Inter Press ServiceLabour – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 23 Aug 2017 10:59:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 Union Conflict Rages on in South Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/union-conflict-rages-on-in-south-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=union-conflict-rages-on-in-south-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/union-conflict-rages-on-in-south-africa/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 11:53:45 +0000 Linda Flood http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151753 South African labour unions are at war with each other. Union members are harassed, beaten, and murdered. Five years after the Marikana massacre, when police shot and killed 34 demonstrators, the conflict is ongoing and the wounds do not heal.

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Striking mineworkers at the Marikana mine - Striking miners who were relased from police custody on Sep. 3 2012. Credit: Nat Nxumalo/IPS

Striking miners relased from police custody on Sep. 3 2012. Credit: Nat Nxumalo/IPS

By Linda Flood
RUSTENBURG, South Africa , Aug 21 2017 (IPS/Arbetet Global)

It was two thirty at night. Inside his home, the telephone rang. Sibongile Nota’s brother’s life drew nearer its end. A few minutes passed, the telephone rang again. His brother was now dead.

“His workmates killed him on his way to work”.

Five years have passed since that day when they lost brothers, fathers, husbands. Inside the conference room, silence is near absolute. Outside there is the noise of traffic. The local office in Rustenburg for the National Union of Mineworkers sees a gathering of eight women and men. All sitting with their backs to the wall.

“Now…for the first time I feel like a normal person again”, Sibongile Nota adds.

Reliving the past. On the 9th of August 2012 a group of miners working for the British mining corporation Lonmin at the platinum mine in Marikana, 120 kms northwest of Johannesburg choose to go on strike.

They demand higher wages. Their monthly salary of around 300 euros is far below the union demands of 800.

Over the next few days, their action gains support. The conflict between employees, the company and the police increases, and turns violent. Nearly ten employees are killed or injured. Two Lonmin security guards are also killed.

The violence does not end there.

On the 13th of August, three miners are found dead. One is Sibongile Nota’s brother.

In 2012, 70 percent of Lonmin’s 23000 strong workforce were members of the miners’ union NUM.

“For a long time, we had been demanding wage increases, but in vain. Yet the management of Lonmin, while claiming the wage level couldn’t be raised, saw their own salaries increase by 18 percent. That fuelled protests” recalls Eric Gcilitshana, Health and Safety Secretary of NUM.

A majority of the mineworkers at Lonmin were members of NUM, who thereby represented all workers in negotiations. There was though an existing rivalry and power struggle between labour unions with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) criticizing NUM for being too closely aligned with the governing political party in South Africa, the ANC.

The rivalry between the unions starting getting out of hand. In order to gain the upper hand, AMCU put forward more radical demands and attempted to engage all workers in a strike. Eric Gcilitshana describes that development;

“They said our negotiations with the employers was undermining their strike. And they said that they would kill us!”

Marikana – five years later

Due to the risk of reprisals the names of the relatives of NUM members killed in conflict are fictitious. These persons have also declined to be photographed.

Arbetet Global has for several months attempted to reach spokespersons for AMCU, including president Joseph Mathunjwa. They have rejected approaches by telephone call, e-mail and sms.

No policemen have been charged for the mass shootings of 2012.

44 miners were killed during August 2012.

During the 1990’s Joseph Mathunjwa was the chairman of a local branch of NUM before being sacked in 1999 after clashing with Gwende Mantashe, the present-day General Secretary of the ANC. He chose to register a new union in 2001, the Association of Minworkers and Construction Union, AMCU.

At present, AMCU have about 100 000 members spread around all of South Africa. NUM have 190 000 members, although before the Marikana massacre that number was 300 000.
The violence continues. More are injured. More are killed.

The strike is in its seventh day. The demonstrating strikers and the police negotiate to cease hostilities.  But reach no deal.

The following day is the 16th of August. Demonstrators gather in a field a few hundred meters away from the mine. A special unit of the police open fire. Within minutes they shoot and kill 34 mineworkers. Injuring at least 78.

South Africa was in shock. A new massacre in South African contemporary history. The worst since the Sharpeville shootings in 1960.

“I was so afraid”, Themba Gowana gestures with his hand, “I ran that way when the police started shooting”

The field where it took place is dry. The grey loamy soil is cracked. Themba Gowana’s tin shed is nearby. He stands in his garden peeling potatoes over a bowl. 5 years have passed.

”Things are a little better now. After the strike I became a member of AMCU. They have made our jobs more secure.

He wasn’t alone in turning to NUMs rival. After the shootings, AMCU won over thousands mineworkers and could therefore push forth their agenda in negotiations with the corporate management.

“Lonmin are alright. Although mineworkers can be sacked without due warning, just because they might do something wrong. If you talk too much, you get sacked. They don’t want us to talk….”

After the Marikana massacre, wage levels for mineworkers have almost doubled. Now they are at around 9000 rand, about 600 euros. But that is still a few thousand rands less than what the union demands.

Themba Gowana grows quiet.

Birdsong can be heard from the trees and a sheep bleats at a distance.

“I am afraid I will lose my job”.

Across the gravel path from Themba Gowana’s shed lives Siyabongile Rofu. He has just woken after nightshift in the mine. A stainless steel refrigerator stands next to the bed that he shares with his brother. Siyabongile Rofu starts cleaning his shack. Near the ceiling, three green soaps lay on a board. Next to the fridge, there’s a plastic basin, two buckets and two pots. A calendar from a local health center hangs on the wall.

Siyabongile Rofu is meticulous. After an hour of cleaning, he still hasn’t finished despite the schack being no larger than ten square meters. White lace fabrics from under the TV are dusted and the plastic floor is swept and wiped.

”Tonight I am going home, to my wife and my three children. They live in the Eastern Cape province and the minibus trip takes twelve hours”.

His children are twelve, eight and five years old. Siyabongile Rofu has worked in Marikana for fifteen years and expects to go on for an equally long time.

“That should be enough”, he says.

Following the strike of 2012, life has improved. The higher wage allows Siyabongile Rofu to send more money home to his family as well he can buy better food.

“I joined AMCU because it is stronger and better than NUM. Almost everyone at the mine belongs to AMCU now”

Siyabongile Rofu knew several of the men who died in the conflict five years ago.

“It was so stupid. But now worker relations are better”.

At NUM’s headquarters in Johannesburg, Health and Security secretary Eric Gcilitshana bemoans the situation.

“We try to recruit new members but it is difficult”.

He rejects the criticism that NUM were too close to Lonmins management and the governing ANC.

“We had to have a positive cooperation. Without it we wouldn’t have had any possibility to influence management”.

14 members of NUM were murdered by other miners in the days before and after the massacre. Their cases have not been included in the commission of inquiry that formed soon after the shootings.

With their own lawyers and with private detectives, NUM has tried to find out what happened in these killings of its members.

“We will help the families and justice must be served” , says Eric Gcilitshana.

Back in the conference room in Rustenburg, a short distance from Marikana, tears roll down the cheeks of Kefiloe Gungqwa.

“Since my husband died I have felt no joy, not at home and not at work. I do not speak to my workmates, I just say hello”.

The stories told by family members in the conference room are not only tragic in their loss of loved ones, but also peculiar as they were forced to seek employment at Lonmin.

Lonmin’s Communications Group Head Wendy Tlou explains: ”This was done to look after the families of the deceased and to ensure that their livelihoods were not negatively impacted by the tragedy.”

Kefiloe Gungqwa dries her tears. She was married for 14 years. A month after the Marikana strike, her husband was stabbed to death. He was an elected representative at NUM.

“Since no one in the family could take my husband’s position I was forced to move here. Now I work as a cleaner and often I am insulted by my co-workers”.

Hands in her lap, fingering a white tissue damp from her tears. Kefiloe Gungqwa may be seated in the NUM office but she is a member of ACMU. She explains:

“I was forced to join. I felt my life was in danger if I didn’t”.

The story is echoed by Thando Nqumkana. And by Siphokazi Mankhala. Nomhle Dibakwane, a teacher, tells a slightly different story. Her husband was murdered but she refuses to join AMCU:

“I cannot betray my husband and join a union that murdered him. Labour unions are a good thing but you cannot force people to join”.

Nomhle Dibakwane says she lives in constant fear.

“It is awful. Our voices, our stories have not been heard. Deaths are deaths. Why is a difference made between those who died in the massacre and those that died before and after it?

The rivalry and the violence between AMCU and NUM has not been limited to Marikana. There are many examples of fatal violence. One year ago a member of AMCU was hacked to death at the platinum mine Northam, north of Marikana.

And last autumn, at the gold mine Sibanye, south of Johannesburg, a NUM member was killed by workmates who belonged to AMCU.

Crispen Chinguno, a researcher at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, points to the root of the conflict:

“As the absolute rights are given to one union at a particular mining house, unions fight to meet the minimum threshold to get the absolute rights and push others out. It will be very difficult for the unions to cooperate if the labour relations system is not changed to allow and promote a multiplicity of unions at the same work place.”

The rivalry between AMCU and NUM is part of the system.

Lonmin’s Wendy Tlou declines to comment on the rivalry between the unions within the company and ascertains that relations between parties depend on mutual respect.

“This was evident in the recent signing of a 3 year wage agreement without any work stoppages“.

The silence from the official political leadership has been evident.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that the South African government conceded the right to compensation for the families of the victims of Marikana.  Also, over ten police who were involved in the shooting will be charged and brought to trial.

ACMU’s official comment was:

“We have waited more than four years for a commitment from government. But those at the top still haven’t taken responsibility, including Lonmin bosses, the police and the state.”

One of the key persons involved in the disastrous developments of Marikana was the South African Deputy president and former union leader Cyril Ramaphosa.

He was one of the founders of NUM in 1982. During the following decade his career in the union married well with his advancement in both politics and the private sector. In 1994, following South Africa’s first democratic election, he was given a seat in parliament representing ANC.

In 2012 Cyril Ramaphosa was a non-executive director in Lonmin. In the days leading up to the massacre, he requested police reenforcements to the area and called the strike “dastardly criminal acts”. He also opposed negotiations with the miners, which was revealed in the investigation that followed. In 2015 the report into the massacre, exonerated both Cyril Ramaphosa and the minister of police Nkosinathi Nhleko.

In May of this year, for the first time, Cyril Ramaphosa apologised for his behaviour during the strike and said that he was willing to make amends with those he had insulted.

Political analyst Nic Borain commented in the newspaper Business Day: ”His claim was that it was a criminal act, not a strike, but history has proven him wrong. The characterisation of the workers as criminals was wrong and thoughtless and in a way arrogant because it implied the only legitimate union was NUM”.

”The legacy of colonialism and apartheid is central in explaining some of the main challenges faced by the workers” says researcher Crispen Chinguno, pointing to the difficulty for South African unions in keeping out of politics.

Life in Marikana goes on as usual for most people. Despite the horrible memories, Siyabongile Rofu’s brother Abongile dreams of a job in the mine, regardless of the tough shifts in the dark.

”Look at my arms”, he says showing the red stripes on his lower arms – scars from lemon trees.

”If I fill 50 sacks a day with lemons, I make only 20 euros per week. I have to find a better job. I am desperate.”

Translation: Ravi Dar

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Women Slowly Break Barriers in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 00:54:22 +0000 Mahfuzur Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151717 When one thinks of Bangladesh, its political leadership naturally comes to mind as the leaders of the country’s major parties are women, including the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Speaker of the National Parliament. When it comes to gender equality in daily life, the reality is still different, but many women in Bangladesh […]

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Four women’s groups from Mohalbari, Surail and Damoir villages in Northern Bangladesh participated in a two-day leadership and mobilization training in Dinajpur to spread the initiative of successful women-led cooperatives improving the livelihood of the rural poor. Among the 51 participants, most were landless women coming from Hindu, Muslim and indigenous communities. Credit: IFAD

Four women’s groups from Mohalbari, Surail and Damoir villages in Northern Bangladesh participated in a two-day leadership and mobilization training in Dinajpur to spread the initiative of successful women-led cooperatives improving the livelihood of the rural poor. Among the 51 participants, most were landless women coming from Hindu, Muslim and indigenous communities. Credit: IFAD

By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

When one thinks of Bangladesh, its political leadership naturally comes to mind as the leaders of the country’s major parties are women, including the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Speaker of the National Parliament.

When it comes to gender equality in daily life, the reality is still different, but many women in Bangladesh are breaking barriers by taking traditionally male jobs – once unthinkable. Take the case of six rural women working in a refueling station in the port city of Narayanganj near the capital Dhaka, a job that entails a degree of personal risk.A 2015 World Bank report said women in Bangladesh account for only 27 percent of the total labour force - a scenario the government and its development partners are determined to change.

Happy Akhter of Magura, Lippi Akhter of Moulvibazar and Rikta of Patuakhali districts are among the six women employees of the refueling station, set up by Saiful Islam, a former police officer, in 2001.

“It’s important to utilise the potential of everyone, including women. And the well-off section of society should come up to support them,” Islam told the Narayanganj correspondent of UNB, a national news agency.

Lippi Akhter added, “My satisfaction is that I can support my family — two daughters and one son — with what I get from this job. I’m not at all worried about myself but I want my children to be educated.”

Asked about their security as they are dealing with male motorists, Lippi said, “We’re safe here as our owner is an ex-police officer. We appreciate his concern about us. He has also made arrangements for our accommodation.”

Taking such a job, where the women have to deal with transport workers, is a matter of great courage as violence against women is widespread.

In the district where these women are working, a 15-year-old girl was raped a by a group of transport workers in a moving truck on the night of August 2. Police arrested the driver hours after the incident. During a preliminary investigation, he confessed to committing the crime with the other men.

In a press statement, Naripokkho, a women’s rights body, said, “The society is being affected due to the repeated incidents of violence against women and children. We’re aggrieved and concerned in such a situation.

