retrieving relevant lessons from the Havana Charter after seven decades can be crucial in steering the world between the devil of reactionary nationalist ‘sovereigntism’ and the deep blue sea of neoliberal corporate cosmopolitanism or ‘globalism’.

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ITUC at a Crossroads as Sharan Burrow is Challengedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/ituc-crossroads-sharan-burrow-challenged/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ituc-crossroads-sharan-burrow-challenged http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/ituc-crossroads-sharan-burrow-challenged/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 12:50:00 +0000 Ivar Andersen and Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158925 A fight for the position of Secretary-General divides the ITUC ahead of the World Congress in December. Where some see a choice between diplomacy and activism, others say it’s a question of internal democracy. Two candidates are nominated for the position as ITUC’s Secretary-General. The imcumbent, Australia’s Sharan Burrow, has a professional background as a […]

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Though the benefits of migration outweigh the costs, public perception is often the opposite and negatively impacts migration policy.

Pakistani migrant workers build a skyscraper in Dubai. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

By Ivar Andersen and Erik Larsson
STOCKHOLM, Nov 28 2018 (IPS)

A fight for the position of Secretary-General divides the ITUC ahead of the World Congress in December. Where some see a choice between diplomacy and activism, others say it’s a question of internal democracy.

Two candidates are nominated for the position as ITUC’s Secretary-General.

The imcumbent, Australia’s Sharan Burrow, has a professional background as a teacher and has led the organisation for eight years.

Her challenger, Susanna Camusso, began her trade union career by organising Italian metal workers and subsequently took over as president of the conflict-prone Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL).

The Nordic unions say the choice will shape the way the ITUC operates in the future.

While Susanna Camusso is considered a more activism-focused alternative, Sharan Burrow is viewed as a stronger candidate when it comes to international diplomacy.

“We want a voice that represents the world’s workers at G20, climate summits and other major gatherings,” says Oscar Ernerot at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO).

Unions in several other influential nations also want Sharan Burrow to continue. She is backed up by confederations in, among others, the United States, Great Britain, Turkey, Kenya, Egypt, Congo and the Netherlands.

It’s not the first time Sharan Burrow has had to fight for her position.

During ITUC’ last World Congress, in Berlin in 2014, the African nation Benin suggested she be replaced by US candidate Jim Baker. However, securing 87 per cent of the vote, Burrow ended up showing that she had strong support.

ITUC

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) brings together 331 confederations from 163 countries and represents a total of 208 million workers.

ITUC speaks for the member organisations at international summits and associations such as the G20, the ILO and the World Bank.

The World Congress

ITUC’s fourth world congress takes place in Copenhagen from December 2–7, hosted by Danish trade union confederations LO and FTF.

According to the organisers, about 1,000 delegates are expected to descend on Bella Center just outside the capital.

In addition to electing the Secretary-General, the congress will also announce the “Worst Boss in the World” award.

Three working groups will also address the topics “future of work”, “organizing” and “wages and inequality”
In Copenhagen, the outcome is more uncertain.

Unions from several significant countries, including Germany, Belgium, Spain, Algeria, Israel, Japan and Brazil, support Susanna Camusso.

At the same time, the support for her is not as solid as it may seem.

For example, the powerful German confederation DGB supports Susanna Camusso, but behind the scenes, German trade union Verdi has campaigned for Sharan Burrow.

Sharan Burrow’s leadership style became a contested issue at the World Congress four years ago. Employees at ITUC’ Brussels headquarters spoke of a tough leadership style and being afraid to go to work.

“I know that some are upset, especially many men… I think I upset people because I make significant changes and do it quickly,” she responded to the criticism.

Leading into the upcoming World Congress, her leadership is questioned once again. One German union source says that the election has little to do with union strategy, and that it is rather a question about internal politics.

“There has been criticism that decisions made in international contexts, especially within the ILO, have not been democratically anchored”, the source says.

“Susanna stands for returning power to the various national confederations of the global movement. Sharan Burrow runs her own race.”

Anonymous sources also present other arguments.

Susanna Camusso is considered to have a weak command of the English language.

Several national confederations are concerned it may make it difficult to convey ITUC’ point of view during G20 meetings and other international gatherings. Camusso is rumoured to have begun an intensive course to improve her English and increase her eligibility.

