Inter Press ServiceLabour – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 26 Jun 2017 00:01:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Putting the Spotlight on Women Migrant Workershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 22:25:30 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151040 Migrant workers, and their economic contribution to the development of both the country of origin and the host country, have caught the eye of governments and policymakers worldwide. But the hardships faced by women migrants, who disproportionately bear the brunt of discrimination at work, are often swept under the rug. This is why, experts from […]

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Eni Lestari Andayani Adi (Indonesia), Chairperson of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), addresses the opening segment of the United Nations high-level summit on large movements of refugees and migrants. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2017 (IPS)

Migrant workers, and their economic contribution to the development of both the country of origin and the host country, have caught the eye of governments and policymakers worldwide.

But the hardships faced by women migrants, who disproportionately bear the brunt of discrimination at work, are often swept under the rug.

This is why, experts from UN Women and the United Nations University (UNU) in New York came together this week to discuss and raise awareness about migrant women workers’ rights.

In 2015, female migrant workers, who number 117 million, contributed about half of the world’s total remittance flow.

As labour markets shuffle in the new world order, two distinct patterns have emerged. Women have increasingly moved to hospitality and nursing industries, or the “domestic” economy, as well as areas previously dominated by men, such as agriculture. Demands has continued to rise in developed countries, but women’s contributions have been severely underappreciated.

By contributing to the gaps of the labour economy, women have lifted the working age population, and contributed to technological and human capital. By virtue of their soft skills, they have closed the gaps of a receding tax base, undermined by an aging population, and have come to the assistance of the elderly in the chaos of cutbacks in the health sector.

In the Philippines, for instance, which is the world’s third highest remittance receiving country, women migrant workers have been the sole breadwinners for their family. Typically, women largely migrate to Europe and North America.

Still, with the change in the world order and the growth of newer economies, this flow is likely to change. Experts predict that the flow from the Global North to the Global South will shift, as migrants move into the fast growing economies of Asia, like China and India.

“Migration is going to continue because a single country will not have all the resources in and of itself. Even if technology advances, we are not going to put our children in the hands of a robot,” Dr. Francisco Cos Montiel, a senior research officer at UNU, told IPS.

Inkeri Von Hase, an expert on gender and migration issues, told IPS that “we have to prioritise women’s empowerment so they are able to realise their full potential.” The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was adopted in 2016 with this very aim to protect and empower migrant workers, has largely failed to take into account specific rights for women’s protection.

Still, all this is not to say that all women migrant workers are necessarily victims of sexual assault and discrimination at work. Many have found a renewed sense of agency and purpose, for instance, the women who have fled violence in Guatemala and El Salvador. To ensure they can continue to tread this path, however, it becomes crucial to adopt newer policies today.

It is also significant that many migrants have become de-skilled in the process of migration, and have settled for the first jobs they found, in a bid to earn money to send home.

The new recommendations by experts in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration report could be crucial to ensure the autonomy and independence of women migrant workers across the world.

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Rural Poverty? Cooperatives!http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/rural-poverty-cooperatives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-poverty-cooperatives http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/rural-poverty-cooperatives/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 17:00:14 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151037 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, Jun 24 2017 (IPS)

Humanity has had and has big projects. Mastery of nature is one, still going on. Middle range phenomena have been mastered, but not the micro level of viri–HIV is a current case–nor the macro level of climate–to the contrary, humanity is making it worse.

Johan Galtung

Another huge project can be called Material-somatic comfort, including health. Well-ness not ill-ness. Amazingly successful, look at an average day in what can be called the bourgeois way of life. As is well known, this second project may contradict the first project.

Other huge projects stand in line, calling on our attention.

Spiritual-mental comfort, also called happiness, well-being, is one, not to be to be confused with indicators of material-somatic comfort assuming that one automatically translates into the other.

Peace, both as absence of violence and as positive peace, being good to each other, is another. Between persons called friendship, love; problematic. Between nations, states, civilizations, regions very problematic. One reason: we may not have wanted it enough, too low priority relative to the others. And that also applies to:

Equality, both by lifting the bottom up meeting their needs and reducing gaps between high and low. There are those who get material and spiritual comfort from war and inequality like the present Trump-generals-billionaires regime in the USA; fascist with a strong and belligerent state and super-capitalist in its economy. With none of the socialist elements in Hitler’s nazism and Mussolini’s fascism. (*)

Inequality and violence, urban vs rural, hit those who produce and deliver food for all of us; one reason being urban fear of a delivery strike. China experiments with radical elimination of the urban-rural difference by moving industries to villages run by agricultural-industrial cooperatives, most or many working in both. Interesting, but let us look at cooperatives to master rural poverty.

Cooperatives as opposed to farms. Farms are companies with CEOs, farmers owning the land and family members and others tiling the soil. The risks are many: unmastered nature, conjunctures, food imports; the farms become indebted-impoverished, farmers starving, suicide.

The primary purpose of rural cooperatives is to feed themselves by sharing risks, and share gains on top of that. Members are both farmers and farm workers with risk-absorbing capacity and sharing.

Poor and unemployed from towns and cities may join, at least getting food in exchange for work. There may be mental aspects: old, lonely farmer couples wanting vacationing students as company, they also sustaining themselves.

The old farm = company is not good enough. Nor is capital buying all the land for single crop automated farming at the expense of both human and nature’s needs.

Rural cooperatives for rural uplift, Gandhi’s sarvodaya with villages as a productive units, means exactly that. Although this could go beyond Gandhi and be much more diverse, adjusted to local contexts.

Spain offers a fascinating example. Travel from Sevilla toward Cartagena, white, poor villages with farmers tilling small plots, the land often owned by absent land-owners, some unused, massive misery.

And then suddenly Marinaleda, a commune that became a rural cooperative by getting help from the region expropriating the land-owners, the population being paid according to the work input, run by general assemblies and setting aside funds for kindergarten-schools-health services, all free.

The mayor is the highly entrepreneurial Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo. Lad-owners all over Spain will do their best to prevent a repeat, but Gordillo has shown how it can be done. It will happen again.

A “modern” company offers low price-low quality products, pays workers and managers a minimum, the CEO a maximum for handing over the net profit to the board. In a cooperative, they are at the same level rotating among functions. Basic input work, not capital.

They are dramatically different. The jump is dramatic. Could it be more gradual, are there in-betweens?

Starting with customers-clients: “modern” business spies on them, gets their “profiles” from IT data for “matching” products. The method is that of dictatorships. In cooperatives, a producer-consumer dialogue between equals about products–like better cars, computers–is easy, developing products together. The method is that of democracy.

Take advertising in the media, with no chance for consumers to rebut, criticizing products. Dictators get some feedback, but the media treat ads as gospel truths for fear of losing advertisers. We need a culture of open product discussion and producers may find that this also serves their interests, not only those of consumers.

But companies could do better. “Marketing research” uses questionnaires and interviews, they could easily include dialogues.

Take the whole exploitation aspect, squeezing downward. Companies are now gradually accepting listing “negative side-effects”, especially for medicines. One day also for cars and computers and the rest.

Take the penetration of the human mind by what we often call “commercialization”, buying and selling, with few or no questions asked. And look at the list of Big Projects and bring them in–does this buying-and-selling serve peace? Equality?

Have a look at the price of the final product and break it down into what is paid for resources, capital, labor and profit. Customers have a right to know.

Take the segmentation of workers and of customers; trade unions and customers associations have brought them together. Good and decent companies would celebrate not fight, not marginalize them from decision-making but would include them as cooperatives do, by definition.

Treat the countryside badly, you get revenge: “Why Rural America Voted for Trump” (Robert Leonard, NYT 5 Jan 2017). Treat it well, let it have its own life, integrate rural and urban, and get a good country.

Note:

(*) “Half of World’s Wealth, in the Pockets of Just Eight Men” (Inter Press Service 16 Jan 2017). “Obscene”, pathological. Who are they? Bill Gates (Microsoft), Amancio Ortega (Zara), Warren Buffet (Hathaway), Carlos Slim (Carso), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Elison (Oracle), Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg). Six Americans, one Spaniard, one Mexican. Let Trump isolate America. America or the California-Canada-China-Mexico alliance gets the upper hand.

Johan Galtung’s article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS): TMS: Rural Poverty? Cooperatives!

The statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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Global Devaluation of Work Drives Up Unemployment in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-devaluation-work-drives-unemployment-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-devaluation-work-drives-unemployment-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-devaluation-work-drives-unemployment-brazil/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 03:04:37 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151034 In addition to driving up the number of unemployed people to 14.2 million, the severe recession of the last two years led Brazil to join the global trend of flexibilisation of labour laws in order to further reduce labour costs. Creating more jobs without affecting rights is the basic argument of the government and advocates […]

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Police officers use tear gas to crack down on a May 24 trade union march heading towards the Brazilian Congress to protest the projected labour and social security reforms which cut social rights. Credit: UGT

Police officers use tear gas to crack down on a May 24 trade union march heading towards the Brazilian Congress to protest the projected labour and social security reforms which cut social rights. Credit: UGT

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 24 2017 (IPS)

In addition to driving up the number of unemployed people to 14.2 million, the severe recession of the last two years led Brazil to join the global trend of flexibilisation of labour laws in order to further reduce labour costs.

Creating more jobs without affecting rights is the basic argument of the government and advocates of the reform that has made its way through the lower house of Congress but is pending a vote in the Senate, announced for the end of the month.

“Increasing job insecurity will be the consequence of this measure,” said Ricardo Antunes, sociology professor at the University of Campinas, in the southern state of São Paulo.

This process, which “completely undermines labour rights,” according to the academic, also includes a law on outsourcing in force since March, and a social security reform still in the initial stages in parliament, and whose approval is unlikely given the requirement of a special two-thirds majority in both houses.“Outsourcing does away with the employee-employer relationship, with workers frequently moved from one worksite or job to another. Workers lose their identity, no longer knowing if they are steelworkers or service providers, or to which category they belong.” -- Wagnar Santana

“This is a global trend that advances in a country depending on the level of resistance it runs into: slower where the trade union movement is strong, like in Germany and France, and faster where trade unionism is weaker, such as Great Britain and the United States,” Antunes told IPS.

In Brazil, workers are facing this offensive already weakened by unemployment, which is projected to remain high for a long time to come.

According to the state Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), unemployment stood at 13.7 per cent in the first three months of 2017, or 14.2 million people in a country of 207.6 million with a workforce of 103.1 million.

But underemployment amounted to 24.1 per cent, or 26.5 million people who work part-time or just a few hours a week or are considered only “potential” workers, the IBGE reported.

In addition, the lineup of forces in Congress is highly unfavourable to labour rights, with the government of President Michel Temer enjoying a vast majority, although it is vulnerable to allegations of corruption against the president and almost all of the leaders of the ruling coalition, who face possible prosecution in the Supreme Court.

The legislation proposed by the government “de-regulates labour relations, with arguments that reveal ignorance or bad faith,” argued Wagnar Santana, president-elect of the Union of Steelworkers of the ABC region, an industrial region in greater São Paulo that gave rise to the Workers’ Party (PT) and the CUT central union.

“This de-regulation did not increase employment in countries such as Spain, Mexico and Portugal, but instead drove up the rate of informal work. In Mexico, people who work for Volkswagen need another job as well to have a decent standard of living,” said the trade unionist, who works for the German car-maker.

Keeping formal labour rights such as a weekly day off and health coverage on the books means little without the possibility of enforcing them, due to the growth of informal work, employment instability and outsourcing, and the weakness of the trade union movement, he told IPS.

“Outsourcing does away with the employee-employer relationship, with workers frequently moved from one worksite or job to another. Workers lose their identity, no longer knowing if they are steelworkers or service providers, or to which category they belong,” complained Santana.

Trade unions have trouble organising, in the construction industry for example, where job rotation is frequent, he said.