“Some 280 women and children fell victims to rape from January to June this year,” Naripokkho said referring to a report of Ain o Shalish Kendro, a human rights body.  It said 39 more were the victims of attempted rape during the period, while 16 were killed after rape, and five committed suicide after rape.

Citing police data, Naripokkho said 1,914 rape cases were filed and 1,109 rape incidents took place between April and June, indicating 12 rape incidents every day.

As elsewhere in the world, women account for almost half of Bangladesh’s total population. Today, the country’s total population is 1.65 million, including 49.40 per cent women, according to the Bangladesh Election Commission.

However, a 2015 World Bank report said women in Bangladesh account for only 27 percent of the total labour force. Nepal has the highest female labour participation rate of 80 percent. “The labour market [in Bangladesh] remains divided along gender lines and progress towards gender equality seems to have stalled,” the World Bank said.

According to a 2014 study by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a civil society think tank of Bangladesh, “…the contribution of women to the national income has continued to remain insignificant when compared to men because of the under-representation of their contribution to the national income accounts.”

Worldwide, women account for about one-third of the workforce in the unorganised sector. But the International Labour Organization says in Bangladesh, only 3.25 percent of employed women are working in the public sector and 8.25 percent in the private sector. The remaining 89.5 percent are employed in the informal sector with varying and often unpredictable earning patterns – or as it so often happens, work without any payment at all.

Non-recognition of women’s unpaid activity, the CPD study says, also leads to undervaluation of their economic contribution.

The situation is slowly changing as the government takes on various projects with support from international partners. To give women’s empowerment a boost, particularly in the country’s impoverished north, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh in collaboration with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has launched a project on Climate Resilient Community Development (CRCD) Project with a greater focus on gender parity.

The six-year project will be implemented in six districts, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Rangpur, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, and Jamalpur, which are known as poverty pockets.

The project seeks to achieve at least 33 percent of women in the overall labour market, and 15 percent in construction-related areas with relevant actions like subsidised courses for women, inclusion of informal sectors and incentives to employers to employ females, functional literacy, and skill development training.

The project follows a gender sensitive design, noting that 10 per cent of households in the project areas are headed by women, and most of these households are extremely poor.

As it does always, IFAD is promoting the active participation of ‘Labour Contracting Society (LCS).  Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP) is one of them.

CCRIP Project Director A.K.M. Lutfur Rahman said poverty alleviation, education, irrigation, agriculture, women’s empowerment and tree planting are the social aspects of the project apart from its engineering aspects, and women are participating.

The project is expected to contribute to the construction of gender sensitive infrastructure that meets the needs of both women and men. In line with national development policies and IFAD’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, the goal is to empower women and men to ensure equal access to project benefits.

As security concerns prevail due to the growing violence against women, Professor Sharmind Neelormi of the Department of Economics of Jahangir Nagar University in Bangladesh stressed the importance of ensuring a gender-friendly working environment in the project areas, in addition to revisiting the wage rate.

Professor Sharmind came up with the suggestions on August 1 last in Dhaka while presenting the findings of a study she conducted with support from LGED and IFAD.

Talking to IPS, MB Akther, Programme Director & Interim Country Director of OXFAM Bangladesh, said women’s empowerment is a continuous process. A woman needs five to six years of multidimensional supports, he said. She also needs help in building market linkages for income-generating activities.

Akther said providing capital resources to women is not the only solution. They should also know how to invest resources for generating income and for that they need trainings, raising knowledge and cooperation to build market linkages.

“ICT, particularly the operation of mobile phones, is also an effective tool for women to search job markets or market prices for a product,” he said, adding that he is aware of the IFAD projects.

Talking about women’s contributions to both the household economy and the national one, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, a public-sector apex development body, told IPS in October last year that women’s contributions come from their participation both in formal and informal sectors, and even those, who work outside home in formal or informal sectors, also take care of household chores.

“If women’s household-level activities and their works in informal sectors are economically evaluated and added to the national income, Bangladesh may already be a middle-income country,” he added.

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Women Build Rural Infrastructure in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-build-rural-infrastructure-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-build-rural-infrastructure-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-build-rural-infrastructure-bangladesh/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 11:45:13 +0000 Shahiduzzaman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151659 Breaking all the social barriers and taboos, poor women in Bangladesh are now engaged in rural development works across the country as labourers. The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh initiated the move in the early 1980s, a time when a section of the so-called local elite and influential people stood in their way […]

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Women laborers engage in a development project in Bangladesh. Credit: LGED

Women laborers engage in a development project in Bangladesh. Credit: LGED

By Shahiduzzaman
DHAKA, Aug 13 2017 (IPS)

Breaking all the social barriers and taboos, poor women in Bangladesh are now engaged in rural development works across the country as labourers.

The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh initiated the move in the early 1980s, a time when a section of the so-called local elite and influential people stood in their way to move forward.

The engineers of LGED walked a long way to make this happen. They brought the working women under a platform named ‘Labour Contracting Society’ or ‘LCS’. Most of the LCS members are poor women from local communities. The LGED in cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have been successful in formally shaping the LCS concept.

IFAD as an important development partner of Bangladesh, working with the government for the last four decades and supporting the country in alleviating poverty and strengthening the rural economy.

The participation of women in the LCS for rural development is on the rise and they are replacing formal business contractors who have no accountability once the work is done.

The LGED has laid out eligibility criteria for the LCS members, particularly for the women living within a 2-km radius of the work station to include those who are unemployed, divorced or separated from their husbands, widows, destitute, with physically challenged person/s in their families, those who do not have more than 0.5 acres of land, including the homestead, and who are adults and physically fit to take on construction work. There are also men in LCS but their numbers are insignificant.

These poor women have proven that they can build rural roads and markets, and maintain them in the long run better than the private contractors. They also own their own work as their community asset, which can never be expected from the business contractors.

IFAD is promoting the active participation of LCS members in most of their projects in the country, the Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP) being one of them. LGED considers CCRIP as a ‘Silver Bullet’ for eradicating rural poverty and unemployment.

CCRIP Project Director AKM Lutfur Rahman said apart from engineering aspects of infrastructure development, they consider its social aspects, too. “So, we call it ‘Social Engineering’, in a broader sense ‘engineering for poverty alleviation, education, irrigation, agriculture, women empowerment and tree plantation and so on’.”

LGED and IFAD are planning to further strengthen the LCS and diversify their effective involvement in the projects. As part of this, both the organisations recently supported a study conducted by Professor Sharmind Neelormi of the Economics Department of Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh, on the LCS.

The study found that the concept of a ‘Labour Contracting Society’ is a proven successful formula for reaching out to the target groups and implementation of their work. Higher quality of work coupled with an increase in daily labour income and skill development form a strong base for further strengthening and expansion of this model.

Earlier this month, Professor Neelormi presented the key findings of the study at an LGED seminar in Dhaka. She put forward a set of recommendations to further improve the LCS. The key recommendations include ensuring gender-friendly working environment in project areas; revising the wage structure in the schedule considering seasonality, location-specific requirements and inflation adjustment; exercising the practice of ‘Force Majeure’ as contractual agreement; ensuring life and injury insurance during road maintenance and market construction works; and ensuring the use of retro-reflective vests.

LGED’s engineers and IFAD staff from its project areas, experts and representatives from other partners such as the World Food Programme (WFP), German KFW, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), and the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP)actively participated in the seminar.

Almost all the participants agreed with the study findings and the recommendations. Professor Sharmind drew attention of the project planners to the review some issues of LCS such as revising the wage structure to consider seasonality, location-specific requirements and inflation adjustment; and harmonisation of the daily wage rate and policy for profit-sharing across projects.

She said, “living in uncertain realities, no overnight change can be expected. Issues need to be challenged from the institution itself. It might not be possible for a local project implementing agency to ensure the safeguard.”

Jona Goswami of BMP said it is encouraging for rural women that job opportunities are created for them. She emphasised safety and security of female LCS members, saying they often become victims of violence, harassment and abuse either in their own houses or in workplaces. “So, the project authorities must ensure a gender-friendly working environment and they should be flexible about their personal issues,” Goswami said.

In an interview, Professor Md Shamsul Hoque of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) commended the initiative, saying, “It has proved through all projects that the LCS approach of constructing minor infrastructure has not only increased the income of the poor women and men but also enhanced their technical and management skills. The concept of LCS can now easily be embraced in the country’s other development programmes as well as other developing nations.”

Akond Md. Rafiqul Islam, General Manager of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, commenting on the income sustainability of LCS members, said LGED can include more partner organisations (POs) of PKSF in the projects.

The POs are helping select the LCS members and provide financial services to them, which is an important tool for the members’ income sustainability, he said. “After receiving training, many LCS members have now turned into micro entrepreneurs and they are doing well.”

PKSF is an apex development organisation for sustainable poverty reduction through employment generation.
Rafiqul Islam suggested building up an effective linkage between LCS and POs for supporting the LCS members’ income-generating activities and building them as sustainable micro-entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, Professor Hoque said different ministries and non-governmental organisations are now engaging LCS in different titles in their development activities. Some of them are the Bangladesh Water Development Board, Department of Forest, Department of Disaster Management, Department of Agricultural Extension, Cash for Work Program, World Food Program (WFP), CARE Bangladesh, BRAC and Oxfam International.

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Promise or Peril? Africa’s 830 Million Young People by 2050http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/promise-peril-africas-830-million-young-people-2050/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promise-peril-africas-830-million-young-people-2050 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/promise-peril-africas-830-million-young-people-2050/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 14:10:50 +0000 John Dramani Mahama and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151652 Honourable Mr John Dramani Mahama, is the former President of the Republic of Ghana, follow him on twitter. Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya, follow him on twitter.

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Refugees land at Lampedusa island in Italy. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By John Dramani Mahama and Siddharth Chatterjee
ACCRA, Ghana / NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11 2017 (IPS)

Last month, Spanish charity workers rescued 167 migrants arriving from Africa aboard a small boat.

2016 was the deadliest for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, with at least 3800 deaths recorded. Most know the dangers they face on the route, yet still choose the possibility of death in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels over the hopelessness of life in areas they reside.

John Dramani Mahama

Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60% will be joining the army of the unemployed.

A report from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees released this month claims that seven in ten of those heading for Europe are not refugees fleeing war or persecution, but economic migrants in search of better lives.

12 August 2017, is International Youth Day.

Africa’s youth population is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over 830 million by 2050. Whether this spells promise or peril depends on how the continent manages its “youth bulge”.

According to the World Bank, 40% of people who join rebel movements are motivated by lack of economic opportunity. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted, “The frustration generated in young people that have no hope in the future is a major source of insecurity in today’s world. And it is essential that when Governments plan their economic activities, when the international community develops forms of cooperation, they put youth employment, youth skills at the centre of all priorities…”

Some estimates indicate that more than half a million Africans migrated to European Union countries between 2013 and 2016, adding to the millions flowing in from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghnistan and parts of Asia.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Many of Africa’s young people remain trapped in poverty that is reflected in multiple dimensions, blighted by poor education, access to quality health care, malnutrition and lack of job opportunities.

For many young people–and especially girls– the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services is depriving them of their rights and the ability to make decisions about their bodies and plan their families. This is adversely affecting their education and employment opportunities.

According to UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report for 2016, gender inequalities cost sub-Saharan Africa US$ 95 billion annually in lost revenue. Women’s empowerment and gender equality needs to be at the top of national development plans.

Between 10 and 12 million people join the African labour force each year, yet the continent creates only 3.7 million jobs annually. Without urgent and sustained action, the spectre of a migration crisis looms that no wall, navy or coastguard can hope to stop.

10 to 12 million young people join the African labour force each year, yet the continent creates only 3.7 million jobs annually. Credit: Adapted from “Promulgation,” courtesy of flickr user ActionPixs (Maruko). Kenya

“The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe, but in a prosperous Africa”, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has said.

Africa’s population is expected to reach around 2.3 billion by 2050. The accompanying increase in its working age population creates a window of opportunity, which if properly harnessed, can translate into higher growth and yield a demographic dividend.

In the wake of the Second World War, the Marshall Plan helped to rebuild shattered European economies in the interests of growth and stability. We need a plan of similar ambition that places youth employment in Africa at the centre of development.

For example, one sector that Africa must prioritise is agribusiness, whose potential is almost limitless. Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa Region has said, “We cannot overstate the importance of agriculture to Africa’s determination to maintain and boost its high growth rates, create more jobs, significantly reduce poverty….”. The World Bank says African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth US $1 trillion by 2030.

The demographic dividend wheels: Adapted from African Union Commission.

Agriculture can help people overcome poor health and malnutrition. Given the importance of agriculture for the livelihoods of the rural poor, agricultural growth has the potential to greatly reduce poverty – a key contributor to poor health and undernutrition.

In the meantime, the aging demographic in many Western and Asian Tiger economies means increasing demand for skilled labour from regions with younger populations. It also means larger markets for economies seeking to benefit from the growth of a rapidly expanding African middle class. Consumer spending in Africa is projected to reach US $1.4 trillion in the next three years and business-to-business spending to reach $3.5 trillion in the next eight years.

Whether the future of Africa is promising or perilous will depend on how the continent and the international community moves from stated intent to urgent action and must give special priority to those SDGs that will give the continent a competitive edge through its youth.

The core SDGs of ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education all have particular resonance with the challenge of empowering youth and making them effective economic citizens.

As we mark International Youth Day, there is hope. Many young people in Africa are taking charge of their futures. There is a rising tide of entrepreneurship sweeping across Africa spanning technology, IT, innovation, small and medium enterprises. They are creating jobs for themselves and their communities.

The African Development Bank is working on creating 25 million jobs and equipping at least 50 million youth to realize their full economic potential by 2025.

The African Union established the theme for 2017 as “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth.” This will determine Africa’s enormous promise to realise its economic and social potential as well as reap a demographic dividend (video).

