Inter Press ServiceEditors’ Choice – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 16 Feb 2018 23:35:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 A Restructured African Development Bank Plans to Meet Economic Challenges Facing Continenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/restructured-african-development-bank-plans-meet-economic-challenges-facing-continent/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=restructured-african-development-bank-plans-meet-economic-challenges-facing-continent http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/restructured-african-development-bank-plans-meet-economic-challenges-facing-continent/#respond Fri, 16 Feb 2018 17:52:16 +0000 Akinwumi A. Adesina http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154367 Akinwumi A. Adesina is President of the African Development Bank

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Akinwumi A. Adesina is President of the African Development Bank

By Akinwumi A. Adesina
ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire, Feb 16 2018 (IPS)

Over the past few years, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has confirmed its position as Africa’s premier development finance institution, generating significant impact on the continent’s economic and social development.

Akinwumi A. Adesina

To keep this positive momentum going, the Bank has recently re-designed its organizational structure as well as its development and business delivery model in order to become more effective and responsive to Africa’s economic challenges.

A more effective Bank will help African countries address many long-standing challenges, namely the immense electricity and power deficit, food insecurity, poverty, poor job creation, low levels of regional integration and industrialization, gender inequality, low levels of financial inclusion, particularly for women, and the rise in terrorism.

Overall, the new structure will expand the Bank’s business by moving it closer to its clients, improve the way it delivers services, and ensure that it can provide meaningful and effective development impact for its regional member countries.

A more effective execution of the Bank’s High 5 strategy will accelerate the continent’s economic transformation since, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the High 5s will allow Africa to achieve 90 percent of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063. The High 5s are therefore the accelerators of Africa’s development.

The High 5s are backed by exceptionally strong investment programs, such as the New Deal on Energy for Africa with investments of $12 billion, the leveraging of an additional $45 billion to $50 billion into the power sector by 2020, as well as the delivery of 130 million new grid connections, 75 million off-grid connections, and secure access to clean cooking energy for 130 million households by 2025.

In agriculture and food, the Bank is investing a total of $24 billion over the next 10 years to help African countries achieve food security and make Africa a net food exporter. In terms of industrial policy, the Bank will make investments of up to $40 billion over the next 10 years under various flagship programs to raise Africa’s industrial outputs.

Finally, the Bank is determined to raise the quality of life of all Africans and, among other programs, create at least 25 million jobs for African youth over a 10-year period, turning Africa’s demographic assets into an economic dividend, accelerating the industrialization process of the continent, and tackling economic fragmentation across African countries.

In a nutshell, a more effective African Development Bank means a better developed Africa.

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Akinwumi A. Adesina is President of the African Development Bank

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Migrants Are Up Against Nicaragua’s “Containment Wall”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/migrants-hit-hard-nicaraguas-closed-border-strategy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-hit-hard-nicaraguas-closed-border-strategy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/migrants-hit-hard-nicaraguas-closed-border-strategy/#comments Thu, 15 Feb 2018 22:58:10 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154348 Nicaragua’s “containment wall”, aimed at bolstering internal security, has been successful with regard to the fight against transnational crime. But its victims are migrants who are relentlessly blocked from passing through the country en route to their destination: the United States. A situation that also represents a paradox, given that Nicaragua is the Central American […]

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With a Nicaraguan flag in the background, passports from Nicaragua, with the silhouette of Central America on its cover, are held up. The country’s southern border with Costa Rica is closed by a "containment wall" policy that keeps out migrants travelling from South America towards the United States. Credit: José Adán Silva / IPS

With a Nicaraguan flag in the background, passports from Nicaragua, with the silhouette of Central America on its cover, are held up. The country’s southern border with Costa Rica is closed by a "containment wall" policy that keeps out migrants travelling from South America towards the United States. Credit: José Adán Silva / IPS

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Feb 15 2018 (IPS)

Nicaragua’s “containment wall”, aimed at bolstering internal security, has been successful with regard to the fight against transnational crime. But its victims are migrants who are relentlessly blocked from passing through the country en route to their destination: the United States.

A situation that also represents a paradox, given that Nicaragua is the Central American country with the largest number of nationals living abroad, second only to El Salvador.

Roberto Orozco, a former social researcher at the Managua-based think tank Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policies, and current independent consultant on security issues, reminded IPS that the origin of Nicaragua’s current migration policy lies in the crisis unleashed in the region in November 2015."It is an issue that often exceeds the capacity of a State more used to being a country that generates large numbers of migrants, than a country of transit or temporary stay of migrants." -- Ricardo de León Borges

At that time, a wave of migrants seeking to reach the United States before that country stiffened its immigration policy generated a crisis to which several Central American countries, as well as Colombia and Mexico, sought a solution.

But the government in Managua, headed since 2007 by the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s (FSLN) Daniel Ortega, refused to participate in joint actions to facilitate the mobility of the 3,000 Cubans who had been stranded in Costa Rica, on the border with Nicaragua.

This country deployed police and military troops, as well as border guards, to block access by the migrants, and created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the region, which was only solved with measures from other governments to allow migrants to continue their journey without passing through Nicaragua.

Ortega and Nicaragua’s military and police brass have explained that the containment wall consists of the coordinated use of the armed forces and the State institutions involved in the fight against organised crime: drug trafficking, terrorism, human trafficking, smuggling of undocumented migrants, and other threats to national security.

Orozco argued that the closure of Nicaragua’s southern border, blocking the passage of people – not of Cubans today, but of Africans, South Americans, and Haitians among others – has since late 2015 benefited Mexico, antechamber to the migrants’ target: the United States. It also benefited the U.S., Nicaragua’s main trade and aid partner.

But he questioned the effectiveness of the containment wall in reducing the flow of migrants through the continent, as well as the activity of the “coyotes” or human traffickers, and noted that there is a lack of official information on the matter, from government agencies, the police and the army, as IPS confirmed.

The only hard data was provided in September 2017 by the Nicaraguan army’s commander-in-chief, General Julio César Avilés, at a ceremony in Managua celebrating the anniversary of the armed forces.

“In the fight against illegal migration, 4,579 migrants were detained, the vast majority of whom came from countries in Africa and the Middle East, and were trying to reach the United States,” he said at the time.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) states that some 800,000 citizens of Nicaragua live abroad and 40,000 migrate every year. The main reason for Nicaraguan emigration is poverty, which according to the latest World Bank figures affects 29.6 percent of the population. Credit: José Adán Silva / IPS

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) states that some 800,000 citizens of Nicaragua live abroad and 40,000 migrate every year. The main reason for Nicaraguan emigration is poverty, which according to the latest World Bank figures affects 29.6 percent of the population. Credit: José Adán Silva / IPS

Ricardo de León Borge, dean of the Faculty of Legal Sciences and Humanities at the American College, told IPS that “indeed, Nicaragua’s immigration policy responds in the first place to safeguarding the interests of the Nicaraguan population, safeguarding their security and integrity within the national territory.”

