Inter Press ServiceNatural Resources – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 27 Jul 2017 00:01:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 2 Billion People Don’t Have Access To Clean Water, Opens up Fissures of Inequalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:52:35 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151290 More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Although significant progress to ensure access to drinking water has been achieved, there is still a long way to go to ensure its quality—deemed free from pollutants and safe for […]

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More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

On 9 February 2016 in central Ethiopia, children and women from a semi-pastoralist community wait their turn to fill jerrycans with clean water at a water point in Haro Huba Kebele in Fantale Woreda, in East Shoa Zone, Oromia Region. Credit: © UNICEF/UN011590/Ayene

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Although significant progress to ensure access to drinking water has been achieved, there is still a long way to go to ensure its quality—deemed free from pollutants and safe for drinking.

“Clean water and sanitation is central to other outcomes, for example, nutrition among children. While many countries like India have made it a top priority, many others haven’t been able to emphasise the issue yet,” Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF, told IPS.

As many as 400 million people still rely on distant water sources—travelling to and fro from their homes to pick it up. Some 159 million people, according to the report, rely on untreated water from lakes and streams. This puts lives, especially of young children, at great risk.

“Every day, 800 children under the age of five die from waterborne diseases like diarrhoea. In fact, diarrhoea is the second biggest cause of death in the world.” Wijesekera added.

A lack of access to clean drinking water is also bad news for hygiene and sanitary levels. In many countries, open defecation due to the lack of in-house toilets poses a significant challenge.

“The sheer indignity of openly defecating, especially among young girls, takes a toll on other aspects of their lives—such as their poor attendance in school where there aren’t toilets,” Wijesekera explained.

This is especially true in rural areas. While the global drop in open defecation from 20 to 12 percent between 2000 and 2015 is a welcome fact, the rate of decline, at just .7 percent every year, puts pressure on governments to do more. To eliminate open defecation by 2030, for example, the rate of decline has to double.

Still, some countries like Ethiopia have combatted the issue of open defecation successfully.

“In Ethiopia, the percentage has dropped from 80 to 27 percent between 2000 and 2015. Critical building blocks like stronger policies at the government levels and dutiful allocation of funds can go a long way,” Wijesekera said.

These issues—from access to safe drinking water to sanitation supplies—mostly affect the poorest families. For example, Angola, which has performed better than other sub-Saharan African countries and achieved overall basic access to water for its citizens, still shows a gap of 40 percent between people who live in urban and rural areas.

Similarly, Panama’s capital city has achieved universal access to clean drinking water, but other sub regions in the country remain marginalized.

Meanwhile, the report has drawn criticism from other NGOs for being incomplete.

“The report is a good starting point but the current data only reflects 35 percent of the global population across 92 countries. Big countries like China and India have been left out,” Al-Hassan Adam, the international coordinator at End Water Poverty, a coalition organisation that campaigns for water rights and sanitation, told IPS.

“Bigger industries have to do more to protect water resources. In countries like Mexico, water is still contaminated. In other poorer countries, infrastructure to ensure safely managed water is missing in the first place,” he added.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN strongly focus on reducing inequality between and within countries, and commit member states to “leave no one behind.”

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Any Way to Help Slow Down Climate Change… Individually?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/anyway-help-slow-climate-change-individually-yes-can/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=anyway-help-slow-climate-change-individually-yes-can http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/anyway-help-slow-climate-change-individually-yes-can/#comments Tue, 27 Jun 2017 05:35:49 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151059 It is no secret that the biggest responsible for climate change is greed. The greed of the world’s largest private corporations, which blindly seek unlimited high financial benefits. And the greed of those politicians who are also blindly keen about holding their temporary power at any cost, thus not daring to challenge big business. Ordinary […]

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Food waste has become a dangerous habit: about 1/3 of the food we produce globally (1.3 billion tonnes of the food every year) is lost or wasted

Hunger is still one of the most urgent development challenges, yet the world is producing more than enough food. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 27 2017 (IPS)

It is no secret that the biggest responsible for climate change is greed. The greed of the world’s largest private corporations, which blindly seek unlimited high financial benefits. And the greed of those politicians who are also blindly keen about holding their temporary power at any cost, thus not daring to challenge big business. Ordinary people can meanwhile help slow down such a hellish race.

For instance, food waste has become a dangerous habit: buying more than we need at supermarkets, letting fruits and vegetables spoil at home, or ordering more than we can eat at restaurants. This way, each year, about one third of the food we produce globally is lost or wasted.

This is what the United Nations over and again tells. The point is that humans are apparently not paying real attention to help avoid such a huge food waste and loss, while lamenting that hunger and poverty are again breaking records in several parts of the world, often due to man-made disasters caused by excessive and even voracious consumption.

9 Tips for Reducing Food Waste

Start small – Take smaller portions at home or share large dishes at restaurants.
Leave nothing behind – Keep your leftovers for another meal or use them in a different dish.
Buy only what you need – Be smart with your shopping. Make a list of what you need and stick to it. Don’t buy more than you can use.
Don’t be prejudiced - Buy “ugly” or irregularly shaped fruits and vegetables that are just as good but look a little different.
Check your fridge – Store food between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius for maximum freshness and shelf-life.
First in, first out – Try using produce that you had bought previously and, when you stack up your fridge and cupboards, move older products to the front and place newer ones in the back.
Understand dates - “Use by” indicates a date by which the food is safe to be eaten, while “best before” means the food’s quality is best prior to that date, but it is still safe for consumption after it. Another date mark that you can find on food packages is the “Sell by” date, which is helpful for stock rotation by manufacturers and retailers.
Compost – Some food waste might be unavoidable, so why not set up a compost bin!
Donate the surplus – Sharing is caring.

SOURCE: FAO

The facts about food waste and loss are bold. In developing countries, a large part of food –40 per cent– is lost at the harvest or processing stage, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports. This is called “food loss.”

Meantime, in developed countries, this same percentage –40 per cent– is lost at the consumer or retail stage, throwing away food that is not bought at stores or food that is not eaten at home, restaurants and cafeterias. This is called “food waste.”

In short, every year, an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of the food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted.

Wasting Food Increases Greenhouse Gas Emissions

“We have formed habits that hurt our world and put extra strain on our natural resources. When we waste food, we waste the labour, money and precious resources (like seeds, water, feed, etc.) that go into making the food, not to mention the resources that go into transporting it,” the UN agency reminds.

In other words, wasting food increases greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to climate change.

And it is an excess in an age where almost a billion people go hungry, and represents a waste of the labour, water, energy, land and other inputs that went into producing that food.

In industrialised countries, significant waste occurs at the consumption stage, while in low-income countries, food losses take place primarily during the early and middle stages of the supply chain, according to FAO.

At the same time, the losses incurred in developing countries are largely due to infrastructural constraints related to poor transport, storage, processing and packaging facilities, in addition to capacity gaps that result in inefficient production, harvesting, processing and transport of food.

Depending on the commodity and the local context, these activities –which are key to reducing losses– are often carried out by smallholder farmers or other actors operating close to the farm-gate, such as traders, collectors, agro-processors and marketing cooperatives, the UN specialised body adds.

One reason is that it is difficult for smallholders to ensure efficient delivery of produce to buyers because of their small-sized operations and their vulnerability when faced with environmental and market fluctuations.

This situation contributes not only to food loss, but also to higher transaction costs, loss of income and increased food insecurity, reinforcing the overall argument for supporting producer organisations that foster the collective capacity of smallholder operations.

Food waste has become a dangerous habit: about 1/3 of the food we produce globally (1.3 billion tonnes of the food every year) is lost or wasted

Credit: FAO/Rodger Bosch

The UAE Food Bank Initiative

Some countries have already taken political decisions to institutionalise the efforts of fighting hunger and food waste. Such is the case of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has at the beginning of this year launched the UAE Food Bank.

Though it, the UAE has confirmed its political will to institutionally fight hunger and food waste, which will lead the regional efforts in managing food loss and food waste.

The newly established UAE Food Bank will gather many stakeholders to collect excess food from hotels, supermarkets, restaurants and farms. It will store and package the food for distribution, while inedible food will be recycled for different usages, including but not limited to animal feed and fertilisers.

Food waste has become a dangerous habit: about 1/3 of the food we produce globally (1.3 billion tonnes of the food every year) is lost or wasted

Food loss and waste in NENA are estimated at up to 250kg per person and over $60 billion USD annually. The social, economic, and environmental impacts are serious for a region which relies heavily on global food imports, has limited potential to increase food production, and faces scarcity of water and arable land. Reducing food losses and waste is vital for sustainable food systems and regional food security. Credit: FAO

Food loss and waste in Near East North Africa region is estimated at up to 250 kilogrammes per person and over 60 billion dollars annually, thus the reduction of food losses and waste is vital for sustainable food systems and regional food security.

Meanwhile, bad habits can change, global warming can be slowed down, also at the individual level.

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The World Is Burninghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-world-is-burning/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-world-is-burning http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-world-is-burning/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:23:33 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151014 Record high temperatures are gripping much of the globe and more hot weather are to come. This implies more drought, more food insecurity, more famine and more massive human displacements. In fact, extremely high May and June temperatures have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, the […]

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Extremely high temperatures for May and June have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States

A view of rusted, abandoned ships in Muynak, Uzebkistan, a former port city whose population has declined precipitously with the rapid recession of the Aral Sea. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 23 2017 (IPS)

Record high temperatures are gripping much of the globe and more hot weather are to come. This implies more drought, more food insecurity, more famine and more massive human displacements.

In fact, extremely high May and June temperatures have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported, adding that the heat-waves have arrived unusually early.

At the same time, average global surface temperatures over land and sea are the second highest on record for the first five months of 2017, according to analyses by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Europe

In Portugal, extremely high temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius contributed to the severity of the devastating, fast-moving weekend wildfires that ripped through the country’s forested Pedrógão Grande region, some 150 kilometres (95 miles) north-east of Lisbon, leaving dozens dead and more injured.

WMO on 20 June also reported that Portugal is not the only European country experiencing the effects of the extreme weather, as neighbouring Spain – which had its warmest spring in over 50 years – and France, have seen record-breaking temperatures. France is expected to continue see afternoon temperatures more than 10 degrees above the average for this time of year.

Meantime in Spain, spring (from 1 March to 31 May 2017) has been extremely warm, with an average temperature of 15.4 ° C, which is 1.7 ° C above the average of this term (reference period 1981-2010), the UN specialised body informs. Many other parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom, also witnessed above average temperatures into the low to mid 30°s.

United States

On the other side of the Atlantic, the US is also experiencing record or near-record heat, WMO reported. In parts of the desert southwest and into California, temperatures have hovered near a blistering 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).

Media reports on 20 June suggested that some plane traffic was halted in and out of Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport in Arizona because it was too hot to fly. The flight cancellations came amidst of one of the hottest days in the past 30 years of record keeping in the US state.

Near record-to-record heat has also been reported in the desert South West US and into California, with highs near 120°F (49°C) in places. More than 29 million Californians were under an excessive heat warning or advisory at the weekend. Phoenix recorded 118°C (47.8°C) on 19 June. A number of flights to Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport were reportedly cancelled because it was too hot to fly.

And the so-called Death Valley National Park, California, issued warnings to visitors to expect high temperatures of 100°F to over 120°F (38°C to over 49°C). Death Valley holds the world record for the highest temperature, 56.7°C recorded in 1913.

Herders collect water with camels at one of the few remaining water points in drought-affected Bandarero village, Moyale County, Kenya. Credit: Rita Maingi/ OCHA

North Africa, Middle East and Asia

Meantime, temperature in United Arab Emirates topped 50°C on 17 May, while in the centre of Iran’s Kuzestan province in the South-East of the country, neighbouring Iraq, temperatures reached 50°C on 15 June, said the UN specialised agency.