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Leadership Failure Perpetuates Stagnationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/leadership-failure-perpetuates-stagnation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leadership-failure-perpetuates-stagnation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/leadership-failure-perpetuates-stagnation/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 16:33:34 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151629 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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Growing income inequality in most countries before the Great Recession has only made things worse, by reducing consumer demand and household savings, and increasing credit for consumption and asset purchases. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR , Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

What kind of leadership does the world need now? US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership was undoubtedly extraordinary. His New Deal flew in the face of the contemporary economic orthodoxy, begun even before Keynes’ General Theory was published in 1936.

Roosevelt’s legacy also includes creating the United Nations in 1945, after acknowledging the failure of the League of Nations to prevent the Second World War. He also insisted on ‘inclusive multilateralism’ – which Churchill opposed, preferring a bilateral US-UK deal instead – by convening the 1944 United Nations Conference on Monetary and Financial Affairs at Bretton Woods with many developing countries and the Soviet Union.

The international financial institutions created at Bretton Woods were set up to ensure, not only international monetary and financial stability, but also the conditions for sustained growth, employment generation, post-war reconstruction and post-colonial development.

Debt bogey
In resisting painfully obvious measures, the current favourite bogey is public debt. Debt has been the pretext for the ongoing fiscal austerity in Europe, which effectively reversed earlier recovery efforts in 2009. With private sector demand weak, budgetary austerity is slowing, not accelerating recovery.

Much has been made of sovereign debt on both sides of the north Atlantic and in Japan. In fact, US debt interest payments come to only 1.4 percent of annual output, while Japan’s very high debt-GDP ratio is not considered a serious problem as its debt is largely domestically held. And, as is now well known, the major problems of European debt are due to the specific problems of different national economies integrated sub-optimally into the Eurozone.

The international community has, so far, failed to develop effective and equitable debt workout, including restructuring arrangements, despite the clearly dysfunctional and problematic international consequences of past sovereign debt crises. The failure to agree to sovereign debt workout arrangements will continue to prevent timely debt workouts when needed, thus effectively impeding recovery as well.

Meanwhile, earlier international, including US tolerance of the Argentine debt workout of a decade and a half ago had given hope of making progress on this front. However, this has now been undermined by the Macri government’s recent concession, on worse terms and conditions than previously negotiated, to ‘vulture capitalists’.

Golden cages of the mind
Most major deficits now are due to the collapse of tax revenues following the growth downturn and costly financial bailouts. Slower growth means less revenue, and a faster downward spiral. While insisting on fiscal deficit reduction, financial markets also recognize the adverse growth implications of such ‘fiscal consolidation’.

Many policymakers are now insisting on immediate actions to rectify various imbalances, pointing not only to fiscal deficits, but also to trade and bank imbalances. While these undoubtedly need to be addressed in the longer term, prioritizing them now effectively blocks stronger, sustained recovery efforts.

Recent recessionary financial crises have been caused by bursting credit and asset bubbles. Recessions have also been deliberately induced by public policy, such as the US Fed raising real interest rates from 1980. Internationally, this contributed not only to sovereign debt and fiscal crises, but also to protracted stagnation outside East Asia, including Latin America’s ‘lost decade’ and Africa’s ‘quarter century retreat’.

Yet another distraction is exaggerating the threat of inflation. Much recent inflation in many countries has been due to higher international commodity, especially fuel and food prices. Domestic deflationary policies in response only slowed growth while failing to stem imported inflation. In any case, the collapse of most commodity prices since 2014 has rendered this bogey irrelevant.

Market vs recovery
Strident recent calls for structural reforms mainly target labour markets, rather than product markets. Labour market liberalization in such circumstances not only undermines worker protections, but is also likely to diminish real incomes, aggregate demand and, hence, recovery prospects. Nevertheless, these have become today’s priorities, detracting from the urgent need to coordinate and implement strong and sustained efforts to raise and sustain growth and job creation.

Meanwhile, cuts in social and welfare spending are only making things worse – as employment and consumer demand fall further. In recent decades, profits and rents have risen at the expense of wages, but also with much more accruing to finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) compared to other sectors.

The outrageous increases in financial executive remuneration in recent years, which cannot be attributed to increased productivity by any stretch of the imagination, have exacerbated problems of financial sector short-termism. Regulations are urgently needed to limit short-termism, including the ability of corporations to reap greater profits in the short-term while worsening risk exposure in the longer term, thus exacerbating systemic macro-financial vulnerability.

Growing income inequality in most countries before the Great Recession has only made things worse, by reducing consumer demand and household savings, and increasing credit for consumption and asset purchases – instead of augmenting investments in new economic capacities and capabilities.

Reform bias
Current policy is justified in terms of ‘pro-market’ – effectively pro-cyclical – choices when counter-cyclical efforts, institutions and instruments are sorely needed instead. Unfortunately, global leadership today seems held to ransom by financial interests, and associated media, ideology and ‘oligarchs’ whose political influence enables them to secure more rents and pay less taxes in what must truly be the most vicious of circles.

John Hobson – the English liberal economist in the tradition of John Stuart Mill – noted that ‘economic imperialism’ emerged from the inherent tendency for economic power to concentrate and the related influence of oligopolistic rentiers on public policy. Selective state interventions to bail out and protect such interests nationally and internationally, while not subjecting them to regulation in the national interest, must surely remind us of the dangers of powerful, but unaccountable oligarchies in a systemically unstable market economy and politically volatile societies.

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World Still Lagging on Indigenous Rights 10 Years After Historic Declaration, UN Experts Warnhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 14:43:55 +0000 Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151593 Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine is Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Albert K. Barume is chairman of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

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Women from Nepal's indigenous tribe. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

By Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Albert K. Barume and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
GENEVA / NEW YORK, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

The world’s indigenous peoples still face huge challenges a decade after the adoption of an historic declaration on their rights, a group of United Nations experts and specialist bodies has warned. Speaking ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, the group says States must put words into action to end discrimination, exclusion and lack of protection illustrated by the worsening murder rate of human rights defenders.

The joint statement from the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples reads as follows:

“It is now 10 years since the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly, as the most comprehensive international human rights instrument for indigenous peoples. The Declaration, which took more than 20 years to negotiate, stands today as a beacon of progress, a framework for reconciliation and a benchmark of rights.

But a decade on, we need to acknowledge the vast challenges that remain. In too many cases, indigenous peoples are now facing even greater struggles and rights violations than they did 10 years ago.

Indigenous peoples still suffer from racism, discrimination, and unequal access to basic services including healthcare and education. Where statistical data is available, it shows clearly that they are left behind on all fronts, facing disproportionately higher levels of poverty, lower life expectancy and worse educational outcomes.

Indigenous peoples face particularly acute challenges due to loss of their lands and rights over resources, which are pillars of their livelihoods and cultural identities.

Indigenous women face double discrimination, both as women and as indigenous peoples. They are frequently excluded from decision-making processes and land rights, and many suffer violence.

We call on all States to ensure that indigenous women fully enjoy their rights as enshrined in the Declaration and emphasize that their rights are a concern for all of us.

The worsening human rights situation of indigenous peoples across the globe is illustrated by the extreme, harsh and risky working conditions of indigenous human rights defenders.

Individuals and communities who dare to defend indigenous rights find themselves labelled as obstacles to progress, anti-development forces, and in some cases, enemies of the State or terrorists.

They even risk death. Last year alone, some sources suggest that 281 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries – more than double the number who died in 2014. Half of them were working to defend land, indigenous and environmental rights.

We urge States to protect indigenous human rights defenders. Crimes committed against them must be duly investigated and prosecuted, and those responsible brought to justice.

Indigenous peoples are increasingly being drawn into conflicts over their lands, resources and rights. Lasting peace requires that States, with the support of the international community, establish conflict resolution mechanisms with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples’, in particular indigenous women.

Many States still do not recognize indigenous peoples, and in particular indigenous women and youth still face a lack of official recognition and direct political participation. Even in States where laws are in place, the Declaration has not been fully implemented.

It is high time to recognize and strengthen indigenous peoples’ own forms of governance and representation, in order to establish constructive dialogue and engagement with international and national authorities, public officials and the private sector.

The minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world, as set out in the Declaration, must now be met.

These include the rights to identity, language, health, education and self-determination, alongside the duty of States to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing measures that may affect them.

The Declaration represents important shifts in both structure and the practice of global politics, and the last 10 years have seen some positive changes in the situation of indigenous peoples and greater respect for indigenous worldviews.

But we still have a long way to go before indigenous peoples have full enjoyment of their human rights as expressed in the Declaration. We call on all States to close the gap between words and action, and to act now to deliver equality and full rights for all people from indigenous backgrounds.”

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Zaatari Camp Marks Fifth Year With 80,000 Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 15:00:00 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151525 Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which opened in 2012 as a makeshift camp to house Syrian refugees fleeing the war, marked its fifth year on June 28. The camp was opened by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations (UN) to cope with the humanitarian crisis in Syria—which has recorded the world’s largest refugee movement […]

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A view of the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, where nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees are living. Credit: UN Photo/Sahem Rababah

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 1 2017 (IPS)

Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which opened in 2012 as a makeshift camp to house Syrian refugees fleeing the war, marked its fifth year on June 28.

The camp was opened by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations (UN) to cope with the humanitarian crisis in Syria—which has recorded the world’s largest refugee movement since WWII—with a clear goal to house refugees temporarily.

Between then and today, more than 80,000 Syrian refugees have settled in the camp, making it the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp.

Far from being a makeshift settlement today, the camp has a bustling economy, with many teaching young children—who make up more than half of all refugees—to read and write. The NRC has set up educational centers and centers for vocational activities.

“Now the camp is completely different. There are many more facilities and services. There are no more tents, everyone is living in prefabs. We feel more at home now,” Anwar, one of the first refugees to enter the camp from Daraa, says in a report by the NRC.

“We struggled at the beginning. We used to have shared washrooms. Water lacked sometimes. We had no electricity. The shops weren’t there,” he continued.

All that, of course, has changed. Today, Anwar teaches carpentry and painting to others. Similarly, because many haven’t been able to leave the camp, new businesses have thronged the area.

Still, the very permanence of the camp illustrates the protracted nature of the Syrian conflict, now in its seventh year. Many children have been born in the camp, and the UN has urged other governments to share in this humanitarian responsibility to ensure a better life for all.

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Has Disability Risen among the Elderly?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/disability-risen-among-elderly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disability-risen-among-elderly http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/disability-risen-among-elderly/#comments Mon, 31 Jul 2017 14:10:11 +0000 Veena Kulkarni Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151502 Veena S. Kulkarni is Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, Sociology, & Geography, Arkansas State University, US; Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, US; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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Disability is neither purely medical nor purely social. Rather, it is an outcome of their interplay.

By Veena S. Kulkarni, Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Jul 31 2017 (IPS)

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (or RPD Act) is laudable in its intent and procedural detail, but mostly silent on disabilities among the elderly. Indeed, for this reason alone, it is arguable that its overarching goal—“The appropriate Government shall ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality, life with dignity and respect for his or her integrity equally with others” —is mere rhetoric, if not a pipe dream.

Disability is part of human condition. Almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life, and those who survive to old age will experience increasing difficulties in functioning. Disability is neither purely medical nor purely social. Rather, it is an outcome of their interplay. Chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer) are associated with impairments that get aggravated by stigma, discrimination in access to educational and medical services, and job market. Higher disability rates among older people reflect an accumulation of health risks across a lifespan of disease, injury, and chronic illness (WHO and World Bank, 2011). The co-occurrence of NCDs and disabilities among them poses considerably higher risk of mortality, relative to those not suffering from either or one.

Raghav Gaiha

There is a bidirectional link between disability and poverty: disability may increase the risk of poverty, and poverty may increase the risk of disability. Households with a disabled member are more likely to experience material hardship—including food insecurity, poor housing, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, and inadequate access to healthcare. Poverty may increase the likelihood that a person with an existing health condition becomes disabled, for example, by an inaccessible environment or lack of access to appropriate health and rehabilitation services.

There is a bidirectional link between disability and poverty: disability may increase the risk of poverty, and poverty may increase the risk of disability. Households with a disabled member are more likely to experience material hardship.

Detailed evidence on disabilities and their correlates is particularly relevant as India’s elderly population (60 years or more) is growing three times faster than the population as a whole. Three demographic processes are at work: declining fertility rates, increasing longevity and large cohorts advancing to old age (Bloom et al. 2014). As both non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and disabilities tend to rise with age, often in tandem, the inadequacies of the present health systems, community networks and family support may magnify to render these support systems largely ineffective. If the costs in terms of productivity losses are added, the total cost burden of looking after the disabled elderly may be enormously higher in the near future.

Disability is usually measured by a set of items on self-reported limitations with severity of disability ranked by the number of positively answered items. Disabilities in activities of daily living (ADL) show dependence of an individual on others, with need for assistance in daily life. The activities of feeding, dressing, bathing or showering, walking 1 km, hearing, transferring from bed and chair, normal vision, and continence are central to self-care and are called basic ADLs.

A review of the evidence from the India Human Development Survey 2015 (IHDS) that tracks the same sample of individuals over the period 2005-2012, yields useful insights from a policy perspective. IHDS covers seven disabilities already defined.

At an all-India level, there was a very rapid rise in the prevalence of all disabilities among the elderly during 2005-2012, from 8.4% to over 36%.

The prevalence was much higher among the older elderly (i.e. >70 years) than among 60-70 years old. Besides, it shot up to over 50% among the former in 2012 as compared with 33% among the latter. So the more rapid the ageing of India’s population, the higher will be the prevalence of disabilities.

The disability prevalence was slightly higher among elderly females, but became considerably higher in 2012. From about 9.4% in 2005, it rose to nearly 40% in 2012. Thus lower survival prospects for elderly women are likely to reflect greater disability.