If collective bargaining agreements between workers and employers trump labour laws, as the government’s proposed reform stipulates, the rights of workers would be undermined.

The strongest and best organised trade unions, such as the ones in large industrial cities, could negotiate better agreements and ensure that they are respected, but many others would not be able to. “That would end up weakening all of us, since we are not isolated,” said the trade unionist.

There are other factors that conspire against labour in Brazil, besides the high unemployment and the economic crisis aggravated by political troubles. The process of deindustrialisation weakens even the most combative trade unions, such as the steelworkers union.

The union of ABC, which represented up to 150,000 workers in the 1980s, currently has only 73,000 members, based in the municipalities of São Bernardo do Campo, Diadema, Ribeirão Pires and Rio Grande da Serra, after many ups and downs over the two past decades, Santana noted.

From the steelworkers of São Bernardo do Campo emerged trade unionist and political leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who founded the Workers Party (PT) in 1980, which he led to power the first day of 2003 and with which he governed Brazil until the last day of 2011, when he handed over the presidency to his fellow party member Dilma Rousseff, who was removed from office in August 2016.

The crisis and international competition also contributed to the rise in unemployment and to lower participation by industry in Brazil’s GDP.

But it is the devaluation of work at a global scale which Antunes attributes to the transnationalization of large companies, the new modes of production and the hegemony of finance capital, which has led to the setback in labour standards that is being pushed through in Brazil.

It is a return to “archaic” labour relations that is almost like a return to slavery, according to the expert in the sociology of labour. “Slaves used to be sold, now they are rented” through outsourcing, he said.

In 1995, Antunes published the book “Goodbye to Work?”, in which he discusses the trend towards increasing informality and precariousness of labour, and “21st century slavery”. “Precarious work used to be an exception, now it has become the rule,” he said.

One example is the British “zero-hour contract” where the employer is not required to provide any minimum working hours. One million people in the UK are working under these contracts, which puts them at the disposal of the company, to be called in to work when needed, and earning only for the hours they work, without full labour rights, said Antunes.

In Brazil this modality was included in the labour reform as “intermittent employment”.

The incorporation to the labour market of China’s huge reserves of labour power contributed to the devaluation of work around the world.

“They are qualified workers that the revolution fed and educated. Five years ago China offered poor quality industrial goods, today they have cutting-edge technology,” said the sociologist, adding that Asia has an enormous cheap labour force in countries like India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

The reduction of costs is widespread. “In Italy they are closing factories that are reopening in Poland or Hungary, cutting monthly wages from 2,000 to 300 euros,” he said, to illustrate.

“There is a new morphology of labour. In Brazil we have 1.5 million workers in ‘telemarketing’ that did not exist before. Remote work, through on-line connection by cellphone or computer, has become widespread,” he pointed out.

But the working class has grown, although it is “more fragmented and diverse than before, and subjected to online work”. New forms of protest are emerging, including “picketing and roadblocks”, in Argentina for example, instead of strikes, he said.

“The outlook for the future is one of struggle, rebellions, as well as repression, massacres. The 21st century will be one of social upheavals”, concluded Antunes.

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:02:36 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150978 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwide

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The world is heading into troubled waters as we are witnessing an unprecedented movement of people – refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) alike – fleeing from misery, poverty and conflicts. The refugee crisis that has swept across Europe and the Middle East is becoming the 21st century’s most protracted crisis with no immediate solution in sight. The world has not witnessed a more complex movement of people since the end of the Second World War; thousands of human beings undertake perilous and treacherous journeys in hope for a better and a safer future. Many of them perish during these hazardous journeys. How can we forget the words the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire who said:

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

The 2017 World Refugee Day is an important occasion to stand united with millions of refugees around the world. This international commemorative day was announced in 2001 following the adoption of Resolution 55/76 by the United Nations General Assembly on 12 February 2001. It also marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the “1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.” Although the traumas of the Second World War reminded the world of the importance of never ignoring the past, the contemporary crisis calls for concerted efforts to resolve the plight of refugees worldwide as a matter of urgency and to address the root causes of mass exodus, as a long-term strategy.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 21 million refugees worldwide. In 2017, there was an estimated 5 million Syrian refugees worldwide. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan – countries located in the Arab region – are also considered as source countries of refugees owing to the proliferation of conflicts and the rise of violent extremism.

The majority of these refugees have sought refuge in countries neighbouring their country of origin. In the Middle East, countries in the Arab region are hosting one of the highest number of refugees. More than 1 million people have found refuge in Lebanon, a country that has already welcomed more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees. Jordan is home to approximately 660,000 refugees, whereas Iraq and Egypt have welcomed around 240,000 and 120,000 refugees respectively despite internal upheavals and civil strife. On top of this, one can also add Turkey that is currently hosting nearly 3 million Syrian refugees.

On the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, several European countries have showed some support to address the plights of refugees from the Arab region. Germany and Sweden have taken adequate measures to accommodate the influx of refugees by welcoming 400,000 and 100,000 refugees respectively. Other countries such as France and the Netherlands have also pleaded to relocate refugees entrenched in refugee camps in transit countries such as Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Although a certain degree of solidarity is being expressed by European countries, the number of refugees being granted protection in rich Western countries constitutes a very small one-digit percentage of the population compared with countries in the Arab region. Despite being signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, many countries have decided to openly defy the acceptance of refugees belonging to certain religious faiths within their societies. Walls have been built in a misconceived attempt to exclude refugees from entering certain countries. The fearmongering and scapegoating of refugees have likewise given rise to a populist tidal wave. Right-wing movements use the contemporary refugee crisis to confer legitimacy on their aspirations to political power through whipping up xenophobia and through conflating Islam with terrorism.

During a panel debate that was held on 15 March 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) on the subject of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” several panellists underscored that these types of practices are contradictory to the core principles of Islam and Christianity preaching love, peace and tolerance towards people in need. Societies should stand united in addressing the rise of populism that is pervasive in many countries.

I would also like to call upon governments in the Middle East and in the West to work jointly to address the protracted refugee crisis. Rich countries have a moral responsibility to provide development assistance to poorer countries to achieve a more equitable burden sharing arrangement for hosting refugees. Countries in the West and in the Middle East need also to step up their joint efforts to eliminate the root causes which have fuelled extremism. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored before refugees can safely return to their home societies. This calls for a radical political change of approach in problem solving in the region.

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UN Work Stoppage in Geneva Halts Human Rights Meetinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/un-work-stoppage-geneva-halts-human-rights-meeting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-work-stoppage-geneva-halts-human-rights-meeting http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/un-work-stoppage-geneva-halts-human-rights-meeting/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 21:53:10 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150960 As UN staffers in Geneva threaten a strike, protesting a proposed salary cut of over 7.5 percent, a token two-hour “work stoppage” last week forced the Human Rights Council to suspend its meeting. But there is more to come, warned Ian Richards, President of the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA). […]

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UN Work Stoppage in Geneva Halts Human Rights Meeting

Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

As UN staffers in Geneva threaten a strike, protesting a proposed salary cut of over 7.5 percent, a token two-hour “work stoppage” last week forced the Human Rights Council to suspend its meeting.

But there is more to come, warned Ian Richards, President of the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA).

Richards told IPS that a strike would only ever be the last resort. But he accused the United Nations of failing to practice in its own backyard what it preaches to the rest of the world, particularly on labour and human rights.

“Had there been a proper negotiation system in place for staff to have a say in their salaries as the UN preaches to countries, we could have avoided all this.”

“Having said that”, he pointed out, “if there is no avenue for meaningful dialogue, UN staff will have no choice but to escalate their actions.” At the end of the day this isn’t about a budget cut, he noted.

Currently, the UN staff in Geneva number over 5,400 in the professional category of employees.

A resolution adopted by the Geneva staff, at an “extraordinary general meeting” early June, blamed the New York-based International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) for “failing to address the deep concerns and questions raised by staff federations and the heads of 10 Geneva-based agencies over the proposed cut to post adjustment that would result in a reduction in take-home pay of 7.5 per cent (or more).”

The agencies based in Geneva include the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Conference on Trade and Development, (UNCTAD), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Conference on Disarmament and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), among others.

The ICSC, which determines UN salary structures, has awarded staff in New York a pay rise of 2.2 percent, which they rightfully deserve, said Richards. “In the end it’s about some pushing to see what they can get away with,” he added.

The CCISUA will be joined by the 30,000-strong Federation of International Civil Servants Association (FICSA) in any collective action.

The Human Rights Council, the primary UN body dealing with human rights, was forced to suspend its sittings last Friday, but the Geneva staff decided not to disrupt a meeting negotiating an end to the long-drawn-out Syrian civil war which has triggered one of the world’s major humanitarian crises.

Rolando Gómez, Public Information Officer of the Human Rights Council Branch of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva confirmed to IPS about the suspension of the Human Rights Council meeting, resulting from the work stoppage.

“It was the first time such a suspension took place at the Council for such a reason,” he added.

Gomez said the Human Rights Council recognises the right of UN staff to demonstrate against the proposed pay cut and did not wish to take any action that would prevent them from doing so.

“The Council also reiterates its immense gratitude to UN staff at Geneva for the first-rate, indispensable assistance they provide in servicing their meetings throughout the year,” he declared.

Meanwhile, in a letter to staff unions in Geneva, Michael Møller, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG), said staff representatives have informed the Executive Heads of all Geneva-based common system organizations that they are “planning actions throughout this summer, including work stoppages” with respect to the recent decision of the ICSC on post adjustment levels in Geneva.

This is also refers to an email last week from the UNOG Staff Council with the heading: “Upcoming work stoppage”.

“UN Geneva recognizes and respects the right of staff to freedom of association. Staff are allowed to meet on the UN Geneva premises in a non-disruptive representative manner. UN Geneva also acknowledges the dissatisfaction of staff resulting from the ISCS’s determination on post adjustment for Geneva.”

The letter further warned: “Notwithstanding the above, staff are reminded that actions which disrupt or otherwise interfere with any meeting or other official activity of the Organization, may be considered in contravention to the obligations under staff rule 1.2 (g). This includes any and all conduct which is intended, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the ability of staff or delegates to discharge their official functions.”

Based on guidance from UNHQ (in New York), staff are also reminded that action, such as work stoppage or other collective action, may be considered as unauthorized absence in line with staff regulations and rules, the letter added.

He also said that staff should take note that discussions are still ongoing with the ICSC regarding the implementation of the post adjustment changes, “and we should all ensure that we do not to jeopardize the outcome of such discussions.”

“This is also to call on all of us to act professionally and in a manner befitting our status as international civil servants,” the letter added.

Richards told IPS: “We’re disappointed that UN management should have resorted to threatening staff.”

Asked for his comments, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters last week: “The guidance we have from our colleagues in Geneva is that they fully acknowledge the right of staff to freedom of association, which is a basic right. Staff were allowed to meet on the UN… on the premises in Geneva in a non disruptive manner.”

“I think our colleagues in Geneva have acknowledged the dissatisfaction of staff resulting from the issues having to do with the International Civil Service Commission on post adjustments in Geneva. My understanding is that negotiations are still going on, on the implementation of these issues, but we’re all international civil servants, and we need to respect the rules,” he noted.

Richards also said that staff from organizations across Geneva took part in the work stoppage, with the aim of sending a strong message to New York management and the ICSC, that Geneva staff won’t allow their pay to be cut on the basis of absence of negotiations and numerous questions raised about the data and calculations.

“During the stoppage we held a staff meeting, attended by a large number of staff, including directors and staff from HR and security. We have a video which shows a lot of anger.”

Asked what the next step would be, Richards said: “Next steps are the report from a group of statisticians who visited the ICSC last week to check their data and calculations. The ICSC will revisit the issue in Vienna in July and we hope will change their conclusions.”