In his opinion, the containment wall policy aims to “ensure that undocumented migrants move through our country in an orderly manner, so that they are not part of the sad statistics of people swindled by the ‘coyotes’ involved in a dangerous network of traffickers and organised crime.”

But De León Borge said that irregular migration is controlled not only with laws or hard-line policies. “It is an issue that often exceeds the capacity of a State more used to being a country that generates large numbers of migrants, than a country of transit or temporary stay of migrants,” he said.

Achievements beyond migration

But the academic stressed that the “iron fist” policy, beyond the issue of migration, has provided the desired effects in terms of security.

Nicaragua is now proud to have the highest safety rates in Central America: a homicide rate of six per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017, the lowest in the last 15 years, according to the National Police.

“Both Nicaragua, as well as its neighbours in Central America, Mexico and the United States, benefit from a containment wall that provides tangible results, based on the laws that govern the issue of migration against non-traditional threats to the security of States and people, such as drug trafficking, gangs, trafficking in persons or organs, and human smuggling,” De León Borge said.

Collateral damage: human rights

However, behind the containment wall policy, abuses and violations of human rights are reported, according to the non-governmental Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights.

Gonzalo Carrión, a lawyer with the NGO, told IPS that the Nicaraguan state has criminalised illegal migration and has made it more dangerous for travelers seeking to cross the country en route to the United States.

To illustrate, he mentioned three cases: the forced expulsion of thousands of Cubans and Africans at the end of 2015, the death by drowning of 12 African migrants in 2016, who sought to circumvent the controls through Lake Nicaragua, and the trial of a Cameroonian woman who was arrested in December 2017.

Marie Frinwie Atanga is originally from Cameroon and a resident of Belgium, from where she traveled to Nicaragua in 2017 to claim the body of her 20-year-old migrant son, who was shot dead in southern Nicaragua in an alleged clash between a border patrol and a group of “coyotes”, who were transporting migrants from Costa Rica to Honduras.

She was detained and accused of belonging to an international migrant smuggling ring, and could face up to 12 years in prison, which Carrión considers to be “a legal and moral barbarism of Nicaragua against migrants.”

In addition, under the containment wall policy, the authorities have prohibited local residents from helping migrants in transit and have even brought criminal charges – of collaboration with human trafficking – against people who have provided food, water or clothing to migrants who were abandoned by the coyotes and were in a risky situation.

For Carrión, the heavy-handed approach on migration runs counter to the history of Nicaragua, a country with a population of 6.3 million people, since 11 percent of its inhabitants live and work abroad, mainly in the United States, Costa Rica, Panama and Spain.

That, according to a 2017 report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), makes it the second source of migrants from Central America, only behind El Salvador, which has 24 percent of its citizens abroad, while Honduras is third, with seven percent, followed by Guatemala (6.5 percent), Panama (four percent) and Costa Rica (3.5 percent).

Nicaragua has a poverty rate of 29.6 percent, according to the latest figures from the World Bank, which places it as one of the three poorest countries in the Americas. This year, this nation expects to receive 1.424 billion dollars in migrant remittances, 3.5 percent more than in 2017, according to data from the country’s Central Bank.

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UN Seeks Private Sector Leadership to End Violence Against Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-seeks-private-sector-leadership-end-violence-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-seeks-private-sector-leadership-end-violence-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-seeks-private-sector-leadership-end-violence-children/#respond Thu, 15 Feb 2018 17:24:10 +0000 Amina Mohammed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154346 Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, in an address to a private sector roundtable at the Solutions Summit to end Violence Against Children

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Children sit in a UNICEF-supported centre for vulnerable children, in the conflict-affected Hajjah Governorate, Yemen. Credit UNICEF /Brent Stirton

By Amina J. Mohammed
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Feb 15 2018 (IPS)

It may seem as if achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, and its target of ending all violence against children, depends mostly on action from governments and civil society. But we also need leadership from the business community to achieve a world where every child is free from violence, abuse, trafficking and torture.

Companies in all sectors, and of all sizes, have a powerful impact on children. Respect for the dignity of every person is at the core of sustainable development. It is also one of the keys to ensuring a socially sustainable globalization, from which business stands to be a major beneficiary.

As a starting point, any company serious about addressing violence against children should adopt a ‘respect and support’ approach, as prescribed by the Children’s Rights and Business Principles.

Developed by UNICEF, the UN Global Compact, and Save the Children, these Principles call on companies to prevent harm against children and to pro-actively safeguard children’s interests. They build on existing international standards for responsible business, such as the UN Global Compact Ten Principles and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

By integrating respect and support for children’s rights into their core strategies and operations, a company can strengthen its reputation, improve risk management and secure its social license to operate. Creating a safer world for children also helps build strong, well-educated communities — a vital precondition for long-term, stable and sustainable business environments.

Without a principled approach to these issues, companies risk advancing one objective while undermining progress in other related areas. Looking more specifically at ending violence against children, allow me to outline some key areas where the principles and frameworks I have just mentioned can help companies have an enormous impact:

The first is child labour. Companies that contribute to ending child labour — in all their business activities and along all their supply chains — will go a long way to rooting out the circumstances that enable violence against children to persist.

Companies should also take steps to prevent, identify and mitigate harm to young workers. They must be protected from hazardous work, and companies must do all they can to prevent all forms of workplace violence – including physical and mental punishment, bullying and sexual abuse.

Beyond child labour, a zero tolerance policy for violence, exploitation and abuse should apply across all business activities – even those conducted away from business facilities.

Companies should take particular care in respecting children’s rights in emergency settings, where the risks of violence against children are even more acute.

Children are among the most vulnerable in times of humanitarian crises, especially children with disabilities, displaced or migrant children, children who are separated from family and unaccompanied, and indigenous children.

Girls often face uniquely daunting challenges reflecting the pervasive gender inequalities the SDGs are also designed to tackle.

There is a strong business case for taking great care to respect and support childrens’ rights in emergency settings. Among the many possible dividends, companies that respect and support the rights of children in emergencies can reduce operational risks, alleviate human suffering, develop tomorrow’s talent pool, invest in a more sustainable future, and identify new market opportunities and innovations.