The heat-wave in Morocco peaked on 17 May, when there was a new reported record of 42.9°C Larach Station in northern Morocco.

The high June temperatures follow above average temperatures in parts of the world at the end of May. The town of Turbat in South-Western Pakistan reported a temperature of 54°C. WMO will set up an international committee of experts to verify the temperature and assess whether it equals a reported 54°C temperature recorded in Kuwait last July.

Unprecedented Record of Displacements

Meanwhile, the world has marked New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Second. Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) informed in its report Global Trends, released ahead of the World Refugee Day on June 20.

The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence.

Such an unprecedented high records of human displacements is not only due to conflicts. In fact, advancing droughts and desertification also lay behind this “tsunami” of displaced persons both out of their own countries and in their own homelands.

On this, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on June 17, alerted that by 2025 –that’s in less than 8 years from today– 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.

Now it is feared that advancing drought and deserts, growing water scarcity and decreasing food security may provoke a huge ‘tsunami” of climate refugees and migrants. See The Relentless March of Drought – That ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse’

Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, reminded that the world’s drought-prone and water scarce regions are often the main sources of refugees. Neither desertification nor drought on its own causes conflict or forced migration, but they can increase the risk of conflict and intensify on-going conflicts, Barbut explained. See: Mideast: Drought to Turn People into Eternal Migrants, Prey to Extremism?

An Urgent, Potentially Irreversible Threat

In Parallel, the United Nations leading agency in the fields of agriculture has issued numerous warnings on the huge impacts that droughts have on agriculture and food security, with poor rural communities among the most hit victims.

As a ways to help mitigate the effects of the on-going heat waves, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 20 June signed with WMO an agreement to deepen cooperation to respond to climate variability and climate change, “represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies, natural ecosystems and food security.”

Through this joint work, the two organisations will work on strengthening agro-meteorological services and making them more accessible to farmers and fishers; improve global and region-specific monitoring for early warning and response to high-impact events like droughts.

The agreement was signed on June 19 by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas on the sidelines of an international seminar on drought organised by Iran, the Netherlands, and FAO in Rome.

“Saving livelihoods means saving lives – this is what building resilience is all about,” said Graziano da Silva.
Recalling the 2011 drought in Somalia that saw over 250,000 people perish from hunger, he said, “People die because they are not prepared to face the impacts of the drought – because their livelihoods are not resilient enough.”

“For years, the focus has been responding to droughts when they happen, rushing to provide emergency assistance and to keep people alive,” he said, noting that while “of course, that is important,” investing in preparedness and resilience is essential.

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Children Now More Than Half of the 65 Million Displacedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/children-now-half-65-million-displaced/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-now-half-65-million-displaced http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/children-now-half-65-million-displaced/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 14:47:16 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150981 Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report. In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world. “We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to […]

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Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report.

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border where a makeshift camp had sprung up near the town of Idomeni. The sudden closure of the Balkan route left thousands stranded. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report.

In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world.

“We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to be made in terms of conflict and violence that is producing people who have had to flee,” said the Director of UNHCR’s New York Office Ninette Kelley, ahead of World Refugee Day.

In just two decades, the population of forcibly displaced persons doubled from 32 million in 1997 to 65 million in 2016, larger than the total population of the United Kingdom.

Of this figure, almost 23 million are refugees while over 40 million are displaced within their own countries. Approximately two-thirds of refugees have been displaced for generations.

Despite the slight decrease in displacement in the last year, the numbers are still “depressing” and “unacceptable,” Kelley told IPS.

“Each individual number really reflects a deep level of human loss and trouble and is experienced every minute and every second of every day,” she stated.

Much of the growth was concentrated between 2012 and 2015, and driven largely by the Syrian conflict which, now in its seventh year, has forcibly displaced over 12 million representing over half of the Middle Eastern nation’s population.

However, the biggest new concern is now South Sudan where renewed conflict and food insecurity is driving the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.

At the end of 2016, 3.3 million South Sudanese were displaced, equivalent to one in four people, and the figures have only continued to rise in 2017.

Kelley particularly pointed to the disturbing rise in displaced children around the world. Though children comprise of 30 percent of the world’s population, they disproportionately make up over 50 percent of refugees.

Over 66 percent of South Sudanese refugees alone are children.

Meanwhile, over 75,000 unaccompanied or separated children applied for asylum, a figure that is assumed to be an underestimate.

“I really ask you to pause and think about your own children or your nieces or your nephews and then think about the journeys that refugees take across conflict areas, across deserts, climbing mountains, giving their lives to unscrupulous traffickers and smugglers. And imagine those journeys of children without their parents or without adult accompaniment—then they arrive, and they are alone,” Kelley said.

The majority of displacements continue to be borne by developing countries which host almost 85 percent of the world’s refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. Such refugee influxes cause additional stress to low and middle income countries which already lack the necessary resources for their own citizens.

Uganda, where 37 percent live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, is now the largest refugee-hosting nation in Africa with over 1 million refugees from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi.

Already unable to provide adequate health services and other public goods to its citizens, Uganda’s resources have become increasingly stretched.

Despite the bleak picture and severe imbalance in global responsibility sharing, there has been little action or progress in the issue of displacement.

In 2016, a little over 40 percent of UNHCR’s budget was left unfunded, impeding the agency’s ability to meet refugees’ needs including relief items, shelter, and education.

Refugee plans continue to be underfunded, including South Sudan’s regional refugee response plan which is currently 15 percent funded.

Though 189,000 people were resettled in 2016 and a total of 37 countries are now providing resettlement places, both of which represent increases from the previous year, the number of available resettlement spots are still “disappointingly small” relative to refugee flows, Kelley said, urging for new approaches in displacement response.

In addition to highlighting the need for conflict prevention and mitigation, Kelley noted the need for more resettlement places, opportunities for family reunification, education scholars, and work exchange programmes in order to broaden the possibilities for refugees embarking on dangerous journeys due to consequences beyond their control.

She pointed to the historic New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants as a “positive” and comprehensive response framework to assist both refugees and the communities in which they live.

Adopted in 2016, the Declaration also tasks UNHCR with developing a global compact for safe, regular, and orderly migration which is undergoing negotiations in order for adoption by 2018.

Kelley also looked to action and engagement closer to home by individuals themselves, stating: “We can’t see these figures and sit back and say there’s nothing I can do.”

“We can volunteer, we can contribute, we can donate, we can educate, we can advise ourselves, we can try to build bridges within our own communities that seem to be widening day by day,” she concluded.

World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20th to commemorate, raise awareness of, and mobilize action for the millions of refugees around the world.

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New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Secondhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 11:25:15 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150974 Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported. The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at […]

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After three days on the road, South Sudanese refugees arrive at the newly constructed Gure Shembola Camp in Ethiopia. Credit: UNHCR/Diana Diaz

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported.

The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at which conflict and persecution is forcing people to flee their homes.

The report Global Trends, which as been released ahead of the World Refugee Day on June 20, marks a jump of 300,000 since the end of 2015. “By any measure this is an unacceptable number,” said UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, urging “solidarity and a common purpose in preventing and resolving crisis.”

Grandi also called for properly protecting and caring for the world’s refugees, internally displaced and asylum-seekers – who currently number 22.5 million, 40.3 million, and 2.8 million, respectively.

The Biggest Refugee Producer

According to the report, Syria remains “the world’s biggest producer of refugees” with 12 million people living in neighbouring countries and away from the region. There are 7.7 million displaced Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans and 4.2 million Iraqis.

However, in 2016, South Sudan became “the biggest new factor” when peace efforts broke down in July resulting in some 737,400 people fleeing by the end of the year.

Source: Global Trends – Forced Displacement in 2016 report. Credit: UNHCR

Nyawet Tut, a South Sudanese mother of five in her 30s, described how soldiers set fire to her village and she had to run for her life with her own five children and five others of relatives killed in the conflict.

“My husband was killed in the war which, in addition to the shortage of food, made me decide to leave my home, everything, behind,” she told UNHCR staff during an interview at a temporary way station in Ethiopia.

In total, about 3.3 million South Sudanese had fled their homes by the end of the year, in what is known as the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world.

Youngest Faces of War

About half of the refugee population last year were children younger than 18 years of age, according the report. This is in contrast to the fact that children make up only about 31 per cent of the total world population.

Among its findings, the report noted that some 75,000 asylum claims were received from children travelling alone or separated from their parents. These include youngsters like Tareq, 16, who dodged armed combatants to walk out of Syria into neighbouring Turkey.

“There was no future where we lived,” he told UNHCR. “There was no university and no work. There were troops grabbing young children like me, and they send them to war, and they get killed. I wanted to study.”

South Sudanese refugees spend the night at a way station in Gimbi, Ethiopia while en route to the newly constructed Gure Shembola Camp. Credit: UNHCR/Dina Diaz

Seeking Refuge in Poor Countries

Developing countries are hosting the majority of the world’s refugees, UNHCR reported.

About 84 per cent of the people were in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016. Of that figure, one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries.

“This huge imbalance reflects several things including the continuing lack of consensus internationally when it comes to refugee hosting and the proximity of many poor countries to regions of conflict,” the UN agency said.

In addition, the figure “illustrates the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be robustly resourced and supported,” UNHCR said, warning that the absence can create instability in the host countries.

Fleeing War, Disasters, Persecution

With a record 65.6 million people last year forcibly uprooted from their homes by violence and persecution, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on June 20 called on the international community to provide support and solidarity.

“We reflect on the courage of those who fled and the compassion of those who welcome them,” the Secretary-General said in his video message for World Refugee Day.

He noted that more people than ever in our lifetimes are fleeing war, disasters and persecution.

“Hardship, separation, death,” Guterres said, recalling nightmare stories heard from refugees and displaced persons, whose number rose 300,000 since the end of 2015.

Despite the hardships of fleeing with nothing, “they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world,” Guterres said. “They ask for little – only our support in their time of greatest need and our solidarity.”

The UN chief said it is “so inspiring to see countries with the least doing the most for refugees.”

According to the report, about 84 per cent of the people were in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016. Of that figure, one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drought, Unemployment and Hopelessness, Fertile Grounds for Extremism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

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

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

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

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Safeguarding Precious Crop Genes in Trust for Humanityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/safeguarding-precious-crop-genes-trust-humanity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=safeguarding-precious-crop-genes-trust-humanity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/safeguarding-precious-crop-genes-trust-humanity/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 00:01:55 +0000 Ini Ekott http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150937 A genetic resource centre run by the Nigeria-based International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has banked thousands of crop varieties for disaster relief and research, holds the world’s largest and most diverse collection of cowpeas, and contains some of Africa’s rarest insect species. In times of crises when farmers lose their seeds, the genetic resource […]

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A genetic resource centre run by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has banked thousands of crop varieties

The governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima; Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery at IITA, Kenton Dashiell; and IITA Ambassador and Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo during the donation of 35,930 kilograms of seeds to Borno State government in Maiduguri. Credit: Ini Ekott/IPS

By Ini Ekott
ABUJA, Nigeria, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

A genetic resource centre run by the Nigeria-based International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has banked thousands of crop varieties for disaster relief and research, holds the world’s largest and most diverse collection of cowpeas, and contains some of Africa’s rarest insect species.

In times of crises when farmers lose their seeds, the genetic resource centre – which the institute calls genebank – provides new seeds that are multiplied and given to farmers. Researchers can also pick from the bank preferred traits they incorporate into breeding programmes.Since plant and animal genetic resources are the foundation of sustainable agriculture and global food security, conserving crop varieties helps prevent “genetic erosion.”