“It is important to note, he said, that this isn’t about budget cuts, as New York, where ICSC is based, recently got a 2.2 percent pay rise. However, the un-transparent approach used by the ICSC means that another 85 duty stations could be in line for a cut,” he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Africa: Drought and Jobless, Hopeless Youth, Fertile Grounds for Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 06:27:56 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150944 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

“The on-going drought in the Horn of Africa is widespread, triggering a regional humanitarian crisis with food insecurity skyrocketing, particularly among livestock-owning communities, and devastating livelihoods” - FAO. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME/OUAGADOUGOU, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

Ignoring the plight of jobless young people in sub-Saharan Africa is a recipe for political instability and global insecurity, warned a high-level symposium of Africa’s interior, environment and foreign affairs ministers in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The high-level symposium, which was held ahead of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) marked on June 17, stressed that Africa’s heavy reliance on the natural resource base for livelihoods is a challenge, and its mismanagement increases household risks and amplifies the vulnerability of millions of people.

This was the first time high-ranking officials drawn from Africa’s foreign affairs, environment and interior ministries met jointly to find solutions to Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men.“Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.” Monique Barbut

Participating ministers called for support to create land-based jobs in the rural areas to ward off the temptation for the most disillusioned to take up alternative but dangerous sources of income.

They called for the identification of sites where tenure or access to land rights can be secured and provided to vulnerable at-risk-groups.

The high-ranking officials also called for partnerships to create 2 million secure land-based jobs through rehabilitation of 10 million hectares of degraded land.

As well, they called for investment in rural infrastructure, rehabilitation tools and skills development and prioritisation of job creation in unstable and insecure areas.

The symposium examined the threats connected to sustainability, stability and security, namely, conflicts linked to access to degrading natural resources, instability due to unemployment of rural youth and insecurity and the risk of the radicalization triggered by social and economic marginalization and exposure to extremist groups.

Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

A young person helps out in his family farm in Gitaramaka village, Karusi Province, Burundi. Today’s generation of young people aged 15 to 24 is the largest in history. Governments around the world face the challenge of providing young people with jobs and opportunities that safeguard their futures. Credit: ©IFAD/Susan Beccio

Drought, Unemployment and Hopelessness, Fertile Grounds for Extremism

Presidents Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali and Mahammadou Issoufou of Niger stressed that drought, food insecurity, water scarcity, unemployment, hopelessness about the future and poverty are fertile grounds for extremism, and a sign of insecurity, instability and unsustainability.

Two days earlier, more than 400 civil society representatives from African participated in their World Day observance, also in Ouagadougou, and organised by Spong, a local non-governmental organisation, to prepare for the International Summit of Non-State Actors titled, Desertif’actions 2017, to be held on 27 and 28 June 2017 in Strasbourg, France, which will be dedicated to land degradation and climate change, bringing together 300 stakeholders from 50 countries.

The outcomes of the Strasbourg Summit will be presented to the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to be held in Ordos, China, in September 2017, and the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention.

“Frustrations Will Boil over with More Migration and More Conflict”

According to Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, more than 375 million young people will enter Africa’s job market over the next 15 years, of whom 200 million be living in the rural areas.

Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

FAO makes massive strides in famine prevention programme in Somalia. Credit: FAO

“Millions of rural young people face an uncertain future due to the lack of decent rural jobs and continuous loss of livelihoods due to land degradation and falling yields…Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.”

The challenge is bigger than just a matter of a million young African’s attempting to make the move towards Europe over the course of a year, she said, adding that the UK Ministry of Defence estimates up to 60 million Africans are at risk of distressed migration as a result of land degradation and desertification pressures in the next two decades.

“Imagine what could happen if each of you committed to rehabilitate 100,000 hectares of land in your respective countries… If young people in Africa were given the chance to bring that natural capital back to life and into production… With the right type of investments in land, rural infrastructure and skills development, the future in your region can be bright.”

During the celebrations, Barbut announced the two winners of the prestigious Land for Life Award: Practical Action Sudan/UNEP from South Sudan; Watershed Organization Trust from India.

The Land for Life China award was given to Ms Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, China.

The winners show that restoration of degraded land can halt distress migration that is driven by unproductive land resources, Barbut said. “Families and communities are transformed and become more resilient towards climate change when job opportunities are created.”

The 1st African Action Summit by Heads of State and Government held in Marrakesh in 2016 launched the Sustainability, Stability and Security initiative – the 3S Initiative – with a commitment to speed up the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands as a means to create jobs for rural youth.

According to Batio Bassiere, Minister of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change, Burkina Faso, his country, on average, loses 360,000 hectares of land to degradation every year, with significant impacts on 85 per cent of the population that lives off agriculture and pastoral activities.

As stated in the theme of the World Day to Combat Desertification, Our Land, Our Home, Our Future must be preserved against all forms of degradation or desertification, said the minister.

Burkina Faso is now among the 110 countries that to-date have committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target of land degradation neutrality by 2030, he said.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. It promotes good land stewardship, and its 196 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to UNCCD, the end goal is to protect our land, from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy.

“By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality, now and in the future, we will reduce the impact of climate change, avoid conflict over natural resources and help communities to thrive.”

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IFAD’s President Houngbo Calls for Investment in Climate-Smart Agriculture for Poverty-Free Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 11:26:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150919 Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) new president Gilbert Houngbo. Approximately 20 million are at the brink of starvation. Over 65 million have been forcibly displaced by conflict. One in five people in developing regions live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, […]

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Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to IFAD's new president Gilbert Houngbo

IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo's first official visit to Uganda where he met with small holder farmers in financial saving groups. Credit: IFAD

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) new president Gilbert Houngbo.

Approximately 20 million are at the brink of starvation.

Over 65 million have been forcibly displaced by conflict.

One in five people in developing regions live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, and many risk slipping back into poverty.

A former Prime Minister of Togo, Houngbo entered IFAD’s presidency at a time of extreme suffering around the world. Though the global picture seems bleak, Houngbo remains optimistic and highlights the importance of long-term investments and development in agriculture in rural areas.

Though often neglected, rural areas are home to 80 percent of the world. Such areas are also responsible for most countries’ agriculture, and small farms in particular account for up to 80 percent of food production in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia.

Agriculture is therefore often the main route out of poverty and food insecurity for rural people, and focus on it will allow for progress in the internationally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, climate change is among the challenges that stand in the way.

As World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought approaches, IPS spoke to Houngbo briefly about the ambitious goals and increasingly complex challenges to make hunger and poverty things of the past.

Q: How realistic is it to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2030? Is this feasible? If not, why? What are or what could be some of the obstacles in trying to achieve those goals?

A: I’m maybe the wrong person to ask this question because I’m always really optimistic. When we started 2000 with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), everybody said that nothing there was realistic. Yet, we know that a lot has been achieved.

I do believe it is doable. Yes, it is very challenging. The point for me is not to say there is no more famine—that can happen as much as it is contained and eradicated quickly and that too is a challenge.

The most important thing for us to increase our chances to achieve the goal by 2030 is to make sure that one, we focus on long-term investment. Second, we also deal with the governance and the leadership dimension to minimize the risk of civil unrest—that’s the nexus of the common famine and the man-made crises.

But the long-term investment and scaling up what has been working really well is important. And I was hoping that with innovation, not only in technology, but among the small-scale or smallholder [farmers] we are focusing on—by adopting much more climate smart agricultural techniques and with innovation, it’s really doable.

Yes, the population is increasing. We need to increase food production by 60 percent by 2050. You have to see that as an opportunity for the smallholders to also increase [yields] and make money. Productivity for me and innovation is really the source.

Q: Would information and communication technologies (ICTs) be helping rural development in terms of food production?

A: Not only food production but also food transformation and access and the linkage to the food system. And to the market at the national level, regional level, or international level.

So we need to also look at agriculture not just as producing food but also business, as a way for the smallholders, for the rural citizens to earn in their daily lives a decent income, so that they don’t feel like they need to move to the city or move out of the country. So we are also talking about a rural transformation.

Q: Do you think advances in ICTs could threaten farmers because of the mechanization of certain jobs?

A: No, I don’t think so.

A couple of year ago a report issued not by IFAD but by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) demonstrated very clearly that yes there will be some jobs that will be lost in some sectors, but also when you think about the jobs that will be created, the net result is a positive. So we should not see that as an issue.

To the contrary, I do not think that commercial farms will ever replace the smallholder farms. In Africa, in Asia today, the smallholders are responsible for 80 percent of the [food] production. What we need to do is to bring technology that will help productivity and that will help with quick access to capital, access to the markets. By bringing that technology, coupled with what I call a rural transformation, then we will make it.

In other words, when you bring the technology here today, in a lot of low-income countries, agriculture contributes 25-35 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) compared to most advanced economies where agriculture will contribute maybe 5 percent or 2 percent of the GDP.

So it’s true that over time, you will also expect the low-income countries’ agricultural contributions to decrease. That’s why people worry that there will be unemployment. But on the contrary, if you are doing the rural transformation instead of being at the production level, they might be at the transformation level or there may also be a vocational training in other domains yet remain at the rural level.

Q: Do you think that the United States’ announcement to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is a setback? How are member states strategizing with IFAD to advance climate mitigation and adaptation?

A: First of all, we need to respect the decisions made by member states, whether it be the U.S. or any other country. I want to be very clear that we have to respect their decisions.

Secondly, our plan integrating climate-smart agriculture in our assistance to rural areas is very high on the agenda of all our member states. Obviously, I am concerned about the possible impact on the Green Climate Fund, and therefore the ability of the smallholders to access that financing.

I hope that one way or the other, the international community will find a way to overcome this new challenge.

Q: Do you have a message for the upcoming World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought?

A: For me, it is important that we start really thinking about the techniques that will help us in embedding climate-smart agriculture.

In Africa, for example, it is really affordable and basic irrigation systems and the use of climate or drought-resistant seeds and so forth—that will really help. But really it’s the irrigation dimension that I would like to encourage, to find ways to make it affordable, particularly in Africa because compared to Asia, Africa is very, very much behind.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a UN specialised agency which invests in rural areas of developing countries to help eradicate poverty and hunger.

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Women, Still Major Victims of Sharp Disparities at Workplaceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/women-still-major-victims-sharp-disparities-workplaces/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-still-major-victims-sharp-disparities-workplaces http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/women-still-major-victims-sharp-disparities-workplaces/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 18:37:48 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150905 Reducing gender disparities at workplaces by 25 per cent by 2025 could inject nearly 5.8 trillion dollars into the global economy and boost tax revenues, according to a United Nations report, ahead of the UN Labour Organization’s Summit on “A better future for women at work” on June 15. The new report released by the […]

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Reducing gender disparities at workplaces by 25 per cent by 2025 could inject nearly 5.8 trillion dollars into the global economy and boost tax revenues

The ILO encourages decent employment opportunities. Credit: ILO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 15 2017 (IPS)

Reducing gender disparities at workplaces by 25 per cent by 2025 could inject nearly 5.8 trillion dollars into the global economy and boost tax revenues, according to a United Nations report, ahead of the UN Labour Organization’s Summit on “A better future for women at work” on June 15.

The new report released by the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) informs that even though women are significantly less likely to participate in the labour market than men, once they manage to enter the labour market, finding work remains even more difficult for them their male counterparts.

Helping women access the labour market is nevertheless an important first step,” said ILO, noting that in 2017, the global labour force participation rate for women –at just over 49 per cent– is nearly 27 percentage points lower than for men.

This figure is forecast to remain unchanged in 2018.

ILO on June 15 held a Summit on “A better future for women at work” in Geneva to discuss how to shape a better future for women at work.

Further recalling the commitment expressed by leaders of the Group of the 20 most industrialised countries (G20) in 2014, to reduce the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by the year 2025, the ILO report World Employment and Social Outlook Trends for Women 2017, estimates that some 5.8 trillion dollars could be added to the world economy.