Across all these areas, business action should involve implementing due diligence tools, including risk identification, impact assessments, management measures, reporting mechanisms, grievance procedures and other stakeholder engagement processes.

Taking action to end violence against children is simply the right thing to do. But respecting and supporting the rights of children can also create tremendous opportunities for innovative businesses.

The annual Global Opportunities Report created by DNV and the UN Global Compact noted this year that there are significant untapped business potential relating to reducing global inequalities.

In short, a solid foundation exists today for us to come together and take action to make the world a safe place for all children, everywhere, by 2030. Companies who take this seriously can have a tremendous impact while also achieving great business success. I look forward to hearing more from you about the ways you are making a difference in your own companies.

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Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, in an address to a private sector roundtable at the Solutions Summit to end Violence Against Children

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Healthy Nutrition Spreads in El Salvador’s Schoolshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/healthy-nutrition-spreads-el-salvadors-schools/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=healthy-nutrition-spreads-el-salvadors-schools http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/healthy-nutrition-spreads-el-salvadors-schools/#comments Mon, 05 Feb 2018 00:09:17 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154164 Eating healthy and nutritious food in schools in El Salvador is an effort that went from a pilot plan to a well-entrenched programme that has now taken off. The Sustainable Schools programme, initially launched in 2013 in three schools in the rural municipality of Atiquizaya, in the western department of Ahuachapán, surpassed expectations and has […]

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FAO Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Julio Berdegué visited the rural school in Pepenance, in western El Salvador, which has become a model in healthy eating, within El Salvador’s programme of sustainable schools. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

FAO Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Julio Berdegué visited the rural school in Pepenance, in western El Salvador, which has become a model in healthy eating, within El Salvador’s programme of sustainable schools. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
ATIQUIZAYA, El Salvador, Feb 5 2018 (IPS)

Eating healthy and nutritious food in schools in El Salvador is an effort that went from a pilot plan to a well-entrenched programme that has now taken off.

The Sustainable Schools programme, initially launched in 2013 in three schools in the rural municipality of Atiquizaya, in the western department of Ahuachapán, surpassed expectations and has now been replicated in all 22 schools in the municipality, and in many others in the country.

“With the 10 menus that we have implemented here, we have changed the student’s expectations about meals,” the director of the Pepenance District Educational Centre, José Antonio Tespan, told IPS before this year’s first parent-teacher assembly.

That institution is one of the three where the programme started, and over time became the flagship of the initiative."This gives us the opportunity to open new doors with other decision-makers to promote more integral projects... there are families who want a school garden, so we’re starting a project of family gardens in the municipality.” -- Ana Luisa Rodríguez

Now it has been implemented in 10 of El Salvador’s 14 departments, and includes 40 of the country’s 262 municipalities and 215 of the more than 3,000 schools in the rural area, benefiting some 73,000 students.

The project has had from the start technical support from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and financing from the Brazilian government. And although it officially ended in December 2017, it will continue because of its success.

“There was a paradigm shift and a sustainable school model was developed in Atiquizaya, it was a pleasure for FAO to have accompanied them,” the U.N. agency’s representative in El Salvador, Alan González, told IPS.

El Salvador is part of a group of 13 countries in the region that, since 2009, have taken part in an initiative executed by FAO and the Brazilian government, extending the programme of sustainable schools, adapting the achievements of that South American country’s National School Feeding Programme.

This Central American nation of 6.5 million people faces serious socioeconomic problems, and child malnutrition has never been eradicated.

Chronic malnutrition in El Salvador was around 14 percent in 2014, in children under five, according to that year’s National Health Survey, the most recent. That exceeds the Latin American average, which is 11.6 percent, according to 2015 data from the World Health Organisation.

The students benefiting from the initiative receive a mid-morning snack, made with products purchased from farmers in the area, as part of the “local purchases” component, a key aspect of the project.

Students of the Pepenance District School in the municipality of Atiquizaya, in western El Salvador, pose for pictures in front of one of the nutritious daily meals offered to the students, which are made with products from local farmers. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Students of the Pepenance District School in the municipality of Atiquizaya, in western El Salvador, pose for pictures in front of one of the nutritious daily meals offered to the students, which are made with products from local farmers. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

“In addition to ensuring a nutritious diet for our students, at the same time we are strengthening the local economy,” said Tespan, the director of the school in Pepenance, home to 3,225 of the 34,000 inhabitants of the 67-sq-km municipality of Atiquizaya, which encompasses 13 districts (villages or small towns).

The school’s cook, 46-year-old Rosa Delmy Fajardo, a native of Pepenance, mixes fruits, vegetables, and eggs with enthusiasm. Her meals have achieved the approval of the students.

She told IPS that of the 10 menus, there was one she had never seen or tasted, the so-called “Chinese rice”, based on that grain, to which is added an egg cake, cut into pieces.

“When I make that, they eat everything, and there are children who ask their mothers to make them Chinese rice,” she said.

She added that she has been in charge of the school kitchen for 11 years, but has worked three years under FAO nutritional guidelines.

Before that, the menu was less nutritious, since it only had staples such as oil, rice, beans, sugar and milk.

“Now we have everything that is needed for the food to have another touch,” Fajardo said.

The success achieved in Pepenance was reflected in November when it became a finalist for the Banco do Brasil Foundation Award, in the international category.

The award promotes low-cost sustainable development initiatives with a major social impact that involve community participation. The categories are aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

“I am overjoyed about this award, for me it is a great achievement, and I feel proud,” added Fajardo.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Atiquizaya, Ana Luisa Rodríguez, said she felt happy and moved by the recognition obtained in Brazil, and hoped it would bring more benefits to strengthen the programme.

“This gives us the opportunity to open new doors with other decision-makers to promote more integral projects… there are families who want a school garden, so we’re starting a project of family gardens in the municipality,” she said in a conversation with IPS.

For the mayor, part of the key to the success obtained in Pepenance has been the work coordinated with all the actors and agencies that have been working towards the same end.

“Having achieved this intersectoral collaboration was momentous: the parents got involved in the construction of a storehouse, kitchen and dining room, and they were also empowered, they are part of the project,” she said.
For his part, the FAO’s González stressed that “in Atiquizaya the involvement by the community and local actors was vital” in achieving the result obtained.

In September 2017, FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué visited Pepenance for a first-hand view of the achievements obtained, and stressed that the small Salvadoran community’s accomplishments are an example to be replicated in other countries.