There was a reversal in the rural-urban disabilities, with a slightly larger prevalence in urban areas, but both rose substantially with a larger prevalence in rural areas (about 37% as compared with 35%). If we use caste as a predictor of socio-economic deprivation, we find that disabilities rose much faster among the SCs than in the General category, with the prevalence among the former rising from 6.9% to about 37%. Besides, each category (including OBCs, and STs) witnessed a sharp rise in disabilities.

There are two ways of examining the link between poverty and disabilities: one is to assess whether the prevalence of disability is higher among the poor, using the official poverty line, and another is to rely on a ranking based on assets. We prefer the latter, since income fluctuates more than assets. Distinguishing between the least wealthy (or the first wealth quartile) and the most wealthy (the fourth quartile), we find that while the prevalence of disabilities was about the same in both (about 9.7%), it rose at a much faster rate among the least wealthy, resulting in the highest prevalence (39.5%) in 2012. As there is a strong association between NCDs and disabilities (e.g. between diabetes and restricted mobility and vision impairment, heart disease and limited mobility, stroke and speech and mobility impairment), some of the risk factors associated with the former are also linked to the latter. These include smoking, alcohol consumption, dietary transition to consumption of energy-dense foods—high in salts, fats and sugars—and sedentary lifestyles. As the population ages, and the burden of NCDs rises, disabilities are likely to be far more pervasive. Compounded by lack of access to disability-related services (e.g. assistive devices such as wheelchair, hearing aid, specialised medical services, rehabilitation), and persistence of negative imagery and language, stereotypes, and stigma—with deep historic roots-leading to discrimination in education and employment—the temptation to offer simplistic but largely medical solutions must be resisted. In brief, a multidimensional strategy is needed that includes prevention of disabling barriers as well as prevention and treatment of underlying health conditions.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Guardian.

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“The Time is Now” to Invest in Youth, Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/time-now-invest-youth-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-now-invest-youth-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/time-now-invest-youth-girls/#respond Fri, 28 Jul 2017 05:52:39 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151466 The demographic dividend: though not a new concept, it is one of the major buzzwords at the UN this year. But what does it really mean? There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 around the world, the most in the history of humankind. In Africa alone, approximately 60 percent […]

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The demographic dividend - “The Time is Now” to Invest in Youth, Girls

Natalia Kanem, Acting Executive Director the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 28 2017 (IPS)

The demographic dividend: though not a new concept, it is one of the major buzzwords at the UN this year. But what does it really mean?

There are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 around the world, the most in the history of humankind.

In Africa alone, approximately 60 percent of its population is currently under 25 years old and this figure is only expected to rise.

With this change in demographics comes more working-age individuals and thus the potential to advance economic growth and sustainable development, known as the demographic dividend.

However, this will not happen on its own.

Investments are required in areas such as education and sexual and reproductive healthcare in order to provide youth with opportunities to prosper, major components of the globally adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The UN Population Fund’s (UNFPA) new acting executive director Natalia Kanem, who assumed her new role after the unexpected death of former executive director Babatunde Osotimehin, sat down with IPS to discuss the issues, challenges, and goals towards achieving the demographic dividend and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Q: What is the demographic dividend and why is it so important?

A: The demographic dividend is the economic boost that happens in a country when you have more people in productive working ages employed and contributing to the economy compared to the categories of young people or elderly who are dependents in economic terms.

For many of the countries which dwell in poverty today, we are seeing this transition that was predicted to happen.

Through the success in healthcare and sanitation, society has been able to increase life expectancy—people are getting older so we are getting lower death rates.

At the same time, we are getting lower birth rates, which are happening in some of these countries, and that means the working-age population is going to have fewer mouths to feed, fewer shoes to put on the school-aged child’s feet.

Many things have to also happen at the same time—it’s not just simply lowering the birth rate.

You have to equip people to be able to be productive members of a society, and this means education is very important. Adolescent girls in particular should be equipped to reach their potential by providing education of certain types of skills or training.

All of this is going to add up to much more societal progress, potential of young people fulfilled, and human rights being enjoyed.

Q: Where does this fit in and how does it inform UNFPA’s work under your leadership? Does it signal a paradigm shift?

A: We do feel that it is a paradigm shift, and what we are doing at UNFPA is making it accessible so that governments understand its relevance.

The mandate of UNFPA is to promote universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and we feel that a woman’s choice is at the center of all of this.

Right now, as girls get married young and are having coerced sexual activity young, they are really not able to decide for themselves about how many children they want, when they want to have them, and how they would like to space them.

By giving women the choice to exercise their reproductive wishes and educating them—all of these things are going to ignite the potential of young people.

These people have potential, they want to work, they want to be educated, they want to contribute—so let’s make it easier for them, let’s not hide sexual and reproductive health information.

Not every method is going to work for every person, so we really look at human rights across the spectrum of choice.

We also have a lot of experts who have been very strategic in thinking through what really makes a difference, and we can say emphatically that investment in sexual and reproductive health way outweighs the costs—you at least double your money, and if you do the whole package, you can actually get 122 times the investment.

There is nothing on the planet that gives you that kind of payback.

Q: Why isn’t it enough to just equip youth with skills and jobs?

A: The young person exists in a societal environment like we all do, and girls tend to get left out of that picture.

In the past, when we were thinking of farmers, we didn’t realize that more than half of the farmers were women. So we were giving all of the agricultural resources to the wrong people.

And here we are saying the adolescent girl is half of the world and she also needs to be deliberately included.

The cards will be stacked against her if we don’t protect her so she doesn’t fall into the trap of sexual and reproductive dis-ease—so she’s pregnant before she wants to be, she is having her kids too close together, she is physically exhausted, and if she doesn’t finish her education, all of these things work together.

So that’s why we keep harping on this balance of all of these different elements.

The Republic of Korea is the classic example of how its gross domestic product (GDP) grew over 2,000 percent in the 50 odd years when they were investing in voluntary family planning coupled with educating the population and preparing them for the types of jobs that were going to be available.

South Korea’s population pyramid went from looking like a triangle, where there wasn’t enough working age people to take care of those at the bottom, to where there were fewer children per family and greater ability to invest more into nutrition and education and all of the things families want for their children.

And it’s not just fewer families alone, because if you have fewer families but she doesn’t have an education, then it won’t work. You need the packaged deal.

We are ultimately talking about a social revolution which sees young people as an asset to their family, community, and country.

Q: How accepted is the correlation between growth and issues that may not be so obvious such as sexual and reproductive health or child marriage? Has there been pushback on that?

A: First of all, there was lack of recognition. It seems like the dots are very far apart until you paint the picture, but we have been explaining that better.

The regional report card atlas which we just launched earlier this month for the African Union Summit is very telling. We looked at those same parameters for every single African country, one of which was early marriage, and it varies so much.

In some countries, it can be up to 70 percent of girls getting married before the age of 17. In Rwanda it’s under 10 percent, and they have very good family planning which they’ve been working on for a while.

Uganda is a very good example of how pushback was transformed.

President Museveni came in as a strong proponent of big families and said that they need a big population in order to have more workers. But after a lot of discussion, he saw that Uganda already has a big population but it wasn’t enough.

So later, the President started advocating strongly for voluntary family planning services and services like midwives because again, the woman has to be sure that when she does get pregnant she and her baby are going to survive.

Uganda has now transformed its economy and is starting to see that demographic dividend boost.

Q: Where do the resources come from for countries to invest in youth?

A: Many countries are looking to invest their own resources in this proposition because the return on investment argument is highly persuasive.

We have also garnered the interest of development banks. The World Bank is working very closely with UNFPA on the Sahelian Women’s Economic Development and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) program. It’s only been active for a little while now but it is wildly successful because it looks at rural women in countries of the Sahel.

There is also a huge role for the private sector.

Government is very important because of policies and setting the tone and norms and laying down the expectations.

But the reality is that the private sector employs 90 percent of people in the developing world.

This coupling of the public government side and the private investment side is very crucial to ensure rights, freedoms, services, and accurate information—all of that together is needed for development and for this bonus that we call the demographic dividend.

Q: How are the recent funding cuts by the United States affecting UNFPA’s work? Is it hindering progress on the demographic dividend and/or the sustainable development goals?

A: First of all, I would like to say that UNFPA is moving forward.

We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls.

We are very focused on these three goals in our work with governments, civil society, private sector, and other actors in over 150 countries to honor the legacy of our late boss as well as those who preceded him.

There are still 214 million women who want family planning and don’t have modern contraception.

We have a funding gap that stands at about 700 million dollars from now to 2020, and we have been looking for additional funding because we need to reach more and more women and girls without cutting the programs we already have.

The United States’ defunding was such a disappointment in terms of our good standing in the world and our regret that the decision was based on an erroneous claim.

Ultimately, I think our regret on the decision is certainly monetary because we were using that money very effectively in humanitarian core operations.

But we also regret it because of the stature of the U.S. in the fight to make sure that there is gender equality as well as reproductive health and rights.

We are really looking forward to continuing a dialogue and hopefully keeping an open door because the U.S. and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have been very good partners with UNFPA.

The time is now for young women to be protected from it being their fault that they got raped, for them feeling shame when they have been assaulted.

Let’s turn that around so that men and boys, women and girls live peacefully with the resources they want and need to survive and thrive.

No one of us can do it alone and I think that UNFPA is a good partner, and that we deserve to be supported.

*Interview edited for length and clarity.

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Migrant Contributions to Development: Creating a “New Positive Narrative”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/migrant-contributions-development-creating-new-positive-narrative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-contributions-development-creating-new-positive-narrative http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/migrant-contributions-development-creating-new-positive-narrative/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 14:42:44 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151437 Despite the “undeniable” benefits of migration, barriers including public misconceptions continue to hinder positive development outcomes, participants said during a series of thematic consultations here on safe, orderly, and regular migration. At a time where divisive rhetoric on migration can be seen around the world, member State representatives, UN agencies, and civil society gathered at […]

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

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

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 26 2017 (IPS)

Despite the “undeniable” benefits of migration, barriers including public misconceptions continue to hinder positive development outcomes, participants said during a series of thematic consultations here on safe, orderly, and regular migration.

At a time where divisive rhetoric on migration can be seen around the world, member State representatives, UN agencies, and civil society gathered at the UN for a two-day meeting to discuss migrants’ contributions to sustainable development as well as the challenges in harnessing such contributions.

In her opening remarks, Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour noted that though the benefits of migration outweigh the costs, public perception is often the opposite and negatively impacts migration policy.

“This must be reversed so that policy is evidence-based and not perception-driven. Policies responding to false perceptions reinforce the apparent validity of these erroneous stereotypes and make recourse to proper policies that much harder,” she added.

Among such evidence is the 575 billion dollars in global remittances transferred by international migrants to their families, almost 430 billion of which went to developing countries.

These essential lifelines, which are are three times larger than official development assistance (ODA) and more stable than other forms of private capital flows, have contributed to progress on key aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in migrants’ countries of origin, including poverty reduction, food security, and healthy families.

Benefits can also be seen in the countries where migrants reside as 85 percent of migrant workers’ earnings remain in the countries of destination.

Migrants also tend to fill labour market gaps at all skill levels in countries of destination, advancing economic growth, job creation, and service delivery.

Participants noted that this contributes to a “triple win” scenario for the country of origin, country of destination, and the migrants themselves.

“When migrants succeed, societies do too,” said Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs and International Security of Egypt and one of the sessions’ moderators, Hisham Badr.

Contributions of migrants to development in origin and destination countries go beyond financial remittances and include transfers of skills and knowledge and entrepreneurship.

Despite representing 13 percent of the overall population in the United States, immigrants made up over 20 percent of entrepreneurs, building businesses from popular search engines to environmentally-friendly cars.

In fact, 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies in 2016 had at least one founder who immigrated to the U.S. or was the child of immigrants. According to the New American Economy, those firms alone employed almost 20 million globally and generated more than 5 trillion dollars in revenue.

This diaspora is also often “bridge-builders,” maintaining strong links to their countries of origin.

However, participants noted that inadequate policies stand in the way of positive development outcomes.

“The crucial issue is not that migration and development are linked, but how they can be leveraged to create positive development outcomes,” Badr told delegates.

Arbour noted that that cost of sending and receiving remittances remains excessively high. Currently, the global average cost of transactions is over 7 percent, significantly greater than the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target of 3 percent.

The lack of access to financial services also poses a major obstacle as it prevents the investment of remittances into productive activities and sustainable development in remittance recipients’ communities.

Arbour stressed the need to boost financial inclusion, calling it “low hanging fruit.”

Participants particularly highlighted the importance of integrating migration into development planning, including the need to engage with the diaspora to create more effective migration and development policies.

Numerous UN member States have already launched initiatives to include the diaspora, including Jamaica, which hosts a biennial conference to motivate greater involvement in the country’s socio-economic development.

During the consultations, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) launched a similar platform for diaspora communities to contribute to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM), the UN’s first intergovernmentally negotiated and comprehensive agreement on international migration, which is expected to be adopted in 2018.

“Diaspora communities have emerged as key influencers in global development practices,” said iDiaspora Forum moderator Martin Russell.

“The iDiaspora Forum is a platform designed to initiate ideas, learn lessons, and share best practices. Diaspora engagement is a booming industry,” he added.

In the final panel of the meeting, which aims to gather input and recommendations to feed into the GCM, Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) Managing Director Marta Foresti pointed to the compact as a unique opportunity that the international community cannot afford to miss.

“With the global compact, we can create a new positive narrative,” she concluded.

Organized by the president of the General Assembly and co-facilitators including the Permanent Missions of Mexico and Switzerland, the informal session is the fourth in a series of six to take place this year.

The last two consultations will take place in Vienna from 4-5 September and Geneva from 12-13 October on the issues of smuggling of migrants and irregular migrants, respectively.