Reducing gender disparities at workplaces by 25 per cent by 2025 could inject nearly 5.8 trillion dollars into the global economy and boost tax revenues

A woman walks to work in Singapore. Credit: ILO/Giorgio Taraschi

“This could also unlock large potential tax revenues, in particular in countries in the North Africa, Arab and Southern Asia regions.”

In addition to the significant economic benefits, engaging more women in the world of work would have a positive impact on their well-being since most women would like to work.

“The fact that half of women worldwide are out of the labour force when 58 per cent of them would prefer to work at paid jobs is a strong indication that there are significant challenges restricting their capabilities and freedom to participate,” said Deborah Greenfield, the ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy.

“The most immediate concern for policy makers, therefore, should be to alleviate the constraints that women face in choosing to enter the labour market and address the barriers they are confronted with once they are in the workplace,” she added.

Attitudes on Women and Men ‘Roles’ Have to Change

Furthermore, the ILO report also highlights the need to “redefine the roles” of men and women at the workplace.

“We need to start by changing our attitudes towards the role of women in the world of work and in society. Far too often some members of society still fall back on the excuse that it is ‘unacceptable’ for a woman to have a paid job,” said Steven Tobin, the lead author of the report.

The report also emphasises the need to promote equal pay for work of equal value; tackle root causes of occupational and sectoral segregation; recognise, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work; as well as transforming institutions to prevent and eliminate discrimination, violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work.

Policies should also address the socio-economic factors that influence participation by introducing policies that improve work-family balance, create and protect quality jobs in the care economy and target the macroeconomic environment and informal economy, according to Tobin.

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Migrant Workers Pour Trillions into World Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/migrant-workers-pour-trillions-world-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-workers-pour-trillions-world-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/migrant-workers-pour-trillions-world-economy/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 16:54:12 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150891 A new report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says the flow of money from migrants—commonly located in developed countries—to their families in lower income countries has doubled over the last decade. Dubbed the remittance flow, it increased by 51 percent—from 296 billion dollars in 2007 to 445 billion in 2016—lifting families out […]

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Press Conference on IFAD report at the UN Foundation (06/14/17)

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 15 2017 (IPS)

A new report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says the flow of money from migrants—commonly located in developed countries—to their families in lower income countries has doubled over the last decade.

Dubbed the remittance flow, it increased by 51 percent—from 296 billion dollars in 2007 to 445 billion in 2016—lifting families out of poverty across the world.

Migrants in the United States typically send the largest amount of money, making the U.S. the biggest benefactor, closely followed by Saudi Arabia and Russia, according to the report.

In fact, the top ten countries, largely in Europe and the Gulf Council, account for half of the annual flows.

The increase in flow of money brings good news. First, it increases the leverage of migrant workers all over the world. Second, it boosts sustainable development in countries which benefit from the money, notably China, India and the Philippines, which tops this list.

Asia receives nearly 55 percent of the total money sent from developed countries.

The money sent is used by families to achieve personal goals, such as improving healthcare, educa-tion and food security. This is why, despite the seemingly staggering numbers, Gilbert F. Houngbo, the President of IFAD, said “It is not about the money being sent home, it is about the impact on people’s lives.”

Still, even if the leading blocs account for half of the flow, they represent a tiny fraction of their country’s GDP.

For instance, migrant earnings in the U.S. account for almost 4 percent of the GDP, while the money they send back to their families represents only 0.65 percent of the GDP.

Generally, 85 percent of a migrant’s income remains within the host country.

The value of the money sent back cannot be underestimated—most families rely on this income, which can make up to 60 percent of the household income in rural areas.

However, many criticize the high costs of transactions, especially in rural areas which receive the bulk of remittances.

Pedro de Vasconcelos, lead author of the IFAD report speaks at a press conference (06/14/17).

Speaking about the prospect of building better infrastructure to ensure easy and cheap flow of money, Pedro de Vasconcelos, the lead author of the report, told IPS that it was particularly im-portant in rural areas, “where remittances count the most, and where we can have them count more.” He added that “simply opening a saving account can transform the lives of people” and can go a long way towards eradicating poverty.

In the end, there is a lot of room for innovation and growth as the demand for migrant labour will continue to grow in developed countries.

To understand the scale of this flow, it is important to understand the number of people involved: one in every seven people in the world is directly impacted—either as a sender or a beneficiary. This means that a billion people in the world are involved in the transaction in some way. Even when times get tough, as during the financial crisis of 2008, remittance flows remained steady.

There are two overarching reasons that explain the growth of the flow, and why it’ll continue.

First, it reflects the demand for migrant labour as populations in high-income countries grow older with advances in medicine.

Second, migrant workers are committed to make ends meet for their families at home, and readily make sacrifices—such as eating fewer meals—to ensure money they can send home. This is why this corridor of money has been increasingly referred to as “Family Remittances.”

The flow of money has greatly exceeded migratory flow, which only grew by 28 percent over the last decade. This means that there are as many 800 million people across the world who are reliant on migrant workers, who are about 200 million in number.

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East Asian Miracle Myth Makinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/east-asian-miracle-myth-making/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=east-asian-miracle-myth-making http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/east-asian-miracle-myth-making/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 10:28:19 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150876 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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At the World Bank, the Japanese Executive Director argued that the Washington Consensus menu of policy advice and conditionalities had resulted in the 1980s’ ‘lost decade’ in Latin America and Africa. In contrast, the East Asian region had seen rapid growth and industrialization. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 14 2017 (IPS)

Even before the term ‘Washington Consensus’ (WC) was popularized, it was already coming under great criticism despite the ‘counter-revolutions’ against ‘development economics’ and Keynesian economics associated with Thatcherism and Reaganomics. At the World Bank, the Japanese Executive Director argued that the WC menu of policy advice and conditionalities had resulted in the 1980s’ ‘lost decade’ in Latin America and Africa. In contrast, the East Asian region had seen rapid growth and industrialization.

At Japanese government expense, the Bank published the East Asian Miracle (EAM) volume in 1993. But instead of recognizing that the WC was in fact the problem, the volume contributed to the myth-making which ensured its continued influence for years thereafter.

The EAM study’s eight high-performing Asian economies (HPAEs) consisted of Japan, Hong Kong and three first-generation newly industrializing economies (NIEs), namely South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, and three second-generation South East Asian newly industrializing countries (NICs), namely Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, but excluded China.

It identified six types of state interventions in East Asia, only approving four ‘functional’ interventions, said to compensate for ‘market failures’, namely:
– ensuring macroeconomic discipline and balances;
– providing physical and social infrastructure;
– raising savings and investment rates; and
– providing good governance.

Macroeconomic balance
Although no one recommends reckless macroeconomic policies, there is little consensus on what constitutes sound macroeconomic policy. Although most ‘neoliberal’ economists insist on maintaining macroeconomic balances, they rarely agree on what this implies, while Keynesian economists favour counter-cyclical policies to address business cycles.

For instance, inflation was generally kept under 20 per cent in the HPAEs, but certainly not always below 10 per cent. Single digit inflation was not a common and consistent policy priority of all HPAEs during their high-growth periods. Hence, for example, Indonesia depreciated its currency regularly for many decades.

Similarly, the fiscal balance and the current account of the balance of payments were not always strictly maintained as the Bretton Woods institutions came to insist for the developing world. Many HPAEs ran large fiscal deficits to ensure high growth.

Infrastructure
Since the 1980s, the Bank has increasingly urged private provision of physical infrastructure. Except in Hong Kong, a British colony until 1993, most physical infrastructure in East Asia was provided by governments until fairly recently. HPAEs privatizing physical infrastructure provision became the basis for powerful private monopolies associated with ‘cronyism’, later blamed for the 1997-1998 Asian crisis.

Governments have been extremely important in providing social services in East Asia. But the Bank recommends universal and free primary education, and does not recommend subsidization beyond the primary level, when students should bear the full costs. Hence, about half the young people of age in Korea get tertiary education, while the shares are well over a quarter in other first-generation East Asian NIEs. If East Asian NIEs had listened to the Bank, their progress would have been slowed considerably.

Savings and investments
For some, the region’s rapid growth and industrialization were simply due to high investment and labour participation rates, rather than productivity gains: ‘perspiration rather than inspiration’. While conventional economic wisdom attributes high investment rates to high savings rates, savings rates have, in fact, followed – rather than determined – investment rates in East Asia.

After all, much of the high East Asian savings rates are due to firm savings, rather than just household savings. East Asian firms were generally able to enjoy high profits due to government interventions, subsidies, tax breaks and other incentives for favoured investments. Government policy also induced high reinvestment of these profits.

And contrary to the myth that East Asians are ‘culturally’ thrifty, unlike others, household savings in East Asia are not significantly higher than elsewhere, except for ‘forced savings’ – for employees’ retirement as mandated by law – and for children’s education.

Good governance
The notion of good governance is often used ambiguously, even tautologically. When the economy is doing well, it is attributed to good governance, and when it is not, governance is deemed to have been poor. Hence, governance does not really explain economic performance.

Instead, Mushtaq Khan has shown that developed countries generally score well on good governance indicators while developing countries do not. Governance indicators do not clearly distinguish developing countries growing rapidly from those which do not.

In the late 1960s, economics Nobel laureate Gunnar Myrdal argued, in his three volume Asian Drama, that ‘strong government’ was good for development. However, his notion of strong government is often misunderstood or misrepresented, and associated with despotic government rather than developmental governance, i.e., governance arrangements prioritizing acceleration of development.

Peter Evans’ notion of the ‘embedded autonomy’ of the developmental state has been used to explain developmental governance. Autonomy from powerful and influential ‘vested interests’, ‘distributional coalitions’ and ‘rent seekers’ ensures that ‘special interest groups’ do not usurp government for their own ends. Thus, Evans’ notion tries to explain conditions for developmental governance to better co-ordinate rapid progress.

Thus, the very policies that the Bank endorsed as ‘market friendly’ were actually quite ‘distortive’. Market outcomes had to be modified to support East Asia’s rapid growth and structural transformation. However, while some policies became less effective or even dysfunctional as circumstances changed, the Washington Consensus menu of economic liberalization and privatization largely undermined the region’s rapid progress.

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Child Labor in the Arab Region Does Not Belong to the 21st Centuryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 19:08:57 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150860 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

Today marks the 2017 World Day against Child Labor to reaffirm the goal to eliminate all forms of child labor. This year’s annual theme highlights a subject that is often neglected, namely the importance of addressing child labor in conflict areas and in disaster settings.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The United Nations (UN) estimates that approximately 1.5 billion people live in conflict areas around the world. It is likewise projected that around 200 million people are affected annually by disasters whether related to man-made environmental devastations, to natural hazards or to other types of catastrophes.

Out of these figures, 168 million children worldwide are affected by child labor in conflict and in disaster settings. Asia and the Pacific has the highest incidence with approximately 78 million (9.3%) followed by Sub-Saharan Africa with 59 million (21%) and Latin America and the Caribbean with 13 million (8.8%). 9.2 million children – 8.4% of the total figures – are engaged in child labor in the Middle East and in North Africa.

Child labor is prohibited by several legal conventions. ILO Convention No. 182 often referred to as the “Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention” provides important guidelines on the worst types of child labor that need to be prohibited and eliminated by States. ILO Convention No. 138 entitled “Minimum Age Convention” likewise upholds in Article 7 that children at an early age should not undertake employment considered “to be harmful to their health or development.”

Although the incidence of child labor in the Middle East and in North Africa is lower than in other parts of the world, it remains a major challenge for many countries in the Arab region owing to the proliferation of conflicts.

The war in Syria is a major humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century. Several hundred thousand civilians have died, whereas it is estimated that approximately 7.6 million people are internally displaced and 4.8 million are refugees. A figure that is often left unaddressed is the incidence of child labor involving Syrian refugee and displaced children. According to several think-thanks, these children perform hazardous work and hard labor under harsh and unsustainable working conditions. Organized crime groups exploit children for financial gains. Child labor has now reached a disturbing level among Syrian refugee children.

