Inter Press ServiceEditors’ Choice – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 11 Dec 2018 20:07:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Radio Migration – the Station with a Different Message about Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/radio-migration-station-different-message-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-migration-station-different-message-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/radio-migration-station-different-message-migration/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 19:40:24 +0000 Moez Jemai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159180 The topic of migration has been beaming across the airwaves of Marrakech, Morocco, to bring light to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration conference (GCM) and all its myriad components. Organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other international organisations, Radio Migration began broadcasting on Dec. 4, […]

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Radio Migration aims to raise awareness of the importance of the central topic and those in the middle of it: migration and migrants. Courtesy: Radio Migration

By Moez Jemai
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

The topic of migration has been beaming across the airwaves of Marrakech, Morocco, to bring light to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration conference (GCM) and all its myriad components.

Organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other international organisations, Radio Migration began broadcasting on Dec. 4, ahead of the conference, covering various side activities and events organised by local and international civil society components, and by migrant rights activists.

Now that the conference is underway—and the Compact has been adopted, as of the morning of Dec. 10—the station’s programmes are focusing on decisions and issues as they happen. It all aims to raise awareness of the importance of the central topic and those in the middle of it: migration and migrants.

“The radio station has a clearly defined focus on migration from a human rights perspective, in order to ensure recognition and dissemination of migrants’ rights,” says the radio station project’s coordinator Mohyi El Ghattass, who notes how the station was given a special dispensation by the government.

“We obtained a formal and temporary authorisation from the Moroccan government, because community radio stations of this country do not yet have licenses to broadcast on FM radio.”

The radio employs 20 people, comprising Maghrebi nationalities from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, who received special training on covering thematic migration issues. This team of technicians and journalists has been broadcasting for 8 hours a day while covering a panorama of migration-related events happening around the city both before and during the GCM.

The station’s editorial approach has been to disseminate information that addresses both civil society and government actors to create a positive debate and spur evaluation of the factors involved in order to benefit the overall issue at stake.

The station has also striven to create open dialogue between different parties involved on migration issues by hosting independent experts, official organisations and activists involved in the rights of migrants, as well as discussing causes of migration and how they relate to specific groups such as women and young people.

Such an approach makes for a contrast with much of the reporting about migrants in mainstream media around the world, much of which focuses on stereotypes and negative narratives, says Carolina Gottardo with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Australia, one of the 400 civil society groups that has come to Marrakech to be involved in the conference and its discussion on migration.

One element of this radio station’s operation, which sets it apart from the other 700 registered media at the conference, is the involvement of a number of migrants in the editorial team to ensure the migrants’ concerns both directly influence the station’s programs and are addressed by broadcast content. The station has also opened its shows to several different nationalities to talk about the particularities of migration across different countries.

But the station’s policy of inclusive employment for migrants doesn’t mean those individuals are reassured by the Compact they are reporting on.

“Will the migrant move freely where he wants and with dignity after this? No,” says Armel, a Cameroon migrant and volunteer facilitator at Radio Migration. “For me, nothing will change. The pact itself is written in English, while the majority of migrants are francophones, so we do not control what is in this long text.”

When it comes to ownership of its own message, the station has striven to maintain its independence.

“Independence is a fundamental principle for the success of the radio station achieving its objective of delivering good quality news about its subject matter,” Ghattass says.

This means, he says, the station has avoided political or religious angles influencing its migration coverage, an aspect that many are increasingly concerned about when it comes to how immigration stories are often shaped in the global press.

“Always include the voice of migrants and civil society for fair reporting,” Gottardo says. “Use the term undocumented or irregular migrant rather than illegal—the vast majority of the world’s migrants are regular.”

“I find that, in general, journalists tend to opt for the sensational news rather than to go to the bottom things, Abel says. “And then, the speech can be hateful and does not push for improving the situation of migrants.”

Those involved with the station hope it ultimately underlines the importance and role of community media in defending human rights.

The station became the voice of civil society that is concerned by immigration issues,” says Jalal al-Makhfy, a volunteer radio journalist from another Moroccan station who has been producing a daily talk show that features guests from numerous walks of life related to immigration.

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A Migrant Turned Saviour of Othershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/migrant-turned-saviour-others/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-turned-saviour-others http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/migrant-turned-saviour-others/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 14:23:04 +0000 El Mahdi Hannane http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159171 Seven years ago, when Cameroon began experiencing inter-regional conflict, Armand Loughy, a 55-year old Cameroonian psychiatrist, strapped her youngest child on her back and with her five other children embarked on the dangerous Journey from Cameroon towards Rabat, Morocco’s capital. They fled the deteriorating security situation in Cameroon, looking for a better life. Loughy, who […]

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Armand Loughy is a migrant from Cameroon. Her own experiences pushed her to campaign on migration issues, shifting from being a refugee herself to becoming an activist. Credit: El Mahdi Hannane/IPS

By El Mahdi Hannane
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

Seven years ago, when Cameroon began experiencing inter-regional conflict, Armand Loughy, a 55-year old Cameroonian psychiatrist, strapped her youngest child on her back and with her five other children embarked on the dangerous Journey from Cameroon towards Rabat, Morocco’s capital.
They fled the deteriorating security situation in Cameroon, looking for a better life.
Loughy, who is now also a migrant activist based in Morocco, listened attentively to the on-going discussions during the opening ceremony of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in Marrakech.

Her own experiences pushed her to campaign on migration issues, shifting from being a refugee herself to becoming an activist—one of the most vocal personalities in the Moroccan civil society space.

“We went through the desert and where the fear consumed us. Many of my fellow migrants got hurt by bandits and died—in the most horrible way with their bodies dumped in the desert,” Loughy recalls.

After arriving in Morocco, she faced many difficulties in finding a job before finally securing work at a psychiatric clinic in Rabat.
With a well-paying job, Loughy could easily have forgotten her traumatic journey and suffering and moved on. But she chose not to—her decision to start helping migrants came at the right time as Morocco was also establishing favourable policies on how to handle migrants.

This policy shift, according to Loughy, enabled her to become “a candle that would light up the darkness of migrants.”

In 2014, she founded the Association of Women Migrants in Morocco, working to attract other migrants. Gradually, her association gained respect in the civil society space.

“In the beginning, the children of the poor neighbourhood where I was active threw stones at me,” Loughy says. “But after many months of continuous work, I became familiar and respected by locals and migrants.”

Her organisation is active in the Sidi Musa district of Salé—about 330 km north of Marrakech—where hundreds of migrants occupy small rooms, either working or begging on the streets, and then returning to the ghetto in the evening.

The children of these migrants, some of whom were born in Morocco, until recently had nothing to do. Some accompanied mothers to beg, others played in the neighbourhood all day without any clear future—a painful reality that Loughy and her organisation acted upon.

She presented a proposal to Salé’s Regional Directorate of Education and Training, and her ideas were welcomed. Classrooms were allocated within the public educational institutions for migrants’ children.

These have now become independent departments with their own teaching staff, and now even teach local Moroccan students.

“We are trying to use education as a tool for integration,” Loughy says, adding the association is making a big drive to inform migrants about the importance of education to ensure as many children as possible are enrolled into school.

Many migrants, especially those who do not have residence documents, remain sceptical of these types of initiatives, Loughy says. But the hope is that better educated children of migrants can inspire change at home and between communities.

Loughy dreams of a united African continent and believes that the best way to achieve coexistence among the continent’s peoples is through education and knowledge. After listening to discussions at the GCM about the tools and partnerships needed to give that dream a chance, she will leave Marrakech to return to spreading education among the children of Morocco’s migrants

“We have learnt that when students start living together, then parents can also learn how to coexist,” Loughy says.

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Undermining Human Rights of Women Trapped In Sex Tradehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/undermining-human-rights-women-trapped-sex-trade/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:16:35 +0000 Jessica Neuwirth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159163 Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with women’s groups working to end commercial sexual exploitation on the front lines around the world.

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Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with women’s groups working to end commercial sexual exploitation on the front lines around the world.

By Jessica Neuwirth
NEW YORK, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

Seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was signed in the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. Following two devastating world wars the United Nations General Assembly set out a brand new vision of human rights that the world could agree on going forward. It is still the benchmark by which most modern-day human rights organisations live.

Mickey Meji, South African sex trade survivor. Credit: wowwoman.com

The first line of the Declaration states in a clear and compelling way that all human beings are born free and equal. In practice, freedom and equality are the foundation from which every other fundamental human right is derived.

The Universal Declaration also recognizes that nobody should be held in slavery or servitude. This includes the many million women and girls who are caught in the devastating sex trade.

Despite the clarity of this issue in the minds of women’s rights advocates and survivors of prostitution some United Nations agencies – including UNAIDS and UNDP, as well as some high profile human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – have ignored this basic tenet and have instead called for the decriminalization of pimping, brothel-owning and patronizing prostitution.

Over the last twenty years the evidence against decriminalizing all aspects of the sex trade has become much clearer. The Netherlands, Germany and New Zealand removed sanctions on the purchase of sex and either decriminalized or legalized pimping and brothel-keeping.

As a result, Germany has been compared to a “giant teutonic brothel” by The Economist while Amsterdam has been backtracking from its failed experiment to protect prostituted persons.

Meanwhile, the growing evidence on what does work points to the Nordic or Equality model, pioneered by Sweden in 1999 and followed by Iceland, Norway, Canada, Northern Ireland, France and the Republic of Ireland.

Israel and others are also looking at this policy approach. It is no coincidence that many of these countries rank highest in terms of gender equality.

While the groups listed above support the right of men to buy sex, they have inexplicably ignored evidence of the Equality model’s success.

We all support the decriminalization of prostituted persons, but it is hard to justify the decriminalization of those who willfully and systematically exploit them.

The fact that gender and other structural inequalities are at the root of prostitution appears to have also been conveniently ignored. When such respected groups officially condone the purchase of sex and the horrifying human rights violations experienced by women trapped in prostitution they create an inexcusable veil of legitimacy, behind which those forced into the sex trade by poverty become collateral damage for maintaining the “rights” of men to buy sex.

Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, both male-led organizations, have in effect disowned the UDHR as it relates to the modern day subjugation of women.

As the South African sex trade survivor Mickey has said, prostitution is not only the embodiment of sexism and violence against women and girls, it is also a deep reflection of racism, poverty and other inequalities: “it is no coincidence that the majority of individuals in prostitution in South Africa are poor black women.”

Let’s be very clear about it: prostitution preys on the vulnerable – mostly women – and continues to exist because men who freely choose to buy sex want to enact their privilege in a dominant and abusive way. I have not heard any counter-argument from Amnesty or Human Rights Watch that negates this basic concept.

We can never achieve any form of equality in society as long as this extreme abuse of power by one human being over another is legitimized as a “commercial transaction”. These organizations should re-read Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

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Jessica Neuwirth is founder of Donor Direct Action, an international organization which partners with women’s groups working to end commercial sexual exploitation on the front lines around the world.

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Undertaking the Challenge of a Green Growth Pathway in Northern Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/undertaking-challenge-green-growth-pathway-northern-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=undertaking-challenge-green-growth-pathway-northern-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/undertaking-challenge-green-growth-pathway-northern-mexico/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 23:34:12 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159144 The northern Mexican state of Sonora seeks to position itself at the forefront in Mexico in the sustainable transformation of its economy. But it faces major challenges, such as greening its energy mix and relying less on mining, which is highly polluting and leaves little benefit to its public coffers. This federal territory, one of […]

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The state of Sonora, Mexico's largest, aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 90 percent by 2050 and generate 43 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2030, as part of its Green Growth Strategy. Among its many benefits, the plan will reduce pollution in the state capital, Hermosillo, seen in this photo. Credit: Change.org

The state of Sonora, Mexico's largest, aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 90 percent by 2050 and generate 43 percent of its energy from clean sources by 2030, as part of its Green Growth Strategy. Among its many benefits, the plan will reduce pollution in the state capital, Hermosillo, seen in this photo. Credit: Change.org

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

The northern Mexican state of Sonora seeks to position itself at the forefront in Mexico in the sustainable transformation of its economy. But it faces major challenges, such as greening its energy mix and relying less on mining, which is highly polluting and leaves little benefit to its public coffers.