For a continent plagued by perennial food shortages, and a world rapidly losing its genetic resources, the genebank is a precious gift, and its contents are kept in trust for humanity.

“The IITA genebank is one of the most precious resource centres to Africa, in particular, and the world at large. I see it as the pride of Africa,” said Michael Abberton, the head of the IITA’s genetic resource centre.

Since plant and animal genetic resources are the foundation of sustainable agriculture and global food security, conserving crop varieties helps prevent “genetic erosion”, said Abberton, referring to the tendency of losing varieties either as a result of the development of new varieties or disasters.

The IITA’s conservation activities started in the mid-1970s with the establishment of a genebank to help in crop improvement. That bank was later upgraded to provide seeds for people affected by flood, fire, wars, and other disasters.

The genebank currently holds over 28,000 accessions of plant material, called germplasm, of Africa’s major food crops – maize, plantain, cassava, cowpea, banana, yam, soybean, and bambara nut.

The bank has some 15,122 unique samples of cowpeas that come from 88 countries, close to half of global cowpea diversity. Seed samples of IITA’s cowpea collections stored since 1978 are still viable.

The crops’ germplasms are held in trust on behalf of humanity under the auspices of the United Nations, and distributed without restriction for use in research for food and agriculture, the institute says.

Abberton said depending on the species of a product, and its reproductive and dissemination biology, collections are either stored in the field, or in the seed or in-vitro genebanks. All crops producing orthodox seeds are maintained at optimal water content and low temperatures of 5 ºC in short term, and -20 ºC in long term.

At the research level, crops’ traits such as seed colour, resistance to pest and diseases, height of plant, sweetness or others can all be harnessed from the genebank.

The IITA was the first centre to contribute to the new Svalbard Global Seed Vault project, built by the Norwegian government as a service to the global community. The facility is funded by the Rome-based NGO Global Crop Diversity Trust.

In 2008, twenty-one boxes of IITA germplasm samples, part of a first installment, arrived in Oslo to go to the isolated Norwegian archipelago in time for its Feb. 26 opening. In 2009, another shipment was made.

Seeds samples sent to Svalbard Global Seed Vault were large sample of cowpea (also known as black-eyed pea), wild vigna, soybean, maize and bambara.

The IITA genebank based in Nigeria also plays a vital role as a reservoir for response to disaster. It did so on May 22 when the institute donated 35,930 kilograms of seeds to Nigeria’s Borno state government to cushion an eight-year humanitarian crisis caused by the Islamist group Boko Haram.

Borno, in northeastern Nigeria, has been the epicentre of Boko Haram violence. The group is responsible for the deaths of more than 20,000 people and the displacement of more than 2 million – a majority of them farmers.

The seeds donated to Borno government included improved varieties of cowpea, soybean, maize, millet, sorghum, and rice.

They were adapted to the climate of the region with some being extra-early, early, and intermediate, maturing, IITA’s deputy director general for partnerships for delivery, Kenton Dashiell, explained.

“They are also high yielding and resistant to the major pests and diseases, and other biotic and abiotic constraints in the region,” he said.

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who as an IITA ambassador made the presentation on behalf of the institute, described the donation as the most meaningful gift ever given to the people of Borno.

Abberton, the head of the genetic resource centre, told IPS the donations to Borno state would not have been possible if not for the genebank that helped the institute in conserving the seeds.

“So, the genebank is a life wire for the IITA and humanity,” he said. He added that the IITA was committed to alleviating hunger and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Africa Could Help Feed the World – If Its Fertile Land Doesn’t Vanishhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-help-feed-world-fertile-land-doesnt-vanish/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-help-feed-world-fertile-land-doesnt-vanish http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-help-feed-world-fertile-land-doesnt-vanish/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 21:59:48 +0000 Younouss Youn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150931 The 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification was celebrated in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou on June 15 with a call to create two million jobs and restore 10 million hectares of degraded land. Three African heads of state took part in the celebrations: Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita from Mali, Mahamadou Issoufou from Niger and Roch […]

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The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré spoke on behalf of his peers Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita of Mali and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger at the celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification, June 2017. Credit: Younouss Youn/IPS

The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré spoke on behalf of his peers Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita of Mali and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger at the celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification, June 2017. Credit: Younouss Youn/IPS

By Younouss Youn
OUAGADOUGOU, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

The 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification was celebrated in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou on June 15 with a call to create two million jobs and restore 10 million hectares of degraded land.

Three African heads of state took part in the celebrations: Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita from Mali, Mahamadou Issoufou from Niger and Roch Kaboré from Burkina Faso. The Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Monique Barbut also attended the event.Two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands, and nearly 75 percent of agricultural land is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

According to the UNCCD, two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands. This land is vital for agriculture and food production, but nearly 75 percent is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

The region is also affected by frequent and severe droughts, which have been particularly devastating in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

“Degraded lands is not an inevitable fate. Restoration is still possible. However, what will be more difficult is to feed 10 billion human beings in 30 years. The only place where there are still lands to do that is Africa. We need these lands to feed the whole planet. Therefore restoring lands is assuring food security for the whole planet,” said Barbut.

The high-level meeting that gathered 400 experts from around the world ended in the Call from Ouagadougou, urging citizens and governments to tackle desertification by restoring ten million hectares of land and by creating two million green jobs for youth, women and migrants.

“By 2050, the African population will double to two billion people,” Barbut noted. “I fear that as the population depends up to 80 percent on natural resources for their livelihoods, those resources will vanish given the great pressure on them.”

She added that young people emerging from this demographic growth will need decent jobs.

“In the next 15 years, 375 million young people will be entering the job market in Africa. Two hundred million of them will live in rural areas and 60 million will be obliged to leave those areas because of the pressure on natural resources.”

According to UNCCD, it is critical to enact policies that enable young people to own and rehabilitate degraded land, as there are nearly 500 million hectares of once fertile agricultural land that have been abandoned.

Talking specifically about Burkina Faso, which hosted the celebration, Batio Nestor Bassiere, the minister in charge of environmental issues, said, “From 2002 to 2013, 5.16 million hectares, 19 percent of the country’s territory, has been degraded by desertification.”

The situation is similar in most African countries. That’s why “it’s nonsense to sit and watch that happening without acting, given that the means for action are available,” said Barbut.

The Call from Ouagadougou comes from a common willingness to save the planet and Africa particularly from desertification. Gathered to discuss the topic “Our land, our house, our future,” linked to the fulfillment of the 3S Initiative (sustainability, stability, and security in Africa), the Call from Ouagadougou also invites African countries to create conditions for the development of new job opportunities by targeting the places where the access to land can be reinforced and land rights secured for vulnerable populations.

Development partners and other actors have also been called on to give their contributions. They were invited to help African countries to invest in rural infrastructure, land restoration, and the development of skills in chosen areas and among those facing migration and social risks.

For that, the UN agency in charge of the fight against desertification and its partners can rely on the firm support of the three heads of state who came for this 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification.

The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré let the audience know that they are all “engaged to promote regional and global partnerships to find funds for investment in lands restoration and long term land management, wherever they will have opportunities to speak.”

Representing the African Union, Ahmed Elmekaa, Director, African Union/SAFGRAD, said drawing attention to the resolutions of desertification, land degradation and drought and on climate change are at the top of the African Union’s environmental agenda.

Taking advantage of the celebration, the national authorities gave the name of the very first executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Hama Arba Diallo, to a street of the capital Ouagadougou. Experts from many countries also had the opportunity to visit sites showing the experience of Burkina Faso in combating desertification.

At a dinner ceremony held immediately following the closure of the ceremony, the UNCCD announced the winners of the Land for Life Award, Practical Action Sudan/UNEP from Sudan; Watershed Organization Trust from India. The Land for Life China award was given to Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, China.

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Global Coalition Calls for Withdrawal of SDGs Progress Reporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-coalition-calls-for-withdrawal-of-sdgs-progress-report/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-coalition-calls-for-withdrawal-of-sdgs-progress-report http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-coalition-calls-for-withdrawal-of-sdgs-progress-report/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 12:32:20 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150882 A report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) fails to capture the the true picture of water challenges and the UN must withdraw it, said a global civil society coalition. The civil society coalition End Water Poverty (EWP) criticised the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards the globally agreed SDGs, stating that it lacks understanding and […]

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Clean drinking water is available to no more than half of Asia’s population. Water is fundamental to the post-2015 development agenda. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 14 2017 (IPS)

A report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) fails to capture the the true picture of water challenges and the UN must withdraw it, said a global civil society coalition.

The civil society coalition End Water Poverty (EWP) criticised the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards the globally agreed SDGs, stating that it lacks understanding and analysis of goal 6, which aims to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

“Such reports should not be done in haste…they must report based on agreed indicators not outdated ones,” said EWP’s International Campaign Coordinator Al-hassan Adam, noting that the terminology and measures used in report reflect the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) rather than the SDGs which are “poles apart.”

The report, which was recently submitted to the General Assembly, states that over 90 percent of the world’s population used improved drinking water sources in 2015 while over two-thirds of the world’s population used improved sanitation facilities.

However, improved water supply does not indicate whether water and sanitation is directly accessible and safely managed, current measures of progress for the SDGs.

Currently, if a young girl has to travel 30 minutes to and from to fetch water, putting her at risk of sexual assault and increasing the likelihood of poor school participation and attendance due to exhaustion from traveling back and forth for water, water supply is considered improved.

However, the SDGs should have transformed this scenario as progress is calculated based on water supply that is within a household and available for 24 hours.

“But in 2017, a report takes into consideration the 30 minutes this young girl has to travel to fetch water and views is as progress. This is not considered progress under the initial agreement and in the eyes of the young girl, nothing has changed,” Adam told IPS.

“At a time where we have set global goals for positive changes, we must not go backwards, but only forward,” he continued.

The measure of improved water supply also fails to assess water quality, including whether it is free from fecal or chemical contamination.

The report also notes progress in the implementation of national water management plans in 2012 as well as procedures to engage local communities in numerous countries. What is not included, however, is the quality and level of such plans and participation.

EWP noted that such language has negative global implications as it allows governments to neglect the provision of adequate services to their citizens.

“In December 2015, we all celebrated when the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda were agreed, for the people and the planet…unfortunately, the latest progress report shows that we might be sleep-walking into 2030 without any substantial gains made,” they stated.

The coalition urged the UN to withdraw the current report and to amend its content with accurate data and indicators on the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation as agreed upon in the SDGs.

“To reach the Sustainable Development Goals, we cannot continue to do business as usual. The UN should direct us all towards the right path through accurate reporting on the progress and failures of the SDGs” Adam concluded.

EWP is a coalition of water, sanitation, and hygiene organisations from around the world including Action Against Hunger, Care International, and Oxfam.

According to the UN, global demand for fresh water is predicted to grow by more than 40 percent by 2050 and at least a quarter of the world’s population will live in countries with a chronic or recurrent lack of clean water.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted the consequences of growing water shortages around the world, telling the Security Council: “Water, peace, and security are inextricably linked. Without effective management of our water resources, we risk intensified disputes between communities and sectors and increased tensions among nations.”