Yemen has also witnessed the growth of child labor owing to the war that is unfolding in the country. According to a joint UNHCR-IOM press release issued in February 2017, it was concluded that the deteriorating situation in Yemen has pushed children into “danger and adversity” including child labor and hazardous work. Other Arab countries facing turmoil and civil war – such as Libya and Iraq – also experience a resurgence of child labor as a result of the disintegration and the fragmentation of these societies.

Despite this troubling context, there is hope in the horizon. I am pleased that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underscore the importance of addressing and of ending child labor. SDG 8.7 stipulates the need to end child labor “in all its forms” by 2025. I invite all Arab states to work jointly towards the realization of this imperative goal by 2030. Arab States have showed great dedication and commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); I remain convinced that similar progress will be realized vis-à-vis the SDGs.

The deteriorating security situation and the growing threat of famine throw societies into a situation of despair and instability. The lack of employment, decent work and poverty provide fertile ground for child labor to prosper as the only hope for economically disadvantaged families is to send their children – in particular girls – to engage in child labor. To reverse this trend, war-torn societies need to be allowed to return to a modicum of peace and stability guaranteeing families safe living conditions and peaceful prospects. The return to peace is the first step towards the full elimination of child labor.

Lastly, despite a massive influx of refugees and internally displaced persons to Europe, the heaviest burden by far is borne by Muslim societies in neighbouring countries bordering war-torn countries of departure of refugees and other migrants. It is therefore important to step up the efforts of the international community to provide adequate support and assistance to such countries welcoming a high percentage of migrants and refugees including children in relation to their own population.

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What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:11:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150818 With a combined population of around 400 million inhabitants, 22 Arab countries are home to nearly 300 million youth. Meantime, there are 400 million youth living in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, these 700 million young people aged 15–24 years account for up to 60 per cent of world’s youth population. What future […]

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Women and girls in the garment industry are often subject to forced overtime and low wages, and on domestic workers because of the unprotected nature of their work. Credit: ILO / A. Khemka

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

With a combined population of around 400 million inhabitants, 22 Arab countries are home to nearly 300 million youth. Meantime, there are 400 million youth living in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, these 700 million young people aged 15–24 years account for up to 60 per cent of world’s youth population. What future for them?.

Not an easy question, especially if you consider that the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region faces a bulk of huge challenges: from fast growing population to increasing food insecurity; from armed conflicts (Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Iraq) to climate driven instability and massive displacement and migration.

Let alone the widening gender gap—in fact only 13.5 per cent of female youth are economically active, compared to around 50 per cent per cent of male youth.

All the above occurs amidst record high unemployment rates, reaching and average of 30 per cent in the whole region, with peaks of up to 55 per cent in the case of war-torn Yemen.

This challenge is aggravated by the fact that young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as over four times in the Arab states.

Asian Youth
In Asia and the Pacific, youth appear not to be much better off. There, in 2015, nearly 40 million youth –12 per cent of the youth labour force– were unemployed. Although this was less than the global youth unemployment rate of 13 per cent, it varied by sub-region.

In 2015, for example, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at around 12.9 per cent in South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.7 per cent in East Asia and 10.7 per cent in South Asia.

Here, despite relatively low youth unemployment rates, young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as 5.4 times in South-Eastern Asia (over four times in Southern Asia).

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF / Tapash Paul

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF / Tapash Paul


This region faces as well a huge gender gap. In South Asia, low female participation (19.9 per cent) is estimated to be nearly 40 percentage points lower than among youth males (53 per cent). And the gender gap in labour force participation rates has been widening over the last decade in South Asia.

Experts from national regional and international organisations have worked hard on finding solutions. One of them, the International Labour Organization, UNESCO, UN Population Fund, World Bank, among others, emphasise the need for education, which will determine the livelihoods of 700 million people in the these two regions and drive growth and development for generations to come.

They also coincide in warning that while significant policy developments have focused on these challenges, including school-to-work transitions and skill mismatches, further coordinated efforts are needed to address obstacles to productive employment and decent work for all youth and thereby help to properly unleash their potential.

Asian and Arab Parliamentarians to Meet
In addition to international experts, analysts and organisations, parliamentarians as direct, elected representatives of people, are set to meet next month in Amman under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs.”

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), this Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development, will on 18-20 July discuss in the Jordanian capital, the above challenges and ways how to face them.

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif / IPS

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif / IPS


The Amman meeting will be hosted by the Jordanian Senate, the Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), with the support of the Japan Trust Fund (JTF); the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

The Jordanian capital’s meeting will be followed by a two specific ones: Africa-Asia in New Delhi at mid of September, and an event on ageing, scheduled to take place in Korea end of October.

Annual Parliamentarian Meetings
Since its establishment, APDA has been holding the annual Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development to promote understanding and increase awareness of population and development issues among Japanese, Asian, and Pacific parliamentarians.

APDA sends Japanese and Asian parliamentarians overseas to observe projects conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japanese Government.

Similarly, parliamentarians from selected countries are invited to Japan to visit facilities in areas such as population and development, health and medical care. Through exchange between parliamentarians from Japan and other countries, the programme aims to strengthen cooperation and promote parliamentarians’ engagement in the field of population and development.

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Renewing Commitment to SDGs: Private Sector Gets Activehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/renewing-commitment-to-sdgs-private-sector-gets-active/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=renewing-commitment-to-sdgs-private-sector-gets-active http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/renewing-commitment-to-sdgs-private-sector-gets-active/#respond Tue, 06 Jun 2017 09:19:55 +0000 Paloma Duran http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150766 Paloma Duran is Director of the Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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By Paloma Duran
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 6 2017 (IPS)

Just last month business representatives from around the world joined the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Fund commemorate their work as part of the Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG).

For much of the last two years, the group has been collaborating with the Fund on how the business community can work towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN’s roadmap to promote inclusive economic growth, social justice and environmental protection.

This group of businesses committed to sustainability has accomplished a number of goals since it was formed in 2015, including establishing a set of pioneering public-private partnerships in areas such as food security, education, and employment for women and youth.

The group has served as an important link between the business sector and SDG Fund partners to raise awareness about the SDGs, participate in research on public-private partnerships and promote best practices. Under our ongoing strategy, the group will intensify its work on advancing and advocating for greater inclusion linked to the goals and helping us widen our private-sector approach.

Advocacy and outreach

The PSAG continues to play a vital role in informing the SDG Fund on how businesses can better work with partners at the UN, particularly how they can improve people’s living standards and make investments that will create more jobs. It’s also become clear that companies are slowly embracing and adopting the Sustainable Development Goals in their strategies — working on projects that align with their core business and interest and adhere to a larger framework

In fact, the SDG Fund has engaged new private sector partners to generate a number of key initiatives, including the Food Africa Project in Nigeria, an innovative partnership between private enterprise, UN and government agencies, and renowned chefs that aims to alleviate poverty through food security.

At the SDG Fund, it is clear that companies are eager to think more expansively on their role in development, and business of all sizes are demonstrating that they can effectively incorporate SDGs as a part of their strategic planning.

There are a few signs that we are on track, especially as members of the Private Sector Advisory Group continue to provide valuable perspective about building new partnerships to eradicate poverty, achieve food security and improve nutrition, water access and sanitation. Since joining the group, many companies have successfully incorporated the SDGs into their work and sustainability reports.

For example, Nutresa and Sahara Group now report annual results and sustainability activities using SDG goals and indicators. More than half of the members are engaging with the SDG Fund to create public-private partnerships and working to design and co-create programs in the field. Equally encouraging is that new companies, like Intel have joined the group.

It is probably worth noting that a business as usual approach is no longer possible. Thankfully, the number of businesses interested in joining forces on the SDGs has been encouraging. Companies like Ebro Foods have used the power of social media to raise awareness about a new initiative that brings together philanthropists, governments and academics.

Other milestones include the engagement of UN Goodwill Ambassadors – the Roca Brothers. The master chef brothers have committed to bringing attention to the SDGs and using their expertise to advocate for enhanced food security and access to nutritious food. They are working with local partners to provide guidance on how to improve food industry and agricultural practices to protect the environment and create jobs.

In 2017, working with our public and private sector partners we have witnessed how companies have continued to deepen their knowledge of the SDGs, asking key questions and exploring how their organizations can contribute to the global development agenda. This has come to mean everything from devising innovative partnership agreements to investing in large-scale infrastructure or improving agriculture inputs.

In fact, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery building on this group’s experience, some countries have drawn lessons from our success and began replicating the model and creating national versions of the group.

For example, Nigeria, recently launched a Private Sector Advisory Group. The private sector has come together to advise the government to share ideas across industry sectors and regions with the aim of creating a connective platform for more impactful and local-driven models and solutions to achieve the SDGs.

Projects in the pipeline

We believe there is a lot to do in the next 13 years, we know from our series of reports, there must also be more robust public-private collaboration across the UN to achieve SDGs start taking shape. We heard and we listed to companies as reflected in our “Business and the United Nations: How business can contribute to the SDGs,” which provided case studies and best practice advice for companies eager to engage in the SDGs.

A second report, “Universality and the SDGs: A Business Perspective,” put out this year was based on input from more than 100 companies during interactive workshops in Africa, Latin America, Europe and the United States. Looking forward, the SDG Fund is committed to bringing public and private institutions together to achieve development results.

Our private sector strategy has two objectives: to involve businesses in all of our 22 field programs and expand the reach of our global business advisory partners. We are also preparing a new report, taking a deep dive into how businesses can contribute to peace outlined as part of SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions).

As in much of our work, this will be a collaborative effort with the University of Pennsylvania Law School and McDermott Will & Emery LLP to analyze the links between inclusive growth, partnerships and peace.

As champions for promoting the SDGs, we also believe that policy, direction and action will be instrumental for setting the stage for SDG integration. We look forward to working with the private sector and continuing to explore ways to create an ongoing mechanism to boost cooperation and development through the SDGs in all industries.

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Global South Calls for International Body to Fight Tax Havenshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-south-calls-for-international-body-to-fight-tax-havens/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-south-calls-for-international-body-to-fight-tax-havens http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-south-calls-for-international-body-to-fight-tax-havens/#comments Fri, 02 Jun 2017 12:56:30 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150712 Tax havens are “one of the worst enemies of our democracies,” said state representatives during a meeting at the United Nations. Due to concerns over the impacts of illicit financial flows, the Missions of Ecuador, South Africa, and India convened an informal workshop to discuss the issue and potential solutions. “Tax revenues are said to […]

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Illicit financial flows. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 2 2017 (IPS)

Tax havens are “one of the worst enemies of our democracies,” said state representatives during a meeting at the United Nations.

Due to concerns over the impacts of illicit financial flows, the Missions of Ecuador, South Africa, and India convened an informal workshop to discuss the issue and potential solutions.

“Tax revenues are said to be the lifeblood of a state. With integration of economies in a globalized world, actions taken on taxation in one country affect practically everybody within borders and across borders,” said Permanent Representative of India to the UN Syed Akbaruddin, adding that the trends in illicit financial flows are alarming.

While Oxfam suggests that 7.6 trillion dollars is held in offshore accounts, others estimate a much higher figure, including UN expert Alfred de Zayas who found that up to 32 trillion dollars could be in secret jurisdictions around the world.

This deprives developing nations of essential resources needed to achieve major social and economic goals as laid out in the internationally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, whose motto is to leave no one behind.

“[In] the commitment to leave no one behind…the issue of taxation is fundamental in that effort,” said Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN Mahlatse Mminele.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), illicit financial flows cost developing countries more than 100 billion dollars per year. Africa bears the brunt of such outflows as it is estimated to be equivalent to all official development assistance received by the continent in the last 50 years.