This federal territory, one of the 32 into which this Latin American country is divided, has a Green Growth Strategy (GGS) and a State Action Plan on Climate Change for the State of Sonora, as well as a local risk atlas and a multisectoral advisory council.

The GGS, launched in 2017, is “quite good, it is a strategy with a vision of green growth that seeks economic growth, human development, social inclusion and productivity of natural resources and resilience to climate change,” said Pablo Martinez, representative in Mexico of the intergovernmental Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

The expert explained to IPS that the decarbonisation of the economy is the area that has shown the most progress and highlighted the role of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and sustainable mobility within the plan.

The Strategy was developed at the request of the Mexican government by the Seoul-based GGGI, created in 2012 with the aim of supporting developing countries in the South to establish a new economic model, based on green growth.

The GGS of Sonora, explained Martínez, includes 33 lines of action and its main objectives include the decarbonisation of the economy and energy independence, the inclusive innovative economy, the responsible use of materials and resources, and a resilient lifestyle.

It also contains 10 strategic themes, including renewable energy, sustainable mobility, water management and sustainable rural and urban development.

Economic activity in Sonora, the second largest Mexican state, with 189,055 square kilometers distributed among 72 municipalities inhabited by 2.85 million people, had a turnover of 30 billion dollars in 2016.

That production has left its ecological footprint. The latest available data shows that in 2010 the state released into the atmosphere 23 million tons of carbon dioxide. The largest emitters were energy (7.5 million), transport (6.5 million), agriculture and livestock (3.7 million) and industry (2.23 million).

The focus on the green economy has expanded widely throughout this decade. UN Environment defines it as an economy “that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive.”

 Pablo Martínez, the representative in Mexico of the Global Green Growth Institute, takes part in a workshop on the Green Growth Strategy of the northern state of Sonora, held this year in its capital, Hermosillo. Credit: GGGI Mexico


Pablo Martínez, the representative in Mexico of the Global Green Growth Institute, takes part in a workshop on the Green Growth Strategy of the northern state of Sonora, held this year in its capital, Hermosillo. Credit: GGGI Mexico

Within its GGS, in November 2017, the government of Sonora created a Green Growth Cabinet, which includes the ministers of Agriculture, Social Development, Economy and Infrastructure and Urban Development.

On Dec. 4, Sonora launched a Building Efficiency Accelerator programme, included in the GGS with the purpose of introducing new technologies in real estate planning to build more efficiently and reduce energy waste. Due to its dry climate, this state is the largest consumer of electricity for heating and cooling in the country.

Among other projects within the GGS, Sonora is about to receive between 568,000 and 1.13 million dollars in support from the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GIZ) and the C40 Cities Finance Facility, a network of 96 of the largest cities in the world against climate change, in order to structure a multimodal transport system that discourages the use of private vehicles.

In addition, Martínez explained, a pre-feasibility study is being drawn up for the production of biogas using agro-industrial waste, sponsored by the Danish Agency for International Cooperation and the energy ministry.

Another study being carried out is on pathways to deep decarbonisation by 2050, the first Mexican state to do so, with funds from the Washington-based World Resources Institute, a non-governmental organisation. A state environmental fund is expected to be set up by 2019, but it has no budget yet.

For Luis Carlos Romo, executive commissioner of the Commission for Ecology and Sustainable Development of the State of Sonora (Cedes), the new institutional structure and ongoing projects are achievements of the Strategy.

The official told IPS from Hermosillo, the state capital, that “the strategy aims to develop new motors of development. The main thing is to improve the quality of life of the people of Sonora, to strengthen social inclusion and reduce environmental impacts.”

The state government, he said, submitted the GGS to a public consultation process in March and April in order to promote citizen participation and improve and broaden its objectives, but its implementation faces significant challenges.

Martínez, the GGGI representative, mentioned financing, governance, social inclusion and the gender perspective as central themes.

Luis Carlos Romo, head of the Commission on Ecology and Sustainable Development of the State of Sonora, takes part in the presentation of the state's Green Growth Strategy in September during the Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco, California. Credit: Cedes

Luis Carlos Romo, head of the Commission on Ecology and Sustainable Development of the State of Sonora, takes part in the presentation of the state’s Green Growth Strategy in September during the Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco, California. Credit: Cedes

“There are obstacles to obtaining financing from development banks or foreign governments. The private sector must be more involved in the strategy. More institutional coordination is also needed. We see a great opportunity for the Strategy to be fulfilled; we don’t want a plan that remains on paper,” he said.

The GGS, he said, identifies challenges such as decreasing energy intensity and air pollutant emissions, strengthening the economic structure, ensuring the integrity of natural resources and decreasing the public’s vulnerability to climate effects.

Abandoning mining

For the state, one of the primary challenges is the gradual abandonment of mining, as it is the largest Mexican producer of gold, copper, molybdenum, graphite and wollastonite.

The mining outlook report for the state of Sonora, prepared by the Mexican Geological Service, a government agency, says gold is mined in 12 municipalities, copper in six and molybdenum in two.

In late 2017, the state had 46 mines in operation and 96 projects in the exploration phase, with a total of 5,974 mining concessions covering 5.55 million hectares, 29 percent of its territory.

In 2014, a stream connected to the Bacanuchi and Sonora rivers was the scene of a 40 million-liter spill of sulfuric acid from the Buenavista del Cobre mine, owned by the private Grupo Mexico, in what was called Mexico’s worst environmental disaster in modern times.

Energy transition

The sustainability of the energy mix is another major challenge, with 224 fossil-fuel-based power generators in operation. The state has strong potential for photovoltaic energy, due to its high level of solar irradiation, which is just beginning to be exploited, with 11 solar farms in operation or under construction.

In this regard, Romo, the head of Cedes, said that “we do not want to demonise any activity. The idea of the strategy is for traditional sectors, through innovation, to transform productive activities and have less environmental impact.”

“We believe that the lever that is going to support the strategy in a very important way is investment in renewables, to export energy instead of importing it. If we achieve this transformation of discarding fossil fuels, we will be able to meet the targets,” he explained.

The Sonora Risk Atlas includes seven municipalities that are highly vulnerable to climate change, so reducing emissions and adapting to the phenomenon are essential.

By 2030, Sonora has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and short-lived climate pollutants by 25 percent, within the targets adopted in September with the Under2 Coalition, whose name alludes to the need to keep the rise in global temperatures to below two degrees Celsius to avoid irreversible catastrophe.

Created in 2015, the coalition is made up of more than 220 local and regional governments, including those of 16 Mexican states.

Sonora projects that its GHG emissions will peak in 2026, before reducing them by 80 to 90 percent by 2050. In the energy sector, it aims to generate 35 percent clean energy by 2024 and 43 percent by 2030.

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Senegal Hosts Unique Community Events on Irregular Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/senegal-hosts-unique-community-events-irregular-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=senegal-hosts-unique-community-events-irregular-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/senegal-hosts-unique-community-events-irregular-migration/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 13:09:53 +0000 Mikaila Issa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159104 It is four o’clock in the afternoon in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, when pupils, students and workers begin to fill the municipal town halls of Grand Yoff and Sociocultural Centre Grand Médine to attend a unique community event – a film screening and a debate. What they hear there surprises them. Men and women, both in person and […]

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At the Guédiawaye town hall in Dakar, Senegal's capital, the community attends a unique community event – a film screening and a debate about irregular migration. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)/Alioune Ndiaye

By Mikaila Issa
DAKAR, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

It is four o’clock in the afternoon in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, when pupils, students and workers begin to fill the municipal town halls of Grand Yoff and Sociocultural Centre Grand Médine to attend a unique community event – a film screening and a debate.

What they hear there surprises them.

Men and women, both in person and on video, relate stories of human suffering, exploitation and abuse they experienced on their journeys as irregular migrants.

“You are beaten, threatened with weapons, you lose all your rights as soon as you enter this country. You are sold by your own brothers.” It is one of the poignant testimonies heard in a 45-minute documentary made by returnee migrants and with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

IOM is running a unique Migrants as Messengers (MaM) programme in Senegal, Guinea Conakry and Nigeria. It is a peer to peer messaging campaign that shares information about the dangers of irregular migration as told through the stories of returnee migrants. IOM has trained 80 returnee migrants in these three countries on how to interview and collect the stories of fellow returnees. The campaign also uses innovative mobile technology to empower migrants to share their experiences and to provide a platform for others to do the same.

A young man at Grand Médine town hall in Dakar, Senegal, engages in a discussion about irregular migration. Credit: Samuelle Paul Banga/IPS

The town hall discussions

The town hall screenings are also part of the campaign. They offer the community and returnee migrants a platform to share their stories since a participatory approach is used and the film is followed by a debate in French and in the local language, Wolof.

Back at the town halls in Dakar, during both screenings, silence reigns supreme for 45 minutes.

Those who sit in attendance look clearly stunned by the depth of suffering explained through the testimonies of the returnee migrants.

“We have seen and survived,” Ndèye Fatou Sall, a MaM volunteer, tells IPS. She lived previously in Saudi Arabia where she was employed as a domestic worker.

One thread is common through most of the discussions here. And it is that the youth resort to irregular migration in order to find work and better opportunities for themselves that they feel are not available to them at home. Many are driven and supported by their families, who have significant influence over their lives. In some cases, families use all of their savings to send their sons to Europe.

“Personally, I left because of my family. When I got my [Bachelor’s degree]…my mother saw that the sons of other families went abroad easily. So she used all her savings to finance my trip,” Issa Ngom says during the discussion at Grand Médine. After a few months amid harsh living conditions he decided to return to Senegal.

“I think we need to do a lot more outreach and show young people the opportunities [at home]. But we must go beyond because the reality is that most kids hang out on the streets, drinking tea all day instead of finding things to do,” Aminata Diop says during the session at Grand Yoff Dakar.

You can succeed at home

IOM volunteer Seckouba Cissé agrees during the debate that, “It’s not the trip that will make you a successful man.”

“We are used to blaming just the youth for all, because we dismiss them as people without ambition. But we never implement a policy to encourage young people to generate local wealth,” Cissé says.

Babacar Gueye, a young graduate who is currently looking for a job, explains during the Grand Yoff session that the money used to travel irregularly to Europe could be better invested in creating work opportunities at home.

“I went to Europe and I came back. The money you spend to go there to suffer, you can invest it here in Senegal to find something to do. We refuse to stay [home] because the family puts pressure on us to ‘succeed’; we get tired of this word.”

One thread is common through most of the discussions here. And it is that the youth resort to irregular migration in order to find work and better opportunities for themselves that they feel are not available to them at home. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)/Alioune Ndiaye

The dangers behind irregular migration 

But the poignant testimonies in the film made Charle Diatta aware of the realities and the risks involved with irregular migration. He speaks up during the debate and says he wants the returnee migrants to warn his cousins about this.

“I have cousins ​​in Yarakh who want to go to Europe, and I want you to go there, if possible, in order to try to make them aware before it’s too late.”

The screening of the film and the resultant debate is part of IOM’s impact evaluation approach “to measure the dimension of community engagement, public interaction with returning migrants volunteers; as well as to touch the perception of indigenous peoples on the issues of irregular migration and migrant status,” Marilena Crosato, media engagement and advocacy at IOM Senegal, tells IPS.