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More Plastic than Fish or How Politicians Help Ocean Destructionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/more-plastic-than-fish-or-how-politicians-help-ocean-destruction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=more-plastic-than-fish-or-how-politicians-help-ocean-destruction http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/more-plastic-than-fish-or-how-politicians-help-ocean-destruction/#respond Fri, 09 Jun 2017 10:55:29 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150831 World’s oceans are dangerously exposed to at least three major threats: climate change; the sharp degradation of marine biodiversity, and politicians. These simply encourage the destruction of oceans by subsidising over-fishing and turning a blind eye on illegal captures. See what happens. While it is feared that at current trends there will be more plastic […]

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A school of Moorish Idols cruise over the coral reef, Ha’apai, Tonga. Credit: UNEP GRID Arendal/Glenn Edney

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 9 2017 (IPS)

World’s oceans are dangerously exposed to at least three major threats: climate change; the sharp degradation of marine biodiversity, and politicians. These simply encourage the destruction of oceans by subsidising over-fishing and turning a blind eye on illegal captures. See what happens.

While it is feared that at current trends there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 –with over 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 260,000 tonnes currently floating in world’s oceans– harmful fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing are estimated to be as high as 35 billion dollars, according to United Nations.

“If you consider that the total export of fish and seafood products is 146 billion dollars, we are talking about that of each 5 dollars in fish products, 1 dollar is subsidized,” David Vivas of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) warned ahead of the United Nations Ocean Conference held on June 5-9.

A Race to the Bottom

So it’s not a small amount. People are paying very expensively for a fish, continued Vivas, adding that people pay it by the dish and with their taxes.“Almost a third of all marine fish stocks being exploited at biologically unsustainable levels, a threefold increase in 40 years.” Graziano da Silva.

This financial motivation creates “a race to the bottom” as fleets compete against each other to harvest increasing amounts of fish –at a time when seafood is already a scarce resource, said the expert, while explaining that subsidies “create incentives to deplete resources faster than if there weren’t the subsidies.”

The facts are just shocking: the international community is harvesting fish at unsustainable biological levels, according to UNCTAD.

“The Mediterranean Sea is about 70 per cent exploited; the Black Sea 90 per cent.”

Roughly 56 per cent of all fish products come from wild harvest, with the remaining amount farmed, according to figures cited by the UN.

“The demand remains quite strong, mainly from the head Asian region. Hence countries are not only going to New York to consider, issuing a political signal,” said UNCTAD’s Lucas Assunçao in reference to The Ocean Conference, “they are very concerned about this considerable market.”

Illegal Fishing

In addition to fishery subsidies, the UN trade agency has been focusing in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and access to markets.

“Not all countries participate equally,” Assunçao said of the nearly 150 billion dollars market for fish and marine products. “[The oceans are] a global common good that is not benefitting all countries that have coasts in equitable ways.”

“Oceans are continuing to warm, acidify and lose oxygen,” said IPCC chair Hoesung Lee. “Warm water coral reefs are already under pressure and 90 per cent would suffer significant risk from global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius.” Credit: UNEP/Jerker Tamelander

“Oceans are continuing to warm, acidify and lose oxygen,” said IPCC chair Hoesung Lee. “Warm water coral reefs are already under pressure and 90 per cent would suffer significant risk from global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius.” Credit: UNEP/Jerker Tamelander

Here, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) informs that annually, the worth of fish caught by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing methods is estimated at 10 – 23 billion dollars.

This, as well as the governments subsidies that encourage over-fishing while not making enough efforts to prevent illegal fishing, explain the fact that currently fishing vessels around the world have reached 4.6 million.

Oceans offer both challenges and solutions to the world’s Sustainable Development Agenda, and managing them more carefully is essential for global food security today and tomorrow as well as the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said at the Oceans Conference.

Three Billion People Rely on Fish

More than three billion people rely on fish for critical animal protein, while 300 million people depend on marine fisheries, the vast majority being linked to small-scale fisheries that are the backbone of marine and coastal social and ecosystems in many developing countries, he on June 8 added.

“Unsustainability poses many risks and a heavy price,” said Graziano da Silva. “Today many fisheries around the world are characterised by excessive fishing effort, low productivity and inadequate profitability.”

That exacerbates pressures that have led to almost a third of all marine fish stocks being exploited at biologically unsustainable levels, a threefold increase in 40 years, he said. Annual fishery production would increase by around 20 per cent –worth an extra 32 billion dollars each year– if partners collaborate to rebuild overfished stocks, he added.

FAO is playing a leading role in pursuing a core target of Sustainable Development Goal 14, which calls for ending the scourge of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing by 2020.

The IUU fishing accounts for up to 26 million tonnes of fish a year, one-sixth of all the fish caught at sea and worth 23 billion dollars. It also directly undermines efforts to make sure marine resources are sustainably used.

How to Crack Down on Illegal Fishing

International efforts to crack down on IUU fishing made a major step forward in 2016, when the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) entered into legal force. The international treaty brokered by FAO now has nearly 50 parties, including the European Union, Indonesia, the United States of America and – soon – Japan as well as many Small Island Developing States.

Fisherman in Timor Leste casts net in the water to catch small fish. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

Fisherman in Timor Leste casts net in the water to catch small fish. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

The PSMA gives new powers to port officials to verify that any visiting ship is abiding by all relevant fishing rules – including having the proper permits, respecting quotas and avoiding at-risk species.

The treaty also requires parties to support effective implementation by making sure all parties have the technical capacity to fulfil their obligations. FAO has already devoted more than 1.5 million dollars to this effort, which Graziano da Silva described as “seed money” while awaiting voluntary contributions from donors.

“IUU fishing activities are a threat to marine life and impede the development and prosperity of vulnerable countries and must be completely stopped,” for his part said Sven Erik Bucht, the Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs, who announced officially Sweden’s contribution of 5.4 million dollars to FAO to combat IUU fishing. Alongside with Fiji, Sweden has promoted and co-chaired the Oceans Conference.

The funding will also help support this UN specialised body’s on-going work on what to do about discarded fishing gear –which constitutes both ocean rubbish as well as killing fish– and on the Global Record on Fishing Vessels, a platform aimed at providing essential and transparent information to those in charge of fisheries management.

The UN specialised agency is also leading work on Catch Documentation Schemes that enables fish to be tracked from source to shop – something consumers increasingly want. And, through its Blue Growth Initiative, the agency is also strongly focused on promoting sustainable development among coastal fishing communities in general.

What Is Overfishing Is All About?

Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) , one of the world’s leading conservation organisation.

“Gathering as many fish as possible may seem like a profitable practice, but overfishing has serious consequences. The results not only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.”

Billions of people rely on fish for protein, and fishing is the principal livelihood for millions of people around the world, WWF adds. “For centuries, our seas and oceans have been considered a limitless bounty of food. However, increasing fishing efforts over the last 50 years as well as unsustainable fishing practices are pushing many fish stocks to the point of collapse.

According to WWF, more than 85 per cent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits and are in need of strict management plans to restore them.”

Meanwhile, UN concerned agencies –FAO; UNCTAD and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)– have announced their commitment to cutting harmful fishing subsidies. The issue is “complicated and thorny,” they said. The commitment likely involves requesting countries to provide information on what subsidies they provide and prohibiting those that contribute to overfishing, as well as potentially giving differential treatment to developing countries.

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Saving the Oceans, Saving the Future: Officials Tackle Marine Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/saving-the-oceans-saving-the-future-officials-tackle-marine-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=saving-the-oceans-saving-the-future-officials-tackle-marine-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/saving-the-oceans-saving-the-future-officials-tackle-marine-pollution/#respond Tue, 06 Jun 2017 08:36:27 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150763 The oceans’ health is only getting worse and the cycle of decline must be reversed, said representatives at the opening of a high-level UN conference. Approximately 5,000 representatives from governments, civil society, and the private sector from around the world have gathered at the UN for its first ever Ocean Conference, a high-level meeting which […]

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Opening Ceremony of UN Ocean Conference. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 6 2017 (IPS)

The oceans’ health is only getting worse and the cycle of decline must be reversed, said representatives at the opening of a high-level UN conference.

Approximately 5,000 representatives from governments, civil society, and the private sector from around the world have gathered at the UN for its first ever Ocean Conference, a high-level meeting which aims to address and mobilize action to improve the state of oceans.

“The health of our oceans and seas are inextricably linked with the health of our planet and all life on earth,” Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the full General Assembly hall.

However, the oceans are under threat as a result of human activity.

“We are here on behalf of humanity to restore the sustainability, balance, and respect in our relationship with our primal mother, the source of all life, the ocean,” said President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly Peter Thomson.

“The time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways,” he added.

Among the pressing issues to be addressed during the conference is marine pollution, and much of this pollution is from plastic.

Over 5 trillion pieces of plastic weighing more than 260,000 tons are currently floating in the world’s oceans, a figure that may be an underestimate. More than 80 percent of such plastic waste in oceans comes from land.

Because of ocean currents, this trash accumulates in what is known as “ocean garbage patches,” located in virtually every ocean in the world. The largest such patch is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located between Hawaii and California which is estimated to be around 1 million square kilometers.

This has contributed to the massive piles of trash that have washed upon the shores of the isolated and once pristine Henderson Island in the South Pacific. A recent study found that the UNESCO world heritage site is covered with over 38 million pieces of trash, making it the most densely polluted place in the world. Researchers found discarded fishing nets, toy soldiers, and hardhats.

“It is inexcusable that humanity tips the equivalent of a large garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day. We have unleashed a plague of plastic upon the ocean that is defiling nature in so many tragic ways,” Thomson told conference attendees.

And plastic that ends up in the ocean does not solely float harmlessly, but rather have real, long-term implications on animal and human health.

Oceans and Peoples’ Health as One

Animals, which often find themselves entangled in trash, have also been seen to be ingesting plastic with deadly consequences.

In a dialogue on marine pollution on the first day of the conference, Norwegian Minister of Climate Vidar Helgesen pointed to the case of a goose-beaked whale which beached on Norway’s cost earlier this year and was found with nothing but 30 plastic bags in its stomach.

Plastics also release toxins when ingested which have found to be damaging the reproductive health of many fish species.

Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP)’s Director General Kosi Latu noted that plastic was found in 97 percent of fish species studied in the Pacific alone.

WEF predicts there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 if such trends in ocean pollution continue.

Evidence also shows that people are consuming plastics by eating seafood.

After purchasing fish from markets in Indonesia and the U.S., researchers found that 1 in 4 fish had plastic in their guts. European researchers estimated that Europeans could be eating 11,000 microplastics every year through seafood.

Though the impacts are still uncertain, studies have shown that plastic ingested by humans could be toxic and can increase the risk of health problems such as cancer.

A Call for Action

Representatives have therefore urged for action to prevent and reduce marine pollution during the conference.

Already, countries have outlined commitments to combat the issue.

Indonesia has vowed to reduce 70 percent of its marine litter by 2025 while Thailand has established a pollution management plan that comprises of encouraging eco-friendly substitute for plastic materials and implementing a 3Rs strategy of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The lack of strong policies and infrastructure on waste management have largely contributed to ocean pollution. For instance, only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally, allowing millions of tons of plastic to end up in landfills and oceans each year.

“Without effective recycling, I don’t think we will be able to solve the problem,” said Latu.

The Ocean Conservancy also found that Indonesia and Thailand are among the top five plastic-polluting nations in the world.

Other countries such as Austria have committed to reducing plastic bag use while Sweden introduced a ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetics. More than 600 commitments have been received.

Civil society groups have also promised to take action including the Dutch foundation Ocean Cleanup which has developed a cost-effective net system that could clean up 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years.

Though there is no one size fits all solution, conference participants agree on one thing: we must act now if we want a secure future on this planet.

“This is the year that we cease to steal from the future of our grandchildren,” said Thomson.

Guterres highlighted the long history of people’s relationship to the ocean as a call for action, stating: “The Swedes were sailing around the Baltic Sea and as far away as present-day Istanbul 7,300 years ago. Fijians were sailing canoes at record speeds and for record distances around the Pacific well before that. A Japanese creation myth tells of how the archipelagos formed from seawater, and Inuit creation myths is central on Sedna, the goddess of the sea. The sea indeed belongs to all of us.”