In one case revealed by the Panama Papers in 2016, a company dodged a tax bill of 404 million dollars in Uganda, a figure representing more than the East African nation’s annual health budget.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Guillaume Long painted a similar picture in his country, estimating that one-third of its GDP is being “robbed” and stowed away in tax havens which limits opportunities for the creation of wealth and further widens societal inequality.

Long, whose country currently chairs an intergovernmental group of developing nations known as the Group of 77, called for international cooperation on tax issues.

“The issue of international tax cooperation is of crucial importance and is directly linked to the right of development and the possibility of implementing Agenda 2030, a link to guarantee human rights,” he told attendees.

Akbaruddin similarly noted the necessity of international cooperation in a world of cross-border trade and finance and criticised the lack of multilateral efforts on the issue, stating: “Those who champion multilateralism in areas such as biodiversity, in areas such as human rights, in areas such as peace and security, decide to stop championing them when it comes to matters of international tax cooperation…what accounts for this enigma?”

Currently, the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation on Tax Matters provides a framework for dialogue and cooperation on tax issues. Though it helped create the UN Code of Conduct on Cooperation in Combating International Tax Evasion, the committee has been insufficient. Long noted that the committee works in individual capacities rather than on a governmental level and does not have sufficient resources to tackle the issue.

The three representatives therefore called to strengthen and upgrade the committee, transforming it to an intergovernmental body that represents all.

Of the 25 seats in the committee,12 are occupied by the 35-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which includes countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, leaving the other 158 countries with only 13 seats.

“Every country, every state – rich or poor, big or small – does have the right to an inclusive place at the table to decide on an issue that impacts all of us,” said Akbaruddin.

The representatives called the UN and Secretary-General to take urgent action on the issue.

“The international community needs to urgently address this global test…the status quo should no longer be allowed to persist,” said Mminele.

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Measly Earnings for Tamil Shoemakershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/measly-earnings-for-tamil-shoemakers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=measly-earnings-for-tamil-shoemakers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/measly-earnings-for-tamil-shoemakers/#respond Wed, 31 May 2017 10:22:10 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150674 Working fulltime in their own homes, putting their health at risk with the chemicals they use, to make the shoes sold in the West. Indian women endure poor working conditions and earn just over 40 dollars per month. ”These workers are always women. Often housed in small living areas together with their family. Their working […]

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By Erik Larsson
STOCKHOLM, May 31 2017 (IPS)

Working fulltime in their own homes, putting their health at risk with the chemicals they use, to make the shoes sold in the West. Indian women endure poor working conditions and earn just over 40 dollars per month.

”These workers are always women. Often housed in small living areas together with their family. Their working day starts early in the morning and goes on late into the evening”, says Brinda Devi Kamaraj who is a coordinator for the Indian human rights organisation Cividep.

It’s usually the women’s job to sew details onto the upper part of each shoe. Their pay is one tenth of a dollar per shoe.

In global terms, the footwear industry manufactures around 24 billion shoes annually.

Many of the shoes sold in shops in Western Europe are made in Asia under questionable working conditions.

Manufacturing in India, even for the well-known brands of Ecco, Diechmann, Clarks and Eurosko, often sees parts of shoes produced in the workers home environment.

Arbetet Global meets Cividep representatives in Stockholm.  They are visiting Sweden to meet people from the footwear industry and trade unions.

”Women receive materials from go-betweens. In their own homes, they sit and sew on between 15 and 20 shoes per day”, says Brinda Devi Kamaraj who estimates that regular fulltime earnings are at just over 40 dollars per month.

Her responsibility is to keep in touch with the many homeworking women in the region around the city of Ambur in the South Indian state of Tamil Nada.

During the past few weeks though she has been travelling to several European countries together with Cividep’s General Secretary Gopinathan Kunhithayil Parakuni to inform of the working conditions of the shoemakers.

”Women receive materials from go-betweens. In their own homes, they sit and sew on between 15 and 20 shoes per day”, says Brinda Devi Kamaraj who estimates that regular fulltime earnings are at just over 40 dollars per month.
”Their situation has not been given the same attention as the workers in the textile industry, where companies have made certain improvements”, says Gopinathan Kunhithayil Parakuni.

By placing production inside people’s homes, the workers are not included in social insurance programs or workplace laws and regulation.

Gopinathan Kunhithayil Parakuni explains it also allows retail prices to be kept at low levels. As well as making child labour more common as the young children help their mothers to sew.

He estimates that in their region in South India there are around 10,000 homeworkers and in the whole of India the total is in the hundreds of thousands.

The full extent of the putting-out system is hard to assess. Companies are unwilling to release information on whom is contracted, which makes tracking the system more difficult. Also, unions in the export industries have less clout.

”Employers do all they can to discourage labour unions. They fear strikes.

In other industry, like railways, and in the public sector and the financial sector, unions are quite strong. But in export industries the situation is very different.

Another issue of contention for Cividep and the footwear industry is the working condition in the tanneries where leather is produced. For example, treating and dyeing hides involves large amounts of chrome.

”In this production a lot of chemicals are used and often there is no protective wear”.

The frequent resulting consequences have been developments of serious allergies as well as both lung and skin diseases.

”These chemicals also flush out into the water system and that affects the people that live near the tanneries, says Gopinathan Kunhithayil Parakuni.

In 2014 pressure group Fair Action conducted an investigation into the footwear industry in Sweden.

Their report revealed that none of the four largest shoe retailers took measures to follow up on working conditions in the, often Asian, tanneries.

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Proposed UN Pay Cuts Threaten Work Stoppage in Genevahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/proposed-un-pay-cuts-threaten-work-stoppage-in-geneva/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=proposed-un-pay-cuts-threaten-work-stoppage-in-geneva http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/proposed-un-pay-cuts-threaten-work-stoppage-in-geneva/#respond Tue, 30 May 2017 15:30:40 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150659 Facing significant reductions in US financial contributions from a politically-unpredictable Donald Trump administration, the UN Secretariat is gearing itself for a rash of austerity measures and budgetary cuts, including downsizing peacekeeping operations and cuts in development aid, reproductive health and overseas travel. But UN staffers in Geneva, numbering over 5,400 in the professional category of […]

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UN staff in Geneva protesting proposed pay cuts. Credit: UN photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 30 2017 (IPS)

Facing significant reductions in US financial contributions from a politically-unpredictable Donald Trump administration, the UN Secretariat is gearing itself for a rash of austerity measures and budgetary cuts, including downsizing peacekeeping operations and cuts in development aid, reproductive health and overseas travel.

But UN staffers in Geneva, numbering over 5,400 in the professional category of employees, are already on the warpath because of a proposed 7.5 percent reduction in their take-home pay triggering a strong backlash and public demonstrations—and perhaps leading to a possible work stoppage.

The proposed salary reductions in Geneva aren’t related to the impending US cuts to the UN’s regular and peacekeeping budgets in New York.

A resolution adopted by the Geneva staff, at an “extraordinary general meeting” last week, blames the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), which presides over salary structures, for “failing to address the deep concerns and questions raised by staff federations and the heads of 10 Geneva-based agencies over the proposed cut to post adjustment that would result in a reduction in take-home pay of 7.5 per cent (or more).”

The staff federations include the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA) and the 30,000-strong Federation of International Civil Servants Association (FICSA)

The resolution says the ICSC has refused three times to meet with staff and explain the proposed cuts despite ongoing and serious questions about its data-handling and statistical analysis.

Ian Richards, President of CCISUA, told IPS the resolution was unprecedented and “shows how angry staff in Geneva are at the ICSC’s manipulation of its own methodology to cut pay in what unfortunately is one of the world’s most expensive cities where local salaries rose almost six percent in the last five years”.

“We’re under huge pressure from staff to get the work stoppages going,” he warned.

He said the decision to cut pay was taken by ICSC, but given its failure to provide convincing explanations to the heads of human resources of the organizations in Geneva, most organizations will not implement it for now.

“Those same organizations have also sent a team of statisticians to New York to go through the ICSC’s calculations. Unfortunately the UN secretariat has decided to break ranks, meaning staff in Geneva will be paid different salaries for the same work.”

Richards said pay cuts are also poor employment practices and are only taken by employers in crisis and after negotiating with staff unions.

“The fact that the ICSC increased pay in New York and Washington DC shows we aren’t there right now,” he added.

UN staff in Geneva protesting proposed pay cuts. Credit: UN photo

UN staff in Geneva protesting proposed pay cuts. Credit: UN photo

Geneva is the first UN duty station to be affected by the new rules, but there are 85 duty stations to follow. This summer, several European Union duty stations such as Paris, Vienna, Rome and Madrid, will be up before the ICSC.

According to the staff unions, New York salaries went up by 2.2 percent in February.

“This isn’t about a choice between a pay cut or preserving jobs in Geneva. Organizations did not factor in the pay cut while setting their budgets. Meanwhile Swiss salaries increased 5.7 percent between 2010 and 2015, the same period over which the ICSC is trying to cut ours,” says CCISUA.

There is also a widespread belief that Geneva was victimized first because UN member states aren’t happy at having to pay $1 billion on a new building, which they were strong-armed into paying for, and particularly with possible cost overruns.

Meanwhile, since Washington is the largest single contributor both to the UN’s regular and its peacekeeping budgets, a proposed 29 percent in US foreign assistance by the Trump administration is expected to have a heavy impact on the United Nations in New York.

Currently about 22 percent of the UN’s biennium regular budget of $5.4 billion comes from the US. So does 28 percent of the UN’s peacekeeping budget of about $8 billion.

Asked about the impending cuts proposed in the US budget, UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters last week: “We’re obviously studying the (US) budget, going through some of the numbers. I think, from where we stand and looking at the budget, as proposed now, would make it simply impossible for the UN to continue all of its essential work advancing peace, development, human rights, and humanitarian assistance around the world”

He said the budgetary process in the US is what it is. “It is going through a legislative process. So we will wait to see what comes out of that legislative process.”

“I think it goes without saying it, but it bears repeating that we’re obviously extremely grateful for the financial contributions the United States has been making and is making to the United Nations over the years as its largest financial contributor”.

Dujarric said that even before the proposed US cuts were announced, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has remained engaged in bringing out reforms in the UN system “ensuring that the UN is fit for purpose, delivers what it’s meant to deliver”.

He said Guterres has put out a number of directives to staff and the Secretariat– over which he has authority– on limiting the amount of travel to necessary-travel only.

He has also asked the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Field Support (DFS) to look at how the UN uses its air assets in peacekeeping missions, which would also include the cutting down as much as possible on the number of special flights.

“I think the Secretary General is extremely aware of the cost… of the monies that is entrusted to us, and he would like to see a reduction in the number of expenditures, and he’s asked his managers to look at that. As for himself, he has also cut down drastically on the delegations and the number of people that travel with him.”

But still, said Dujarric, the UN needs resources to deliver on its mandates laid out by the 193-member General Assembly.

On cuts, Richards said reducing the size of UN staff delegations is probably a good idea. “But at the end of the day, travel is only a small part of the regular, Trump-affected budget. Much travel is paid from extra-budgetary sources, such as projects and events that require travel,” he noted.

Reflecting on the situation in Geneva, Richards pointed that what was noteworthy is that the ICSC decided to remove mitigating measures that would have softened the impact of the cut just before it started working on Geneva.