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The Unnoticed Demise of Democracyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/unnoticed-demise-democracy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unnoticed-demise-democracy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/unnoticed-demise-democracy/#comments Mon, 24 Jul 2017 20:57:34 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151416 Politicians are so busy fighting for their jobs, they hardly seem to notice that they risk going out of business. Democracy is on the wane, yet the problem is nowhere in Parliaments. Common to all is a progressive loss of vision, of long term planning and solutions, with politics used just for power. In English, […]

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By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 24 2017 (IPS)

Politicians are so busy fighting for their jobs, they hardly seem to notice that they risk going out of business. Democracy is on the wane, yet the problem is nowhere in Parliaments. Common to all is a progressive loss of vision, of long term planning and solutions, with politics used just for power.

Democracy is on the wane, yet the problem is nowhere to be seen in Parliaments.  Common to all is a progressive loss of long term plannin

Roberto Savio

In English, there are two terms: politics, which is term for the machinery, and policy, that is the vision. In Latin languages, there is only one, politics, and that is now becoming the adequate term also for English-speaking countries, from May’s UK to Trump’s US.

In a few years, we have seen an astonishing flourishing of authoritarian governments. Turkey’s Erdogan may be the best example. He was elected in 2002, and hailed as proof that you could be a Muslim and also a champion of democracy. At the end of the decade, he started to take a more fundamentalist and authoritarian approach, until in 2013 there was the famous crackdown on thousands of protesters, protecting a Park in Istanbul intended to be razed for a supermarket.

Since then, the tendency to use power has accelerated. In 2014, Erdogan was accused, along with his son, of corruption (three sons of cabinet ministers were also arrested). He blamed it on the Gulenist Movement, a spiritual movement led by an earlier ally, Fethullah Gulen, who now lives in the US. And when in 2016 some military factions attempted a coup against him, he used the coup as a reason to get rid of Gulenist and other dissidents. It has put 60,000 people in jail, and he has dismissed from public employment a staggering 100,000 people.

What is reminiscent of Stalin and Hitler’s practices is how those 100,000 have been treated. They have been banned from private employment, and their passports as well the ones of their families have been revoked. When asked how they will survive, the government’s reaction was to scoff that even eating roots would be “too good” for them.

We’re talking of hundreds of judges, tens of thousands of teachers, university professors, who have been dismissed without any hearing and without any formal imputation. Europe’s reaction? Empty declarations, and since then Erdogan has become more authoritarian.

He has built a Presidential Palace of 1,150 rooms, larger than the White House and the Kremlin, where there is a three-room office dedicated to taste his food to avoid poisoning. The palace cost between 500 million euro (the government’s declaration), and 1 billion dollars (opposition’ estimates).

It could be said in Europe’s defence that Turkey is not a member of the European Union, and his actions have made it extremely unlikely that membership in the EU is possible. But Poland and Hungary not only are members of the EU, but also the main beneficiaries of his economic support. Poland joined the EU in 2004, has received more than 100 billion dollars in various subsidies: double the Marshall Plan in current dollars, the largest transfer of money ever done in modern history.

Yet the government has embarked in a firm path to dismantle democratic institutions (the last, the judicial system), and even the sleepy EU has been obliged to warn that it could take away the right of Poland to vote, to the total indifference of the government. Yet nobody has formally proposed to cut the subsidies, which are now in the budget from 2014 to 2020 another 60 billion dollars – half of what the world spends for development aid for nearly 150 countries.

Hungry is run since 2010 by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who campaigns for “an illiberal democracy”, and, like Poland’s PM Szydlo, has refused to accept any immigrants, in spite of EU subsidies. Hungary, despite its small population (less than 10 million, versus Poland’s 38 million) is the third largest recipient of EU’s subsidies, or 450 dollars per person.

One third of the world population lives on less than that. In addition, the European Investment Bank gives a net subsidy of 1 billion euro, and Hungary received 2.4 billion euro from the balance of Payment Assistance Program. The two countries have formed with Slovakia and Czechia, the Visegrad group, which is in a permanent campaign against the EU and its decisions. Needless to say, subsidies to Slovakia and Czechia largely surpass their contributions.

Are Erdogan, Orban, Szydlo and dictators? On the contrary, they are democratically elected, like Duterte in the Philippines, Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Maduro in Venezuela and other 30 authoritarian presidents in the world. But in Europe this is new. And it is also new to see an American President, Donald Trump, present an agenda of isolationism and international confrontation, who was also regularly elected.

A poll at the end of his first semester revealed that his voters would re-elect him again, with the Republican support going down only from 98% to 96%. Nationwide, his popularity has declined to 36%. If elections were held today, he would likely get a second term.

Which brings us to wonder why we still consider elections equivalent to democracy? Because this is how the people can express themselves. But people certainly do not like corruption, which in polls anywhere is considered the most prominent problem of modern governments.

However, unless it reaches a totally systematic level, like in Brazil, studies don’t show a strong correlation between corruption and electoral punishment. Corruption, in politics, has been used by populists, who has promised to get rid of it to the electorate: exactly what Trump did in his campaign, while now his conflict of interest and lack of transparency with his private interests have no precedent in the White House.

That brings us to the next question. If ideologies are gone, and politics have become mainly a question of administrative efficiency and personalities, what is the link between a candidate and his voters, and whose support persists despite everything, like those who voted for Erdogan, Trump, Orban and Szydlo?

Perhaps it is time that we start to look to politics with a new approach. What did we learn from the last few years’ elections?

That people are aligning themselves under a new paradigm, which is not political in the sense we have used until now: it is called IDENTITY. Voters now elect those with whom they identify, and support them because in fact they defend their identity, no matter what. They do not listen to contradictory information, which they dismiss as “fake news.” Let us see on what this identity issue is based: the new four divides.

There is first a new divide: cities against rural areas, small towns, villages, hamlets. In Brexit, people in urban areas voted to stay in Europe. The same goes for those who voted against Erdogan, who is unpopular in Istanbul, but very popular in the rural areas. In the US, those who vote d for Trump were largely from the poor states. The same has happened with Orban and Szydlo. None would be in power if the vote was restricted to the capital and the major towns.

There is a second new divide: young and older voters. Brexit would not have happened if all young people cared to vote. Same with Erdogan, Trump, Orban and Szydlo. The problem is that young people have in serious percentages stopped to be active in politics because they feel left out, and look to parties as self-maintaining machines, ridden with corruption and inefficiency.

Of course, this plays in favour of those who are already in the system, which perpetuates itself, without the generational lift for change. Italy found 20 billion dollars to save four small banks while the total subsidies for young people are 2 billion euro. No wonder they feel left out.

There is the third divide, which is also new, ideologies of the past were basically more inclusive, even if of course the class system played a significant role. The third divide is between those who have finished at least high school, and those who did not. This is going to increase dramatically in the next two decades, when the robotization of industry and services will reach at least 40% of the production.

Tens of millions of people will be left out, and they will be those with less education, unable to fit in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Elites look with disdain at the choices of electors who are considered ignorant and provincial, while the latter in turn consider the elite winners who reap whatever they can, and marginalize them.

Finally, there is a fourth divide, which is very important for the values of peace and cooperation as a basis for a world governance. It is the divide between those who see the return to nationalism as the solution to their problems (and therefore hate immigrants), and those who believe that their country, in an increasing competing world, can be better if it integrates in international or regional organizations.

Two extremely simplified examples: Europe and the US. There was a survey done by the EU among the nine million Erasmus, or the students who with a scholarship from that exchange program went to make lives in other countries. They have had more than 100,000 children by marrying somebody met abroad: the real Europeans.

In the poll, they were at 92% asking for more Europe, not less Europe. And in the US, the classic Trump voters, as white (a demographic group in decline: at every election 2% less of white vote), who did not get beyond secondary education, who do not read newspapers or books, coming from the poorer states. People who lost their jobs, often after closure of factories or mines, strongly believe that they are victims of globalization, which created social and economic injustice.

This is a consequence of the fact that during two decades, only macroeconomic indexes have been used, like the GNP. Social indicators were largely shunned. How the growth that GNP indicated was divided was not a concern for the IMF, World Bank, the EU and most politicians, who blindly believed that market was the only engine for growth and would solve social problems: only now have they tried to brakes on, too late. The world has seen an unprecedented explosion of inequality, which is helping nationalism and xenophobia to become a central part of the political debate.

Nationalism is not confined to Trump, Erdogan, Orban and Szydlo, and to Brexit. China, India, Japan, the Philippines, Israel, Egypt, Russia, and other countries are now run by nationalist and authoritarian governments. This bring us to a very simple conclusion. Either the transition to an unknown new political system, that will certainly replace the present unsustainable system, will be based on the values of social justice, cooperation and peace (probably updating the present international organizations), or it is difficult to see how we will avoid conflicts, wars and bloodshed.

Why is man the only animal who does not learn from previous experience?

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Parliamentarians Study Nexus of Youth, Refugees and Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 18:04:54 +0000 Safa Khasawneh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151397 Held for the first time in the Arab world, an annual meeting of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians examined how regional conflicts hinder the development of effective policies to achieve sustainable development, particularly as they generate large numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants. To reach a comprehensive solution, legislators called for examining the roots […]

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Delegates of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians in Amman, Jordan. Credit: Safa Khasawneh

By Safa Khasawneh
AMMAN, Jordan, Jul 21 2017 (IPS)

Held for the first time in the Arab world, an annual meeting of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians examined how regional conflicts hinder the development of effective policies to achieve sustainable development, particularly as they generate large numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants.

To reach a comprehensive solution, legislators called for examining the roots and background of conflicts in the region."Governments should create societies where people can realize their dreams and achieve their goals." --Acting Chair of JPFP Ichiro Aisawa

The meeting kicked off Tuesday, July 18 in the Jordanian capital Amman with a focus on challenges faced by youth, including high unemployment rates and poor access to healthcare, as well as women’s empowerment and other sustainable development issues.

Around 50 legislators and experts from Asian, Arab and European countries attended the meeting, organized annually by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) which serves as the Secretariat of Japan’s Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP).

This year’s meeting was held under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs” and hosted by the Jordan Senate and Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD).

On behalf of the conference organizers, Acting Chair of JPFP Ichiro Aisawa addressed the gathering, devoting his remarks to the need to address challenges facing youth in the region, which he described as the birthplace of two of the world’s three major monotheistic religions and which has contributed richly to humankind’s cultural heritage.

Aisawa, who is also Director of APDA, called on parliamentarians to work together to realize sustainable development for the good of all.

In his opening statement, Jordan’s Acting Senate President Marouf Bakhit reiterated his country’s commitment to promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adding that issues of population and development are at the “forefront” of legislation approved by Arab parliaments and that holding this event is a “positive indicator and a step in the right direction.”

Bakhit stressed that population and development problems in Arab countries are caused mainly by conflicts, wars and forced migration.

Tackling the situation in the region, Vice Chair of JPFP Teruhiko Mashiko said in his keynote “the only solution is to prepare basic conditions for development based on knowledge and understanding of social sciences and integrating youth into the economic system.”

The first session touched on regional challenges, young refugees and means of fostering social stability. Jordan’s MP Dr. Reda Khawaldeh told IPS that building peaceful and stable societies is a responsibility that must be shouldered by the state, religious leaders, media and other civil society organizations.

Picking up on the main theme of Amman meeting – a youth bulge in the region, which describes the increasing proportion of youth relative to other age groups – Aisawa told IPS that frustration is one of the reasons that led angry Arab youth (most of whom were highly educated but with no jobs) to protest in the streets and topple their leaders.

These young men had lost their hopes and dreams of having a decent life, he said, stressing at the same time that this phenomenon is not limited to Arab countries, but could happen anywhere.

“To address this key dilemma, governments should create societies where people can realize their dreams and achieve their goals. Politicians must also advocate policies based on democracy where the rule of law prevails and people identify themselves as constructive stakeholders who participate in building their country rather than be the source of disruption and chaos,” Aisawa said.

The second session discussed the demographic dividend and creating decent jobs for youth. Sharing his experience in this regard, Philippines MP Tomasito Villarin said his country has adopted five local initiatives to give youth quality education essential for enhancing their productivity in the labor market and providing them with decent jobs.

Villarin told IPS that to achieve SDGs, his country must also address other grave challenges, including massive poverty in rural areas and an armed conflict south of Manila.

Focusing on women’s empowerment in the region as a driving force for sustainable development, Jordan’s MP Dr. Sawsan Majali warned that gender inequality is still a major challenge, especially for women with disabilities.

The second day was dedicated to a study visit to a number of sites in the ancient city of Salt, some 30 km northwest of the capital, where participants had the opportunity to explore and share good practices of development projects provided by the Salt Development Corporation (SDC), aimed at supporting community services and raising public awareness.

SDC Director Khaldoun Khreisat said financial and technical support came from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), whose officials saw Salt as a similar model to the Japanese city of Hagi.

During the three-day meeting, close consultations were held on other issues, including the key role parliamentarians play in achieving the SDGs, promoting accountability and good governance.

In his closing address, Vice Chair of JPFP Hiroyuki Nagahama stressed that politicians are accountable for the outcome of their policies and they have the responsibility and power to build a society where everybody can live in dignity.

At the end of meeting, Algerian MP Abdelmajid Tagguiche proposed the establishment of a committee to follow up and implement recommendations and outcomes of the conference.

As the curtain came down on July 20, a draft statement was issued calling for examining causes of conflicts in the region to achieve the SDGs, create decent jobs for youth and provide societies with health care and gender equality.

APDA was established on Feb. 1, 1982 and since that time it has engaged in activities working towards social development, economic progress, and the enhancement of welfare and peace in the world through studying and researching population and development issues in Asia and elsewhere.