The fact that she is as old as Burrow is also considered a disadvantage – both women have passed 60 years of age. Few believe that a candidate of that age can serve for longer than the upcoming term.

The fact that ITUC has failed to find a younger challenger is seen as a weakness. And Sharan Burrow is therefore considered a safer choice, as she already has an established contact with several world leaders.

The election of a new Secretary-General is a delicate matter. Several union representatives who Arbetet Global has contacted do not want to discuss their positions publicly. And the ITUC, which calls for greater transparency by large companies and governments, has closed ranks.

While the battle for the position of Secretary-General intensifies, there is also an awareness that cooperation will be required once the congress is over.

Aggressive rhetoric during the build-up to the election is likely to have consequences, regardless of who is chosen to lead ITUC for the next four years.

“It’s an unusual situation. Last time, we knew who would win before the Congress. But this election divides the movement and it’s possible the issue will not be resolved before the Copenhagen Congress,” says a source.

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

 

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Asia-Pacific Takes Stock of Ambitious Development Targetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/asia-pacific-takes-stock-ambitious-development-targets/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 05:16:58 +0000 Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana and Natalia Kanem 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158909 Ministers and senior policymakers across Asia and the Pacific are gathered in Bangkok this week to focus on population dynamics at a crucial time for the region. Their goal: to keep people and rights at the heart of the region’s push for sustainable development. They will be considering how successful we have been in balancing […]

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By Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana and Natalia Kanem
BANGKOK, Thailand, Nov 28 2018 (IPS)

Ministers and senior policymakers across Asia and the Pacific are gathered in Bangkok this week to focus on population dynamics at a crucial time for the region. Their goal: to keep people and rights at the heart of the region’s push for sustainable development. They will be considering how successful we have been in balancing economic growth with social imperatives, underpinned by rights and choices for all as enshrined in the landmark Programme of Action stemming from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, or ICPD.

In the Programme of Action, diverse views on population, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, and sustainable development merged into a remarkable global consensus that placed individual dignity and human rights at the heart of development.

Truly revolutionary at the time, ICPD remains all the more urgent and relevant a quarter-century later, in this era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its Sustainable Development Goals. Without ICPD we would not have the SDGs, and indeed they go hand in hand. The ICPD is a dedicated vehicle through which we can – and will – address, achieve and fulfill the SDGs.

How well have we responded to trends such as population ageing and international migration? How successful have we been in ensuring optimal sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights for all, including the right to choose when or whether to get married and when or whether to have children, and how many? How well have we done in strengthening gender equality and women’s empowerment, and upholding the rights of the most vulnerable among us? Where should our efforts be refocused to leave no one behind?

Asia and the Pacific has much to celebrate. The region remains the engine of global growth and at the forefront of the global fight against poverty. It is now home to half the world’s middle class. The share of the population living in poverty has dropped considerably although it is still unacceptably high. People are living, longer healthier lives. Rights-based family planning has contributed to considerable economic success and women’s empowerment. And we are on track to achieve universal education by 2030.

Yet for all this growth, considerable injustices remain. On its current trajectory, the region will fall short of achieving the 2030 Agenda. In several areas we are heading in altogether the wrong direction. Inequalities within and between countries are widening. Some 1.2 billion people live in poverty of which 400 million live in extreme poverty. Lack of decent job opportunities and access to essential services are perpetuating injustice across generations.

At the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), we are keen to shine the spotlight on three key issues where regional commitment is vital.

First, we need to respond to the unprecedented population changes unfolding across the Asia-Pacific region. Many countries are facing a rapidly ageing population. The proportion of people above the age of sixty is expected to more than double by 2050. Effectively meeting the needs of an ageing society and ensuring healthy and productive lives must be a priority. This requires a life cycle approach – from pregnancy and childbirth, through adolescence and adulthood, to old age – ensuring that all people are allowed to fulfil their socioeconomic potential, underpinned by individual rights and choices.

Equally, there is a strong case for strengthening Asia-Pacific’s response to international migration. Migrants can, when allowed, contribute significantly to development. However, we know that migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. So, our ambition is for discussions this week to build further momentum in support of safe, orderly and regular migration to fully harness its development benefits.