A total of 16 screening and debate sessions are being held throughout Senegal. And returnee migrants are actively working as volunteers and stakeholders to raise awareness.

And many of them are using the MaM Facebook page to share their experiences. Though it is on social media where many feel they first saw distorted realities of what it was like to live as irregular migrants in Europe.

Participants at the Grand Yoff session say that social networks can be shimmering surreal things that belie the true facts of irregular migration.

“Because of the beautiful photos and videos about life in Europe that my friends sent me, I was about to leave so as to have such a good life too,” Djiby Sakho says.

But the town hall screening and debate has shown him the darker side of the journey.

  • Additional reporting by Samuelle Paul Banga in Dakar.

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U.N. Remains Defiant Amid Last Minute U-turns on Global Compact for Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/u-n-remains-defiant-amid-last-minute-u-turns-global-compact-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-remains-defiant-amid-last-minute-u-turns-global-compact-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/u-n-remains-defiant-amid-last-minute-u-turns-global-compact-migration/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 10:21:24 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159114 Amidst negative sentiments and last-minute withdrawals from the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) by some member countries, the United Nations says the regrettable decisions are being fuelled by misinformation. Addressing the media Dec. 9 on the eve of the historic two-day GCM conference in Marrakech, set against the dramatic backdrop of […]

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In refugee camps at Dolo Odo, Ethiopia there is enough food for small markets to operate. One in every 70 people around the world is caught up in a crisis, including the refugee crisis, with more than 130 million people expected to need humanitarian aid next year. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Friday Phiri
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

Amidst negative sentiments and last-minute withdrawals from the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) by some member countries, the United Nations says the regrettable decisions are being fuelled by misinformation.

Addressing the media Dec. 9 on the eve of the historic two-day GCM conference in Marrakech, set against the dramatic backdrop of Morocco’s snow-capped Atlas Mountains, Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, addressed the question of whether the U.N. could have been better engaged with countries to persuade them to come on board.

“I have to tell you, I am not convinced you can persuade those who don’t want to be convinced,” Arbour says. “I am skeptical it would not have turned it into a dialogue of the deaf.”

The GCM is the first-ever inter-governmentally negotiated agreement to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner, providing a platform for cooperation on migration. Its genesis lies in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted unanimously by the U.N. General Assembly in 2016. It is the culmination of 18 months of discussions and consultations among Member States, and other actors, including national and local officials, civil society, private and public sectors and migrants themselves.

“It creates no right to migrate; it places no imposition on States; it does not constitute so-called ‘soft’ law—it is not legally binding,” Arbour says. “It expressly permits States to distinguish, as they see fit, between regular and irregular migrants, in accordance with existing international law. This is not my interpretation of the text—it is the text.”

She added that it is surprising there has been so much misinformation about what the Compact is and what its text says, emphasising that “the adoption of the migration compact is a re-affirmation of the values and principles embodied in the U.N. Charter and in international law.”

This was, she conceded, notwithstanding several member States who have already declined to participate, others making last-minute indications they would not adopt the compact, while some have stated their final decision must await further internal deliberation. These include, most notably, the United States. Other countries also include Austria, Australia, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Latvia and Bulgaria, among others.

United Nations Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour speaks to the media in Morocco. Courtesy: Global Compact for Migration/CC by 2.0

“It is regrettable whenever any State withdraws from a multilateral process, on a global issue, the outcome of which has generated overwhelming support,” Arbour says. “It is particularly regrettable when a State pulls out from a negotiated agreement in which it actively participated a short time before.”

Arbour emphasised the process of adoption would still go on as planned, with over 150 States registered to attend, joined by over 400 partners from the U.N. system, civil society, private sector and academia.

Even with the adoption of the compact, the unwelcome last-minute withdrawals and negative sentiments around the compact have unsettled several stakeholders from civil society.

Carolina Gottardo, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Australia, says the civil society movement is concerned with deliberate false information being peddled about the compact.

“It is your role as media to report facts and ignore political ideology,” Gottardo said during an IPS and U.N. Foundation training session for journalists on the eve of the conference.

The GCM defines 23 objectives covering all aspects of migration. Each objective comprises a general goal and a catalogue of possible actions, drawn from best practices, that States may choose to utilise to implement their national migration priorities.

“Many challenges still stand in the way of implementation – not least the toxic, ill-informed narrative that too often persists when it comes to migrants,” Arbour says.

During an evening reception for U.N. delegates that followed Arbour’s announcement, António Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General, officially launched the U.N. Network on Migration, an agile and inclusive network of all key stakeholders on migration—U.N. agencies that have migration components, private sector, civil society and others—with the aim of mobilising the full resources and expertise to assist Member States in their endeavour to implement the 23 objectives outlined in the compact. 

He announced that the “the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will play a central role” in the network.

The U.N. chief also expressed confidence in the new network, highlighting some of its core features, saying it would focus on collaboration and have an inclusive structure, while embodying U.N. values, like diversity and an openness to working with all partners, at all levels.

“Your participation in this conference is a clear demonstration of the importance our global community places on the pursuit of the better management of international migration, through a cooperative approach that is grounded in the principles of state sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination and human rights,” Guterres told conference delegates.

But, as many attending the GCM acknowledge, in this age of social media and polarised political posturing, success all too often depends more on message and narrative—one of the main challenges the GCM, and the migration issue in general, faces.

“Report on facts, not political ideology,” Gottardo told journalists. “Avoid dichotomies between ‘good’ or ‘bad’ movements of people.”

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Power and Sexual Abuse: The Danger of Doublinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/power-sexual-abuse-danger-doubling/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=power-sexual-abuse-danger-doubling http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/power-sexual-abuse-danger-doubling/#comments Mon, 10 Dec 2018 08:05:55 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159106 Several celebrities use their power to insult or take advantage of women. We read about sexual abuse from men like Harvey Weinsten, Bill O´Reilly, Leslie Moonves, Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, Dennis Hastert, Robert Packwood, Roger Ailes, James Levine, Hans Hermann Groër, Marcial Maciel, Justin Forsyth, Ruud Lubbers, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Bill Clinton, Silvio Berlusconi […]

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By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

Several celebrities use their power to insult or take advantage of women. We read about sexual abuse from men like Harvey Weinsten, Bill O´Reilly, Leslie Moonves, Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, Dennis Hastert, Robert Packwood, Roger Ailes, James Levine, Hans Hermann Groër, Marcial Maciel, Justin Forsyth, Ruud Lubbers, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Bill Clinton, Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump. The list is just a sample of an extensive catalogue of Western men accused of abusing women, using their fame, fortune and power to exploit and humiliate them. Unfortunately, misogyny, contempt of and prejudice against women and girls, may even be characterized as a cultural universal, an element, pattern, trait, or institution that is common to all human cultures worldwide.

Humans are herd animals. We depend on relations with other humans, a dependency that seldom is equal. Every moment of our lives we suffer subjugation – under parents, teachers, colleagues, bosses and government officials, at the same time as we might have power over others. Power may act as poison. Several persons I have been acquainted with and who reached powerful positions have changed completely, poisoned by their elevation above other human beings. Several imagined they earned their position though intelligence, hard work and charm; outstanding qualities that distinguished them from others, especially those who are dependent on these formidable leaders.

Endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin constitute a blissful quartet of neurotransmitters that make us content. Feelings of well-being increase levels of serotonin, which stimulate our appetite and general contentment, while low serotonin levels trigger stress hormones. Powerful beings benefit from serotonin streaming through their bodies, creating feelings of a refreshing exhilaration. Powerful men become supermen, assuming their behaviour cannot be equalled to that of inferior beings, whose blood and brains are acidified by stress hormones.

This blissful state of mind has to be protected. Power-drunk sex abusers are generally safeguarded by others, who like them fear that their power, and that of their sheltering organizations, will be weakened if voices of abused victims are taken seriously. Maybe a reason to why even the Catholic Church and United Nations, organizations supposed to care about evil and social injustice, so often have proved reluctant to address abuse committed by powerful men and women within their own domains.

While I in Paris was working at the gender division of UNESCO, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the IMF, went to trial in Lille, accused of pimping. He was acquitted from all charges, though I found his defence deplorable. He admitted that he was a “libertine” and liked to participate in orgies, though he had not realized that his partners in those excesses had been prostitutes. He assumed they were “libertines” like him. He was contradicted by several women who had shared his “pleasures”. One of them told the court: ”No other customer would have dared to do what he did. Does he assume that he can behave like that just because he does not have the same social status [as women like me]?” Fabrice Paszkowski, one of several arrangers of Strauss-Kahn´s nightly pleasures, used to text him messages about planned sexual encounters. The nature of these messages reflects opinions of men like them. Strauss-Kahn: ”So, who will you have in your luggage?” Paszkowski: “I have some very beautiful and new things for my trip to DC!!!”

While reading about the trial in Lille I found that another of Paszkowski´s clients had been the strapping sailor, author and artist Titouan Lamazou. A frequent visitor to UNESCO´s gender division. He was actively involved with charitable organizations defending the rights of women and children and had in 2003 been appointed as “UNESCO´s Artist for Peace”. Lamazou´s defence was the same as Strauss-Kahn´s: “I did not know that these women were prostitutes”.

The case of Titouan Lamazou made me remember when I was working for The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and once listened to a lecture by Karl Göran Lindberg, lawyer, police chief and former rector of the Police Academy. Lindberg was project manager of an EU project called Genderforce, aiming to improve international efforts to include a gender perspective in all police work. In 2010, Lindberg was by the Swedish High Court sentenced to a long prison term for repeated serious rape and sexual abuse of under-aged girls.

Lamazou and Lindberg might have been victims of what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton in a book about Nazi doctors called doubling. A psychological trait enabling a person to invoke evil potentials and forbidden urges, at the same time as s/he considers them to be completely alien to her/his true humanitarian and philanthropically inclined self. Jay Lifton stated:

          To live out the doubling and call forth the evil is a moral choice for which one is responsible, whatever
          the level of consciousness involved.

If we, our laws and our society accept and condone doubling, we identify with the perpetrators and pave the way for immorality, injustice and violence.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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Poor Progress and No Finance Commitments at COP24 in Katowicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/poor-progress-no-finance-commitments-cop24-katowice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poor-progress-no-finance-commitments-cop24-katowice http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/poor-progress-no-finance-commitments-cop24-katowice/#respond Sat, 08 Dec 2018 17:13:23 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159098 Implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change is in limbo as developed countries remain noncommittal to financial obligations at the ongoing negotiations in Katowice, Poland. Professor Seth Osafo, the Advisor to the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN), said today, Dec. 8, that his colleagues from the developed world were shifting goals to put the […]

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Members of African civil society express their frustrations about the climate change negotiations during a press conference held at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 8 2018 (IPS)

Implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change is in limbo as developed countries remain noncommittal to financial obligations at the ongoing negotiations in Katowice, Poland.

Professor Seth Osafo, the Advisor to the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN), said today, Dec. 8, that his colleagues from the developed world were shifting goals to put the burden of financing the implementation of the Paris Agreement on the private sector.

Osafo was addressing the Pan African Parliament and civil society organisations under the umbrella of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) during COP 24.

“A man who is drowning has no luxury of a choice. Africa is drowning and we have no choice, other than using all means to salvage the continent.” -- Augustine Njamshi, the executive director of the Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme in Cameroon.

The Paris Agreement is an agreement reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris, France, where the world’s nations undertook a determined course to reduce climate change. Among the commitments was to keep the increase in global temperatures under 2 degrees Celcius.