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Brazil’s Shipyards – Victims of a Failed Reindustrialisation Processhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/brazilian-shipyards-no-reindustrialisation-horizon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazilian-shipyards-no-reindustrialisation-horizon http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/brazilian-shipyards-no-reindustrialisation-horizon/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 00:33:01 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151342 “I have lived through three good periods and two bad ones,” prior to the present crisis in the Brazilian shipping industry, said Edson Rocha, a direct witness since the 1970s of the ups and downs of a sector where nationalist feelings run high. Now as the president of the Niteroi Metalworkers Union in this city […]

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An Atlantic Ocean deepwater oil platform moored at the Astillero Maua (Maua Shipyard) in Niteroi, in southeast Brazil, after being repaired, while awaiting being hired out to resume its activities. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

An Atlantic Ocean deepwater oil platform moored at the Astillero Maua (Maua Shipyard) in Niteroi, in southeast Brazil, after being repaired, while awaiting being hired out to resume its activities. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jul 18 2017 (IPS)

“I have lived through three good periods and two bad ones,” prior to the present crisis in the Brazilian shipping industry, said Edson Rocha, a direct witness since the 1970s of the ups and downs of a sector where nationalist feelings run high.

Now as the president of the Niteroi Metalworkers Union in this city near Rio de Janeiro Rocha has to battle with mass unemployment of shipyard workers, bearing a collective responsibility that he had not faced in previous shipyard crises.

“Out of the 14,500 people employed directly by the shipbuilding sector in 2014, only around 1,500 are left,” the union leader told IPS. He estimates that 2,500 indirect jobs, beyond the union’s control, have been lost out of a total of 4,000 such jobs in that year."Building ships abroad, although it may be cheaper, means paying attention only to shareholders’ profits and not to the overall interests of Brazil. Every job in the shipbuilding industry generates four or five indirect jobs, and domestic costs can be negotiated." -- Jesus Cardoso

For a city of half a million people and few alternative employment opportunities, the impact has been devastating. “This time the decline was abrupt,” with thousands of workers suddenly being made redundant at the 10 large and medium-sized local shipyards when construction of ships and other oil industry equipment stopped.

Rocha joined the shipbuilding sector when it was at its peak in the 1970s, when strong government stimulus policies promoted the production of dozens of ships, mainly for the export of Brazilian iron ore.

Then in the 1980s the industry went broke during the “lost decade” of foreign debt. It recovered slightly in 1993-1994, only to practically disappear in the years that followed.

But it made a strong recovery after 2002, based on the big increase in offshore oil production, Rocha, a qualified project design technician, told IPS.

The discovery in 2006 of vast pre-salt oil deposits in deep Atlantic ocean waters, some 200 kilometres off the Brazilian coast, accelerated national plans to become a new oil superpower.

The dream of reactivating and expanding the shipbuilding industry was consequently renewed. The industry depends on domestic demand because its costs are too high to compete internationally.

Large shipyards were buillt at various points on the Atlantic coast, joining dozens already in existence and under expansion, to provide the ships and equipment needed for exploration, production and transport of fossil fuels.

There was plenty of finance available, as well as a protectionist policy requiring at least 60 percent national content in such equipment.

Ricardo Vanderlei, the president of Maua Shipyard, next to the repairs dock where a dredging platform is moored. The company, located in Niteroi on Guanabara bay, near Rio de Janeiro, is suffering from the serious crisis affecting Brazil’s shipbuilding industry. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Ricardo Vanderlei, the president of Maua Shipyard, next to the repairs dock where a dredging platform is moored. The company, located in Niteroi on Guanabara bay, near Rio de Janeiro, is suffering from the serious crisis affecting Brazil’s shipbuilding industry. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The house of cards collapsed at the end of 2014. The fall in oil prices, the domestic economic crisis and the losses sustained by the state oil group Petrobras, owing to corruption and bad management, interrupted projects, contracts and payments to shipbuilding suppliers.

A total of 82,472 workers were employed by Brazil’s over 40 shipyards in late 2014. In November 2016, the National Naval Industry Union had only 38,452 registered members, and the figure is still dropping.

The Maua Shipyard, which has been operating since 1845 in Niteroi, ceased receiving payments in July 2015 and has had to suspend construction of three Panamax ships – the largest that could pass through the locks of the Panama Canal before the canal was enlarged in June 2016 – contracted by Transpetro, the logistical subsidiary of Petrobras.

“Two of the ships are 90 percent finished and the third is half built,” Ricardo Vanderlei, the president of the company since 2013, told IPS during a visit to the shipyard.

The cancellation of the contract forced the immediate redundancy of 3,500 workers. Today the shipyard, which also carries out repairs and other services, employs about 500 people, compared to an average of 350 in 2016.

“Our problem is how to survive until 2020,” when oil extraction is projected to increase, and demand for equipment and transport is expected to recover, in Vanderlei’s view.

The solution for his shipyard seems clear: finishing the three partly built ships in the yard would represent two years’ work and allow for the recall of 1,800 workers, he said.

The Zelia Gatai, one of the three unfinished tankers in the Maua Shipyard in southeast Brazil, waiting for renewal of the contract suspended two years ago in order to complete the remaining 10 percent of its construction. This Panamax ship has a length of 228 metres. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Zelia Gatai, one of the three unfinished tankers in the Maua Shipyard in southeast Brazil, waiting for renewal of the contract suspended two years ago in order to complete the remaining 10 percent of its construction. This Panamax ship has a length of 228 metres. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

At the moment there is a surplus of workers available in an economy that has been in recession for three years, he said, but the most highly skilled workers will be lost if the period of unemployment is further extended.

“Most of the workers laid off by the shipyards have resorted to the informal sector, like street sales and occasional services,” said Rocha, whose union is still claiming the labour rights of metalworkers, who are owed wages since they were made redundant two years ago.

A recovery in the shipbuilding industry, beginning by finishing partly built ships, platforms and drill rigs required for oil production, unites the interests of unionised workers and shipyards threatened by economic collapse. At least 12 shipyards are in the hands of the receivers with the courts setting measures such as long-term payment agreements.

There would be many advantages and limited costs in the case of Maua, but the process has been blocked by court procedures and by the paralysis of Transpetro, under new management since the resignation of its former president, Sergio Machado, in February 2015 after 12 years in office.

After being accused of corruption, Machado cooperated with the justice system, recording conversations with several of the political leaders involved. He was given a reduced sentence of only three years’ house arrest, and the return of 75 million reals (23 million dollars) that he had siphoned off from the company.

Transpetro cancelled 17 contracts in 2016 and put a halt to its Fleet Modernisation and Expansion Programme, initiated in 2004 for building 49 ships, more than half of which are completed or nearly completed.

Some, like the three ships being built by Maua in association with Ilha Shipyards S.A., are waiting on court judgments and the weakened decision-making power of Transpetro, Vanderlei said.

Large bore tubes abandoned in the Maua Shipyard, in southeast Brazil, after the cancellation of the contract for building three large ships for transporting fossil fuels on the part of a subsidiary of the state oil company Petrobras. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Large bore tubes abandoned in the Maua Shipyard, in southeast Brazil, after the cancellation of the contract for building three large ships for transporting fossil fuels on the part of a subsidiary of the state oil company Petrobras. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Losses are accumulating because of the need to maintain deteriorating equipment and the continued occupation of the shipyard’s whole industrial area of 180,000 square metres.

With a length of 228 metres, width of 40 metres and height of 18.5 metres, each Panamax ship is equivalent to a city block bearing six-storey buildings. Those built at Maua have the capacity to transport 72,000 tons.

The shipyards did not participate in “the business of bribery, and they lost market position” in an increasingly complex production sector, without budget add-ons that promoted corruption and recently benefited other large Brazilian projects, Vanderlei complained.

The Maua Shipyard survives thanks to its traditions, the diversification of its services including repair work on various ships and its privileged location at the entrance of Guanabara bay, shared between Niteroi and Rio de Janeiro, and its mooring facilities for large ships, Vanderlei said.

“Shipyards have an assured future as demand is bound to increase after 2020, given that the country has an extensive Atlantic coastline and needs to increase oil production,” he said.

“The initial costs of industrial infrastructure in Brazil have already been paid. We have already delivered dozens of ships to Transpetro, proving our capacity,” he argued. Production in Brazil is more expensive, but meets local requirements that are not satisfied by standard ships built abroad, he added.

Jesus Cardoso, president of the Rio de Janeiro Metalworkers’ Union, told IPS that “building ships abroad, although it may be cheaper, means paying attention only to shareholders’ profits and not to the overall interests of Brazil. Every job in the shipbuilding industry generates four or five indirect jobs, and domestic costs can be negotiated,” he said.

Rio de Janeiro, with 6.5 million inhabitants, has lost 15,000 shipyard jobs since 2015, contributing to the halving of the total number of local metalworkers which had reached a peak of 70,000, Cardoso said.

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Don’t Move Resources from Development to Security, Warns UN Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/dont-move-resources-development-security-warns-un-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dont-move-resources-development-security-warns-un-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/dont-move-resources-development-security-warns-un-chief/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 21:02:39 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151339 António Guterres, UN Secretary-General at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

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António Guterres, UN Secretary-General at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Twenty years ago, when I was starting my functions as Prime Minister of Portugal, the world was surfing a wave of optimism. The Cold War had ended, technological prosperity was in full swing, the internet was spreading and there was the idea that globalisation would not only increase global wealth, but that it would trickle down and would benefit everybody in our planet.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General. Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Twenty years afterwards, I would say that the picture is mixed. It’s true that globalisation, technological progress have dramatically increased global trade, global wealth, it is true that the number of absolute poor has been reduced and that living conditions have improved all over the world but it is also true that globalisation and technological progress together have been factors of increase of inequality. Eight persons in the world have as much wealth as half of the world population.

At the same time, it is clear that people were left behind in the rust belts of this world, and youth unemployment became a severe problem in different regions of our planet not only undermining the future of those young people but also being an obstacle to the development of their countries and in some situations being a part of the global threat created by the fact that without hope they can easily be recruited by extremist organisations and we see that impact in global terrorism today.

Now it is true that that has generated a loss of confidence, loss of trust between peoples and government or political establishments, between people and international organisations like the UN, and between people and the idea of globalisation in itself, of global governance, and of multilateral institutions.

I think it is important to recognise that there is a paradox because problems are more and more global, challenges are more and more global, there is no way any country can solve them by itself, and so we need global answers and we need multilateral governance forms, and we need to be able to overcome this deficit of trust, and that in my opinion is the enormous potential of the Agenda 2030; because the Agenda 2030 is an agenda aiming at a fair globalisation, it’s an agenda aiming at not leaving anyone behind, eradicating poverty and creating conditions for people to trust again in not only political systems but also in multilateral forms of governance and in international organisations like the UN.

At the same time, it’s clear that when one looks at today’s economy, the global economies are improving, probably more slowly than we would like, but the areas of fragility are also increasing – political fragility, institutional fragility, but also development fragility, and societal fragility; and fragilities to a large extent are responsible for many of the conflicts today and for the spreading of those conflicts and the linking of those conflicts to the global threat of global terrorism.

And this is why it is true that the agendas of sustainable development and the agendas of preventing [conflict] and sustaining peace need to be linked. But here there is a caveat – that link should not be a pretext to move resources from development to security.

On the contrary, that should make us understand the centrality of development in what we do and the need to make sure that with that centrality of development we are able to fully recognise that sustainable and inclusive development is in itself a major factor of prevention of conflict as it is a major factor for the prevention of natural disasters and other aspects in which the resilience of societies is so important today.

And indeed if one looks at the global megatrends – population growth, climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, chaotic urbanization in certain parts of the world – it is also true that all these megatrends are interacting with each other, are stressing each other. And we have to recognise that climate change became the main accelerator of all other factors.

This is also the moment to clearly say that the link to the Agenda 2030 of sustainable development, there must be a very strong reaffirmation of our commitment to the Paris Agreement and to its implementation with an enhanced ambition because the Paris Agreement by itself is not enough for the objectives that the world needs in relation to global warming. And this is something that I believe is very important not only because of its absolute need for mankind and the future of the planet but because it is also the right and smart thing to do.

We are seeing that the green economy is becoming more and more the economy of the future, that green business is good business and those that will not bet on green economy, on green technologies, will inevitably lose or not gain economic leadership in the years to come.

At the same time it is very important that we recognise that we need not only to be able to respond to the problems of those that are living in societies and that are under government responsibility but that human rights are also the rights of the people on the move, refugees and migrants, and so leaving no one behind will also have to inspire us to find the ways to look into migration with a different perspective, not with a perspective of rejection but understanding that is also an important component in solving global problems and that we need to find more legal avenues of migration and more ways to respect the human rights of migrants to make sure that they are not left behind in today’s world.

We know that the global megatrends are also making more and more people move in our world to prevent unnecessary movements, and to make sure that those movements that take place, take place in a regular way is another very important objective of not leaving anyone behind.

And then there is a central question of funding. And I think it is important to reaffirm today very clearly that developed countries need to abide by their commitments in relation to official development aid, but that at the same time that this is not enough to fund the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

We need to create conditions to help States be able to mobilise more their own resources and that has to do, on one hand, with tax reforms within states but also on mobilising the international community to fight together tax evasion, money laundering, and illicit flows of capital that are today making that more money is coming out of developing countries that the money that goes in through official development assistance.

And at the same time we need to make sure that the international financial institutions are able to leverage resources and to multiply their capacity to fund the implementation of the SDGs and also that we help countries to be able to access global markets, financial markets, and to be able to attract private investment without which it would be absolutely impossible to achieve these goals. And let’s also not only think about the problems of today, but also the problems of tomorrow.

We are facing a fourth industrial revolution, that will have a dramatic] impact in labour markets. And this will be a problem for many developing countries that today rely on cheap manpower as their competitive advantage; and cheap manpower will probably see many jobs destroyed in the near future with robotisation, and other forms of automation.