“The ICSC has agreed to review its decision at its next meeting in July and we hope it will put things right. Many staff have told us they will return from their holidays if need be to take collective action”, he warned.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Growing Unemployed Youth in Africa a Time Bomb, But…http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/growing-unemployed-youth-in-africa-a-time-bomb-but/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=growing-unemployed-youth-in-africa-a-time-bomb-but http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/growing-unemployed-youth-in-africa-a-time-bomb-but/#respond Mon, 29 May 2017 16:25:48 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150640 There are nearly 420 million young Africans between the ages of 15 and 35 today. And it is estimated that within ten years, Africa will be home to one-fifth of all young people worldwide. These millions of young people could be a source of ingenuity and engines of productivity that could ignite a new age […]

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A panel discussion on Africa-Asia partnerships featuring AFDB Group President Akinwumi Adesina, Benin President Patrice Talon, Vice President of Cote d'Ivoire Daniel Kablan Duncan and Hellen Hai of Made in Africa Initiative. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

A panel discussion on Africa-Asia partnerships featuring AFDB Group President Akinwumi Adesina, Benin President Patrice Talon, Vice President of Cote d'Ivoire Daniel Kablan Duncan and Hellen Hai of Made in Africa Initiative. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
AHMEDABAD, India, May 29 2017 (IPS)

There are nearly 420 million young Africans between the ages of 15 and 35 today. And it is estimated that within ten years, Africa will be home to one-fifth of all young people worldwide.

These millions of young people could be a source of ingenuity and engines of productivity that could ignite a new age of inclusive prosperity.“If we don’t change the labour composition of agriculture in Africa, in the next twenty years, there will be no farmers.” --AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina

But there are no guarantees. Although the continent has shown consistent economic growth in the last decade, it has failed in creating the number of quality jobs needed to absorb the 10-12 million young people entering the labour market each year.

And this, according to AfDB Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Jennifer Blanke, is a time bomb waiting to explode.

“While the youth population is Africa’s asset, it can also easily become a liability, and this is the whole question about demographic dividends,” observes Blanke. “Let us be clear, it is only the existence of opportunity and the young person’s belief that they can access that opportunity that prevents pessimism and political unrest…inaction is not an option, young people without opportunity, and more importantly without belief in their leaders’ ability to provide opportunity are a certain source of civil unrest and we are seeing it every day.”

‘Transforming Agriculture for wealth creation in Africa’ was therefore the major theme of the 52nd AfDB Annual Meetings held in Ahmedabad, India from 22-26 May 2017.

Experts here agreed that transforming Africa’s agriculture requires a business approach that would incentivize youth who still see farming as way of life for the poor. As a result of this scenario, the average age of farmers in Africa is 60, and Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB Group President, fears that “If we don’t change the labour composition of agriculture in Africa, in the next twenty years, there will be no farmers.”

To get youth involved, Adesina believes, “We need to change the mindset about agriculture—agriculture is not a social sector, agriculture is not a way of life, it is a business.”

But the how question is crucial, and he points to finance among other incentives. “There are opportunities for youth but certain things have to be put in place to realize them, such as financing…our young people are doing amazing things with ICT—they are providing weather index insurance, extension services and a host of other things.”

For its part, the Bank has provided a roadmap for the growth of agriculture in Africa with a plan to inject nearly 2.4 billion dollars every year for 10 years to build roads, irrigation infrastructure and storage facilities to attract high-value investors.

With this kind of investment, AfDB wants to transform Agriculture into a money-making business for those involved, highlighting that Africa should position itself to benefit from the growth of agricultural food markets which are set to grow to a trillion-dollar business portfolio by 2030.

The figure is huge and appetising. But certain steps have to be taken, and one of those steps is closing the infrastructure gap.

According to Thomas Silberhorn, Germany Parliamentary State Secretary, “It is important to close the infrastructure gap on the African continent, not just somehow, but in the spirit of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, by building sustainable infrastructure especially in the energy sector,” he said, adding that it was for this reason that his government was advocating for more support to the African Renewable Initiative of the African Union whose secretariat is hosted at the African Development Bank.

While ICT is usually seen as a sure way of getting youth involved, there is another door to young people’s hearts which agricultural policy makers and implementers have not paid attention to—the film industry.  In Africa, the movie industry is dominated by young people and is emerging as an important contributor to gross domestic product and employment in countries like Nigeria.

However, the entertainment industry–especially the film industry—too often offers unflattering narratives of agriculture and the rural life, showing that real economic opportunities are only found in big cities. Such negative portrayal perpetuates the perception that agriculture is simply a way of surviving for the poor.

To tap into the power and influence of the movie industry, and change these perceptions by projecting agriculture as a profitable and viable economic sector, AfDB brought together Nollywood (Nigerian) and Bollywood (Indian) film makers to this year’s annual meetings to chart the way forward on how to market agriculture as a lucrative business through movies.

Nigerian filmmakers Omoni Oboli and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde represented Nollywood while Rajendrakumar Mohan Raney, a director and producer, and Rekha Rana, Indian and international award-winning actress, represented Bollywood.

Oboli and Omotola pledged to do everything in their power to tell the African agricultural transformation story and change the negative perceptions, especially among young people.

“We have learnt a lot about agriculture and are ready to change the state of affairs through filmmaking,” said Oboli during the Indian Cultural Night and AfDB Impact Awards ceremony where she was a guest presenter alongside BBC’s Lerato Mbele.

As Adesina noted, with 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated land, “What Africa does with agriculture is not only important for Africa: it will shape the future of food in the world.”

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Slow Growth Stalls SDGs’ Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/slow-growth-stalls-sdgs-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=slow-growth-stalls-sdgs-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/slow-growth-stalls-sdgs-progress/#comments Thu, 25 May 2017 06:49:43 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150582 The world will not be on track to eradicate poverty by 2030 if current growth trends continue, a UN task force found. The Inter Agency Task Force, comprising over 50 international institutions, launched a report assessing progress on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, a global framework on development financing to help implement the internationally agreed […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 25 2017 (IPS)

The world will not be on track to eradicate poverty by 2030 if current growth trends continue, a UN task force found.

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, briefs journalists on the launch of the 2017 “Progress and Prospects” report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, briefs journalists on the launch of the 2017 “Progress and Prospects” report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

The Inter Agency Task Force, comprising over 50 international institutions, launched a report assessing progress on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, a global framework on development financing to help implement the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Though there has been some progress in development financing, slow global economic growth and decreased trade and investment growth since the 2008 financial crisis has hampered progress on the SDGs, including the eradication of poverty by 2030.

“Despite expectations of improved growth in 2017 and 2018, the current global environment bodes poorly for the achievement of the SDGs,” said Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo.

In 2016, the world economy grew at its slowest rate since the crisis and the global GDP is projected to grow at less than 3 percent over the next two years. Such rates are likely to leave almost 7 percent of the world’s population extremely poor by 2030. Least developed countries (LDCs) will fall the farthest behind, Hongbo stated.

Though the number of people living on less than 1.25 dollars per day has decreased dramatically in the last few decades, the decline largely relied on strong economic growth in developing countries, the report notes.

Low economic growth is also contributing to rising levels of unemployment. The International Labor Organisation estimates that there will be 3.4 million more unemployed people in 2017 than in 2016, and further increases are expected in 2018.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Director of the Division on Globalisation and Development Strategies Richard Kozul-Wright noted that these trends are partly due to the failure to develop sustainable growth strategies.

“A lot of people expected that the post financial crisis that there will be a serious reflection on the kinds of growth strategies forged prior to the crisis which were clearly unsustainable and not inclusive, but that hasn’t really happened,” he said.

Weak investment is another major challenge hindering the achievement of the SDGs and thus growth, he added.

Between 1 and 5 trillion dollars of additional investment is needed for infrastructure alone, a key element to help sustain growth in developing countries. Transportation infrastructure enables trade and economic development, which is particularly important in land-locked developing countries, while energy-related infrastructure is essential for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

However, public and private infrastructure investment has declined globally. Though official development assistance (ODA) increased by almost 9 percent in 2016 from 2015, escalating humanitarian needs have led to significant short-term and long-term financial gaps.

Uncertainty in key policies of major countries only heightens risks in the global economy, including the U.S.’ proposals to cut foreign aid and climate finance.

Hongbo noted that the creation of national policies that align with the SDGs as well as international cooperation to boost sustainable and inclusive growth is crucial.

“Many of the challenges that countries face, including slow economic growth, climate change, and humanitarian crises, have cross-border or global repercussions and it cannot be addressed by any one actor alone,” he stated.

The launch of the report coincided with the second annual forum on financing for development which brought together member states and international organizations to discuss the pressing issues laid out in the report and its potential solutions.

Participants reached an agreement on SDG financing, calling on governments to increase and adhere to their ODA commitments and improve tax policies, including international efforts to fight tax evasion, while urging development banks and private sector actors to help mobilize catalytic resources.

“We will have our voice heard whenever we can, we will speak loudly for the LDCs and the vulnerable countries and its people,” Hongbo concluded.

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Ecuador Focuses on New UN Tax Body to Fight Illicit Financial Flowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/ecuador-focuses-on-new-un-tax-body-to-fight-illicit-financial-flows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ecuador-focuses-on-new-un-tax-body-to-fight-illicit-financial-flows http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/ecuador-focuses-on-new-un-tax-body-to-fight-illicit-financial-flows/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 19:29:49 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150523 The time is now to work together to fight illicit financial flows, according to Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Guillaume Long. Ecuador, having long advocated for tax justice, has shed light on the issue at the United Nations. As Chairman of the Group of 77, Long highlighted the need to end the financial secrecy of tax havens […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 22 2017 (IPS)

The time is now to work together to fight illicit financial flows, according to Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Guillaume Long.

Guillaume Long

Guillaume Long

Ecuador, having long advocated for tax justice, has shed light on the issue at the United Nations. As Chairman of the Group of 77, Long highlighted the need to end the financial secrecy of tax havens that often harm developing countries and to create an intergovernmental body to help regulate taxation and financial flows.

In an interview with IPS, Long explains the issues, challenges, and goals in achieving tax justice.

Q: The President of the General Assembly said that SDG financing is going to take 6$ trillion annually and $30 trillion through 2030. Do you think much-needed finances will be made available if the current rate of illicit financial flows is curbed?

A: I think it’s huge what you can get from curbing illicit flows and basically from tax dodging or tax evasion. In the case of Ecuador, we calculated that an approximate amount of $30 billion is held in tax havens. Just so you get a general idea of what that means, Ecuador’s gross domestic product (GDP) is roughly around $100 billion so $30 billion means almost 1/3rd of our GDP. Most countries struggle to grow, but here you’ve got 30 percent of GDP literally being robbed from us in tax havens.

That means less investment, less dynamism in the economy, less creation of jobs and also less taxes—it’s those taxes that are used for public policies to reduce poverty, reduce inequality, and create much needed infrastructure.

There are have been estimates that public infrastructure that is needed right now in the developing world is roughly $1.5 trillion. This includes hospitals, schools—the kind of infrastructure that the developing world needs to reduce huge rates of inequality, poverty, and some of the things we are trying to amend through, for example, the SDGs. And that’s only probably about 15% of illegal assets held abroad in tax havens and various offshore accounts.

[Curbing illicit financial flows] could revolutionize and dramatically transform the story and history of development. And it would certainly be one of the best sources of financing for development which is the big thing. Now that we have come to an agreement on the 2030 Goals and what it is that we want to do, the next question is how do we do this? And we have to do this with resources. Some resources are available to us, but many others aren’t and this is basically through tax dodging.

This is also fundamentally a practice that is carried out by elites and therefore it also means that you get greater rates of inequality. In a continent or a region like Latin America—if you do a per capita average then it is the middle class but we know that averages hide huge disparities and Latin America is actually the most unequal region in the world and a lot of that has to do with elites not being a willing part of the social contract. And a major aspect of the social contract is taxation and not participating in tax dodging.

Q: How much does the developing world, particularly Africa, Asia, and Latin America, lose to illicit financial flows?

A: There are huge numbers that are being reported. Oxfam talks of $7.6 trillion in tax dodging—I’m not even talking about illicit financial flows, not even talking about offshore accounts, I’m talking about $7.6 trillion in tax dodging.