Osafo’s concerns were confirmed by Mohamed Nasr, Chair of the AGN. He said that during this past week there had been very little progress with regards to financial commitments from the developed world to address loss and damages related to past injustices, adaptation, gender equality, and the empowerment of women, among other issues. The seeking of a commitment from developed nations on this is being spearheaded by the African team.

“The progress so far is not up to expectations, and if this is the way [negotiations will] go, it means we will not be able to implement what we agreed to in Paris,” said Nasr. “We should not choose parts of the agreement to implement and leave other parts behind,” he told IPS in an interview on Friday.

Despite the challenges, a document for negotiation must be drawn up by tonight.

This past week, negotiators representing different Parties (countries) have been discussing the outline of what is known as the ‘Rulebook’ for the Paris Agreement. This includes the rules, procedures and guidelines that countries should follow to enable them implement the Paris Agreement at national level.

The outcome of the week-long negotiations will then be submitted to ministers of the various countries on Monday for deliberations to decide whether or not to adopt positions taken by technical teams.

“We are hoping that we will finish drafting the rules of implementation today, so that we have a document to show to the ministers when they arrive for political engagements next week,” said Osafo.

In 2017 drought ravaged almost half of Kenya’s 43 counties, with the Turkana region in northern Kenya being the worst affected. The region mostly consists of pastoralists who lost livestock during the drought. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Under the Paris Agreement, developed countries committed to availing 100 billion dollars by 2020 to finance implementation of the accord through the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

However, there have been setbacks. During the Paris negotiations the United States, which is considered to be one of the main polluters of the environment, pledged to deposit three billion dollars to the GCF. Under former President Barrack Obama’s administration, the country delivered one billion dollars. But since President Donald Trump assumed power he has rejected the agreement, adding that climate change is a hoax.

At the Katowice negotiations, the U.S. and the European Union are asking for a Rulebook that will not demand they divulge the exact amounts of money they provide to poorer nations for climate finance, especially to cater for loss and damages.

This has not gone down well with African civil society organisations who have demanded the fulfilment of the pre-2020 climate finance commitments at the onset of the negotiations earlier this week.

“We see a clear intent from the developed country parties to shift their convention obligations on the provision of climate finance to private institutions and, worse still, to developing countries. This is not, and will not be, acceptable,” said Mithika Mwenda, the Executive Director at PACJA.

“If it continues like this, we will be forced to protest or even pull out from the negotiations altogether,” he told IPS.

Augustine Njamshi, the executive director of the Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme in Cameroon, said: “We have no option, but to use all available means to make things happen.”

“A man who is drowning has no luxury of a choice. Africa is drowning and we have no choice, other than using all means to salvage the continent,” he told IPS.

Nasr said that the African negotiators have been forced to send messages through informal discussions with colleagues from the developed world to salvage the situation.

“We are just telling them that if we do not have the components that we have asked for, the package will not be for Africa, and Africa will not be part of it,” he said.

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Water, an Environmental Product of Agriculture in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/water-environmental-product-agriculture-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-environmental-product-agriculture-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/water-environmental-product-agriculture-brazil/#respond Sat, 08 Dec 2018 00:19:26 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159092 For the first time in her life, retired physical education teacher Elizabeth Ribeiro planted a tree, thorny papaya, native to Brazil’s central savanna. The opportunity arose on Nov. 28, when the Pipiripau Water Producer Project, which is being carried out 50 km from Brasilia, promoted the planting of 430 seedlings donated by participants in the […]

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Middle Eastern Countries Can Overcome Pressing Challenges By Developing a Blue Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/middle-eastern-countries-can-overcome-pressing-challenges-developing-blue-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-eastern-countries-can-overcome-pressing-challenges-developing-blue-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/middle-eastern-countries-can-overcome-pressing-challenges-developing-blue-economy/#respond Fri, 07 Dec 2018 13:17:17 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159082 The Blue Economy is becoming an ‘El Dorado’, a new frontier for traditionally arid and water-stressed nations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to Christian Averous, Vice President of Plan Bleu, one of the Regional Activity Centres of the Mediterranean Action Plan developed under the United Environment Regional Seas Programme. But against […]

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Aquaponics, an innovative practice in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, is revolutionising the way of conceiving food supply in many MENA countries. This dated picture shows fish pools in Palestine. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Dec 7 2018 (IPS)

The Blue Economy is becoming an ‘El Dorado’, a new frontier for traditionally arid and water-stressed nations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to Christian Averous, Vice President of Plan Bleu, one of the Regional Activity Centres of the Mediterranean Action Plan developed under the United Environment Regional Seas Programme.

But against the backdrop of the enormous potential represented by the Blue Economy, there are numerous challenges and critical issues that the region faces. Overfishing, water scarcity, highly salty waters, climate change, high evaporation rates, the oil industry and pollution are just some of things that place at risk the development and conservation of marine and aquatic resources in the MENA region.

In addition, rapid population growth throughout the region complicates things. According to the U.S.-based Population Reference Bureau, “MENA experienced the highest rate of population growth of any region in the world over the past century” and is growing at a current rate of 2 percent per year. It’s the second-highest growth rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa, the organisation says.

Population growth leads to an increased demand for fish as a food source and this, combined with poor regulations and rapacious fishing practices, ultimately leads to an overall decline in marine populations. Eventually it compromises the survival status of the Red Sea coral reef, which is already highly threatened by pollution, unsustainable tourism and climate change, (even though corals in this region proved to be resistant to global warming).

The MENA region has also had to cope with poor management of water resources, with agriculture using 85 percent of freshwater. Available freshwater in the region is mainly underground and its non-renewable stocks are being depleted, warns the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Over the last four decades, the availability of freshwater in the MENA region has decreased by 40 percent and will probably decrease by 50 percent by 2050. The consequences could be disastrous in terms of food security, rural livelihoods and economies.

The Blue Economy: a way to overcome challenges and boost development?

“It is very important to promote an ocean-based economy in today’s world, as governments struggle for economic growth, [particularly] in the MENA region as well as in the whole Mediterranean region and in the Gulf countries,” Averous tells IPS. 

This means that countries in the region should not only seek to preserve aquatic and marine resources, but should also invest in these same resources to foster a process of economic development and growth through them.

Farmed Tilapia on sale in a Cairo supermarket. Local farmers from Egypt, Algeria and Oman participated in farmer-to-farmer study tours, visited 15 integrated agri-aquaculture farms, and learnt new skills and techniques from each other. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS.

Fisheries and Aquaculture

But best practices across the region are demonstrating just how much these countries believe in the enormous potential of the Blue Economy. One example is aquaponics, an innovative practice in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors that is revolutionising the food supply in many MENA countries. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture — the practice of fish farming and hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water without soil).

“While hydroponics still uses some chemical fertilisers to grow plants, with aquaponics, the fish themselves, through their excrements, fertilise the water allowing plants to grow,” Valerio Crespi, Aquaculture Officer in FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department in Rome, tells IPS.

Egypt, Algeria and Oman recently embarked on a cooperation project promoted by FAO, where local farmers participated in farmer-to-farmer study tours where they visited 15 integrated agri-aquaculture farms and learnt new skills and techniques from each other.

“It was a good experience,” says Basem Hashim, an Egyptian farmer and consultant for the General Authority of Fish Resources Development, a movement which tries to shape new ideas and actions for agriculture and food in Egypt.

Basem took part in the study tours organised by FAO and thanks to that experience was able to outline and understand the most pressing challenges for the farming communities in the region.

“We know the importance of using water properly and of improving production [not only in terms of quantity, but] also in terms of quality,” he tells IPS. “At the same time, I think there is still not enough awareness in Egypt in terms of water scarcity, pollution and waste, even though the government is working with associations to raise awareness and transfer experiences.”

“The study tours were a clear example of successful South-South Cooperation,” says Crespi. “The ultimate goal, which is what we are working on right now, is to draft a road map to outline the best practices to best use water in these areas where water is scarce. In the three countries we have created national teams that have produced three technical reports that will be the basis of the road map.”

Aquaponics is an incredible innovation also because it allows these communities to have, thanks to the fish that are raised in those structures, a source of protein that would otherwise be poorly available if not nonexistent in some of these countries.

“In addition, with the same use of resources,” says Basem, “we also have fruits and vegetables. This is what the future looks like.”

Tere are other countries in the region are known for their best practices in the Blue Economy, particularly in the aquaculture sector:

  • Iran has long-standing experience with rice-fish farming, which is currently estimated by experts to be practiced in 10 percent of all rice fields in the country, on a total area of between 50,000 to 72,000 hectares.
  • Lebanon has been practicing aquaculture for many decades and in 2017 total fishery production from marine capture fisheries and aquaculture were 3,608 and 1,225 tonnes, respectively.
  • Fish farmers in Israel are developing innovative technologies and breeding methods which are revolutionising their industry. The excellence of Israeli technology is not used alone in breeding in the country but is also appreciated and exported all over the world.

Coastal and marine tourism

According to Plan Bleu, in the past 20 years the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution of the tourism sector has increased by 60 percent in Mediterranean countries. The Mediterranean region is the world’s leading tourism destination. International tourist arrivals have grown from 58 million in 1970 to nearly 324 million in 2015. It is also among the most frequented areas by cruise ships in the world, with some 27 million passengers visiting the area by 2013. Therefore tourism has been a positive economic asset for the region. 

But as surprising as it may be, it is not so much industrial pollution that represents the greatest damage to the marine environment, but tourism that has a huge negative impact on the region.

Tourism is in fact one of the main threats to ecosystems in the area. Indeed, locals confirm that industries and cruises operating, for example, in the Red Sea are subject to harsh regulations but the main threat to the environment is posed by waste disposal, especially of plastic, and by the enormous water footprint that each tourist leaves behind.

Perspectives about the future

The Middle East certainly has many challenges to face in terms of scarcity of natural resources and food security. For this reason the economy based on maritime sectors in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East represents a crucial potential for the economic development.

“We do not have any ‘miraculous’ innovation. We simply have some technologies that, if associated to traditional methods, can stimulate a process of sustainable development, which is a key factor for those countries struggling for finding enough natural resources,” says Crespi.

“Moreover,” he adds, “promoting a policy of implementation of Blue Economy, could reduce the rural exodus of these populations from the countryside to the cities, or even the exodus across the Mediterranean to get to Europe, risking their lives often for not finding the much desired job and economic prosperity.”

  • The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference took place in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and was co-hosted with Canada and Japan. Participants from 150 countries around the world gathered to learn how to build a blue economy.

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Is Africa Ready for Nuclear Energy?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/africa-ready-nuclear-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-ready-nuclear-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/africa-ready-nuclear-energy/#respond Fri, 07 Dec 2018 12:29:15 +0000 Laura Gil http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159083 Laura Gil, Africa Renewal

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Current & expected electricity generation of African countries.

By Laura Gil
VIENNA, Dec 7 2018 (IPS)

Years back, nuclear energy was a fancy option limited to the industrialized world. In due course, nuclear could be an energy source for much of Africa, where only South Africa currently has a nuclear power plant.

Governments across the continent are devising development policies to become middle-income countries in the medium term. Socioeconomic growth comes with a rise in energy demand—and a need for a reliable and sustainable energy supply.

For industrializing countries in need of a clean, reliable and cost-effective source of energy, nuclear is an attractive option.

“Africa is hungry for energy, and nuclear power could be part of the answer for an increasing number of countries,” says Mikhail Chudakov, deputy director general and head of the Department of Nuclear Energy at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an international organisation that promotes the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

A third of the almost 30 countries currently considering nuclear power are in Africa.

Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan have already engaged with the IAEA to assess their readiness to embark on a nuclear programme. Algeria, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia are also mulling the possibility of nuclear power.