Second, there is clear evidence the region must spend more on social protection, as well as on health care and education. Today, social protection is the preserve of a few, rather than a right for all. As a result, 60 per cent of our population are at risk of being trapped in vulnerability or pushed into poverty by sickness, disability, unemployment or old age, often underpinned by gender inequality. The “Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific: Poorly Protected”, which ESCAP will publish later this week, sets out why expanding social protection is the most effective means of reducing poverty, strengthening rights and making vulnerable groups less exposed. Many women, migrants, older persons and rural communities would also benefit. Our evidence suggests it could even end extreme poverty in several countries by 2030.

Third, we need to invest in generating disaggregated data to tell us who is being left behind to ensure our response to population dynamics is targeted and credible. Availability of data on social and demographic issues lag far behind anything related to the economy. Millions of births remain unregistered, leading to the denial of many basic rights, particularly to women and girls. Of the 43 countries which conducted a census between 2005 and 2014, only 16 have reliable data on international migration. With the 2020 round of censuses upon us, we will be redoubling our efforts to close these data gaps by strengthening new partnerships for data capacity and working with governments and other partners to translate data into policy and action.

The Midterm Review of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development as well as the Committee on Social Development provide the region with an opportunity to speak with one voice on population and development issues. ESCAP and UNFPA stand united in their commitment to supporting their Member States to build and strengthen a regional response to issues that will shape the future for generations to come.

We look to this week’s discussions to galvanize countries behind the ambition and vision that link ICPD and the SDGs and accelerate work to leave no one behind in Asia and the Pacific.

Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

Dr. Natalia Kanem is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

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Gender Inequality is Stunting Economic Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/gender-inequality-stunting-economic-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-inequality-stunting-economic-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/gender-inequality-stunting-economic-progress/#respond Sun, 25 Nov 2018 08:05:36 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158840 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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UN SG Mr. António Guterres-“women’s rights are being, reduced, restricted and reversed”. The Deputy UN Secretary General (DSG) Ms Amina Mohammed and the UNSG. Credit: UN Photo

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 2018 (IPS)

‘Do not let us off the hook; keep our feet to the fire’. These were the words of the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres when he promised to personally lead the global body towards greater gender equality.

As the world observes the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence today 26 November 2018, an independent United Nations system-wide survey on sexual harassment is taking place around all UN country offices.

It is the first of its kind and it demonstrates the UN’s common resolve to eradicate sexual harassment and ensure a safe and inclusive workplace for all personnel across the UN.

The UN initiative is in lock-step with the theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism – ‘Orange the World; Hear Me Too’. The aim is to raise awareness on violence against women and its impact on a woman’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being.

The now-famous ‘MeToo’ movement brought out from anonymity the shame that many women were forced to live with, fearing that to reveal the various inappropriate remarks and unwelcome advances they had endured would jeopardise their careers.

Statistics indicate that more than one in three women across the world have experienced physical or sexual violence, usually perpetrated by an intimate partner. In a study by Edison Research and Marketplace on sexual harassment, 27% of women and 14% of men reported that they had been harassed at some time at their workplace.

Despite the progressive policy commitments and institutional frameworks on gender equality and women empowerment, implementation remains slow and inconsistent. To date, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa has not secured universal ratification.

While the HeForShe campaign has gained high momentum since its launch in September 2014, a lot still needs to be done to bring men on board towards addressing sexual harassment towards women in public and private spaces.

Such campaigns have brought considerable gains towards raising consciousness and self-assurance for women. Increasingly, they are speaking out against the indignities of work-related sexual advances and intimidation.

It is time for another crescendo to rise as we consider the multiple dimensions of gender violence. This is the cost that countries are paying when women are girls are denied the chance to live to their full social and economic potential.

This is the insidious aspect of gender violence that needs the most urgent restitution.

Consider the aspect of employment: according to a World Bank report released this year, countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men. This amounts to an average of $23,620 for each person.

UNDP in its Africa Human Development Report for 2016 says, “Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year

In education, girls still have catching up to do. While Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders, there remains work to do towards demonstrating to young women that they have a future after their education. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment are women.

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

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. However, while evidence abounds that parity with women is the best driving force for economic growth, wealth creation and poverty eradication, women’s rights are being “reduced, restricted and reversed”, according to UN Secretary-General Mr. Guterres.