The globally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes goal 14 which stresses the need to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development. Within the goal is a target to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025.

The Ocean Conference, organised by Sweden and Fiji from 5-9 June at the UN Headquarters in New York, will address ways to implement goal 14 and its targets.

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Charting a Course to a Blue Commonwealthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/charting-a-course-to-a-blue-commonwealth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=charting-a-course-to-a-blue-commonwealth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/charting-a-course-to-a-blue-commonwealth/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 10:53:48 +0000 Patricia Scotland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150739 Patricia Scotland is Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations

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Patricia Scotland is Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations

By Patricia Scotland
LONDON, Jun 5 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations Ocean Conference offers an historic opportunity to safeguard the ocean environment and support small island and vulnerable developing coastal states, who depend on the seas for national economic growth and sustainable development.

Patricia Scotland

Patricia Scotland

This summit is about navigating a course to deliver on the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, in particular Goal 14 to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.” As we set our eyes on this goal, it is worth considering what the oceans mean to coastal communities.

Forty-five of the Commonwealth’s 52 member counties are ocean states, including most of the world’s small island developing states. For our member countries, the sea is a precious ecosystem, and also deeply rooted in traditional culture. It also provides jobs and immense potential economic opportunity – Vanuatu for instance has a maritime territory 56 times greater than its terrestrial footprint.

The whole Commonwealth family is immensely proud of Fiji, which has the special privilege of being co-chair of the Ocean Conference alongside Sweden. The commitment shown by Fiji’s Prime Minister, J.V. Bainimarama, is testament to the Pacific region’s leadership and advocacy on oceans.

Pacific countries, and in particular its small island developing states, have in recent years agreed powerful joint declarations on the sustainable use and management of the ocean. These have had a direct impact on influencing national policies to manage access to their waters while setting vital conservation limits.

A forthcoming Commonwealth Secretariat publication, ‘A Sustainable Future for Small States: Pacific 2050’, takes a closer look at some of the region’s innovative approaches on ocean governance, as well as a host of related issues from health to climate change and migration. The study follows on from a similar report in the Caribbean published last year which provided a stark warning for policy-makers.

Our research concludes that while there is much opportunity to be gained from the oceans, these states face a great many challenges, including commercial competition for marine resources and the impact of climate change. Rising populations, limited national capacity and investment and inadequate fiscal and revenue management also bring huge pressures.

Spurred on by leaders in the Pacific and Caribbean who understand these threats better than anyone, Commonwealth heads of government were early pioneers of the ‘blue economy’ concept. Applying to ocean governance the Commonwealth’s shared values – the commitment to democracy, good governance, equity and sustainability – this ‘Blue Commonwealth’ approach aims to help countries unlock economic value from the ocean while also conserving and protecting the marine environment.

At the Commonwealth Secretariat, we help our member states to better manage and protect against threats such as pollution and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. We offer help so countries can claim their maritime territory, and advise on managing offshore renewables, petroleum and deep-sea mining. We help our peoples to unlock the value of the sea in a sustainable manner while ensuring the equitable distribution of its benefits.

This ‘whole-ocean’ approach to economic development recognises the linkages between terrestrial and marine resources. It is an integrated ‘regenerative’ model which can best respond to sectoral and national interests in a way that suits day to day life.

The magnitude of the threat from climate change and rising sea levels, especially for those whose endowment or stage of development renders them less resilient, makes it incumbent upon us to shift from mere adaptation and mitigation towards approaches capable of transforming climate change into a window of opportunity.

This week’s Ocean Conference in New York, June 5-9, offers the chance to build on the hope offered by Sustainable Development Goal 14 to make good on our commitment to conserve and sustainably use the oceans. We need no less than a paradigm shift to move from ‘explore and exploit’ to ‘sustain and be sustained by’.

Most of all, we need to listen to communities who have been custodians of the seas for centuries and who have much wisdom to share. As one of the Pacific’s most influential scholars, Epeli Hau’ofa, once said, “no people on Earth are more suited to be guardians of the world’s largest ocean than those for whom it has been home for generations.”

On Tuesday 6 June 2015, Fiji Prime Minister J.V. Bainimarama, co-chair of the conference, joins Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland at a ‘A Blue Commonwealth’, a high-level roundtable hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Seychelles. Find out more: thecommonwealth.org/oceanconference

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Business Unusual: Valuing Water for a Sustainable Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/business-unusual-valuing-water-for-a-sustainable-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=business-unusual-valuing-water-for-a-sustainable-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/business-unusual-valuing-water-for-a-sustainable-future/#respond Tue, 30 May 2017 22:02:35 +0000 Paula Fray http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150664 Valuing water is more than simply assigning costs to a scare resource – it is an essential step for transforming water governance to meet the needs of a prosperous future. This was a recurring view from participants at the first regional discussion on water organised in South Africa as part of the High Level Panel […]

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Recurrent drought in Namibia, Southern Africa has undermined food security and farmers’ livelihoods. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

Recurrent drought in Namibia, Southern Africa has undermined food security and farmers’ livelihoods. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

By Paula Fray
JOHANNESBURG, May 30 2017 (IPS)

Valuing water is more than simply assigning costs to a scare resource – it is an essential step for transforming water governance to meet the needs of a prosperous future.

This was a recurring view from participants at the first regional discussion on water organised in South Africa as part of the High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) dialogues.“There is an opportunity to meet the immediate needs within the SDGs and then to organise for the 10-billion world - not just to survive but also be prosperous.” --Dhesigen Naidoo

The May 30 meeting was attended by more than 100 representatives from a range of sectors including water, agribusiness, utilities and community groups from across the region, as well as representatives from around the globe.

Dr Patrick Vincent Verkooijen, World Bank special advisor, said their research had shown that if “there is no change in the way we manage water, then (global) economic growth will drop by 6 percent.”

Global Water Partnership chairperson Dr Oyun Sanjaasuren, a former Minister of Environment in Mongolia, stressed that the issue was not just about valuing water as a commodity but about water governance. “We have to recognise that water is valuable; it is not a free commodity. If we do business as usual then by 2025 the number of people who are affected by water scarcity will rise from 1.7 to 5 billion.”

This is the first of five regional discussions on valuing water initiated by the HLPW, which is made up of 11 sitting heads of state and government. The meetings will collate comments on draft principles of water ahead of an HLPW meeting in August.

CEO of the Water Research Commission, Dhesigen Naidoo, said the HLPW and its activities had “significantly” raised the global dialogue on water.

“But we must make sure we are having the right conversation. What is missing is the view of tomorrow. If we are simply talking about meeting the minimum requirements, then we are missing the opportunity to completely transform … in both our attitude to water and the way we manage water,” said Naidoo.

He noted that Africa would be the most populous continent in the world by 2050, with an expected 50 megacities.

“Only three of these 50 megacities exist at the moment. We can create water-wise cities right from the start,” he added.

This includes rethinking “how we use water, how we recycle water and what water we use”. For example, Naidoo questioned the efficacy of using quality potable water to flush toilets.

The costing of water was an ongoing issue, but participants also warned that the question of cost needed to be raised against the “point where price is an inhibitor to your basic right to water”.

The intersectional nature of water was stressed – hence the need for political engagement at the highest level.

Participants at the High Level Panel on Water in Johannesburg add their comments to the principles for water. Credit: Paula Fray/IPS

Participants at the High Level Panel on Water in Johannesburg add their comments to the principles for water. Credit: Paula Fray/IPS

The May 30 discussion in Ekurhuleni near Johannesburg included ministers and deputy ministers from Water and Sanitation, Public Works and Energy.

“The vision and aspiration for water is the 17 SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] and these make clear that the world must transform the way it manages it water – it needs political head engagement as well as other key public, private and civil society stakeholders,” said Verkooijen.

“Success for the HLPW can be only be determined when it motivates transformational action. Secondly, success is determined by whether it can support mobilisation and advocacy for transformational finance and implementation.”

Various initiatives are already in place, including developing principles on valuing water which were discussed in South Africa.

“Valuing water is not a new concept. The challenge is to explicitly value water in its competing uses. Proper valuation simply provides a clearer picture of the trade-offs involved,” said Verkooijen,

Faith Muthambi, South African Minister of Public Service and Administration – standing in place of Water Minister Nomvula Mokonyane – reminded participants that South Africa’s constitution declared access to water as a human right. “The right to clean water is therefore an obligation for government to ensure access for people.

“We want to see water priced for sustainability,” she said. “Water infrastructure is very important as a solution. We need partnerships to close the gap between water demand and supply by 2030.”

Her colleague, Deputy Minister of Energy Thembisile Majola, noted that the energy sector was a bulk user of water.  “How do we improve our technology so that they use less water?” she asked, stressing the symbiotic relationship “We use water to create energy and we need energy to get water to where it needs to go.”

Delegates at the conference came from 14 of the 15 SADC countries, with only Seychelles not represented.

Dr Kenneth Msibi, SADC Water Division, a transboundary water policy expert, said the SADC was trying to unlock the potential for water as a catalyst for development.

“We cannot move forward if we think of it as business as usual,” he stressed.

“Unless we value the water, our ecosystems are going to degrade and cost so much more,” said Dr Sanjaasuren.

“We’re living on a planet with a population size that is growing rapidly. We will have more and more water tensions,” said Naidoo.

“There is an opportunity to first organise to meet the immediate needs within the SDGs and then to organise for the 10-billion world – not just to survive but also be prosperous.”

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Valuing Water Beyond the Moneyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/valuing-water-beyond-the-money/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=valuing-water-beyond-the-money http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/valuing-water-beyond-the-money/#respond Mon, 29 May 2017 11:29:03 +0000 Paula Fray http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150629 Amid the worst drought in a century, South Africans are kick-starting a global consultative process to agree on the values of water in a bid to ensure more equitable use of the finite resource. On May 30, ministers, officials, civil society, business and local regional organisations will gather outside Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of […]

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The catchment area of the Katse Dam in Lesotho, which flows into South Africa. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

The catchment area of the Katse Dam in Lesotho, which flows into South Africa. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

By Paula Fray
JOHANNESBURG, May 29 2017 (IPS)

Amid the worst drought in a century, South Africans are kick-starting a global consultative process to agree on the values of water in a bid to ensure more equitable use of the finite resource.

On May 30, ministers, officials, civil society, business and local regional organisations will gather outside Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of a high-level consultation on water called the “Valuing Water Initiative”.“The distribution of water has always been a point of advocacy in relation to the land transformation debate. [There can be] no land reform without water reform.” --Herschelle Milford

The High Level Panel on Water – first convened by the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and then UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon – consists of 11 sitting Heads of State and Government and one Special Adviser, to provide the leadership required to “champion a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services”.

The HLPW’s core focus is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, as well as to contribute to the achievement of the other SDGs that rely on the development and management of water resources.

The members of the panel are Heads of State from Australia, Bangladesh, Hungary, Jordan, Mauritius (co-chair), Mexico (co-chair), Netherlands, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, and Tajikistan.

The South African consultation takes place on May 30, followed by consultations in Mexico, Senegal, Tajikistan and Bangladesh ahead of a global presentation at the Stockholm World Water Week in August 2017.

Global Water Partnership’s (GWP) executive secretary Rudolph Cleveringa explained that, as the first in a series of consultations, the South Africa meeting was expected to “set the tone and pace”.

“South Africa is extremely committed to the water agenda. South Africa went from an Apartheid policy-driven water policy to a human rights approach. We are very keen to see the country lead not only from a South Africa view but also from a southern Africa perspective,” said Cleveringa.