“Energy is the backbone of any strong development,” says Nii Allotey, director of the Nuclear Power Institute at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission. “And where do we get energy from? We have hydro, thermal, fossil fuels, and we have local gas—but these are dwindling. They are limited; fossil fuels could run out by 2030. And, the prices are volatile.”

For Ghana, cost-effective, reliable electricity is the entry point to higher-value-added manufacturing and export-led growth. For example, the country’s reserves of bauxite—the ore used to produce aluminium—are an important source of income, but for now it is exported raw.

“We have a smelter, but it’s not operating at full capacity because electricity is too expensive,” Allotey says. “If we had cost-effective electricity, we would not be exporting raw bauxite, but exporting smelted bauxite at a much higher price. This would be a big move for Ghana.”

Power to the people
African governments are working to make electricity more widely accessible. Roughly 57% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to electricity.

For many, the electricity supply is characterised by frequent power outages, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an organisation of 30 mostly industrialised countries that have met a set of energy security criteria.

Kenya is considering nuclear to meet the demand generated by hooking up households nationwide, which is expected to contribute significantly to the 30% increase in electricity demand predicted for the country by 2030.

A successful nuclear power programme requires broad political and popular support and a national commitment of at least 100 years.

“For a long time in our country electrification levels were low, but the government has put in a lot of efforts towards electrifying the entire country,” says Winfred Ndubai, acting director of the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board’s Technical Department. “Even those areas that were considered to be remote are now vibrant. Within a period of about 10 years we have moved from [a] 12% electrification rate to 60%.”

Kenya depends mostly on non-fossil fuel for energy; about 60% of installed capacity is from hydropower and geothermal power.

Is Africa ready for nuclear?
“Going nuclear is not something that happens from one day to the next. From the moment a country initiates a nuclear power programme until the first unit becomes operative, years could pass,” says Milko Kovachev, head of the IAEA’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section, which works with countries new to nuclear power.

“Creating the necessary nuclear infrastructure and building the first nuclear power plant will take at least 10 to 15 years.”

A successful nuclear power programme requires broad political and popular support and a national commitment of at least 100 years, Kovachev added. This includes committing to the entire life cycle of a power plant, from construction through electricity generation and, finally, decommissioning.

In addition to time, there is the issue of costs. Governments and private operators need to make a considerable investment that includes projected waste management and decommissioning costs.

Kovachev points out that “the government’s investment to develop the necessary infrastructure is modest relative to the cost of the first nuclear power plant. But [it] is still in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Financing nuclear energy
Without proper financing, nuclear is not an option. “Most countries in Africa will find it difficult to invest this amount of money in a nuclear power project,” Kovachev stresses.

“But there are financing mechanisms like, for instance, from export agencies of vendor countries. Tapping into a reliable, carbon-free supply of energy when vendors are offering to fund it can make sense for several countries in Africa.”

Another aspect to consider is the burden on the electrical grid system of the country. Nuclear power plants are connected to a grid through which they deliver electricity. For a country to safely introduce nuclear energy, the IAEA recommends that its grid capacity be around ten times the capacity of its planned nuclear power plant.

For example, a country should have a capacity of 10,000 megawatts already in place to generate 1,000 megawatts from nuclear power.

Few countries in Africa currently have a grid of this capacity. “In Kenya, our installed capacity is 2,400 megawatts—too small for conventional, large nuclear power plants,” Ndubai says. “The grid would need to increase to accommodate a large unit, or, alternatively, other, smaller nuclear power plant options would need to be explored.”

One option is to invest in small modular reactors (SMRs), which are among the most promising emerging technologies in nuclear power. SMRs produce electric power up to 300 megawatts per unit, or around half of a traditional reactor and their major components can be manufactured in a factory setting and transported to sites for ease of construction.

While SMRs are expected to begin commercial operation in Argentina, China and Russia between 2018 and 2020, African countries are still wary of such a project.

“One of the things we are very clear about in terms of introducing nuclear power is that we do not want to invest in a first-of-a-kind technology,” Ndubai says. “As much as SMRs represent an opportunity for us, we would want them to be built and tested elsewhere before introducing them in our country.”

Joining a regional grid is another option. “Historically, it has been possible to share a common grid between countries,” Kovachev explains. “But, of course, this requires regional dialogue.” One example of such a scheme is the West African Power Pool, created to integrate national power systems in the Economic Community of West African States into a unified regional electricity market.

Another factor militating against a headlong rush into nuclear power is popular rejection of projects that are costly and hard to finance.

Also, countries are wary that in the event of a nuclear power plant accident, released radioactive materials will harm the environment and lives. Although no fatalities were recorded in the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011 following the Tōhoku earthquake, the release of radioactive materials forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

IAEA assistance
While the IAEA does not influence a country’s decision about whether to add nuclear power to its energy mix, the organisation provides technical expertise and other pertinent information about safe, secure and sustainable use to countries that opt for nuclear energy.

Safety and security are key considerations in the IAEA Milestones Approach, a phased method created to assist countries that are assessing their readiness to embark on a nuclear power programme. The approach helps them consider aspects such as the legal framework, nuclear safety, security, radiation protection, environmental protection and radioactive waste management.

“Many, many people ask the question: Why nuclear?” Allotey says. “To me, it’s not about nuclear being an option. It is about energy being an option. Do you, as a country, need energy? And the simple answer is yes. So if you need energy, you need to find cost-effective electricity that is clean and reliable.”

“With a rapidly expanding population and plans to grow our economies, we need to work within these constraints,” he adds. “We are a continent that is in dire need of energy.”

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Excerpt:

Laura Gil, Africa Renewal

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Central America: Eradicating Gender Violence is Vital to State Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/central-america-eradicating-gender-violence-vital-state-security/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 08:08:55 +0000 Richard Barathe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159067 Richard Barathe is Director, UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Credit: Caroline Trutmann / UNDP

By Richard Barathe
PANAMA CITY, Panama, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

María is a 35-year old Salvadoran woman with three young children. Growing up, María knew her mother but never met her father. When María was six, she started working at the Central Market of San Salvador and at the age of 12 she was raped and became pregnant for the first time.

Later, María was expelled from her home once her mother got married for a second time, “My stepfather did not want to take care of me, even less with a son”, she told the researcher for “Resilient Youth, The Opportunity for Central America”, a study developed by the Regional Project Infosegura, a UN Development Programme-USAID joint initiative.

María lived in many different places until she met the father of her second daughter- who was killed years later. After his passing, María had a third child with a third partner whom she soon separated from, due to domestic violence. Currently, María’s teenage son lives with her father, uncle, and grandmother since she simply could not take care of him while also working full time.

Richard Barathe

Women all across El Salvador, women just like María have a life expectancy of around 75 years. It is safe to say that about half of María’s life has been deeply marked by the violence that women experience in Northern Countries of Central America, a region that for the past two decades has seen chronic violence despite Central America not having a regional war in decades.

When speaking of violence in the Northern Countries of Central America, it is assumed to be a problem concerning young men, since “only” 11 percent of the victims of violent deaths are women. However, the story of María is more common than is realized.

María is just another example of how women of this region live surrounded by a violence that affects them differently and specifically just because they are women.

This violence is not necessarily lethal, and victims often survive, but these women continue to be subjected to the same cycle of violence throughout their whole lives, impacting families and communities through generations, affecting their economy and sustainability, and distorting their capacities for development.

Data shows that in María’s home country, 93 percent of the victims of sexual crimes are women. Over two in every five the victims are under the age of 18. We also know that domestic violence is present throughout the adulthood of a woman and that a woman between 12 and 50 years old is at high risk of “disappearing”.

Over 3,500 women have been killed between the years 2010-2017, while nearly 2,700 were reported as Enforced Disappearances around the same period (201-2016) with 43 percent of them being minors.

We know this because the Salvadoran State has made progress in the management of information on citizen security with a focus on gender and has oriented public policies to guarantee evidence-based analysis.

Migration is a phenomenon that also characterizes this region, and data indicates that violence against women is an important factor to be considered. Our initiative also analyzed returnees data: migrants detained in transit who were sent back to their place of origin.

We know that 26 percent of these ‘returnees’ are women and 30 percent of all women say they have migrated due to violence, compared to only 18 percent of men who say violence is the main reason for leaving their country.

Every November, national, regional, and global actors campaign to eradicate violence against women. It is crucial to recognize violence against women as an essential element of citizen security: tackling it is a key step to build more cohesive and peaceful societies.

Addressing general societal violence with a special focus on violence against women must be at the foundation of comprehensive public policies on citizen security, that aim to eradicate all types of violence. Understanding everyday violence that women experience in their homes and streets is a security problem for communities and nations.

No nation will be safe unless women can live safely and develop their full potentials.

In this spirit, the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide a holistic model for a comprehensive approach to ensure that women have a life free from all types of violence. All of society thrives with firm steps towards development when no one is left behind.

At UNDP, we are systematizing good practices and success stories of the work in Central America within the framework of the UNDP-USAID Infosegura Regional Project, which is dedicated to the development of capacities for the formulation of public policies based on evidence and with a gender approach. We are, thus, establishing standards, methodologies and scalable processes.

An essential part of the process has been to build trust and coordinate our work with national institutions producing and analyzing data, leveraging new technologies, national experts and innovation.

This coordination has resulted in regional accomplishments in information management with a gender focus, such as specialized surveys and standardized reports on acts of violence against women.

In El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, understanding the context of María’s story as accurately as possible will allow us to efficiently eradicate violence against women as well as all other types of violence. If countries are to achieve the 2030 Agenda, boosting gains in the economic, social and environmental realms, this can only be done if we ensure that no “Marías” are left behind.

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Excerpt:

Richard Barathe is Director, UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Thermal Houses Keep People Warm in Peru’s Highlandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/thermal-houses-keep-people-warm-perus-highlands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thermal-houses-keep-people-warm-perus-highlands http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/thermal-houses-keep-people-warm-perus-highlands/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 03:14:36 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159061 Thirty families from a rural community more than 4,300 meters above sea level will have warm houses that will protect them from the freezing temperatures that each year cause deaths and diseases among children and older adults in this region of the southeastern Peruvian Andes. José Tito, 46, and Celia Chumarca, one year younger, peasant […]

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Conserving Canada’s Diverse Marine Lifehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/conserving-canadas-diverse-marine-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conserving-canadas-diverse-marine-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/conserving-canadas-diverse-marine-life/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 19:47:33 +0000 Stephen Leahy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159050 Despite the deep, cold waters, newly discovered undersea mountains off Canada’s west coast are home to a rich diversity of life. “When we reached a seamount (undersea mountain), it was often like we were entering a forest, only of red tree corals and vase-shaped glass sponges,” said Robert Rangeley, Science Director, Oceana Canada.  “These areas […]

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Seamounts are filled with a diversity of ocean life including anemones, feather stars, octopuses, lobsters and rockfishes. Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust, Northeast Pacific Seamount Expedition Partners

By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

Despite the deep, cold waters, newly discovered undersea mountains off Canada’s west coast are home to a rich diversity of life.

“When we reached a seamount (undersea mountain), it was often like we were entering a forest, only of red tree corals and vase-shaped glass sponges,” said Robert Rangeley, Science Director, Oceana Canada.  “These areas were filled with a diversity of other animals including anemones, feather stars, octopuses, lobsters and rockfishes,” said Rangely who led the expedition in July.

Oceana, a marine conservation organisation, along with the Haida Nation, an indigenous people, the Federal government department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Ocean Networks Canada were partners in the first in-depth investigation of the recently designated Offshore Pacific Area of Interest. This is a 140,000 square kilometre region 100 to 200 kilometres west of Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia.