And at the same time a problem for many developed countries – look at the possibility that one day in a country like the US no more drivers might be necessary, no more drivers for cars, for trucks, and that is probably a very important source of employment in all societies in the world.

We need to be able to anticipate these trends, we need to be able to work together countries, international organisations, not to be reacting, but to be foreseeing what is coming and investing in education, in training, in new skills, in the adaptations of the labour markets to be able to cope with the challenges of the future. And for all that we also need to be able to reform, reform at country level, reform at the UN level and other organisations level.

Countries will look in different ways depending on different situations, on a country by country basis, into their governance mechanisms, into the way they are able to guarantee the participation of citizens, of businesses and of the civil society in development objectives. In the ways they are able to fight corruption, or to guarantee not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights.

And as in the UN we need to be able to understand that even if the UN development system has produced many important contributions namely in the context of the implementation of the [SDGs], we are not fully ready for the new challenges of the present agenda 2030. That is why I presented to ECOSOC a first report on the reform of the UN development system. I will not be repeating here the 38 measures that are included in this first report but just say that there are a few central areas of concern.

First, the idea that we need to have at country level empowered resident coordinators and more effective country teams, more coordinated and more able to deliver support to the governments according to the government strategies – because governments and countries are the leaders of the implementation of the agenda – and to be more accountable to those governments at country level.

At the same time, to have this level of coordination, transparency, accountability at global level, being in this case accountable to ECOSOC and to the General Assembly of the UN and to consider that gender parity in the UN must also be an instrument in order to support gender mainstreaming, in the application of all policies that relate to the Agenda 2030 and to its objectives from the eradication of poverty to all the different areas, in the different sectors in which we need to be effective.

And finally that funding needs to be in line with the objectives of coherence and the objectives of accountability that I have mentioned and that is why we have the idea to propose a funding compact to guarantee exactly that coherence instead of the dispersion of funding in line that are not taking into account the objectives that in each country, each government is able to put in place to achieve the sustainable development goals.

And I think that looking at this Assembly, one can only be enthusiastic about the fact that there is a very strong commitment not only to the implementation of the agenda but a very strong affirmation of support to multilateral governance as the way to lead the 2030 Agenda respecting the leadership of member states but recognising that only working together we can rebuild the trust that is needed and we can make the Agenda 2030 that factor that brings the fair globalisation the world needs in the present times.

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How to Achieve Universal Goals, Strategicallyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-universal-goals-strategically/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieve-universal-goals-strategically http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-universal-goals-strategically/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 16:49:00 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151328 Discussion around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a list of 17 goals listed by the UN, was all the buzz in the conference rooms of UN headquarters this week. Forty-four countries came together in a series of high-level political forum meetings to assess their standing and discuss their challenges in the fight to achieve […]

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By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Discussion around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a list of 17 goals listed by the UN, was all the buzz in the conference rooms of UN headquarters this week.

A view of the Trusteeship Council Chamber during the Ministerial Segment of the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Forty-four countries came together in a series of high-level political forum meetings to assess their standing and discuss their challenges in the fight to achieve the 2030 universal goals—such as eradication of poverty and hunger.

“We have come to New York in order to find common solutions for common problems,” said Debapriya Bhattacharya, a top expert on policies on the Global South, to IPS News.

Debapriya Bhattacharya, among other key panelists, led discussions on the exchange of information, also addressed as interlinkages, between countries in one such panel, called Leveraging Interlinkages for Effective Implementation of SDGs.

The main goal of the panel was to identify the different ways in which different targets and goals could be mix and matched to produce maximum results.

For example, the goal of eradicating hunger necessarily means a sustainable chain of food production and consumption. Food production relies on fertile soil, which ultimately caters to goals of environmental conservation. This pattern of information in an interdependent ecosystem sits at the heart of reviews and assessment to improve implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Crucial information, such as who needs the most help and how to provide it, are collected by different agencies, governmental and non-governmental, in every country. While this exchange of information becomes important to identify synergies between countries, they are not enough to bring the goals to a vivid global reality.

“Setting up various kinds of agencies is important to ensure the flow of information is important, but are not fully adequate. We need to assess how to build one policy over another, so that two policies don’t add up to two, but more than two,” Debapriya Bhattacharya told IPS news.

The next crucial part of this flow is establishing a relationship—or seeking leverage—with the global community.

This partnering with a resourceful global community is especially important for countries to mitigate financial and technological issues. For example, a landlocked country with varying special needs can also quickly benefit from a global partnership.

To achieve this partnership, panelists stressed on the importance of political leadership.

Ultimately, with the help of newer technologies, this wide array of information coalesces into quantitative and qualitative data, and guides policy making.

Hopefully, in the next and complimentary step—the implementation of the data to deliver on the goals—all that glitters will turn to gold.

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Civil Society on SDG Engagement: “We Are Not Guests”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 08:55:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151313 Showing up in record numbers, civil society groups are urging greater inclusion and accountability in sustainable development processes at a UN high level meeting. Almost 2,500 representatives are currently gathered at the UN for its High Level Political Forum(HLPF), a meeting to monitor and review progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in […]

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Indigenous children hold signs supporting the struggle in Cherán. Credit: Daniela Pastrana/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Showing up in record numbers, civil society groups are urging greater inclusion and accountability in sustainable development processes at a UN high level meeting.

Almost 2,500 representatives are currently gathered at the UN for its High Level Political Forum(HLPF), a meeting to monitor and review progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015.

Concerned about the slow progress towards sustainable development by governments after two years, civil society organisations (CSOs) from around the world have descended upon the global meeting to make their voices heard and demand engagement in order to achieve the ambitious agenda.

“One thing that is very different in the 2030 Agenda is the call for inclusion of all stakeholders and all people…we are not guests, we are not in the shadow, we are part of the implementation of this agenda as we were also part of the crafting of the agenda,” co-chair of the Steering Group of the Coordination Mechanism of Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) Naiara Costa told IPS.

MGoS is a newly created space to help civil society access information, increase their participation in decision-making processes, and facilitate collaboration across major stakeholder groups including indigenous peoples, women, and persons with disabilities.

“It is an agenda that is attracting so much attention and that civil society is taking so seriously that you need to have a space where people can come and get information and be prepared…if we are not engaged, [the agenda] is not going to be delivered,” Costa added.

Though there has been some progress towards inclusion of marginalised groups, there is still a long way to go.

Yetnebersh Nigussie, who is the senior inclusion advisor of international disability and development organisation Light for the World, told IPS that persons with disabilities have long been neglected, stating: “When talking about persons with disability, we are talking about billions—that’s 1/7th of the global population which is a huge segment of the population that has been highly overlooked.”

Though comprising of 15 percent of the global population, persons with disabilities are overrepresented among those living in absolute poverty.

They encounter exclusion and discrimination on a daily basis, including in development programmes and agendas like the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which made no reference to persons with disabilities.

Two years into the new 2030 Agenda, participation is still uneven for persons with disabilities, Nigussie said.

“Most of disability organizations were not fully informed—even in cases that they were consulted, accessibility needs were not addressed, and they were not meaningfully included,” she said, adding that there are also cases of exclusion against disability organizations within civil society itself.

Filipino indigenous activist and former Secretary-General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Joan Carling echoed similar sentiments to IPS on the exclusion of indigenous groups.

“Indigenous people who are defending our lands are being killed. So how can there be effective participation of indigenous peoples if that is the situation at the local level?” she said.

According to Global Witness, more than 200 environmental defenders, including indigenous leaders, were killed trying to protect their land in 2016, more than double the number five years ago.

Almost 100 have already been killed so far in 2017, including Mexican indigenous leader and illegal logging opponent Isidro Baldenergo Lopez.

States often exclude indigenous groups in development processes because it is too political otherwise, Carling noted.

“[States] are threatened by our demand of our rights to our territories and resources…so they try to avoid any reference to indigenous peoples because once they call us indigenous peoples, then they have to recognize our rights,” she told IPS.

Both Carling and Nigussie also highlighted the shrinking space for civil society around the world.

CIVICUS has found that civic space is severely constrained in 106 countries, over half of the UN’s members, through practices such as forced closure of CSOs, violence, and detentions.

Civil society activists are imprisoned most when they criticise the government and its policies or call attention to human rights abuses, the group noted.

Nigussie told IPS that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a “joint responsibility” between governments and civil society and that if they fail, they are “mutually accountable.”

To promote such accountability, the SDGs must be linked to the human rights model which will entail frequent consultations with persons with disabilities from the grassroots to the international levels.

Though engagement at the local and national levels are most important to successfully achieve sustainable development, global forums like HLPF at the UN allow civil society to make sure their concerns are heard.

“There is a lot of interest in bring the issue of lack of consultations at the global level simply because the space at the national levels are not provided,” Carling told IPS.

She highlighted the importance of indigenous peoples to identify, support, and have ownership of their own solutions.

“The goal is leaving no one behind—so if it is not participatory or rights-based, then it will end up as business as usual again,” Carling said.

Costa urged for nations to bring lessons learned back home, concluding: “It cannot stop here, [countries] need to bring the discussion back home. Otherwise its just a talk shop and we cannot allow this to happen.”

This year’s HLPF is held at the UN from 10-19 July with the theme of “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” It will focus on evaluating implementation of SDGs in 44 countries including Argentina, Ethiopia, and Thailand.

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The Arab Youth Bulge and the Parliamentarianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 16:26:37 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151300 More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women. These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and […]

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The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students from Al-Amal Preparatory School for Girls in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, participate in psychosocial support activities. Credit: © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

By IPS World Desk
ROME/AMMAN, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women.

These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and alarming growing water scarcity, all worsening as a consequence of climate change.

One of the main consequences is an increasing social unrest like the one that led to so the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Let alone massive migration–now it is estimated that 25 to 35 per cent of Arab youth appear to be determined to migrate. (See: What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?).

What to Do?

More than 100 Arab and Asian legislators are set to focus on these and other related challenges in Amman, Jordan, during the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development (18-20 July 2017).

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), which is the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), participants have been selected based on their needs for capacity enhancement and priority policy interventions where knowledge-sharing can be most effective.

According to APDA, over the past decades, while the Arab region has shown remarkable socio-economic improvement including education and health, it has faced profound changes and challenges. Among them is the “youth bulge,” which describes the increasing proportion of youth in relative to other age groups.

The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students at the Jalazone Basic School watch a performance by ‘Clowns 4 Care’. Credit: © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Riham Jafary

Such increase, together with overall Arab population pressures, has resulted in an unprecedented youth population growth in the region’s history, it adds.

One of the most challenging issues facing young Arabs are the high-unemployment rates. “The region has one of the highest regional youth unemployment rate seen anywhere in the world,” it warns, adding that in 2009, more than 20 per cent of Arab youth were unable to find a job, which constituted more than half of the total unemployment.

Such high youth unemployment, combined with a demographic youth bulge, provoked the Arab Spring, a civil uprising mainly by Arab youths, and regional instability, according to APDA.

Moreover, despite overall progress in the health sector in many Arab countries over the past years, Arab youth still suffer from inadequate health provision and poor access to health facilities, lack of access to health information and services, especially for reproductive health.

“This is especially true for young women, youth in rural areas, and youth with disabilities and putting many in a vulnerable situation. “

The Youth Bulge

Organised under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs”, the Amman meeting aims at enhancing the roles of parliamentarians in enacting legislation to formulate policies and mobilize budget that takes population issues into account is a driver to promote socio-economic development.

In fact, legislators have a significant part to play in linking demographic dimensions with sustainable development and turning them into advantages to produce socio-economic outcomes.

“For instance, the youth bulge presents not only development challenges but also opportunities, if appropriate policies are adopted to invest in the youth and reap the full potential of them. “

The Amman event will be followed by one in India on mid-September, and another one in the Republic of Korea towards the end of October 2017.

The Asian Population and Development Association has supported activities of parliamentarians tackling population and development issues for 35 years.

This time, in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development and its Secretariat in Amman, Jordan, the event is intended to highlight and call attention of Asian and Arab parliamentarians to population perspectives in the 2030 Agenda.

As well, it will focus on parliamentarians’ important roles and tasks in addressing population issues aligned with the new goals and targets, and related policies and programmes that advance social inclusion and population stability in the region.

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Climate Change-Poverty-Migration: The New, Inhuman ‘Bermuda Triangle’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/climate-change-poverty-migration-new-inhuman-bermuda-triangle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-poverty-migration-new-inhuman-bermuda-triangle http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/climate-change-poverty-migration-new-inhuman-bermuda-triangle/#respond Fri, 07 Jul 2017 16:06:31 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151201 World organisations, experts and scientists have been repeating it to satiety: climate change poses a major risk to the poorest rural populations in developing countries, dangerously threatening their lives and livelihoods and thus forcing them to migrate. Also that the billions of dollars that the major industrialised powers—those who are the main responsible for climate […]

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Climate change often leads to distress-driven migration, promoting sustainable agriculture is an essential part of an effective policy response

Unprecedented levels of population displacements in the Lake Chad Basin ‒Cameroon, Chad, the Niger and Nigeria. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 7 2017 (IPS)

World organisations, experts and scientists have been repeating it to satiety: climate change poses a major risk to the poorest rural populations in developing countries, dangerously threatening their lives and livelihoods and thus forcing them to migrate.

Also that the billions of dollars that the major industrialised powers—those who are the main responsible for climate change, spend on often illegal, inhumane measures aiming at impeding the arrival of migrants and refuges to their countries, could be devoted instead to preventing the root causes of massive human displacements.

One such a solution is to invest in sustainable agriculture. On this, the world’s leading body in the fields of food and agriculture has once again warned that climate change often leads to distress-driven migration, while stressing that promoting sustainable agriculture is an essential part of an effective policy response.“Since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters”

The “solution to this great challenge” lies in bolstering the economic activities that the vast majority of rural populations are already engaged in,” José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 6 July said.