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Wars, Crises and Catastrophes Drive Immigration to Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 00:13:58 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154125 The war in Angola, the earthquake in Haiti, Venezuela’s political crisis and shortages and the political repression in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the main driving factors behind the recent waves of immigration to Brazil. The largest and most populous Latin American country is no longer the major recipient of immigrants that it […]

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Haitian cultural producer Bob Montinard and his French wife, Melanie, are seen at the Haitian food stand they run at the monthly refugee food fair in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where the couple and their two children have been living since 2010 and where they created Mawon, an organisation dedicated to helping immigrants. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Haitian cultural producer Bob Montinard and his French wife, Melanie, are seen at the Haitian food stand they run at the monthly refugee food fair in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where the couple and their two children have been living since 2010 and where they created Mawon, an organisation dedicated to helping immigrants. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 2 2018 (IPS)

The war in Angola, the earthquake in Haiti, Venezuela’s political crisis and shortages and the political repression in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the main driving factors behind the recent waves of immigration to Brazil.

The largest and most populous Latin American country is no longer the major recipient of immigrants that it was until the mid-twentieth century, which gave it its well-known ethnic and cultural diversity, with large European, Arab and Asian inflows.

Brazil, with a current population of 208 million inhabitants, had only 713,568 foreign residents in 2015, equivalent to just 0.3 percent of its population at that time, according to the World Migration Report 2018 published in December by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Almost nothing compared to Argentina and Venezuela, where immigrants represent 4.5 and 4.8 percent of the population, respectively, IOM Brazil project coordinator Marcelo Torelly told IPS.

But Brazil again became an attractive destination this century, especially in the current decade, when the number of foreign-born inhabitants grew 20 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to the IOM.

“The main flow of immigration is now South-South from Haiti, Africa and Asia, not the flows from bordering nations, and surpassing those from the North,” academic Leonardo Cavalcanti, scientific coordinator of the Observatory of International Migration (OBMigra), a joint studies group of the Ministry of Labour and the University of Brasilia, told IPS.

There was an upsurge after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which claimed more than 220,000 lives, displaced 1.5 million people and destroyed the local economy.

Tens of thousands of Haitians sought a chance to rebuild their lives in Brazil, making up the largest foreign group in the formal labour market since 2013.

Brazil already had close relations with Haiti prior to the earthquake. In addition to sending thousands of soldiers and being in charge of the military command of the multinational United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, between 2004 and 2017, it also carried out social projects in the Caribbean island nation.

Among the Brazilians killed in the earthquake was Zilda Arns, who brought to Haiti the experience of the Pastoral Care of Children, a Catholic organisation that she founded, and which was instrumental in reducing child mortality in Brazil.

Bob Montinard, a 42-year-old Haitian, was working in Port-au-Prince on disarmament, conflict mediation and reintegration projects for juvenile offenders after their release, promoted by the U.N. and the Brazilian non-governmental organisation Viva Río, when the earthquake destroyed his house and his left leg was broken as debris fell.

Worried about the malnutrition of their children – including their unborn baby - due to food shortages in their country, this Venezuelan woman - who asked to preserve her anonymity – and her husband decided to migrate to Brazil. They sold their home to finance their trip to Rio de Janeiro, where she received excellent healthcare in childbirth, her husband has already found work, and the children are impressed with the number of playgrounds. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Worried about the malnutrition of their children – including their unborn baby – due to food shortages in their country, this Venezuelan woman – who asked to preserve her anonymity – and her husband decided to migrate to Brazil. They sold their home to finance their trip to Rio de Janeiro, where she received excellent healthcare in childbirth, her husband has already found work, and the children are impressed with the number of playgrounds. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Surgeries in France and the need for ongoing physiotherapy made him decide to move to Río de Janeiro, where he has lived since 2010 with his French wife and their children aged eight and nine, as a cultural producer and activist.

Last year he founded an organisation called Mawon, which in the Haitian Creole language means chestnut colour but was also the name given to black slaves who fled to freedom, like the “quilombolas” in Brazil.

“Mawon is neither black nor white, it is Creole, meaning escape and now migration, diversity, mixture, and against racism,” defined Montinard, explaining that the organisation is active in social issues, welcoming immigrants and helping them get settled in Brazil, and also has a business side.

“Migrants bring their culture, their food and their music. It is what they produce, share and sell in the destination country. Everyone wins: immigrants get an income, while they offer enriching knowledge for all,” he told IPS.

Cultural production is the best way to integrate immigrants, especially in Rio de Janeiro, he said while frying typical Haitian plantain snacks at a food stand.

Aryadne Bittencourt is legal protection agent for refugees in Caritas in Rio de Janeiro, a Catholic organisation that assists some 150 foreigners per week, to whom it provides a small financial aid stipend, job training and Portuguese language courses, to help them survive and integrate in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Aryadne Bittencourt is legal protection agent for refugees in Caritas in Rio de Janeiro, a Catholic organisation that assists some 150 foreigners per week, to whom it provides a small financial aid stipend, job training and Portuguese language courses, to help them survive and integrate in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

He was at the refugee food fair, held monthly in Botafogo, a Río de Janeiro neighbourhood, with support from the local Anglican church, which provides outdoor patios, from the Catholic organisation Caritas, and from the Local Board, a group that connects producers and consumers, to offer healthy meals at fair prices.

In recent years there has also been an increased influx of Africans, such as Congolese and Senegalese, as well as Syrians, while more recently there has been an inflow of Venezuelans, all fleeing poverty or violence.

In the past, the largest number of African immigrants came from Angola, a country that shares the Portuguese language, fleeing from the civil war that ended in 2002 after 27 years of conflict.

There are also economic reasons behind the shift in immigration flows, since the 2008 international financial crisis weakened the appeal of the United States and Europe, while Brazil’s booming growth offered many employment opportunities, said Cavalcanti, who is also a graduate studies professor at the University of Brasilia.

However, that scenario changed when Brazil fell into recession in 2015, and employment fell, which reduced the flow of immigrants, except for Africans. It also failed to curb the wave of Venezuelans, who, sometimes hungry, cross the border into the state of Roraima.

Garcia Malunza, 25, together with her year and a half old daughter, fled the war in Angola and took refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which she left in 2006 to migrate to Brazil, "for personal reasons." She sells African dresses and fabrics at the refugee fair held monthly in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Botafogo. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Garcia Malunza, 25, together with her year and a half old daughter, fled the war in Angola and took refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which she left in 2006 to migrate to Brazil, “for personal reasons.” She sells African dresses and fabrics at the refugee fair held monthly in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Botafogo. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This was the case of the couple who, with two young children and with her pregnant, sold their house in Venezuela to travel overland to Roraima, and from there by plane to Río de Janeiro, where they were assisted by Caritas, which helps refugees and migrants in several Brazilian cities.