The waters in this region are also home to the vast majority of Canada’s known hydrothermal vents, deep-sea hot springs at the bottom of the sea floor.  As seawater meets the Earth’s molten magma it gets superheated and rises up through holes or vents in the sea floor carrying with it minerals leached from the crustal rock below forming bizarre chimney-like structures. These vents are home to strange forms of life that thrive in a toxic chemical soup where temperatures can reach 350 degrees C.

The expedition spent 16 days on the water and discovered six new seamounts with ancient and fragile coral forests and potentially new species. Even scientists who have visited seamounts on other parts of the world were blown away by the abundance and diversity of life found Rangely told IPS.

The expedition team also found lost fishing gear on some of the seamounts. This gear entangles marine life and destroys fragile and slow growing corals and sponges. Seamounts are often targeted by fishing vessels because they attract an abundance of fish. The damage wasn’t from bottom-trawling vessels that scrape along the seafloor but from long-line fishing. The Cobb seamount just outside of Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been destroyed by fishing he said.

Canada is working to create a new marine protected area (MPA) for most of the 140,000 sq km Offshore Pacific Area of Interest. Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust, Northeast Pacific Seamount Expedition Partners

Seamounts need protection to provide refuge for marine life and Oceana wants to see all of Canada’s seamounts closed to bottom contact fishing Rangely said. Fishing can still continue away from seamounts, and will benefit from the closures. When seamounts are protected from fishing or resource extraction, it increases the quantities of fish outside the area in what’s known as a ‘spillover effect’.

Canada is working to create a new marine protected area (MPA) for most of the 140,000 sq km Offshore Pacific Area of Interest. Half the region would be closed to fishing to protect seamounts and hydrothermal vents. The new MPA may be officially in place in 2020 to help Canada get close to its United Nations Convention of Biodiversity commitment of protecting 10 percent of its marine and coastal areas by 2020. Canada had protected less than one percent by 2017. However, the current government is rapidly ramping up the number of protected areas but conservationists say these protections are too weak and allow fishing or resource extraction.

For example a near 50,000 square kilometre marine refuge east of Newfoundland on Canada’s Atlantic coast is off limits to fishing was just opened to allow drilling for oil and gas.

Canada is also scrambling to manage its fish stocks that have seen years of steady decline. Just a third of the nearly 200 stocks are considered healthy, according to a 2018 audit report by Oceana. Canada is a major fish and seafood exporter, with exports reaching C$6.9 billion in 2017.

After a decade of deep cutbacks by a previous government, Canada’s fisheries department under the Trudeau government is struggling to catch up. Most of the 26 critically endangered stocks do not have rebuilding plans in place the Oceana report found.

Last week the Canadian government announced $107.4 million over five years for rebuilding and assessments of fish stocks across Canada.

In a statement Oceana Canada’s Executive Director, Josh Laughren called this a critical investment addressing the urgent challenge of rebuilding depleted fisheries and rebuilding abundance.

  • The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference took place in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and was co-hosted with Canada and Japan. Participants from 150 countries around the world gathered to learn how to build a blue economy.

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Watering the Paris Agreement at COP24http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/watering-paris-agreement-cop24/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=watering-paris-agreement-cop24 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/watering-paris-agreement-cop24/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 13:24:34 +0000 Maggie White http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159048 Maggie White is Senior Manager - International. Policies, Swedish Water House

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On the doorstep of finalizing the roadmap to implementing the Paris Agreement, the water community is coming together to leverage opportunities and awareness about water’s role in tackling climate change.

By Maggie White
STOCKHOLM, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

Most people will experience climate change in the form of water – higher frequency and intensity of floods and droughts, an increase in waterborne diseases, and overloaded sewage systems that are unable to cope with new demands.

At the same time, water offers some of the best solutions for reducing our climate impact and tackling effects of climate change. Yet, the role of water is poorly understood and often forgotten in the international climate debate.

Maggie White

The Conference of the Parties (COP) 24 is taking place in Katowice in Poland 2-14 December and there is a lot at stake. The UNFCCC’s 2015 Paris Agreement set goals for reducing carbon emissions and assisting countries in adapting to the adverse effects of global climate change.

At the meeting in Poland, the parties need to agree on the “rulebook” for the agreement, i.e. how it should be implemented. But water is largely absent from the agreement. However, many of the parties who ratified the Paris Agreement made water a central component of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

At the doorstep of finalizing the road map for implementing the Paris Agreement, the water community fears a missed opportunity to leverage water’s full potential to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. With recent estimates saying that emissions must come down dramatically in the next few years, this is a risk the world cannot afford.

Similarly, the most powerful manifestations of climate change are water-related and if that is not acknowledged, it will be difficult for countries to respond adequately. Climate change will also exacerbate water quality and variability, through changed precipitation patterns and changes to evapotranspiration and ultimately the water balance.

Trees, landscapes and agriculture are, for example, key for reducing emissions and mitigating climate change. Forests and wetlands act as sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases and play a central role in the hydrologic cycle, filtering, storing and regulating surface and groundwater flows.

Forest and wetlands can also act as buffers and provide nature-based solutions to many infrastructure problems that increasingly need to be addressed by decision-makers, not least to make human settlements more resilient to floods and droughts.

To ensure sustainable development, food security and economic stability in face of climate change, it is essential that water is acknowledged and integrated into efforts to mitigate climate change and adapt to its adverse effects.

To take action is also a question of climate justice; the people most affected by effects of climate change are seldom themselves causing major emissions. Yet, at the same time they can be strong agents of change. Inclusion of marginalized groups and stakeholders is consequently key in resilient decision and policy making.

The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and AGWA, a network hosted and co-chaired by SIWI, are honoured to be official co-coordinators of the MPGCA (Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Agenda) at COP24.

Along with other partners, we have organised several climate resilient water related events. See our activities on our SIWI at COP webpage, and follow our activities on social media using #SIWIatCOP.

Learn more about AGWA here.

View the UNFCCC’s MPGCA webpage.

Visit the COP24 event page.

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Excerpt:

Maggie White is Senior Manager - International. Policies, Swedish Water House

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Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’shttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 09:57:24 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159042 IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

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Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
ACCRA, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

The bamboo industry in China currently comprises up to 10 million people who make a living out of production of the grass. But while the Asian nation has significant resources of bamboo — three million hectares of plantation and three million hectares of natural forests — the continent of Africa is recorded to have an estimated three and a half million hectares of plantations, excluding conservation areas.

This means that there is a possibility of creating a similar size industry in Africa, according to International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) director general Dr. Hans Friederich.

“In China, where the industry is developed, we have eight to 10 million people who make a living out of bamboo. They grow bamboo, manufacture things out of bamboo and sell bamboo poles. That has given them a livelihood and a way to build a local economy to create a future for themselves and their children,” he tells IPS.

INBAR is the only international organisation championing the development of environmentally sustainable bamboo and rattan. It has 44 member states — 43 of which are in the global south — with the secretariat headquarters based in China, and with regional offices in India, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Ecuador. Over the years, the multilateral development organisation has trained up to 25,000 people across the value chain – from farmers and foresters to entrepreneurs and policymakers.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Africa is estimated to have three and a half million hectares of bamboo. While China has about six million hectares of natural forests, almost double the size of Africa’s, experts say there is potential for developing the industry on the continent. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): What has been INBAR’s Role in the South-South Cooperation agenda?

Dr. Hans Friederich (DHF): In fact, a lot of our work over the last 21 years is to link our headquarters in China with our regional offices and our members around the world to help develop policies, put in place appropriate legislation and regulations to build capacity, train local people, provide information, and carry out real field research to test new approaches to manage resources in the most efficient way.

I think we [have been] able to help our members more effectively and do more in the way of training and capacity building. I also hope we can develop bamboo and rattan as vehicles for sustainable development with our member countries around the world, especially in the Global South.

IPS: What are the prospects for Africa’s bamboo and rattan industry?

DHF: The recorded statistics say that Africa has about three and half million hectares of bamboo, which excludes conservation [areas].

So, if I were to make a guess, Africa has as much bamboo as China [excluding China’s natural forests] and that means theoretically, we should have the possibility of creating an industry as large as China’s in Africa. That means an industry of 30 billion dollars per a year employing 10 million people.

IPS: How is INBAR helping to develop such a huge potential in Africa?

DHF: The returns we are seeing in China may not happen overnight in Africa, China has had 30 to 40 years to develop this industry.

But what we are doing is working with our members in Africa to kick off the bamboo value chain to start businesses and help members make the most out of these plants.

IPS: Working with countries from the global south means replication of best practices and knowledge sharing among member states. Are there any good examples worth mentioning?

DHF: China is the world’s leading country when it comes to the production and management of bamboo so we have a lot to learn from China. Fortunately China has the financial resources that makes it easy to share that information and knowledge with our members …Looking at land management activities in Ghana, as an example, I think bamboo can really help in restoring lands that have been damaged through illegal mining activities.

Maybe that is actually where we can learn from other African countries because we are already looking at how bamboo can help with the restoration of degraded lands in Ethiopia.

Also, when we had a training workshop in Cameroon last year and we looked at architecture, we brought an architect from Peru who shared his experience of working with bamboo in Latin America, which was quite applicable to Cameroon. So we are using experience from different parts of the world to help others develop what they think is important.

IPS: What is the most important thing in the development of the bamboo and rattan value chain for an African country like Ghana?

DHF: There are a number of things that we can do. One area that Ghana is already working on with regards to bamboo and rattan, is furniture production. I know that there is fantastic work being done with skills development.

The value chain of furniture production is an area where Ghana already has a lot to offer. But if we can improve quality, if we can make the furniture more interesting for consumers, through skills training [of artisans], then that is an area where we can really help.

IPS: Which other opportunity can Ghana look at exploring in the area of Bamboo and Rattan value chain?

DHF: Another area of opportunity is to use bamboo as a source of charcoal for household energy. People depend on charcoal, especially in rural areas in Ghana, but most of the charcoal comes from often illegally-cut trees.

Instead of cutting trees we can simply harvest bamboo and make charcoal from this, which is a legally produced source.

The great thing about Bamboo is that it re-grows the following growing season after harvesting, so it is a very sustainable source of charcoal production.

IPS: What does the future look like for INBAR?

DHF: Two months ago Beijing hosted the China Africa Forum and we were very, very pleased to have read that the draft programme of work actually includes the development of Africa’s bamboo industry. There is a paragraph that says China and Africa will work together to establish an African training centre.

We understand this will most likely be in Ethiopia and it will happen hopefully in the coming years.

Another thing is that China and Africa will work closely together to develop the bamboo and rattan industry. They will also develop specific activities on how to use bamboo for land restoration and climate change mitigation and to see how bamboo can help with livelihood development in Africa in partnership with China.

This is a very exciting development, a new window of opportunity has opened for us to work together to develop bamboo and rattan in Africa.

 

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Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

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Will Member States Help Offset US Funding Cuts to UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/will-member-states-help-offset-us-funding-cuts-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-member-states-help-offset-us-funding-cuts-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/will-member-states-help-offset-us-funding-cuts-un/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 07:39:09 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159040 The speculation that the Trump administration plans to reduce its mandatory assessed financial contributions to the UN’s regular budget was implicitly confirmed when the US president told delegates last September that Washington “is working to shift more of our funding, from assessed contributions to voluntary contributions, so that we can target American resources to the […]

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The UN General Assembly will decide on any proposed cuts on US assessed contributions to the UN. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

The speculation that the Trump administration plans to reduce its mandatory assessed financial contributions to the UN’s regular budget was implicitly confirmed when the US president told delegates last September that Washington “is working to shift more of our funding, from assessed contributions to voluntary contributions, so that we can target American resources to the programs with the best record of success.”

Any such reduction in the scale of assessment – which is based on each country’s “capacity to pay” — will not only undergo a long-drawn-out negotiating process but will also have a significant impact on the day-to-day operations of the world body.