There cannot be any illusions about the enormity of the task ahead. Misogyny is a deep-rooted expression of male entitlement that often excuses sexual harassment and violence, even at times by the victims themselves. For instance, a World Bank Gender Data Portal shows that 76.3 per cent of women in Mali and 92.1 per cent in Guinea believe a man is justified in beating his wife if she goes out without telling him, neglects the children, refuses sex, burns the food or argues with him.

Such attitudes are often rooted far beyond the reach of social media hashtags. Shifts in attitude must begin from the home, before we can expect corporate bodies and national governments to enact gender-sensitive legislation.

The UN in Kenya is taking some concrete steps in this direction, starting with the establishment of a coordination network on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse in the Nairobi duty station.

Women shouldn’t have to feel ‘grateful’ for opportunities says the UN DSG Amina Mohammed in a recent BBC interview. So true. Ultimately, countries need to begin breaking structural barriers, not just with gender equality as a lofty ideal but as deliberate strategy for sustainable development.

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Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Teenage Pregnancy in Kenya: A Crisis of Health, Education and Opportunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 10:50:36 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158723 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Education CS Amina Mohamed chats with form four candidates of Mama Ngina Secondary School a few minutes before KCSE exams. Credit: Standard

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

November 20, 2018 marks International Children’s Day. Perhaps a day we should use to reflect on a national crisis of underage pregnancies that confronts us.

Recent media reports of the high number of girls failing to sit their final secondary school examinations (KSCE) only reveal the extent to which we have continued to sweep under the carpet candid discussions about adolescent sexuality.

Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed said that the country must confront this worrying trend. “We must have this conversation. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. It is happening to our children, our sisters, and even our young brothers. We will deal with it or it will not go away”. No doubt CS Mohamed has a tough job ahead.

Consider this. Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicate that between June 2016 and July 2017, 378,397 adolescents in Kenya aged 10 to 19 got pregnant.

The carpet’s edges are now too frayed to conceal our failure to act; we no longer can afford the blissful pretence about sexual activity among our teenagers. Nor can the responsibility for decisive solutions be shunted around.

Numerous studies have documented the fact that a high number of teens are already sexually active. These young girls are part of the four in ten women in Kenya aged between 15 and 49 who have unintended pregnancies. There can be no illusions about what they need: accurate, up-to-date information and access to effective contraception.

It is time to take a wholesome picture of the social and economic price society is paying when 15 percent of its teenage girls become pregnant. For virtually all of them – and statistics say majority are from poor families – it means an end to any dreams of coming out of poverty because they cannot continue with education.

Complications during pregnancy are the second cause of death for 15 to 19-year-old girls, therefore it means their already poor families have additional health care costs to meet. Children born to such young mothers are more prone to physical and cognitive development.

The overall effect is a perpetuation of the cycle of poverty that brings personal catastrophe while weakening social and economic development and adding strain to already stretched medical services.

In reproductive health, as in most things, knowledge is power. But across sub-Saharan Africa too many teenage girls lack knowledge of their bodies, their contraceptive options, and their rights. The notion of rights is central.

As the UNFPA report The Power of Choice states, in countries where rights to health, education and opportunity prevail, fertility rates tend to be lower. Through exercising their wider rights, people exercise choice about the timing and number of their children.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2014 that shows girls who have completed secondary education have an average of three children in their lifetimes compared to an average 6.5 for those with no education. Additionally, around 60% of girls who have completed primary and secondary school use some form of modern contraception compared to only 15% of those with no education.

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

“The girl child in this country is under threat from all manner of vices, including early pregnancy and female genital mutilation and many other kinds of nonsense that affect our communities. These things have no basis for the development of our country” said the Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto.

The underlying drivers of teenage pregnancy are complex and include gender inequality, child marriage, poverty, sexual violence, and poor education and job opportunities. To be successful, efforts to reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancy must address all these elements through comprehensive programmes of behaviour change, social and economic development, health and sex education, reproductive rights, and gender equality.

Crucially, such efforts must also include boys and men, whose attitude to girls and women underpin many pervasive social problems in Kenya and across the world.

Reproductive rights and health are also central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all ages.

As the UN family in Kenya we are working in partnership with government, civil society, religious and youth groups to extend access to sexual and reproductive health information, counselling and services for young people. We intend to step this up.

Three years ago, Kenya launched the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy. Unless bold decisions are made to implement that policy, pregnancies among our youth will continue to be a wrecking ball to the national development agenda particularly the Big Four and the SDGs.