When she presented her budget speech to South Africa’s Parliament on May 26, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane – acknowledging her participation on the HLPW –  said “water knows no boundaries and water can be a social, security and economic catalyst, both nationally and internationally”

Announcing that South Africa, in partnership with GWP and working together with the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW), was hosting the regional consultations, Mokonyane said the initiative would “support countries to enhance job creation through investments in water infrastructure and industrialisation”.

On the table will be the draft principles that note “making all the values of water explicit gives recognition and a voice to dimensions that are easily overlooked. This is more than a cost-benefit analysis and is necessary to make collective decisions and trade-offs. It is important to lead towards sustainable solutions that overcome inequalities and strengthen institutions and infrastructure.”

The meeting takes place as the Western Cape province of South Africa has been declared a disaster area as a result of the drought which has seen dam levels drop to crisis levels. The City recently said its feeder dam levels were at 20.7 percent, with only 10.7 percent left for consumption.

According to the minister, it is the “worst drought in the last 100 years and the severest for the Western Cape in the last 104 years.

“This drought has not only affected South Africa, but also the rest of the world because of global warming, climate change,” she said, adding that it would take at least two to three years for the Western Cape to recover.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said the city would increase emergency water schemes in the coming months with programmes such as drilling boreholes and exploring desalinisation.

In a recent speech, De Lille emphasised the need for public-private partnerships.

“We need to be innovative and diversify our financing mechanisms and these efforts will require partnership with the private sector,” De Lille was quoted as saying.

The city council has introduced Level 4 restrictions – one level below emergency level.

Western Cape-based Surplus People Project CEO Herschelle Milford, whose organisation works to support agrarian transformation, said that the city had blamed migration as a reason for the water crisis in Cape Town.

“However, the biggest consumers of water is industry, then agriculture and then households,” she noted. This called for dialogue on how water could be shared equitably among all its users, noted Milford.

“The water crisis is a discussion point in the context of large-scale commercial farmers using irrigation with limited recourse amongst land and agrarian activists,” said Milford.

Water was much more than simply about access: “The distribution of water has always been a point of advocacy in relation to the land transformation debate. [There can be] no land reform without water reform.”

Cleveringa said the discussions were being generated from very high international dialogues to discussions at the local level. To this end, the draft principles offer a range of perspectives on how water can be valued.

Not only will the South African dialogue include a host of ministers but regional input will be provided by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, as well as various organisations such as Dr Oyun Sanjaasuren, Chair of the Global Water Partnership; and Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

SADC head of water Phera Ramoeli said water valuation was a critical component of water resources management as it allowed “policy and planning across all the developmental spectrum”.

“The SADC region has 15 Shared Watercourses which accounts for over 70 percent of all the available renewable water resources in the region. If they are properly managed and adequately funded they will ensure the continued availability of these resources for the current and future generations for the various needs and uses that water is put to,” he said, noting that water was present in a large number of value chains including agro-processing, mineral processing, pharmaceuticals, energy production, even health.

“Valuing water is important as it will ensure that water resources management, development, conservation and monitoring receives an appropriate share of the national budget,” he added.

The water principles being discussed also emphasise the collaborative process to build water champions and ownership at all levels that allows users to meet all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are moving away from valuing water in its fiscal interpretation only. We’re not just looking at it in terms of how much does water cost but going beyond this utilitarian approach. The Bellagio principles demonstrate that there is more than just a utilitarian approach to water and we hope that these consultations will draw out those discussions,” said Cleveringa.

“The value of water is basically about making choices,” he said, adding that this called for “not just a cross-sectoral approach but also all of society input into valuing water”.

It is in this discussion that the high level panels aim to provide leadership to champion a “comprehensive, inclusive, and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services”.

The dialogues need to generate an open debate on the values of water as well as get regional input to the Bellagio principles.

Over half of the consultations are happening in non-OECD settings that are being led by the global South.

“This sets the right tone for buy-in at multiple levels,” said Cleveringa.

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Gateway Portals and the Quest for Sustainable Urbanizationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/gateway-portals-and-the-quest-for-sustainable-urbanization/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gateway-portals-and-the-quest-for-sustainable-urbanization http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/gateway-portals-and-the-quest-for-sustainable-urbanization/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 15:27:58 +0000 Joan Erakit http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150570 On a busy Friday afternoon, the number 1 subway train heading north through Manhattan’s Westside comes out of a dark tunnel –and if one takes a minute to release oneself from communication devices—one can catch sight of the approaching 125th street in the distance, the crosswalk buzzing with yellow cabs. The train station at 125th […]

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125th Station, Broadway. Credit: Joan Erakit/IPS

By Joan Erakit
NEW YORK, May 24 2017 (IPS)

On a busy Friday afternoon, the number 1 subway train heading north through Manhattan’s Westside comes out of a dark tunnel –and if one takes a minute to release oneself from communication devices—one can catch sight of the approaching 125th street in the distance, the crosswalk buzzing with yellow cabs.

The train station at 125th street and Broadway that sits high above the commotion below on a green arch bridge is the first clue that a passenger has reached Harlem, the gateway portal to the historic New York City neighborhood.

Last week, the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization and UN-Habitat organized a discussion at the United Nations headquarters that brought together stakeholders from the private sector, the UN system, government, academia and civil society to share ideas for creating and sustaining gateway portals — ultimately emphasizing the need to utilize urbanization as a tool for development.

Whilst many in the room were probably used to such discussions taking the route of creating bustling cities that could accommodate the highest number of urbanites in order to support political, economic and cultural agendas, it was refreshing to instead witness a focus on urban planning through gateway portals that put infrastructure center stage.

A gateway portal is an emblem of a city and can be everything from a bridge, plaza, or historic site that often welcomes one into a city or specific neighborhood. California’s Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous, linking Marin County to San Francisco in an architectural piece designed by engineer Joseph Strauss in the 1930s.

As one heads east of California, other gateway portals across the United States start popping up such as the Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge that crosses the Mississippi River, connecting the southern and northern parts of the Midwest City. Arriving in New York, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island join the historic Manhattan Bridge as portals to the urban jungle – each depicting an intentional narrative of its own.

Famed architect Santiago Calatrava, a man known for his extraordinary body of work was invited to the discussion last week where he not only shared various projects, but also highlighted the necessity of portals. In his own words he mentioned that, “bridges are important pieces of infrastructure and gateway portals are to a city what infrastructure is to Sustainable Development.”

If this is true then city planners, architects and government officials are now tasked with the challenging job of thinking critically of where and how they place gateway portals. Instead of just creating entrances that mark an area and alert taxi drivers to charge toll fees, planners now have the opportunity to address issues of sustainability by utilizing smart, inclusive design that goes beyond just a pretty facade.

In 2013, author Charles Montgomery published a book called ‘Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design’, an anthropological text on what it meant to create sustainable spaces that were not only focused on developing a city, but also on underscoring the temperament of its citizens in relation to that development. If people were generally happy and continued to live happy lives within urban bustling communities, then was it possible that their surroundings would eventually be transformed socially, economically and politically?

“Urban spaces and systems do not merely reflect altruistic attempts to live the complex problem of people living close together, and they are more than an embodiment of the creative tensions between competing ideas,” he wrote. “They are shaped by struggles between competing groups of people. They apportion the benefits of urban life. They express who has power and who does not. In doing so, they shape the mind and soul of the city,” he concluded.

Citizen Driven Planning

The premise of the conversation last week was straightforward: development cannot succeed without conscious urbanization. This, meaning that urbanization for development needed to include a citizen driven approach to planning and design that accounted for inclusion, health, resiliency and equality.

According UN Habitat, it is estimated that around 54% of people now live in urban areas and as this number steadily grows, the question of how to sustainably house, provide and protect a large population in such dense spaces has become a top priority for both the UN system and government officials.

A timely discussion as Habitat III concluded last year in Quito, Ecuador with the goal of adopting a new urban agenda that would offer a set of action oriented global standards that would guide the way in which we designed and sustained our cities – citizen driven urbanization would need to prioritize these global standards when building or reshaping gateway portals.

Additionally, such plans would also need to uphold the fact that gateway portals established the economic and political power of the city, and to be citizen driven would essentially mean that the portals were of service to the people who used them daily, and not the other way around.

Frederick Douglas Plaza, Harlem.  Credit: Joan Erakit/IPS

Frederick Douglas Plaza, Harlem. Credit: Joan Erakit/IPS

What’s In A Narrative?

During the 5th and 6th centuries, grandiose gates and high towering walls that circled a city – sometimes serving as a safety barrier in the chance of attack – illustrated the gateway portal. The narrative of a powerful gate or great wall such as the one in China laid forth the cities ambitions and easily communicated its priorities.

In 2017 with more and more people moving into urban areas, we are forced to ask ourselves what sort of narrative we’d like to have. When one arrives in Harlem, what narrative is being shared once you’ve crossed the threshold of the gateway portal on 125th street and begin your descent into the colorful street below?

New York City Commissioner Feniosky Pena-Mora spoke during the panel last week about the plans that the De Blasio administration drawn up towards creating sustainable, healthy public spaces with the agenda of changing the narrative of its city.

“We often say that we want to create spaces that work for everyone – diversity is key,” he said, continuing, “We must design to invite, and design to delight.”

This – NYC’s actual design mantra – when applied to redefining gateway portals is to simply put the citizen at the center of the vision. Yes, happiness is key, sustainability is key but city planners must also focus on creating spaces that encourage openness.

In the end, it cannot be disputed: gateway portals emphasize the importance of a city. They provide a first impression and a lasting one if curated with intent. It is with this measure that city planners and government officials must consider portals as the ‘opening line’ of their cities narrative.

Sustainable urbanization can most certainly be an effective tool for development, but must not be approached with naiveté. As the Executive Director of UN Habitat Dr. Clos put during his remarks last week, “when you address one problem, you generate two more.”

Addressing one gateway portal at a time, a city’s quest for sustainable urbanization becomes an actual possibility rather than just a city plan.

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Community Seed Banks: Securing Diversity for Climate Change Adaptationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/community-seed-banks-securing-diversity-for-climate-change-adaptation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-seed-banks-securing-diversity-for-climate-change-adaptation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/community-seed-banks-securing-diversity-for-climate-change-adaptation/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 16:13:30 +0000 Elena Pasquini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150552 The author is Editor in Chief Degrees of Latitude

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By Elena L. Pasquini
ROME, May 23 2017 (IPS)

For thousands of years, farmers have used genetic diversity to cope with weather variability and changing climate conditions. They have stored, planted, selected and improved seeds to continue producing food in a dynamic environment.

Community seed banks are mostly informal collections of seeds maintained by local communities and managed with their traditional knowledge, whose primary function is to conserve seeds for local use. They can play a major role in climate change adaptation, according to a recent article published by Bioversity International’s researchers Ronnie Vernooy, Bhuwon Sthapit, Gloria Otieno, Pitambar Shrestha and Arnab Gupta.

Based on various countries’ experiences, the article argues that, ‘community seed banks can enhance the resilience of farmers’ by securing ‘access to, and availability of, diverse, locally adapted crops and varieties’.

According to Ronnie Vernooy, genetic resources policy specialist at Bioversity International, ‘mostly because of climate change, there’s a stronger interest in establishing and supporting community seed banks’. However, many of them ‘are still quite fragile, organizationally and in terms of technical management’, he added.

Bioversity International, which is working in several countries on informal seed systems, has designed a project for community seedbanks Platform and is currently looking for donors interested in its implementation. The Platform aims at reinforcing farmers’ seed systems by supporting existing community seed banks as well as national or regional community seedbank networks around the world, scaling out their activities and contributing to their sustainability. It should have four key functions, covering documentation and analysis to practical experiences, capacity building, research agenda coordination and digitalization andmanagement of data.