But that resolution may be adopted by the 193-member General Assembly if the US resorts to strong-arm tactics — as US Ambassador Nikki Haley once threatened to “take down names” and cut American aid to countries that voted for a resolution condemning US recognition of Jerusalem as the new Israeli capital.

At a press conference announcing her decision to step down as US ambassador to the UN, Haley told reporters last October that that during her two year tenure “we cut $1.3 billion in the UN’s budget. We’ve made it stronger. We’ve made it more efficient.”

At the same time, the US has slashed its contribution to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) , from $69 million in 2016 to zero in 2017, and cut $300 million in funds to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), aiding Palestinian refugees.

The US, which pulled out of the Human Rights Council last June, has also threatened to “defund” the Geneva-based Council.

Scott Paul, Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead, told IPS the Trump administration’s recent threats to cut funding for and cooperation with the UN undercut the world’s most important mechanism for reducing the risk of conflict, addressing acute humanitarian needs and building a better, safer world.

“Cutting US contributions not only undermines the effort to prevent conflict and end poverty; it limits the ability of the US to make it better and revitalize it to meet today’s challenges,” he pointed out.

Paul said responses to forgotten crises like the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are both less than 50% funded, “and we will likely see major humanitarian crises even less funded than they are right now”.

“With less reliable funding, when new crises emerge in the future, there will less capacity to respond to help the world’s most vulnerable people survive and live with dignity”.

“We hope other countries will step up to save lives in humanitarian crises, but the US is leaving a big gap to fill, and families caught in crisis will pay the price,” declared Paul.

However, the proposed reduction in assessed contributions by the US has to be approved by the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (the Fifth Committee), the Committee on Contributions and finally endorsed by the General Assembly.

Currently, the US makes the largest single contribution, paying 22 percent of the UN’s regular budget, which also give the US plenty of financial clout not only to demand some of the highest ranking jobs in the world body but also dominate discussions on the biennial budget, which is estimated at $5.4 billion for 2018-2019.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, a former UN Under-Secretary-General and one-time President of the Security Council, told IPS that to have an agreement on reducing the scale approved by the General Assembly is a very complex and complicated process.

The proposal to reduce the scale by a country, particularly with a sizeable contribution, like the US, would mean increase in the contribution of other countries as the scale for all countries together adds up to 100 percentile points.

“It is a zero-sum situation,” he added.

According to this formula, besides the 22% contribution by the US, the percentage for the other major contributors include: Japan 9.7 %, China 7.9%, Germany 6.4%, France 4.9 %, UK 4.5%, Italy 3.7% and Russia 3.1%.
The poorest countries of the world pay 0.001% of the UN budget, whereas the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), described as the poorest of the poor, have a cap of 0.01% each.

Ambassador Chowdhury pointed out that a Member State proposing reduction needs to go through a painstaking and arduous process of bargain-laden negotiating process. It needs consistency, expertise and collegiality in going through the process till its objective of reduction in the scale is achieved.

Very importantly, he noted, the Permanent Representative of that Member State needs to be personally involved and lead the process throughout.

“The whole scenario for this unfolds as a Fifth Committee exercise at the UN – but also at the bilateral/regional levels for influencing that exercise. This is a tall order.”

The last time such an exercise was undertaken for the reduction of the US scale, from 25 percent to 22.5 percent, Ambassador Chowdhury was very closely following that process, as US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke was leading that effort on behalf of his country “in a masterful way using all kinds of avenues and leverages available to him.”

“That kind of tenacity, perseverance, skillful diplomatic maneuvers and personal relationship built with many of his counterparts from other nations at UN during his tenure is a rare combination.”

“As I was chairing the Fifth Committee in 1997-98 during the 52nd UN General Assembly session– and the scale of assessment and the biennium budget were both on the agenda– Richard kept in regular touch and sought clarification from me on many related issues.”

“That gave me an insight into the way his patient step-by-step strategy was bringing him close to his objective and finally, it was achieved without much acrimony and hard feeling,” Ambassador Chowdhury added.

At a press conference last October, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres– in response to a question on proposed US funding cuts– told reporters: “Until now, the United States has not put into question the assessed contributions to the United Nations”.

He said there have been decisions to withdraw support from different agencies whose work is not agreed by the United States, but there has not been a disruption of the funding from the assessed contributions, both for the normal function of the Secretariat and of peacekeeping.

“And, of course, we are doing everything we can in order to make sure that we can overcome the difficulties that have happened in relations to agencies like UNRWA [UN Relief and Works Agency] or UNFPA [UN Population Fund] that we consider to have a very important function that needs to be maintained,” he added.

Meanwhile, US National Security Adviser John Bolton rejected the argument that Washington will not be able to cut funding to the Human Rights Council because the Council’s operating expenses are funded through assessed contributions.

In an interview with Associated Press (AP), Bolton was quoted as saying: “We’ll calculate 22 percent of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner’s budget, and our remittances to the UN for this budget year will be less 22 percent of those costs — and we’ll say specifically that’s what we’re doing.”

Ambassador Chowdhury told IPS that another important element in his scale-reduction strategy by Holbrooke was a carrot –- namely paying up of all US arrears to UN amounting to $300 million plus, blocked by US Senator Jesse Helms as Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“That was also a considerable inducement.”

“In this context, I would say that it is nothing new for the UN to suffer due to US actions for not paying the assessed annual contribution on time, withholding part of the contribution on some excuse, proposing the reduction of the scale (in fact. since UN founding, US scale has come down from 30 percent to current 22 percent) etc.”

“I believe it would be smart on the part of the general UN membership and UN’s Senior Management leadership not to succumb to such eventualities as the US decides to lessen its multilateral engagements.”

“Yes, I agree that on time, in full and without condition payment of assessed contribution is a Charter obligation. But UN has not done anything to enforce this obligation.”

He said “contribution or absence of it” by the largest payer and the host country of UN should not have a negative impact on the policy direction and activities of the world body.

The UN needs to internalize the culture of doing more with less – motivation and inspiration to be of service to humanity should not be dependent on availability of “funds” only, he declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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‘Antimicrobial Resistance Knows No Boundaries’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/antimicrobial-resistance-knows-no-boundaries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=antimicrobial-resistance-knows-no-boundaries http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/antimicrobial-resistance-knows-no-boundaries/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 15:27:23 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159011 European Union officials and global health bodies have called for help for poorer countries as growing resistance to antibiotics threatens to become a ‘global health tragedy’ and jeopardises Sustainable Development Goals in some parts of the world. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has risen by as much as two thirds in the last two decades, according to […]

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Community health worker Urmila Kasdekar performs a health check on a new born baby in Berdaball village of western India. In India, for example, where it is thought that as many as 120,000 babies alone die every year from sepsis caused by antimicrobial-resistant infections, doctors say two of the key factors behind rising AMR are pharmacies selling antibiotics without a prescription and poor infection control in overcrowded healthcare facilities. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRUSSELS, Dec 4 2018 (IPS)

European Union officials and global health bodies have called for help for poorer countries as growing resistance to antibiotics threatens to become a ‘global health tragedy’ and jeopardises Sustainable Development Goals in some parts of the world.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has risen by as much as two thirds in the last two decades, according to some studies, and is now responsible for an estimated 700,000 deaths annually worldwide.

But this is projected to rise to 10 million per year by 2050 and cost up to 100 trillion dollars unless governments ramp up efforts to tackle it.

The growing problem with AMR has been put down largely to inappropriate use of antibiotics for both humans and animals.

As antibiotics have been used more widely and more frequently in both humans and animals, bacteria have built up resistance to them, rendering them effectively useless in some cases. Doctors say this would make routine operations more dangerous and certain medical treatments, such as for some cancers, would disappear completely.

When antibiotic resistance emerges in one place it also quickly spreads to other locations, meaning it must be tackled on a global scale.

While all World Health Organization (WHO) member states signed up to a multi-sectoral Global Action Plan on AMR in 2015, progress on its implementation has been mixed.

Some countries, notably in Europe, have made good progress, in other parts of the world things have moved much more slowly, if at all, raising fears that in poorer countries the problem is worsening and SDGs may not be reached.

EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Dr Vytenis Andriukalitis, told IPS: “We need a global framework for tackling AMR in all regions, not just Europe. It needs to be dealt with because otherwise some countries won’t be reaching the SDGs.”

The size of the challenge presented by AMR in developing countries has been underlined in a slew of data and studies released during the World Antibiotic Awareness week last month (November).

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study showed that while AMR rates averaged 17 percent in OECD countries in 2015, rates in India, China and Russia averaged 42 percent and were as high as 90 percent for some antibiotic-bacteria combinations.

Meanwhile, it said, AMR is forecast to grow up to four to seven time faster in some low and middle-income countries than in OECD states and in countries where healthcare systems are financially constrained, AMR is likely to cause ‘an enormous’ death toll, mainly among new-borns, infants and the elderly.

Another study earlier this year by researchers at ETH Zurich, the University of Antwerp and Princeton University showed that while global use of antibiotics in humans was estimated to have risen 65 percent between 2000 – 2015, use in low- and middle-income countries increased 114 percent.

Developing new antibiotics is complex – it has been decades since new classes of antibiotics were invented – and much of the focus in fighting AMR is being put on prevention.

The Global Action Plan is based on a multi-sectoral approach to AMR and charges governments with adopting national action plans involving improved awareness, understanding, surveillance, stewardship and prevention and control measures.

But in many developing countries, lack of funds in both healthcare and animal industries as well as weak legislation and enforcement are major barriers to those measures being effectively implemented.

In India, for example, where it is thought that as many as 120,000 babies alone die every year from sepsis caused by antimicrobial-resistant infections, doctors say two of the key factors behind rising AMR are pharmacies selling antibiotics without a prescription and poor infection control in overcrowded healthcare facilities.

Supporters of over the counter antibiotic sales in India argue that it is vital that antibiotics are available without prescription as there is a severe shortage of qualified doctors in many areas.

The government has tried to limit the sale of at least so-called ‘last resort’ antibiotics which are used when all others fail. However, the measure – putting a red line on boxes of the medicines in pharmacies to alert people – has been largely ineffective.

There are also concerns over the use of antibiotics in livestock.

According to the European Commission, in Europe, 70 percent of antimicrobials are consumed in food-producing animals. The figure is similar in the U.S. and is over 50 percent in China.

But monitoring antibiotic use in the animal industry in poorer countries is often more difficult.

“[Use of antibiotics in animal farming] is extremely difficult to enforce unless you have very good legislation and a system for monitoring,” Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Director Programme Manager, WHO Europe, told IPS.

While legislation on animal antibiotic use exists and is closely checked in developed states, particularly in the EU, in poorer countries it is sometimes absent or adherence is impossible to monitor effectively because of a lack of resources.

Despite the Indian government’s approval of a national action plan on AMR a year a half ago, critics point out that legislation and networks to control use of antibiotics for animal growth and tracking the sale and use of antibiotics in food production are, in reality, non-existent or ineffective.

The WHO has said that many middle- and low-income countries may need long-term development assistance to implement their AMR plans effectively and sustainably.

“We need financial support for low and middle-income countries,” Emiroglu told IPS.

She added this was crucial to ensure progress in one region of the world was not undermined by a lack of progress elsewhere.

“AMR knows no boundaries. What happens in one part of the world affects people in another,” she told IPS.

But many experts on healthcare in developing countries say a one-size fits all approach for all developing states will not work.

“Measures need to be different for different countries, especially when we are talking about poorer states. You cannot compare somewhere like India and Liberia,” Andriukalitis told IPS.

“In some countries they have problems with access to simple antibiotics, but in others there are problems because people are self-treating with no proper controls. In some places there is a lack of any basic understanding of hygiene and sanitation. We need long-term local strategies for [different] countries,” he added.