The UN specialised agency’s chief cited figures showing that since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters –an average of 26 million a year– and suggesting the trend is likely to intensify in the immediate future as rural areas struggle to cope with warmer weather and more erratic rainfall.

For his part, William Lacy Swing, director-general of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), also on July 6 said “Although less visible than extreme events like a hurricane, slow-onset climate change events tend to have a much greater impact over time.”

Swing cited the drying up over 30 years of Lake Chad, now a food crisis hotspot. “Many migrants will come from rural areas, with a potentially major impact on agricultural production and food prices.”

Credit: IOM

FAO and IOM, chosen as co-chairs for 2018 of the Global Migration Group –an inter-agency group of 22 UN organisations– are collaborating on ways to tackle the root causes of migration, an increasingly pressing issue for the international community.

Drivers of Rural Migration

“Rural areas of developing countries, where often poor households have limited capacity to cope with and manage risks, are forecast to bear the brunt of higher average temperatures. Such vulnerabilities have been worsened by years of under-investment in rural areas.”

Using migration as an adaptation strategy can be positive –remittances can bolster food security and productive investment in places of origin– but can also perpetuate more vulnerability if not supported by adequate policies.

“We need to systematically integrate migration and climate change into national development and poverty reduction programmes, disaster risk reduction and crisis planning and develop agricultural policies and practices that enhance resilience in the face of climate-induced forced migration,” IOM’s Swing added.

Both Graziano da Silva and Swing made their statements during the FAO Conference in Rome (3-8 July 2017).

FAO and IOM called for explicit recognition of migration –both its causes and its potential– in national climate change and rural development policies.

Farming and Livestock Bear Over 80 Per Cent of Damage

Here the United Nations has again reminded that farming and livestock sectors typically bear more than 80 per cent of the damage and losses caused by drought, underscoring how agriculture stands to be a primary victim of climate change. Other impacts include soil degradation, water scarcity and depletion of natural resources.

 Climate change often leads to distress-driven migration, promoting sustainable agriculture is an essential part of an effective policy response

CRISIS IN SOUTH SUDAN. South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, as 6 million people. Credit: FAO

Agricultural and rural development must be an integral part of solutions to weather and climate-related challenges, especially as they link with distress migration, Graziano da Silva said. Investment in resilient rural livelihoods, decent employment opportunities, especially for youth, and social protection schemes geared to protecting people from risks and shocks, is necessary, he added.

FAO also supports vulnerable member states in various ways, including with setting up early warning and early actions systems, dealing with water scarcity and introducing Climate-Smart Agriculture methods and Safe Access to Fuel and Energy initiatives designed to ease tensions between refugees and their host communities as well as reduce deforestation.

The South-South Triangular Cooperation

South-South Cooperation – partnerships in which developing countries exchange resources and expertise – is proving an inclusive and cost-effective tool to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Graziano da Silva said.

South-South and Triangular Cooperation offers the possibility of an approach that is not the traditional way followed by donors. It is more horizontal and it is based on the concept of solidarity,” he added at a side-event at the FAO Conference that took stock of the achievements of FAO-China South-South Cooperation Programme and looked at ways to involve more countries and international organisations in similar partnerships.

Graziano da Silva praised China’s “pioneering role as the largest contributor in supporting the programme,” as well as its decision to establish the FAO-China South-South Cooperation Trust Fund with a total financial grant of 80 million dollars. “I am sure that the interest in South-South and Triangular Cooperation will continue to grow because the benefits are shared by both sides of this partnership.”

China has sent over 1,000 experts and technicians to 26 countries in Africa, Asia, the South Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, through FAO’s South-South Cooperation Programme. Results have included positive contributions to improve agricultural productivity and food security in developing countries.

FAO and China have promoted triangular cooperation with developed countries and other international organisations, to expand partnerships and promote global sharing of agricultural expertise and knowledge.

Through its South-South and Triangular Cooperation Programme, the UN specialised body is facilitating exchanges of experiences and know-how by supporting the placement of more than 2,000 experts to more than 80 countries around the world.

The Parliamentarians

Meanwhile, parliamentarians have a key role to play along with governments, civil society, private sector, international agencies and donors “to achieve a Zero Hunger generation in our lifetime”, on 6 July said Graziano da Silva at a meeting with lawmakers on the side-lines of the FAO Conference.

“You are the ones who are responsible for enacting laws and for approving budgets, among other roles,” he said asking them to increase funding in their national budgets for food security and nutrition.

He also noted that achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 is still possible despite the fact that the number of hungry people has started to grow again.

“But we have to move quickly from political commitment to concrete actions, especially at national and regional levels. As elected representatives, you possess a high level of political influence that is essential for a positive change in your countries.”

He also emphasised the role of legislators in improving nutrition and food safety and praised them for acknowledging “the need for specific constitutional and legislative provisions to ensure the enjoyment of this human right to adequate food”.

Legislators and the Middle East

The Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region, being one of the most impacted areas by climate change worsening the already dangerous water scarcity challenge, will this month receive special attention through the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development (Amman, 18-20 July 2017).

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), which serves as the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), and the Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD) and its Secretariat in Amman, Jordan, the event will call attention of Asian and Arab parliamentarians to population perspectives in the 2030 Agenda.

It is expected the meeting will enhance the capacity of parliamentarians who are responsible for population and development and establish a dialogue between Arab and Asian parliamentarians so as to exchange good practices, ideas and policy interventions.

Meantime, the three Rome-based UN food and agriculture agencies are embarking on an unprecedented joint programme to work with vulnerable communities in three crisis-prone areas over five years to meet their immediate food needs and boost their resilience, while addressing the root causes of food insecurity.

A 38 million dollars initiative funded by Canada, will be rolled out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Somalia by both FAO, the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

In short, there are more feasible, effective –and human– solutions than building walls and adopting expensive, often-inefficient “security” measures to halt the growing massive forced displacement of the poorest.

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An African Atlas for Youth and Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/african-atlas-youth-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-atlas-youth-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/african-atlas-youth-sustainable-development/#respond Fri, 07 Jul 2017 07:51:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151197 As its population changes, Africa has the potential to transform its society into one that is productive and prosperous, according to a new report. With increasing life expectancy and declining mortality and fertility rates, many African nations are seeing profound shifts in their demographics that have significant implications for social and economic development. Approximately 60 […]

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Women informal cross-border traders negotiate a minefield ranging from bus drivers and conductors, customs officials and dangerous and unfamiliar environments. Credit: Trevor Davies/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2017 (IPS)

As its population changes, Africa has the potential to transform its society into one that is productive and prosperous, according to a new report.

With increasing life expectancy and declining mortality and fertility rates, many African nations are seeing profound shifts in their demographics that have significant implications for social and economic development.

Approximately 60 percent of Africa’s population is currently under 25 years old, and its youthful population is expected to continue to rise.

In order to help harness the potential of Africa’s youth, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) produced a regional report card to help countries assess their status and create roadmaps for long-term development.

“Many countries, particularly in Africa, are really anxious to try and capitalise on the youth bulge,” UNFPA’s Chief of Population and Development Branch Rachel Snow told IPS.

“So that motivated us to produce a simple atlas where countries can see where they stand with some of the really key indicators that are important for creating an enabling environment for a demographic dividend,” she continued.

According to UNFPA, the demographic dividend is the achievement of accelerated sustainable development when declining fertility leads to an increase in the proportion of the population entering the work force.

When such youth are healthy, well-educated, empowered, and have opportunities for decent work, they have the capacity to stimulate economic growth for years to come.

Though Snow noted that there has been improvement, the region continues to struggle across various sectors.

In its new report titled “The Demographic Dividend Atlas for Africa,” UNFPA found that over 20 percent of youth in the majority of countries in Northern and Southern Africa are unemployed.

In some countries such as Libya and South Africa, half of all young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old are unemployed, reflecting challenges that youth face in entering the labour market.

However, youth unemployment data can be deceptive as a high proportion of young people often work in vulnerable employment, Snow told IPS.

At first glance, Uganda has a relatively low youth unemployment rate of 6 percent but upon closer look at its employment status, over 70 percent participate in some form of informal work.

Similarly, 4 percent of youth are unemployed in Niger yet more than 9 out of 10 workers are in the informal work sector.

But in order to help youth enter the formal work force, it is also important to look beyond employment figures that affect the availability and access to safe economic opportunities and utilise a multidimensional approach.

“In some countries, young people that don’t have any chances at all because of child marriage, no family planning…and at the same time you’ve got quite a few countries where people have made great progress on primary education and it sort of ends there,” Snow stated.

“You see the lack of a clear trajectory created for young people,” she continued.

Many countries have low levels of secondary school enrollment, especially in nations where informal employment are highest. Uganda and Niger have gross secondary enrollment rates of 26 percent and 21 percent respectively.

Child marriage, which makes girls more likely to be unemployed or underemployed, are similarly high in such contexts.

Approximately 70 percent of women between 20-24 years old are married before the age of 18 in Niger.

“We want to highlight the challenges for employment and so it can prompt a much more innovative conversation within governments in terms of where they need to be mainstreaming these issues,” Snow said.

However, among the pressing challenges hindering such long-term investment are the multiple protracted crises seen across the continent from Libya to the Central African Republic.

Snow highlighted the importance of linking humanitarian aid and development assistance in order to help post-conflict countries build resilience and redevelop their systems.

During the 29th African Union Summit held in Ethiopia, where the report was launched, heads of States deliberated on peace and security issues as well as finances as it pushed the body towards self-sufficiency.

“Africa needs to finance its own programs…institutions like the AU cannot rely on donor funding as the model is not sustainable,” said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe during the two-day summit whose theme was “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in the Youth.”

Though there is concern for the large numbers of unemployed youth around the world, Snow expressed hope a change in perspective and continued progress.

“We would like to try to encourage reflection on seeing young people not as a threat, but young people as a true opportunity for development,” she concluded.

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‘Address African Rural Youth Unemployment Now or They Will Migrate’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/address-african-rural-youth-unemployment-now-will-migrate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=address-african-rural-youth-unemployment-now-will-migrate http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/address-african-rural-youth-unemployment-now-will-migrate/#respond Mon, 03 Jul 2017 10:13:52 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151148 In 2014 alone, about 11 million young Africans entered the labour market. But many see few opportunities in the agriculture sector and are constrained by a lack of skills, low wages, and limited access to land and financial services. Combined, this makes them more prone to migrate from rural areas. Youth employment should be at […]

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By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jul 3 2017 (IPS)

In 2014 alone, about 11 million young Africans entered the labour market. But many see few opportunities in the agriculture sector and are constrained by a lack of skills, low wages, and limited access to land and financial services. Combined, this makes them more prone to migrate from rural areas.

Youth employment should be at the centre of any strategy to face economic and demographic challenges in Africa, the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) José Graziano da Silva told a joint African Union-European Union meeting in Rome.

“Fostering sustainable agriculture and rural development is essential to absorb these millions of youth looking for a job,” Graziano da Silva said. “A sustainable world can only be achieved with the full engagement of young people. They must feel integrated and believe that a more peaceful and prosperous world is possible.”

The one-day meeting, held on July 2, was co-hosted by the African Union Commission, the European Commission and the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council and was attended by Ministers of Agriculture of the African Union and the European Union.

The aim was to build a common vision on how to generate sustainable, inclusive jobs for African youth in the rural sector.

“Youth employment should be at the centre of any strategy to face economic and demographic challenges in Africa” – Graziano da Silva


Five-Step Solution

Graziano da Silva outlined five steps to engage youth in agriculture and rural development.

Firstly, enhance youth participation and leadership in producer organizations and other rural institutions to empower them to engage in policy dialogue.

Secondly, stimulate private sector investments to create a modern and dynamic agricultural sector and value chains, and to build infrastructure needed for agricultural investments.

Thirdly, provide rural areas with better services such as electricity, education and health.

The fourth step is to strengthen the physical, economic, social and political links between small urban centres and their surrounding rural areas.

Finally, invest more in Information and Communication Technologies, which has the potential to improve efficiency in some farm work and facilitate access to markets, information and business opportunities.

The number of people struggling to find enough food each day in South Sudan has grown to six million. Credit: FAO


The UN specialised agency is supporting the implementation of many programmes that target youth in rural areas. Uganda, for example, has adopted FAO’s Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools methodology, funded by Norway, Sweden and Belgium.

This simple but efficient program teaches vulnerable children and young people about farming and management skills, the UN agency said.

As examples, it reports that in Nigeria, it is supporting the design of the National Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme; and FAO and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development have joined forces to increase jobs and business opportunities for young people in rural areas of Benin, Cameroon, Malawi and Niger through a 4 million dollars grant made available by the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund.

The conference outcomes will be presented at the Africa-EU Summit in November this year and will guide future work of both the European Commission and the African Union Commission.

An FAO-supported horticulture project in Ethiopia is helping create job opportunities for young people. Credit: FAO

The joint African Union-European Union meeting in Rome was held on the eve of FAO’s Conference 40th Session on 3-8 July 2017. It is the organisation’s highest governing body and sessions are held every two years.

The purpose is to convene the Member Nations at FAO headquarters to review and vote on the Director General’s proposed program of work and budget.

Pressing Issues

Participants will discuss a number of pressing issues including how to turn commitment into action to achieve the Global Goal of Zero Hunger; water scarcity, food security and a changing climate in the Near East and North Africa; sustainable solutions to prevent famine in conflict-affected countries; an action plan on food security and nutrition for Small Island Developing States; and the role of rural development in mitigating pressures that drive migration.

This year around 1,000 participants are expected to attend, including 70 Ministers, 15 Deputy Ministers and one President. The session takes place over 6 days during which around 20 side events will be held, FAO informs.

FAO has 194 Member States plus one Member Organization, the European Union, and two Associate Members, The Faroe Islands and Tokelau.

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