But why do community seed banks matter?

Tools for adaptation

Seeds are stored in diverse types of collections, ranging from international and national genebanks, or ex situ collections where seeds remain often for years or decades, to small seed banks managed locally by farmers. ‘In the ex-situ collections … seeds are like frozen in time … That means there’s no chance [for them] to adapt in the field to changing conditions’, Ronnie Vernooy, explained to Degrees of Latitude.

In community banks, seeds usually remain for shorter terms, ‘ sometimes for one year’, Vernooy specified, to be then distributed to farmers: ‘Those plants are in the field and in the real conditions, so they are adapting themselves to changing circumstances. Then farmers usually select the best seeds of any given crop in the field. Part of those seeds goes back to the community seed banks and the next year the cycle continues’. Moreover, genebanks focus more on the major food crops, while community banks tend to conserve all the diversity farmers have on field, including minor crops, neglected varieties, medicinal plants, wild relatives and even trees.

Community banks not only conserve genetic diversity, they ‘have the potential … to become seed producers and it’s happening … but it requires support’, Vernooy said. Compared to the formal seed sector – which includes research institutions, genebanks, governmental bodies and private companies – the informal seed bank offers several advantages to small farmers, according to Vernooy. It provides not only ‘broader [genetic] diversity’, but seeds that are better adapted to farming systems that ‘tend to be diverse, [located] in marginal, very dry or mountainous areas, etc.’, he explained. ‘[Seeds from the formal sector] tend to require high level of inputs – fertilizers, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides … – and the price is often high’.

However, ‘it’s not a black and white system’, he stressed. The formal sector can help building farmers’ capacities. In fact, ‘in many countries we are trying to breach the gap between the formal and the informal systems with activities like participatory plant breeding, but also with the community seed banks … We try to bring the national genebanks work together with the community seed banks’, he said. In an ‘ideal world community seed banks could be part of what’s called a national conservation system. Right now, governments channel money into national genebanks … Our argument is why not also put a small amount of money into each of the community seed banks that exists or into the new ones that can be established?’, Vernooy said.

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An enabling legal environment
Strengthening community seed banks requires not only technical and financial support but also an enabling policy and legal environment. In many countries, apart from a few like Bhutan, Nepal, Uganda, South Africa, Brazil, “there is no or little recognition of and support for community seed banks …, [and] farmers are not allowed to sell farm-saved seed. In others, legislation to protect farmers’ genetic resources is lacking’, Vernooy’s article reports.

Laws and regulations that can conflict ‘on what community seed banks are trying to do, [for instance] the intellectual property rights policies …’ are also often in place, Vernooy explained. Community seed banks are ‘like collective enterprises’ managed cooperatively: ‘Laws that prohibit or restrain these collective uses are in contradiction to what community seeds banks do’, Vernooy explained.

From an international perspective, the Convention of Biological Diversity and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture have been ‘quite supporting’, according to Vernooy. A study out of the Norwegian Development Fund, suggests that community seed banks can also contribute to the implementation of farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds. Those rights are recognized by ITPGRFA, which is legally-binding for 143 countries. The Treaty demands contracting parties not only to promote or support ‘farmers and local communities’ efforts to manage and conserve on-farm their plant genetic resources for food and agriculture’ but also ‘in situ conservation of wild crop relatives and wild plants for food production’.

‘ITPGRFA has the farmers’ rights and in principle the text is very much in support of community seed banks, but then it goes back to the national governments to implement those international agreements. So, we are back to the same situation’, Vernooy said.

However, the direction seems clear: ‘There’s quite a strong international movement of people working on these issues and the international treaty itself is quite interested in advancing on this’, he said.

Photo credits: Bioversity International – Bioversity International/C.Fadda – Seeds for Needs, Ethiopia

This story was originally published by Degrees of Latitude

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Defence of Right to Water Drives Call for Land Reform in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/defence-of-right-to-water-drives-call-for-land-reform-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=defence-of-right-to-water-drives-call-for-land-reform-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/defence-of-right-to-water-drives-call-for-land-reform-in-chile/#respond Thu, 18 May 2017 03:04:10 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150447 Water at high prices, sold as a market good, and small farmers almost a species in extinction, replaced by seasonal workers, are the visible effects of the crisis in rural Chile, 50 years after a land reform which postulated that “the land is for those who work it.” To tackle the crisis, environmental and social […]

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Small-scale farmers from Samo Alto, in northern Chile, are forced to share the scarce water of the Hurtado River with large agro-exporters, who benefit from a dam built downstream. In this country, water is a private good, granted in perpetuity to the concessionaires. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Small-scale farmers from Samo Alto, in northern Chile, are forced to share the scarce water of the Hurtado River with large agro-exporters, who benefit from a dam built downstream. In this country, water is a private good, granted in perpetuity to the concessionaires. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 18 2017 (IPS)

Water at high prices, sold as a market good, and small farmers almost a species in extinction, replaced by seasonal workers, are the visible effects of the crisis in rural Chile, 50 years after a land reform which postulated that “the land is for those who work it.”

To tackle the crisis, environmental and social activists are proposing a new land reform to reclaim water as a public good, at a time when a persistent drought is affecting much of Chile, making it necessary to use tanker trucks to distribute water in some low-income neighbourhoods in cities around the country.

Last year the number of villages, small towns and neighbourhoods that were left without water and were supplied by tanker trucks also doubled in relation to 2015, said water department director Carlos Estévez.

“In Chile, water has become a capital good, left to the discretion of speculators and separated from the land, while international jurisprudence indicates that it should be available for the preservation of life and food production, and only after that, for other economic activities,” expert and activist Rodrigo Mundaca told IPS.“The green revolution is a model that does not preserve natural assets. Our export model is associated with monoculture and we need to promote a new development paradigm based on a harmonious relationship with nature.” -- Rodrigo Mundaca

Mundaca, the secretary-general of the Movement for the Defense of Access to Water, Land and the Protection of the Environment (Modatima), said that “a second land reform is key to recovering water,” after the one carried out in the 1970s.
“The green revolution is a model that does not preserve natural assets. Our export model is associated with monoculture and we need to promote a new development paradigm based on a harmonious relationship with nature,” he said.

This South American country is a major producer and exporter of food products, thanks to the production of major companies and consortiums that own the land and water.

The mining industry still accounts for half of Chile’s exports, which amounted to over 60 billion dollars in 2016. But this is also one of the 10 top countries in the world in food exports, ranking first for several products. The food industry represents a total of 20 billion dollars in exports.

Meanwhile, the current regulation of the right to water in Chile, after it was privatised in 1981 during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, is threatening small-scale family farmers, who are fighting for at least partial restoration of public control.

The 1980 constitution states that water is a private good. The use of hydric resources, according to the laws of the market, is regulated by the Water Code, which gives the state the power to grant usage rights to companies free of charge and in perpetuity.

It also allows water usage rights to be bought, sold or leased without taking into consideration priorities of use. In Chile, there are 110,000 water-use rights contracts in force under the Water Code.

The government of socialist President Michelle Bachelet introduced a proposed amendment to the Code in Congress, although its final approval will take several months.

The amendment would make water usage rights temporary rather than perpetual. But it would only apply to future concessions, and would not be retroactive, which has drawn criticism from environmentalists and social activists in rural areas.

Fifty years after the land reform launched by the Christian Democrat government of Eduardo Frei (1964-1970) and expanded by socialist president Salvador Allende (1970-1973), support for a second land reform plan that would make water a social good once again is growing.

A group of young people who attended the release this month in Santiago of the study “The grandchildren of the land reform: employment, reality and dreams of rural youth in Chile,” by FAO consultant Sergio Faiguenbaum, who found that young people in rural areas in the country have three times as much formal schooling as their parents. Credit: INDAP

A group of young people who attended the release this month in Santiago of the study “The grandchildren of the land reform: employment, reality and dreams of rural youth in Chile,” by FAO consultant Sergio Faiguenbaum, who found that young people in rural areas in the country have three times as much formal schooling as their parents. Credit: INDAP

Between the cities of Petorca and Antofagasta, in arid northern Chile, 200 and 1,340 km from the country’s capital Santiago, respectively, the prices for a year’s water rights for a liter of water per second – the amount needed to irrigate one hectare of vineyard – range from 7,670 dollars to 76,700 dollars, said Mundaca, referring to cases that make the reform necessary.

The rest of Latin America

Luiz Beduschi, a Territorial Development Policies officer at the Santiago-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that “historically, Latin America has been one of the regions with the highest levels of inequality in the distribution and use of natural resources.”

“This phenomenon has among its causes an increasing concentration in the value chains, the establishment and growth of companies that exploit resources at an industrial scale, backed by public policy approaches that foster an increase in the participation of these countries in export markets,” he said.

Beduschi stressed that “the expansion of investment in the region through sowing pools (speculative investment funds), annual leases or purchases of large extensions of land, among others, has contributed to a higher concentration of land than before the land reforms that were carried out in several countries in the region.”

“Conflicts over access to natural resources have been on the rise around the world and the situation is no different in this region,” said the FAO expert.

“The historical processes of agricultural reform, strongly promoted in different countries in the region, which in the case of Mexico was carried out 100 years ago, and 50 years ago in Chile, allow us today to once again discuss the widespread question of inequality, which arises from the global concentration of the ownership and use of natural resources, historically reflected in land ownership,” he said.

Impacts of the model to be reformed

Agronomist Jacques Chonchol, minister of agriculture during Allende’s government and a promoter of the land reform process, told IPS that the new reform made sense because the counter-reform carried out by the dictatorship “practically privatized water, an increasingly scarce resource.”

“We have very little arable land: less than ten per cent of Chile’s 757 million square kilometres, and part of that is being lost” to the phenomenon of the selling off of parcels of land in rural areas as second properties of city dwellers, he warned.

Chonchol also expressed the need for “a forestry policy that excludes agricultural lands. That was prohibited, but during the dictatorship, it began to happen again. Forestry plantations should be banned on farmland, and these companies should plant native trees, since pines and eucalyptus absorb a lot of water.”

He believes that the counter-reform “gave rise to a new capitalist agriculture, much more efficient from an economic point of view, although not always in social terms,” in a model that “perpetuates inequality”, which the democratic governments have maintained.

On the social level, historian José Bengoa told IPS that until the land reform, there were three kinds of farmers in Chile: “small landholders grouped in towns and villages; tenant farmers and their families, on the big estates; and ‘outsiders’ who wandered between the towns and estates.”

“That structure changed dramatically and today a great majority are non-permanent agricultural workers, who live in towns and cities near agricultural areas,” Bengoa said.

“There is a small sector of small-scale farmers, who could be called peasants, who are the majority in some regions and sectors, and then there is an increasing proportion of seasonal workers,” he said.

For Bengoa, “Chilean agriculture is nowadays, due to the land reform carried out 50 years ago, a highly capitalist and productive sector.”

“This activity, without any controls, leads to an unprecedented level of exploitation of human resources, workers and natural resources, such as water. In the next few years there will be serious problems, both in terms of the need for manpower and of the need for resources such as water and land, as well as environmental problems,” he predicted.

According to Bengoa, these problems cannot be easily solved, because “the agricultural sector will pressure the state to increase the flow of migrant workers, and for more infrastructure works, in particular in water reserves.”