“We decided to leave because I didn’t have the food or vitamins to prevent my baby from being undernourished, and the children were only eating cassava and sardines. Our business went bankrupt because of inflation and we suffered threats because we were not supporters of the government,” said the woman, who preferred to remain unidentified because they still have family in Venezuela.

“I do not see any crisis in Brazil, nothing compared to what we experienced in Venezuela,” she said, praising the good treatment she received during her daughter’s birth, the possibility of freely buying enough food and “of living without fear.”

Initially they received aid from Caritas, equivalent to 95 dollars a month for a few months, and Portuguese language courses. With her husband employed in a hotel, she hopes to “settle down and provide a decent life for our children,” who love the many playgrounds and beaches that they were unable to enjoy in their country.

The IOM, which only opened its office in Brasilia in 2016, opened another one in 2017 in the capital of Roraima, Boa Vista, in the face of the humanitarian emergency situation arising from the mass flight of Venezuelans.

Its Displacement Tracking Matrix platform began to be used in that northern state in January, to help the Brazilian authorities manage the influx, with clear data on the immigrants, Torelly reported.

Of the 33,865 refugee claims in Brazil last year, 52.7 percent were filed by Venezuelans.

Refuge for political or humanitarian reasons offers a path to legal residency in Brazil. It has been the means of entry for about one-third of foreigners in recent years. But few applications are approved.

The National Committee for Refugees, the interministerial body responsible for the approvals, only granted refuge to a little over 9,000 people, and has more than 55,000 pending applications, according to Aryadne Bittencourt, legal protection agent for Caritas Rio refugees.

A new law, passed in 2017, aims to facilitate immigration and refugee status, but the way it is being regulated would tend to continue imposing obstacles, as does the red tape, she lamented.

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Latin America Makes Headway Against Land Degradationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/latin-america-makes-headway-land-degradation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-makes-headway-land-degradation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/latin-america-makes-headway-land-degradation/#respond Tue, 30 Jan 2018 23:25:38 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154083 Two-thirds of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have already submitted or are preparing to submit to the United Nations their land degradation goals, to combat a problem that threatens agriculture and the lives of their people. In 2015, the parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) agreed to […]

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A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in northern Brazil, a country that is poised to be the world's largest producer of soy, a monoculture for which millions of hectares have been deforested. Commercial agriculture, especially livestock farming, and production of soy and palm oil, are key drivers in the degradation of Latin American soils. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in northern Brazil, a country that is poised to be the world's largest producer of soy, a monoculture for which millions of hectares have been deforested. Commercial agriculture, especially livestock farming, and production of soy and palm oil, are key drivers in the degradation of Latin American soils. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jan 30 2018 (IPS)

Two-thirds of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have already submitted or are preparing to submit to the United Nations their land degradation goals, to combat a problem that threatens agriculture and the lives of their people.

In 2015, the parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) agreed to combat desertification and restore degraded land and soil, with national goals, which are based on the level of erosion in each country and which aim to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030.

“What we are doing directly now is to establish a policy of neutral land management. That is, where I degrade, on the other hand I compensate. We cannot continue with these extractive policies in the countries where what is degraded is never given back to the earth,” José Miguel Torrico, the UNCCD coordinator for the region, who is based in Chile, told IPS.

The new commitment, he stressed, is that “What one takes from the earth, one puts back, to maintain its productivity.”

The concept of LDN is defined as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.”

“Today we are in the process of setting targets to achieve land neutrality. This is happening in 22 countries of the region that are actively taking part. Some have already established their goals and others, like Brazil, are at the end of the process of setting them,” Torrico said.

According to figures from UNCCD, there are currently more than two billion hectares of degraded land in the world (an area greater than South America), which have the potential for land rehabilitation and forest restoration. Of that total, 14 percent is within the region.

Sally Bunning, Senior Policy officer of Agricultural Systems, Land and Water of the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that “degraded lands represent more than one-fifth of the forests and agricultural lands of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

“Commercial agriculture is a key driver (of that degradation), especially production of meat, soy and palm oil,” she said at the regional office in Santiago.

Las Canoas Lake, near the capital of Nicaragua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon arrives to Nicaragua and leaves its inhabitants without fish and water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores / IPS

A farmer next to a community rainwater collection tank, for the agricultural production and domestic needs of a group of families, with which they mitigate the effects of the recurrent droughts that devastate their rural communities in the northern Argentine province of Chaco, part of one of the Latin American regions with the greatest erosion of its soils. Solutions like this improve the lives of local residents in the degraded lands of the region. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

The expert explained that “the main areas of farmland that are facing multiple pressures include, but are not limited to, dry lands in northeastern Brazil, areas of agricultural expansion in the area of the Argentine Chaco, central Chile, farmland in southern Mexico, and parts of Cuba and Haiti.”

Bunning explained that desertification “accelerates with overgrazing as well as the growth of demand for meat and other agricultural products such as soy, sugar and cotton worldwide.”

“It is estimated that in Latin America most of the degraded lands were degraded due to deforestation (100 million hectares) and overgrazing (70 million hectares). The increase in international demand encourages farmers and large landowners to deforest in order to extend their agricultural areas and pastures for livestock farming,” she said.

According to the FAO regional official, addressing the problem is crucial “to manage the livestock sector and limit the complete elimination of the original vegetation to replace it with crops.”

“In South America, urgent action is needed in the Gran Chaco, an area that covers four countries: Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and to a lesser degree Brazil,” Bunning said.

“More than half of the territory in Argentina and Paraguay are affected by problems of desertification presenting a net loss of 325,000 hectares of forest per year in Paraguay, and 45 percent and 43 percent of the loss of forests were respectively caused by the expansion of pastures and the expansion of land for commercial crops in Argentina,” she said.

Torrico recalled, in turn, that several countries “have been hit very hard by climate phenomena. For example, the El Niño phenomenon affected them seriously and there have been very severe droughts in what has to do with the degradation of soils, but also with the effects suffered by the population.”

According to the UNCCD regional coordinator, Latin American small farmers are directly affected because they have less water for their crops and in some extreme cases they are forced to migrate.

He added that desertification is closely associated with migration, noting as an example that 80 to 90 percent of migrants from Africa are a visible effect of desertification.