In order for every girl to achieve her full human potential, how can the entire country be engaged to initiate a change in mindset in Kenya? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Bringing Informal Workers to the Forefront of Our Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bringing-informal-workers-forefront-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-informal-workers-forefront-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bringing-informal-workers-forefront-economy/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 12:43:57 +0000 Annette Francis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158635 With 81 percent of India’s employed workforce being in the informal sector, we can't afford to ignore their potential. Here's how entrepreneurship could offer a solution.

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With 81 percent of India’s employed workforce being in the informal sector, we can't afford to ignore their potential. Here's how entrepreneurship could offer a solution.

Photo courtesy: Pratham Institute

By Annette Francis
MUMBAI, India, Nov 12 2018 (IPS)

The image of the ‘struggling’ daily wage labourer in India is one that stakeholders from across the development sector aspire to transform. Financial security, quality living conditions, and opportunity to thrive are the buzzwords in a conversation about the needs of this bracket. These workers—usually associated with the informal or unorganised sector—are assumed to represent the outliers of the national economy.

By definition, the informal sector includes those roles which aren’t taxed or monitored by any form of government. Recent findings however, indicate that 81 percent of India’s employed individuals work in the informal sector, of which 64 percent are engaged in non-agricultural forms of employment. Thus, while the informal sector may only contribute a sliver to national income charts, it clearly takes up a sizeable slice in the national employment pie.

These individuals aren’t guaranteed job security or minimum wage employment, and often lack essentials such as identification documents, bank accounts, insurance coverage, access to quality education, and more. If 81 percent of the nation is working in the informal sector, it implies that the work done by 81 percent of the nation isn’t formally recognised as ‘work’.

 

Challenges around formalising the informal sector

81 percent of India’s employed individuals work in the informal sector, of which 64 percent are engaged in non-agricultural forms of employment. Thus, while the informal sector may only contribute a sliver to national income charts, it clearly takes up a sizeable slice in the national employment pie.
If the problem is so apparent, then why has it been allowed to persist? To understand the wider challenges surrounding this situation, let us explore the case of the construction sector, one which contributes heavily to the migrating population and is widely recognised as a part of the informal economy.

 

1. Tracking and monitoring

For starters, monitoring this extensive cohort is a difficult task, owing to the widespread migration of the labour workforce. It is estimated that there are 5 to 6 million interstate migrants a year in India, growing at a rate of 4.5 percent annually. This includes undocumented workers who migrate seasonally across multiple locations, working for various employers, potentially across numerous sectors. These dynamic parameters make it challenging for government bodies to effectively track informal workers over a long duration. As a result, they are often excluded from state policies at both the source and destination.

 

2. Turning policy into action

For workers in the construction sector there are legal provisions, set within policies such as the Building and Other Construction Workers Act (BOCW, 1996), which aim to protect them from exploitation at the workplace.

However, converting these plans to action continues to be a challenging task. For instance, the act stipulates a cess collection, which is to be directed towards worker welfare. However while INR 70,000 crore had to be collected by the various Welfare State Boards, the actual collection amounted to only INR 26,962.18 crore rupees. Utilisation of the funds collected is even lower still.

The hierarchy of power set within this sector places contractors and sub-contractors at the top, while pushing labourers to the bottom of the barrel. The work hours are long and, the working conditions strenuous. Additionally, frequency of circulation of workers is high owing to the changing nature of skills required in a construction site. Since awareness about BOCW is limited among the workforce, there is hardly any demand for welfare measures.

 

3. Lack of capital

But the problem doesn’t end with worker’s rights. A closer look at the lives of contractors reveals that despite being higher in the hierarchy, they are handicapped by lack of capital and the irregularity of their revenue cycles. As a result, the job security of those employed under them is also at risk.

It is apparent that for these blue-collar entrepreneurs, there are several financial obstacles which prevent them from running their enterprises efficiently and ethically. For example, lack of collateral and poor credit scores prevent them from availing bank loans. Even if they manage to procure loans, the stringent frameworks set within financial institutions reduces the amount of working capital available for utilisation.

 

Entrepreneurship offers a solution

There are organisations working with entrepreneurs to help them overcome the challenges they face.