Meanwhile, AMR is putting SDGs in jeopardy in some places. Although AMR alone is unlikely to stop an SDG being achieved, left unchecked it could contribute to health, poverty and sustainable economic growth SDG targets being missed.

Longer hospital stays because of slower patient recovery and greater risk of treatment complications would put a massive extra strain on already struggling healthcare systems and worsen mortality rates and quality of life. Economies would be hit hard with the cost of not dealing with AMR forecast to cause a drop of as much as 3.8 percent in global GDP by 2050.

Meanwhile, AMR makes illnesses more expensive to treat and, as universal health coverage is limited in many poor countries and people have to pay out of their own pockets for treatment, these increased costs – as well as potential loss of income from morbidity and mortality – could drive individuals and families with limited resources into even greater poverty.

Dr Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) which has been involved in monitoring AMR in Europe, told IPS: “​To achieve SDG3 [on health], AMR is not the only issue that needs to be addressed, but it is a crucial component.

“A high rate of AMR indicates that various elements in a health system may not be working satisfactorily because of a mix of factors. The factors causing high AMR rates could be cultural values, behaviour of healthcare providers and patients, regulatory issues such as OTC availability, or infection control. These factors may also prevent other targets included within SDG3 being achieved.”

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Fish Farming Takes on Crime in Papua New Guineahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/fish-farming-takes-crime-papua-new-guinea/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fish-farming-takes-crime-papua-new-guinea http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/fish-farming-takes-crime-papua-new-guinea/#respond Mon, 03 Dec 2018 10:26:02 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158988 In the rugged mountainous highlands of Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands fish farming has transformed the lives of former prisoners and helped reduce notorious levels of crime along the highlands highway, the only main road which links the highly populated inland provinces with the east coast port of Lae. Moxy, who completed […]

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A fish farm in Central Province near Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

In the rugged mountainous highlands of Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands fish farming has transformed the lives of former prisoners and helped reduce notorious levels of crime along the highlands highway, the only main road which links the highly populated inland provinces with the east coast port of Lae.

Moxy, who completed his sentence at the Bihute Prison in Eastern Highlands Province ten years ago, has used skills learned during his time in gaol to set up a fish farming enterprise in his village, located 15 kilometres northwest of the Province’s main town of Goroka. Today he is proudly known as ‘Daddy Fish’ in his community where he has regained self-esteem, social status and is sought after for his wisdom and knowledge.

“Whenever I feel down or I am tempted to do wrong, I sit by my fish ponds and look at what I achieved,” he said.

Moxy is one of many inmates who have participated in the Fish for Prisons program, the result of a partnership between Papua New Guinea’s National Fisheries Authority and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The initiative, begun in 2008, aims to train and mentor prisoners in aquaculture practice so they are equipped for a new livelihood before they are released.  But the training has also made ex-prisoners more disciplined, self-motivated, emotionally resilient and less likely to reoffend.

Aquaculture, while still a relatively under-developed industry in the Pacific Islands, possesses huge potential to help meet future food and nutritional needs in the region, where fish is a major part of the daily diet.

The global average fish consumption rate of 20.2kg per person pales in comparison to the Pacific Islands where consumption is 53kg per person in Papua New Guinea, 85kg in Tonga and 118kg in the Solomon Islands.

Yet for people living in inland areas of Papua New Guinea, far from the sea, protein deficiency is common. It was high levels of malnutrition in the highlands which prompted the introduction of aquaculture into the country in the 1960s, although development of the sector was very slow until recently. A decade ago, there were an estimated 10,000 fish farms in the country, but today the number has jumped to about 60,000 aided by improved research, training programs and outreach support.

Fish farming is as important as ever to combating malnutrition, which remains pervasive among the Melanesian nation’s population of more than 8 million people. The child stunting rate is the fourth highest in the world and children living in the highlands are at greater risk than those living in coastal communities.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) claims that, with its multiple nutrients, fish is the optimum single food for addressing undernourishment.  It possesses high quality animal protein, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, as well as fat and water soluble vitamins.

But aquaculture is also giving young people in rural areas, where unemployment is as high as 70 percent, the chance to acquire vocational skills, economic self-reliance and sense of achievement.

This has happened in the Eastern Highlands village of Hogu where a criminal band, locally known as a ‘raskol gang’, renowned for car jackings, extortion, robbery and an illegal marijuana racket, had turned the nearby section of highway into the infamously known ‘Barola Raskol Hotspot.’ It was a treacherous place for any motorist or traveller.

But that all changed when fish farmer training was conducted in the village three years ago, gaining the attention of the gang.

“They saw the training being held and came down to see what was going on in their territory. They became interested, were welcomed by the [training] team and eventually participated,” Associate Professor Jes Sammut of the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Ecosystem Science and the fisheries consultant in Papua New Guinea for the ACIAR told IPS.

The program covered all facets of practice, including husbandry, water quality management, building and maintaining fish ponds, producing low cost fish feed and the use of organic fertilisers with the aim of strengthening sustainable food security and household incomes.

After finishing the course, the raskols, aged from 25-47 years, established 100 fish ponds, which now produce tilapia and carp and help to feed the village’s population of more than 680 people. In so doing, they gained an honest livelihood and respect within the community, eventually destroying their marijuana crops and abandoning crime.

Micah Aranka, who works with fish farmers in Hogu, said that “they [the gang] worked hard on digging their ponds and digging canals to draw water to their ponds…..and by watching the fish in their ponds they have found peace.”

In the most populous Pacific Island nation, aquaculture has emerged as an unlikely agent of social change, as well as a more secure food future.

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The Bond that is Educating Girls Across Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bond-educating-girls-across-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bond-educating-girls-across-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bond-educating-girls-across-india/#respond Sat, 01 Dec 2018 05:36:17 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158974 Barely five months into the start of Sneha’s year at a government school in Bhilwara, a town in India’s desert state of Rajasthan, the bubbly 15-year-old was pulled out by her parents. They wanted her to stay at home instead, to look after her four younger siblings and to cook and clean for the family […]

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Schoolgirls in rural Bihar, India. In Indian villages one in 10 girls aged 10 to 14 are kept out of school to help contribute to the family income or care for siblings. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Dec 1 2018 (IPS)

Barely five months into the start of Sneha’s year at a government school in Bhilwara, a town in India’s desert state of Rajasthan, the bubbly 15-year-old was pulled out by her parents. They wanted her to stay at home instead, to look after her four younger siblings and to cook and clean for the family as her parents worked on their farm.

Sneha’s  parents, however, are no different from thousands of others in rural Rajasthan who believe it is pointless to educate daughters as they ultimately get married and leave their parents’ homes to manage their own households and raise kids.

Many opt to train their daughters in housekeeping and child rearing from a young age, using their skills to provide free care and services to their families instead.

Sneha’s story, however, had a different ending. Her school principal and Educate Girls (EG), a non-profit that empowers communities to facilitate girls’ education in rural India, intervened. They spoke to Sneha’s parents about the importance of education and how receiving an education could become life-changing for the young girl and her family.

“After we were counselled, we realised that we had erred in depriving our daughter of an education,” Kishan Ram, 48, Sneha’s father, told IPS. “And that if  we educate her, she will be able to make informed life choices that will not only help her earn a livelihood but also improve the future of an entire generation.”

Sneha’ is not the only young girl in India who was able to return to school thanks to intervention from EG.

Since 2007, the multiple award-winning organisation has been working to empower and educate underprivileged communities to make young girls employable, join the country’s formal workforce and lift their families out of poverty.

EG has grown from a 500-school pilot project, to serve a network of over 25,000 schools across 16 districts in Rajasthan as well as the central India state of Madhya Pradesh. It aims to leverage existing community and government resources to augment access and quality of education for around 2.5 million children across 27,500 schools by the end of 2018.

In 2015 EG became part of a unique experiment. It implemented the Development Impact Bond (DIB), a mechanism which capitalises on private risk capital so that a third party, such as a donor agency or foundation, can finance the achievement of agreed-upon outcomes.

“This type of outcome-based funding can be a great catalyst for driving quality and improving learning outcomes in the education sector,” Dr. Suresh Pant, an educationist and former associate Professor from the Delhi University, told IPS.

According to one of the stakeholders in the project, UBS Optimus Foundation, DIBs are more result-oriented compared to traditional funding as they transfer the risk to investors who put in the working capital for the implementing organisations on the ground. Predefined targets are regularly measured and this enables the implementing organisation to adapt quickly for any course correction where necessary. The implementing organisation has an increased motivation to deliver results.

“Patriarchy and gender-based discrimination systematically exclude girls from school thus denying them the advantages of autonomy, mobility and economic independence that boys enjoy,” EG’s Founder and London School of Economics alumnus, Safeena Husain, told IPS. “Education opens doors for girls giving them the potential for equal opportunity. Our organisation alleviates these girls’ life and future by bringing them into a formal education system.”

Children in the rural town of Harohalli Taluq, 60 kilometres south of Bangalore, India. Though India has achieved a 99 percent enrolment rate of school children at primary level, the quality of learning has remained abysmal. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

Though India has achieved a 99 percent enrolment rate of school children at primary level, the quality of learning has remained abysmal. An Indian student, say surveys, lags at least two grades behind the level that is expected for their age. Rajasthan reports some of the worst education indicators in the country.

Working in synergy with the government, EG taps into a network of 12,000 community volunteers, called Team Balika, to ensure higher enrolment and attendance for girls as well as improved learning outcomes for all children.

Experts say this approach to education is a huge boon for Indian villages where one in 10 girls aged 10 to 14 are kept out of school to help contribute to the family income or care for siblings.

Dr. Shamika Ravi, Research Director at Brookings India, opines that the DIB model has immense implications for education policy and innovative financing instruments.

“Impact Bonds are a new, complementary source of funding developmental interventions. Private sector firms undertake the initial investment by providing the upfront working capital to service providers to deliver programmes on the ground. Outcome payers — governments or development agencies — are obligated to repay the private firms’ investment alongside a fixed return if, and only if, pre-determined performance indicators are met. The bonds’ stakeholders can collectively impact the delivery of social services, and how small-scale interventions can create benchmarks and common frameworks for scale and sector-wide impact,” he writes in his column in The Hindu newspaper.

EG students’ learning is measured using the Annual Status of  Education Report, an annual survey that provides reliable estimates of children’s enrolment and basic learning levels for each district and state in India. The test measures three proficiencies: Hindi, English and Mathematics. Student enrolment is defined by the percentage of out-of-school girls (between the ages of seven and 14) enrolled in school by the end of the third year.

According to EG’s annual report released this August, in it’s third year the DIB surpassed both its target outcomes by achieving 160 percent of its learning target and 116 percent of its enrolment target.

“Progress was measured against agreed targets for the number of out-of-school girls enrolled into primary and upper primary schools as well as the progress of girls and boys in English, Hindi and Math. The outcome-based funding model, with its constant feedback and analysis of data from the field teams, has allowed the organisation to identify challenges and craft customised  solutions,” says the report.

The organisation’s biggest success was enrolment—which reached 92 percent—and accounted for 20 percent of the outcome payment. The programme had also surpassed the target, enrolling 768 girls, accounting for a 116 percent increase. Learning outcomes, which made up 80 percent of the outcome payment, saw an upward spiral of 8,940 more learning levels than the comparison group against a targeted predefined metric of 5,592, equivalent to a 160 percent achievement against target, says the report.

Participation in the DIB, explains Husain has led to EG becoming more target-driven and develop precise frameworks, processes and capabilities to measure and monitor the outcomes achieved. “The success of the DIB model has proven we’re on the right path,” she concludes.

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