Las Canoas Lake, near the capital of Nicaragua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon arrives to Nicaragua and leaves its inhabitants without fish and water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores / IPS

Las Canoas Lake, near the capital of Nicaragua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon arrives to Nicaragua and leaves its inhabitants without fish and water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores / IPS

“The migration of Haitians that Chile is currently experiencing is basically people who come from rural areas where they no longer have any chance to farm. They do not come from cities but from rural areas,” Torrico pointed out as an example of this situation in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bunning, meanwhile, said that “unequal distribution and lack of access and control of land and its resources can be key factors of poverty, food insecurity and land degradation.”

“In Latin America, conflicts are mainly between landless people and large landowners, and between landless people and indigenous communities,” she explained.

She said that “the key factors of conflicts over land include a combination of inequitable access to and control over land, degradation of natural resources, historical demands and demographic pressures, exacerbated by weak management and political corruption.”

Torrico added that the problem of desertification is also closely associated with climate change.

“It is already clear that rainfall will decrease significantly in sectors of the continent. How do we forecast this? With an early warning system, so we know in advance when we are going to have a drought and, how do we prepare for this?” he asked.

“With efficient water catchment systems, reservoirs, dams and wells. And with better farming techniques, with mechanised irrigation, drip irrigation and more effective crops and better seed quality,” he answered.

Bunning warned that in the region “there are still no programmes to take into account the importance of water management.”

“For me this is one of the most important parts of the problem of degradation. It is not always degradation of the soils, but also the degradation of the capacity to retain water in the soil, to store and reuse water in agriculture, but also to be reused by other users,” she said.

The FAO expert listed solutions for this, such as “localised drip systems and more efficient systems, to also reduce evaporation.”

“There are technologies to use greenhouses, plastic cover in the fields, to pump water using solar panels, to distribute fertilisers in the water and reduce the problems of over-exploitation of fertilisers,” she detailed among the instruments that are at hand.

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Indigenous Peoples & Local Communities Vital to the Global Environmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/indigenous-peoples-local-communities-vital-global-environment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-local-communities-vital-global-environment http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/indigenous-peoples-local-communities-vital-global-environment/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 18:52:29 +0000 Katie Reytar and Peter Veit http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154016 Katie Reytar and Peter Veit, World Resources Institute

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Indigenous groups and local communities occupy about half the world's land, but hold legal rights to only a fraction of it. Credit: Michele Solmi/Flickr

By Katie Reytar and Peter Veit
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 25 2018 (IPS)

Indigenous Peoples and local communities are some of the best environmental stewards. Their livelihoods and cultures depend on forests, clean water and other natural resources, so they have strong incentives to sustainably manage their lands.

LandMark, the first global platform to provide maps of land held by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, last month released new carbon storage, tree cover loss, natural resource concessions, dam locations and other data layers that shed light on the environment in which these lands exist. Now anyone, anywhere can view and analyze indigenous and local communities’ environmental contributions and identify threats to specific lands.

Five maps illustrate just how critical indigenous and community lands are to the planet:

1) Indigenous Peoples and communities hold a considerable amount of the world’s land.

More than 50 percent of the world’s land is community land, collectively held by Indigenous Peoples and other local communities and managed primarily under customary tenure arrangements. The map below shows indigenous land in orange and community land in blue across Amazonia, with the darker colors indicating lands documented with a title or land certificate. Community land is found on all continents of the world, except Antarctica, with Africa having more than any other continent.

However, Indigenous Peoples and other communities hold legal rights to only a fraction of the lands they occupy; even less of their land is formally registered and documented with the government. This makes community land vulnerable to being taken by governments, corporations and other powerful elites.

2) Tenure-secure indigenous lands often have lower deforestation rates than other areas.

Rapid deforestation accounted for 80 percent of Bolivia’s total annual carbon emissions from 2000-2010, and forest loss isn’t slowing down. Farmers and cattle ranchers are clearing more and more forests, especially in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province (shown in map below), where soy production is booming.

However, deforestation is significantly lower within formally recognized indigenous-held lands. A recent WRI report found that in Bolivia, deforestation rates are 2.8 times lower within “tenure-secure” indigenous lands — lands that are legally recognized by the government and protected from external threats and competing claims — than outside of them.

By giving indigenous groups legal rights to the lands they occupy, Bolivia could avoid 8-12 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, equivalent to taking more than 1.7 million vehicles off the road.

These benefits extend beyond Bolivia and across the Amazon — average annual deforestation rates inside tenured indigenous forestlands were 2-3 times lower than outside of them from 2000 to 2012. Securing these lands would generate billions of dollars in climate, environment and economic benefits over the next 20 years.

3) Indigenous Peoples manage some of the richest carbon stocks in the world.

Research shows that indigenous and community lands store about 25 percent of the world’s aboveground carbon, making these lands critically important in the global fight to curb climate change. For instance, the Ikahalans in the Philippines have protected their ancestral forests for generations.

LandMark’s new carbon storage analysis tool estimates that the trees in the Ikahalan’s domain (outlined in blue in the map below) holds nearly 3 million tonnes of carbon, with an average of 96 tonnes per hectare across their entire territory. The total carbon stored in their lands is equivalent to the yearly greenhouse gas emissions from 2.3 million passenger vehicles.

By providing this data, LandMark can help communities like the Ikahalan access additional sources of income through forest conservation programs like REDD+ or carbon accounting and sequestration projects.

4) Dams are flooding indigenous and community lands.

Around the world, dams and hydropower projects have flooded collectively held lands, including homesteads, family farms, burial grounds and sacred sites. In the Brazilian Amazon alone, more than 80 large dams are currently under construction.

The map above focuses on the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Rondônia, showing projects that threaten to harm rivers, destroy forests and create significant hardships for Indigenous Peoples. In these two states, 20 large dams are under construction, 86 are operational and an additional 224 dams are either inventoried or planned.

5) Natural resource concessions are a growing threat to indigenous and community lands.

Mining for precious metals such as gold, copper and zinc is among the most widespread threat to indigenous lands, particularly in the Amazon. In Peru alone, the government has granted some 55,000 mining and exploration concessions that cover more than 18.5 million hectares, about 15 percent of the country. The map below shows the indigenous Santiago de Chocorvos land, which has 95 concessions on it. Illegal mining, not illustrated on the map, also runs rampant and threatens local communities across Peru.

The short-term profits of mineral extraction usually spell long-term hardship for Indigenous Peoples and communities; companies clear forests and pollute waterways, leaving little left to support traditional livelihoods. Titling of community lands and the right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which gives communities a powerful voice in all decisions affecting their lands, is paramount for preventing the widespread loss of critical ecosystems.