This is why Ecuador has taken this issue so seriously. We’ve been talking about tax havens and tax avoidance for years, particularly in this government in the last ten years with the Presidency of Rafael Correa. But after the Panama Papers scandal last year, President Correa really launched this as his priority and as a major crusade. He even launched what he called an “Ethical Pact” which included a referendum in Ecuador to ban civil servants and elected officials from holding assets in tax havens. If you are found to hold assets in tax havens, you can be removed from office automatically.

I really think Ecuador is one of the countries, if not the country in the world, that’s done the most. This referendum, which was successful in terms of its results, is an example to the world. And I think Ecuador has been the most proactive country in the year that’s transpired since the revelations of the Panama Papers in taking concrete and bold steps.

Another major thing that we have been doing on the international front is from our presidency of the G77 which we currently chair. We have pushed for the creation of an intergovernmental body on tax justice. We had a workshop this morning which was co-chaired by Ecuador, India, and South Africa with huge participation exactly on this issue.

There is an opportunity—now that the issue is back at the forefront of the media, it means that we have to maximize that opportunity to try and create mechanisms, particularly inside the United Nations, that fight tax dodging. [This issue] we can deal with if we have the right tools and institutions to fight that.

Q: What are your thoughts on public disclosures on tax havens like the Panama Papers? Is that something that is needed more in order to increase transparency and action on tax havens?

A: Whistleblowing plays an important role. When information is public and people find out about these things, if their politicians have been hiding money and fog them—most politicians have a very patriotic discourse saying they’re going to create jobs and economic activity and bring foreign investment. But surely there is a paradox and a contradiction if you are saying ‘vote for me because I’ll bring loads of foreign investment into the country’ and then on the other hand you’ve got all your personal assets hidden away somewhere without paying taxes. I think when those contradictions and lies, and I would use the world ‘robbery’ especially if you are dodging taxes, are exposed then that’s a good thing. It creates greater consciousness.

I think this is a time of great opportunity because since the Panama Papers scandal, a lot of countries that could be considered to be tax havens are starting to take measures because they are under increasing pressure by people and by countries like Ecuador and other countries to do something about it. The fact that we are having this debate today and the fact that I am talking to you is not necessarily in the tax havens’ interest because it brings the spotlight onto their activities so generally speaking, those kinds of public disclosures are very important part of creating a general awareness that this must stop.

There are a lot of double standards too. On the one hand, developing countries are under pressure for all sorts of things. They’ve got to grow, they’ve got to be good economically, they’ve got to guarantee human rights—all of these things which we absolutely abide by and are very committed to—but surely there is a contradiction with having to do that and then on the other hand, all of these countries that are kind of sermonizing the rest of the world from their civilizational pedestal are reaping the benefits of all the crony and corrupt elites of the developing countries depositing their money in these bank accounts without paying taxes.

So there’s a hypocrisy there that has to be exposed. And if these public disclosures can help to do that, then so be it.

Q: Has there been any progress since the Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) adoption of the ‘UN Code of Conduct on Cooperation in Combating International Tax Evasion’?

A: That was a very important step. It was the first piece of important legislation and regulatory result that came out of the Committee of Experts in a long time. So we are seeing progress, though still not enough, but still progress. And that has to do with [it being] back on the agenda.

Now there is a new step, which I think is very important, that the Secretary-General from June onwards is going to be naming the members of the Committee of Experts. So that’s also a positive development because it obviously raises the stakes and gives it more political clout.

Ecuador’s position is that we celebrate that the Committee of Experts was created with largely the fruit of debate that goes back to Monterrey in 2002. But now we think that the Committee of Experts is insufficient and that we need something else. We need something with more clout, with more accountability, with more relation with the United Nations system itself and the governmental nature of this organization.

You have it in other spheres—if you look at trade, the World Trade Organization is a regulatory body at the highest level for trade while the Intellectual Property Organization is a regulatory body for intellectual property at the highest level.

Those institutions exist because it is in the interest of big capital that they should exist. Big capital is in favor of free trade and if a country stands in the way of free trade, then you get reprimanded. But it’s not necessarily in the interest of big capital to have the equivalent in the field of taxation. This is an important concept that we should bear in mind. A lot of the institutions of global governance that we have inherited respond to specific interests and not always to the interests of the most powerless in society. They respond to the interests of the most powerful in society.

And why should trade be more important than taxation? Probably in terms of redistribution, taxation is more important than trade. Although, nobody is saying that trade isn’t important for the overall accumulation of wealth of different countries, but in terms of redistribution and in terms of capacity of the state to work towards the 2030 Agenda, then surely [taxation] plays a huge role.

It is great that we are getting closer but it is frustrating that we are still talking about a fight in order to create an institution that will then dedicate itself to fighting for a greater outcome which is tax justice. We are not even fighting for tax justice, we are fighting for the right to have the corresponding institutions just like you have them in the fields of trade and intellectual property and others.

Q: Are you proposing for a new UN tax body or are you hoping to transform the Committee of Experts into an intergovernmental body that you have proposed?

A: We are looking to transform the Committee of Experts but we are very open to different kinds of formats. We are trying to create consensus and if you are trying to create consensus—I mean, we preside over the G77 which is 134 nations so creating consensus between 134 nations is already a tall order—but at the end of the day, we are actually trying to create consensus between 193 nations of the United Nations and that includes tax havens, countries that have been a little pro-status quo particularly in the OECD, and a lot of countries that are not in the G77.

So we are open to all sorts of different outcomes. We just want to raise the hierarchy, the political clout, the visibility, the strength of the body. There are a number of initiatives. Some people have talked about keeping it within the ECOSOC while others want to elevate it to the General Assembly—there’s a huge debate within the G77 about it. But there is consensus between 134 nations of the G77 that it should be an intergovernmental body. And that’s something that we are trying to, through our presidency, express the will of the nations that are members of our group.

Q: How feasible is the proposal for an intergovernmental body for approval by the General Assembly?

A: I think multilateralism is a slow process always. I think we are getting closer. And I think that the big conference on financing for development in the next few weeks should make significant progress. I think we will find that there is much more consensus than there was in Addis Ababa in 2015.

Most countries from the Global South have these discussions about tax justice and the right to development. But a number of countries from the G20 or OECD or more industrialized countries have also started to be flexible in their position. We are seeing changes. In the workshop we had today, which would have been unthinkable a few years ago, we had loads of tax havens present. Not just tax havens that are blacklisted in the Global South by the Global North but tax havens from Europe and from other parts of the world. And they were there because they want to listen in on the debate which shows that at least they are concerned or interested and some of them actually spoke out and said they are making changes and showing a greater commitment.

There is another major thing which is the securitization of the issue. For some countries, issues of terrorism is a big thing. Where do terrorists hide their money? Well, increasingly in constituencies that enjoy banking secrecy and those tend to be tax havens. If we can all at least agree on the outcome which is greater accountability and greater regulations on that matter, even if it is for different reasons, it’s about consensus building and that’s what multilateralism is about.

Q: So would this proposed UN tax body help bring such international cooperation in tackling illicit financial flows?

A: That’s exactly right. It’s not just about naming and shaming tax havens. If suddenly you have two neighboring countries in a European setting, even if they are developed countries, and they start this kind of taxation war by lowering their taxes in order to try to suck capital and investment out of each other in this kind of race to the bottom, then a [UN tax] body like that should be able to intervene and make at least the right recommendations. Whether those recommendations become compulsory then that’s another debate, but it should be a body like you have in other fields that has the capacity to make clear recommendations.

Q: Have you faced or expect to face opposition for this proposal, especially from the Global North?

A: For sure. The G77 has been facing—basically with the same position I am presenting to you is not a new position, the position has been going on for decades and there has been clear language on behalf of the G77.

It is interesting because within the G77, you actually have tax havens as well. But even those tax havens have accepted that an intergovernmental body, which doesn’t exclude them, is quite a good measure if you want to have a serious debate and discussion between member States on this issue. This has been the position of the G77 which has been resisted for decades. There has been loads of opposition. We saw it in Addis Ababa, particularly members of the G7 or the G20 and lots of opposition from the OECD countries and oppositions from countries that are not always considered to be tax havens in the kind of stereotypical manner.

Countries like the United Kingdom has been opposed to this very much, not only because of its own policies but also because of what is euphemistically called non-autonomous territories. The five biggest tax havens in relative terms of the offshore assets per GDP index are non-autonomous territories and four of the five are British while one is the U.S. They are not sovereign nations and they are not members of the United Nations. That’s an important issue and it’s not surprising that there is opposition when we are trying to move away from this.

The Panama Papers singled out Panama and actually Panama is making quite significant efforts to move away from that image. We are very happy to see them move away from such practices but actually, Panama is not necessarily in the top five in terms of the GDP index. The very people who even write up the black lists are not free of tax malpractice themselves.

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Norwegian Trade Union Boycott Israelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/norwegian-trade-union-boycott-israel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=norwegian-trade-union-boycott-israel http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/norwegian-trade-union-boycott-israel/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 11:23:38 +0000 Linda Flood http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150514 The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) has voted in favour of a boycott against Israel, which is expected to affect cultural, economical and academic ties. Condemnation has come from Isreali politicians, diplomats and unions. By a vote of 197 for and 117 against, the LO congress passed the motion even though the representative General […]

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Israel's separation barrier as seen from Al Ram. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D'Amours/IPS

Israel's separation barrier as seen from Al Ram. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D'Amours/IPS

By Linda Flood
STOCKHOLM, May 22 2017 (IPS)

The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) has voted in favour of a boycott against Israel, which is expected to affect cultural, economical and academic ties. Condemnation has come from Isreali politicians, diplomats and unions.

By a vote of 197 for and 117 against, the LO congress passed the motion even though the representative General Council has not been in support of such a step.

According to Norwegian media organisation NRK, the newly elected president of LO, Hans-Christian Gabrielson, had warned delegates that a boycott could have negative consequences for Palestinian workers and trade unions.

Hans-Christian Gabrielsen. Photo: LO Norge

Hans-Christian Gabrielsen. Photo: LO Norge

Histadrut, Israel’s largest federation of trade unions, reacted with great disappointment.

In correspondence with Arbetet Global, the Director of international relations,  Avital Shapira-Shabirow, expressed:

”It would have been better for the organization to concentrate on promoting positive agendas between the parties rather than to adopt this miserable resolution, which is in utter contradiction to the cooperation of the Histadrut and PGFTU”.

She continues:

”Once again this emphasizes the unbalanced and discriminatory policy of LO-Norway towards the Histadrut and its workers.”

LO has also encouraged the Norwegian government to recognize a Palestinian state within the borderlines of 1967.

”Precisely at this time when there is another attempt to renew the negotiations between the parties, it would have been appropriate to show more responsibility and avoid adopting a unilateral resolution that does not contribute at all to promoting a possible solution to the conflict”, Avital Shapira-Shabirow writes to Arbetet Global. 

”Norwegian government strongly opposes Norwegian Labour Union’s decision” stated Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs on Twitter, adding:  ”We need more cooperation and dialogue, not boycott”

LO’s close political ally, the social democratic Norwegian Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) were also critical to the result of the vote. Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre told news agency NTB:

”I am against the boycott. I do not believe it will move us closer to a political solution for Israelis and Palestinians, with the establishment of a Palestinian state and a strengthening of human rights”

The Israel embassy in Oslo condemned the decision. Ambassador Raphael Schutz wrote in an e-mail to news agency AFP:

”This immoral resolution reflects deeply rooted attitudes of bias, discrimination and double standard towards the Jewish state”

Swedish LO though have no plans to follow suit. ILO expert Oscar Ernerot explains their position:

”In Sweden we actively support a two state solution and that Israel will cease to occupy Palestine.  That is why we collaborate with the Isreali labour union Histadrut”

The Norwegian LO has 900 000 members which is about one-fourth of the national workforce.

Linda Flood

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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