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When It Comes to Fracking, Argentina Dreams Bighttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/when-it-comes-to-fracking-argentina-dreams-big/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-it-comes-to-fracking-argentina-dreams-big http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/when-it-comes-to-fracking-argentina-dreams-big/#respond Tue, 09 May 2017 00:53:36 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150346 Since a US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report announced in 2011 that Argentina had some of the world’s biggest shale oil and gas reserves, the dream of prosperity has been on the minds of many people in this South American nation where nearly a third of the population lives in poverty. The question that hangs […]

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Two drilling rigs in the Loma Campana deposit, in Vaca Muerta, in the Neuquén Basin, in south-west Argentina. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Two drilling rigs in the Loma Campana deposit, in Vaca Muerta, in the Neuquén Basin, in south-west Argentina. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, May 9 2017 (IPS)

Since a US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report announced in 2011 that Argentina had some of the world’s biggest shale oil and gas reserves, the dream of prosperity has been on the minds of many people in this South American nation where nearly a third of the population lives in poverty.

The question that hangs in the air is whether it is really possible for Argentina to become South America’s Saudi Arabia, or if it is just a fantasy.

Six years after the release of the report, although Argentina is still, like then, a net importer of oil and natural gas, the hope would appear to remain intact for centre-right President Mauricio Macri.

When Macri visited the United States on Apr. 25-27 he stopped over in Houston, Texas, described as the “Oil Capital of the World”. There, he urged the executives of the world’s top energy companies to make the huge investments that Argentina needs to exploit its reserves.“Today in Argentina there are more than 1,500 boreholes that are being exploited by the fracking method, not just in Vaca Muerta, but also in other deposits in the area. In the next years, this number is expected to multiply.” --
Diego de Rissio

“Argentina is among the countries with the greatest potential in the world. We want the best companies to come and partner with us,” Macri told oil executives at lunch in Houston on Apr. 26, before flying to Washington, where he met with his US counterpart Donald Trump at the White House.

“The delays in exploiting non-conventional fossil fuels in Argentina are inherent to the process, from a technical standpoint. The oil and gas industry operates in the long term,” said Martín Kaindl, head of the Argentine Oil and Gas Institute (IAPG), a think tank supported by oil companies in the country.

“We have to do things well for this opportunity to become a source of wealth for Argentina,” he told IPS.

So far, however, what seems to have grown more than the investments are the social movements opposed to hydraulic fracturing or fracking, in which rock is fractured by the high-pressure injection of ‘fracking fluid’ (primarily water, as well as sand and chemicals,) to release natural gas and oil from shale deposits..

This process has environmental and socioeconomic effects, according to experts quoted by environmentalists.

The greatest achievement so far by the opponents of fracking in Argentina came on Apr. 25, when the legislature of the central-eastern province of Entre Ríos banned fracking and other non-conventional methods.

It became the first province in the country to reach this decision, which was preceded by local laws in dozens of municipalities. Entre Ríos has no oil industry tradition, but it is included in the long-run exploration plans of Argentina’s state-controlled company YPF.

“Entre Ríos is a province that lives mainly off of agriculture and tourism, where there is a tradition of environmental activism”, sociologist Juan Pablo Olsson, who is part of the Argentina Free of Fracking movement, told IPS.

“We must not forget that a few years ago, there were up to 100,000 people protesting against the pulp mills on the international bridge,” he added, referring to the 2005-2010 conflict with Uruguay over the construction of two paper factories, due to the environmental impact on the Uruguay River, which separates the province of Entre Ríos from the neighbouring country.

Pear trees in blossom in a farm in Allen, a city in the province of Río Negro, located next to a shale gas deposit. Fruit producers and other traditional sectors of that province are concerned about the negative impacts of the oil and gas industry in Vaca Muerta. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Pear trees in blossom in a farm in Allen, a city in the province of Río Negro, located next to a shale gas deposit. Fruit producers and other traditional sectors of that province are concerned about the negative impacts of the oil and gas industry in Vaca Muerta. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

According to the latest EIA data, Argentina has recoverable shale reserves that amount to 802 trillion cubic feet of gas and 27 billion barrels of oil. It is only second to China in shale gas reserves, and in fourth position after the US, Russia and China, in shale oil.

Of these reserves, 38 per cent of the gas and 60 per cent of the oil are concentrated in the geological formation of Vaca Muerta, where commercial exploitation began in 2013, in the Loma Campana deposit, by YPF and US company Chevron in the province of Neuquén.

This 30,000-sq- km deposit is located in the area known as the Neuquén Basin (a sedimentary basin which has traditionally been the main oil-producing area in Argentina), spreading over four provinces (Neuquén, Río Negro, Mendoza and La Pampa) in the country’s southwest.

The extraordinary potential of Vaca Muerta is one of the few things in which the current president and his centre-left predecessor, Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) have agreed on, with neither having made any reference whatsoever to the environmental risks posed by fracking.

The former president did not hide her enthusiasm when talking about the deposit, which in 2013 she suggested renaming as “Vaca Viva” (living cow) , instead of “Vaca Muerta” (dead cow), since “we are now extracting oil from it.”

Macri, meanwhile, said that Vaca Muerta “is changing the country’s energy future,” since it has “abundant, cheap and exportable” resources.

This was in January, when he announced the signing of an agreement with oil industry trade unions which allows a reduction of up to 40 per cent of labour costs, to attract investments.

Later, the president decreed a minimum price for shale gas, higher than the market price, reinforcing the strategy launched by his predecessor of maintaining domestic fossil fuel prices at levels making it possible to tap into non-conventional deposits.

In addition, during his stay in Washington he announced a 35 per cent reduction in the import tariffs on used oil industry machinery, which will favour the arrival of equipment that fell into disuse in the U.S-Mexican Eagle Ford Formation, due to the fall in international prices.

The minister of Energy and Mining, Juan José Aranguren, who went to Houston with Macri, said that currently between six and eight billion dollars a year are invested in Vaca Muerta, but that the government’s goal is to reach 20 billion in 2019.

“Today in Argentina there are more than 1,500 boreholes that are being exploited by the fracking method, not just in Vaca Muerta, but also in other deposits in the area. In the next years, this number is expected to multiply,” Diego di Risio, a researcher from the Oil Observatory of the South, an organisation of professionals from different disciplines interested in the energy issue, told IPS.

“But we believe that the environmental and social impacts should be debated, since it is a fruit-producing agricultural region,” said di Risio. One of the localities engaged in the production of fruit near Vaca Muerta, where shale oil is being extracted, is Allen, in the province of Río Negro.

Juan Ponce, a fruit jam manufacturer in Allen, told IPS: “Oil production overrode fruit-producing farms. There were 35 fruit warehouses, and now there are only five left.”

He also told IPS by phone that “most people buy bottled water, because our water is not drinkable anymore, despite the fact that we have the longest river in the Patagonia region, the Rio Negro.”

“The best evidence of the pollution that is being generated by the oil and gas extraction is that the owners of surrounding farms are receiving subsidies from the companies, since they can no longer produce good quality fruit,” he added.

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Caribbean Rolls Out Plans to Reduce Climate Change Hazardshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-rolls-out-plans-to-reduce-climate-change-hazards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-rolls-out-plans-to-reduce-climate-change-hazards http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/caribbean-rolls-out-plans-to-reduce-climate-change-hazards/#respond Sun, 30 Apr 2017 13:48:13 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150228 Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”. Glasser was addressing the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction […]

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Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 30 2017 (IPS)

Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”.

Glasser was addressing the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Americas. Held recently in Montreal, the gathering included more than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries, including the Caribbean.“We see disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as two sides of the same coin." --Dr. Mark Bynoe

“We recognise that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is arguably the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment, because without those efforts our other efforts to reduce many hazards and the risks those pose to communities would be overwhelmed over the longer term,” Glasser said.

The conference, hosted by the Canadian government in cooperation with UNISDR marked the first opportunity for governments and stakeholders of the Americas to discuss and agree on a Regional Action Plan to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030.

The Sendai Framework is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, with seven targets and four priorities for action. It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR). The Framework is a 15-year, voluntary non-binding agreement which recognises that the state has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

“The regional plan of action you will adopt . . . will help and guide national and local governments in their efforts to strengthen the links between the 2030 agenda for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction as national and local DRR strategies are developed and further refined in line with the Sendai Framework priorities over the next four years,” Glasser said.

The Caribbean is a minute contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions but will be among the most severely impacted.

The region is already experiencing its impacts with more frequent extreme weather events such as the 2013 rain event in the Eastern Caribbean, extreme drought across the region with severe consequences in several countries; the 2005 flooding in Guyana and Belize in 2010.

Inaction for the Caribbean region is very costly. An economic analysis focused on three areas – increased hurricane damages, loss of tourism revenue and infrastructure – revealed damages could cost the region 10.7 billion dollars by 2025. That’s more than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all the member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

At the Montreal conference, Head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson was a panelist in a forum discussing the linkages between disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development. He said the region needs to marry its indigenous solutions to disaster risk management with modern technology.

“We’ve recognised that in the old days, our fore parents…had to deal with flood conditions and they survived them very well. There were simple things in terms of how they pulled their beds and other valuables out of the flood space in the house in particular. This contributed to their surviving the storms with minimal loss,” Jackson said.

“That knowledge of having to face those adverse conditions and surviving them and coping through them and being able to bounce back to where they were before, that was evident in our society in the past. It has subsequently disappeared.”

CDEMA is a regional inter-governmental agency for disaster management in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The Agency was established in 1991 with primary responsibility for the coordination of emergency response and relief efforts to participating states that require such assistance.

Another regional agency, the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) is collaborating with other agencies on the Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI).

The CRMI aims to provide a platform for sharing the experiences and lessons learned between different sectors across the Caribbean in order to facilitate improved disaster risk reduction.

“We see disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as two sides of the same coin because to the extent we are able to enhance disaster risk reduction we are also beginning to adapt to climate change,” Dr. Mark Bynoe, the CCCCC’s senior environment and resource economist said.

He explained that there are a range of activities carried out specifically in terms of climate adaptation that will also have a disaster risk reduction element.

“We are looking at enhancing water security within a number of our small island states. One of the things we are focusing on there is largely to produce quality water through the use of reverse osmosis systems but we’re utilizing a renewable energy source. So, on the one hand we are also addressing adaptation and mitigation.”

Meantime, CCCCC’s Deputy Executive Director Dr. Ulric Trotz said the agency is rolling out a series of training workshops in 10 countries to share training tools that were developed with the aim of assisting in the generation of scientific information and analysis to help in making informed decisions. These include the Weather Generator (WG), the Tropical Storm Model/ Simple Model for the Advection of Storms and Hurricanes (SMASH), and the Caribbean Drought Assessment Tool (CARiDRO).

The training will target key personnel whose focus are in areas of agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning or disaster risk reduction.

“The CARIWIG [Caribbean Weather Impacts Group] tool is a critical tool in that it more or less localizes the projection so that for instance, you can actually look at climate projections for the future in a watershed in St. Kitts and Nevis. It localizes that information and it makes it much more relevant to the local circumstance,” said Dr. Trotz.

Training and application of the tools will allow decision-makers to better understand the potential impacts of drought, tropical storms, and rainfall and temperature changes. When combined with other data and information, they can help to build a picture of potential impacts to key economic sectors in the various countries.

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FEATURED VIDEO: Searching for Solutions to Disaster Risk Managementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/searching-for-solutions-to-disaster-risk-management/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=searching-for-solutions-to-disaster-risk-management http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/searching-for-solutions-to-disaster-risk-management/#respond Sun, 30 Apr 2017 10:29:29 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150313 Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”. Glasser was addressing the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction […]

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By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 30 2017 (IPS)

Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”.

Glasser was addressing the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Americas. Held recently in Montreal, the gathering included more than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries, including the Caribbean.
Head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson, who was a panelist in a forum discussing the linkages between disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development, said the region needs to marry its indigenous solutions to disaster risk management with modern technology.

 

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