A Fight for Legal Recognition and Tenure Security

Maps are a powerful tool for making visible the lands that Indigenous Peoples and local communities hold. LandMark shows the dynamic environment in which these lands exist – both the benefits that they provide when land rights are secure, as well as the mounting pressures that threaten rural livelihoods and the planet. These communities and their advocates can use the platform to help protect indigenous land rights, negotiate fair payments for land use, and participate in decisions that affect their lands and livelihoods.

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Excerpt:

Katie Reytar and Peter Veit, World Resources Institute

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Biodiversity and Food Security: the Dual Focus of the World Potato Congresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/biodiversity-food-security-focus-world-potato-congress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biodiversity-food-security-focus-world-potato-congress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/biodiversity-food-security-focus-world-potato-congress/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 00:36:44 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153999 Potatoes were first taken out of Peru, where they originated, 458 years ago to feed the world. Half a millennium later, potatoes have spread throughout the planet but there are challenges to preserve the crop’s biodiversity as a source of food security, as well as the rights of the peasants who sustain this legacy for […]

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Two farmers pick potatoes in Pampas, 3,276 meters above sea level, in the Andean region of Huancavelica, in central Peru, during a visit by specialists who accompanied IPS to the area that is home to the largest variety of native potatoes in the country. From Peru, potatoes spread throughout the entire world. Credit: Mariela Pereira / IPS

Two farmers pick potatoes in Pampas, 3,276 meters above sea level, in the Andean region of Huancavelica, in central Peru, during a visit by specialists who accompanied IPS to the area that is home to the largest variety of native potatoes in the country. From Peru, potatoes spread throughout the entire world. Credit: Mariela Pereira / IPS

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Jan 25 2018 (IPS)

Potatoes were first taken out of Peru, where they originated, 458 years ago to feed the world. Half a millennium later, potatoes have spread throughout the planet but there are challenges to preserve the crop’s biodiversity as a source of food security, as well as the rights of the peasants who sustain this legacy for humanity.

The hosting of the 10th World Potato Congress between May 27 and 31, in the ancient city of Cuzco, the centre of what was the Inca empire in the south of the Peruvian Andes, is a recognition of Peru as the main supplier of the potatoes, since it has the largest amount of germplasm in the world, and great commercial potential.

“Peru has 3,500 potato varieties of the 5,000 existing in the world. Culturally potatoes are a way of life, a feeling, a mystique. From the point of view of commercial production, hosting the congress is an opportunity to show the world new products such as flours, flakes, liqueurs and fresh potatoes,” engineer Jesus Caldas, director of management of the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA), which leads the Organising Committee of the world congress, told IPS.“The designation of Peru as host of the congress is important; the scientific community involved in the global innovation of potato production will return to the source of its origin and diversity, which is key for food security." -- Gonzalo Tejada

Held for the first time in 1993, this technical-scientific congress is held every three years, and for the first time will be hosted by a Latin American country.

Under the theme “Returning to the origin for a better future” and promoted by the World Potato Congress (WPC), the tenth edition will reflect onbiodiversity, food security and business.

“The designation of Peru as host of the congress is important; the scientific community involved in the global innovation of potato production will return to the source of its origin and diversity, which is key for food security,” Gonzalo Tejada, national coordinator of Projects of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a member of the Organising Committee of the congress, told IPS.

The potato was domesticated about 8,000 years ago in the Peruvian highlands, in the region of El Puno, shared with Bolivia. After the arrival of the Spanish to this part of the continent at the end of the 16th century, they introduced the plant to their country, and from there it spread throughout Europe, becoming a staple food product.

The non-governmental Lima-based International Potato Centre (CIP) indicates that the tuber, which has significant nutritional properties, is today the third most important crop on the planet after rice and wheat, and that more than one billion people who eat potatoes on a regular basis consume an estimated annual production of 374 million tons.

The CIP reports that the total cultivated area of potatoes exceeds 19 million hectares in 156 countries. “The biggest consumption is by industries that use potatoes for frying, in starch or in liqueurs like vodka, which involves production by large transnational companies,” said FAO’s Tejada.

Jesús Caldas, director of Management of the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA), the Peruvian state entity that leads the Organising Committee of the 10th World Potato Congress, is photographed in his office next to the promotional posters for the event that will take place in the city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Jesús Caldas, director of Management of the National Institute of Agricultural Innovation (INIA), the Peruvian state entity that leads the Organising Committee of the 10th World Potato Congress, is photographed in his office next to the promotional posters for the event that will take place in the city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

In most countries, he explained, production is concentrated in extensive agriculture carried out by large companies. This is not the case of Peru and its Andean neighbors Bolivia and Ecuador, where ancestral practices have been kept alive, making it possible to conserve the native species that constitute the basis of the crop’s biodiversity.

But these crops face the impacts of climate change, lack of technology and narrow profit margins, among other problems.

Josefina Baca, a 42-year-old farmer, plants potatoes more than 3,100 meters above sea level in Huaro, a town 43 km from the city of Cuzco. She says the heat is more intense than in the past, and is worried by how variable the rainy season is now.

“I am always coming to my farm and I work with devotion, but the climate changes are spoiling the crops: if the frost falls prematurely it ruins everything. Or sometimes there is no rain and we lose the crops. I farm organically, without chemicals, but we need support to protect our seeds, our biodiversity,” she told IPS.

 A farmer picks potatoes on community land in the high Andean region of Huancavelica, the area of Peru with the most native varieties of potatoes. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS


A farmer picks potatoes on community land in the high Andean region of Huancavelica, the area of Peru with the most native varieties of potatoes. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Moisés Quispe, executive director of the National Association of Agroecological Producers (ANPE), which represents 12,000 native potato growers, especially in the centre and south of the Andes range, told IPS that climate change is a serious threat to rural people.

Quispe, who is a farmer and guardian of seeds in his area, explained that they are at a disadvantage in the neoliberal market because due to the lack of political will there is no promotion of small-scale agricultural development that produces the native potato in all its wide variety.

“From one hectare, you can obtain 60 tons of conventional potatoes, but only 15 at the most of native potatoes, because they are grown with no tillage, just manual labour, without machines, because the wild terrain where these potatoes grow do not allow it,” he explained.

He added that the production system entails crop rotation, natural soil fertilisation, clean water irrigation, permanent pest and disease control and seed selection.

“This demands more labour, it raises the costs of small-scale production by potato growers, but we do not get a fair price,” he said.

Native potatoes, which draw three times the price of the most commercial and conventional varieties, are species of diverse textures, shapes and colours that are produced in high areas and adapted since time immemorial to climatic adversity. They have been conserved based on the ancestral knowledge of indigenous peasant families and without using chemical elements.