1. In 2016 Pratham (the organisation I am a part of), deployed the ‘Good Contractor‘ programme, which provides financial assistance, mentorship, and training for upcoming contractors. The USP of the project is that it has defined an ethics matrix with guidelines for labour welfare, and a candidate’s eligibility to continue in the programme is dependent on how they fulfil the requirements in the matrix.

By recognising upcoming contractors as entrepreneurs, the programme has managed to impact the lives of nearly 400 labourers through 35 contractors over two years in Mumbai. The financial autonomy and mentorship that this programme provides, should be recognised as the key drivers for participation from the workforce.

2. At the start of 2018, the Udhyam Learning Foundation launched the Udhyam Vyapaar model, working on a one-one basis with 30 entrepreneurs. The programme empowers youth at a grassroots level by providing one-one mentorship, to help overcome the challenges which they may be experiencing in running their enterprises.

The objective in this case is to foster entrepreneurs from low income backgrounds, irrespective of the sector or scale of the proposed business plans. The organisation plans to partner with NBFCs to provide funding for entrepreneurs in the nearby future.

3. Having worked on a voluntary basis for 5 years within Aurangabad and Nagpur,  Vruksh Ecosystem has been increasing awareness about the same within local communities, reaching out to over 5000 youth from both rural and urban backgrounds. It has managed to support 30 to 40 entrepreneurs working on enterprises within the sectors of agriculture, healthcare, clean mobility, and sustainable cities, and will officially be launched in, November 2018.

The common denominator for each of these organisations is the message of social impact at a grassroots level, while ensuring profitability for entrepreneurs. The numerous spill-over benefits which are generated through entrepreneurship, scales these models beyond the direct beneficiaries.

The chain reaction which can be generated by starting with a small cohort is what makes them truly click. The rise of these initiatives by nonprofit organisations, strengthens the idea that the solution for improving worker welfare lies in the overall systemic change that may be accelerated through entrepreneurship.

 

Role of civil society and CSR

With the push towards entrepreneurship created by the Start-Up India movement, workers in the informal economy cannot be excluded from the picture. While they may be at a disadvantage when compared to their counterparts in the white-collar end of the spectrum, it mustn’t be forgotten that these blue-collar entrepreneurs could open the doors required to organise 81 percent of the working Indian population. This is a mammoth task, which cannot be accomplished by simply creating amendments in policy. So, what do we need to do?

 

1. Inclusive entrepreneurship

We need to recognise that fostering entrepreneurship in an inclusive manner, is steadily becoming the need of the hour. In both rural and urban communities, programmes which focus on employability and foundation skills could begin to spread the idea that entrepreneurship is an accessible career path for people from all walks of life.

 

2. Training and mentorship

Once the message is out there, the next step is building programmes which can help these aspiring entrepreneurs navigate the challenges they will face. These individuals will require mentorship, training in communication, digital literacy, financial literacy, programme management, and so much more. The goal of their training and mentorship would be to enable them to build a sustainable future for themselves, while creating new job opportunities for others.

 

3. Financial support

Financial limitations are one of the primary bottlenecks which prevents interested parties from entering starting their own enterprises, and so corporates play a significant role in the success of entrepreneurship models. When the matter of CSR funds arise there needs to be greater willingness to experiment and invest in these models.

Microfinance institutions and NBFCs should be willing to grant business loans to entrepreneurs who are vetted and vouched for by partner nonprofits. With innovation comes risk, and funding entrepreneurs with limited collateral and personal finances is a gamble, but it is one that is necessary to ensure the success of their ventures.

On a final note, dignity of labour is a message that is yet to be accepted by the Indian community, and while we need skilled workers, the need for job creators is greater still. The cause of bringing the informal worker cohort to the forefront of our economy is one that needs to resonate in all corners of the nation. With a working age population of more than 850 million, we cannot afford to ignore the potential that 81 percent of our national workforce represents.

 

Annette Francis works with Pratham’s vocational training and entrepreneurship arm known as Pratham Institute. She currently focuses on research and innovation projects being pioneered by the organisation. Her primary area of interest is researching technology-based solutions for mitigating challenges in the development sector, specifically within the livelihood and education space. She has previously worked in a teaching capacity with nonprofit and for-profit organisations based in India and Scotland.

This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

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With 81 percent of India’s employed workforce being in the informal sector, we can't afford to ignore their potential. Here's how entrepreneurship could offer a solution.

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