ANPE’s Quispe stresses that Peru as a country of conservation of plant genetic resources which has helped to prevent hunger in different parts of the world, but regrets the lack of recognition of the rights of the small farmers who make it possible to conserve the native potatoes year after year, for generations.

He demanded a differentiated public policy that promotes in situ conservation based on the integration of local knowledge. “The law says that all seeds must be certified but we do not agree, the peasants have the potato as their father, brother, great-grandfather have inherited it, they cannot try to monopolise the seeds because they are a common good,” he argued.

Currently the country leads the production of potatoes in Latin America with 4.6 million tons per year, while per capita consumption is 85 kg a year. But greater volume is required to take on the commercial challenges.

INIA’s Caldas recognises the need to adopt public policies to increase potato productivity, and calls for greater resources for research, promotion of agriculture and seed certification.

In his view, the fact that of the 320,000 hectares of potatoes grown in the country, only 0.4 percent of the seeds used are certified is a disadvantage that contributes to low crop yields.

Miguel Ordinola stands in front of the Lima headquarters of the International Potato Centre, a non-governmental scientific body that is part of the Organising Committee of the World Potato Congress, which will be hosted in the Peruvian city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Miguel Ordinola stands in front of the Lima headquarters of the International Potato Centre, a non-governmental scientific body that is part of the Organising Committee of the World Potato Congress, which will be hosted in the Peruvian city of Cuzco in May. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

He also cited factors such as the lack of irrigation infrastructure, dependence on rainfall and limited knowledge about fertilisation. “There is ancestral knowledge but there is a lack of technical support,” the official said.

Miguel Ordinola, representative of the CIP in the Organising Committee of the Congress, said the meeting will offer opportunities to present global advances in research that will benefit small farmers.

“Studies have been carried out by the CIP together with American and European universities on how we are adapting to the conditions brought on by climate change. One of the hypotheses to be proved is that native varieties are being planted at higher altitudes, that with the increase in temperatures farmers are seeking higher altitudes,” where temperatures are lower, he told IPS.

During the 10th Congress, the progress made in scientific research will be seen in the field, in the Potato Park and in the visit to the Andenes Station, the only one in the world that researches Inca and pre-Inca “andenes” or platforms – step-like terraces dug into the slope of a hillside for agricultural purposes.

Ordinola said Peru and its Andean neighbours have great commercial potential to develop, to which this world congress will contribute.

“Peru got to be host because it is a centre of biodiversity for the world, which means many of the problems facing potato crops can find a solution through research in the Peruvian and regional context,” he said.

The world meeting will gather some 1,000 people from the scientific, academic, business and peasant farming communities. Of the participants, 60 percent will come from Latin American countries.

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Argentina Continues to Seek Truth and Justice, Despite the Hurdleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentina-continues-seek-truth-justice-despite-hurdles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-continues-seek-truth-justice-despite-hurdles http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentina-continues-seek-truth-justice-despite-hurdles/#respond Sun, 21 Jan 2018 22:56:21 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153964 Thirty-four years after Argentina’s return to democracy, more than 500 cases involving human rights abuses committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship are making their way through the courts. This high number not only shows that the process of truth and justice is ongoing, but also reflects the delays and the slow process of justice. Since […]

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Outside the courtroom in the city of Buenos Aires, the relatives of victims of the dictatorship and human rights activists watched on a big screen the late November sentencing in the trial for the crimes committed during the de facto regime at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA). In the trial, which lasted five years, 29 people were sentenced to life imprisonment. Credit: Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS)

Outside the courtroom in the city of Buenos Aires, the relatives of victims of the dictatorship and human rights activists watched on a big screen the late November sentencing in the trial for the crimes committed during the de facto regime at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA). In the trial, which lasted five years, 29 people were sentenced to life imprisonment. Credit: Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS)

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 21 2018 (IPS)

Thirty-four years after Argentina’s return to democracy, more than 500 cases involving human rights abuses committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship are making their way through the courts. This high number not only shows that the process of truth and justice is ongoing, but also reflects the delays and the slow process of justice.

Since the human rights trials got underway again in 2003, after amnesty laws were overturned, 200 sentences have been handed down, but 140 of them have been appealed.

This was revealed by a December 2017 report by the Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes against Humanity, which stated that 856 people have been convicted and 110 acquitted.

At the same time, there are another 393 ongoing cases, but 247 are still in the initial stage of investigation of the judicial process, which precedes the oral and public trial.

“The trials for the crimes committed in Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship have been an example for all of humanity, because there has no been no other similar case in the world. And it is very positive that the State is transmitting today the message that the trials are continuing,” Santiago Cantón, former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), told IPS.Since President Mauricio Macri took office in December 2015, "the dismemberment or cutting of research areas and the emptying of prosecutors’ offices dedicated to these cases has been noted with concern." -- Daniel Feierstein

“However, the delays are serious, because we are talking about defendants who in most cases are over 80 years old,” said Canton, currently Secretary of Human Rights of the province of Buenos Aires, the country’s largest and most populous.

“It is important for everyone for the trials to be completed: so that the accused do not die surrounded by a mantle of doubt, and so that the victims and society as a whole see justice done,” he added.

The dictatorship was responsible for a criminal plan that included the installation of hundreds of clandestine detention, torture and extermination centres throughout the country. According to human rights organisations, 30,000 people were “disappeared” and killed.

After the return to democracy, then president Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989) promoted the investigation and punishment of crimes. The culminating point was the famous trial of the military junta members, which convicted nine senior armed forces officers.

Thus, in 1985, former General Jorge Videla and former Admiral Emilio Massera, leading figures of the first stage of the dictatorship, the time of the most brutal repression, were sentenced to life in prison.

However, under pressure from the military, Congress passed the so-called Full Stop and Due Obedience laws in 1986 and 1987, which effectively put a stop to prosecution of rights abuses committed during the dictatorship. The circle was closed by then president Carlos Menem (1989-1999), who in 1990 pardoned Videla, Massera and the rest of the imprisoned junta members.

Not until 2001 did a judge declare the two laws unconstitutional, on the argument that crimes against humanity are not subject to amnesties.

That decision marked a watershed, reaffirmed in September 2003, when Congress, at the behest of then President Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007), revoked the amnesty laws.

The prosecution of “Dirty War” crimes was then resumed and the last hurdle was removed in 2005, when the Supreme Court ruled that no statute of limitations or pardon applied to crimes against humanity.

“It is very important that since 2003, 200 trials have been carried out, thanks to the effort and commitment of victims and relatives,” said Luz Palmás Zaldúa, a lawyer with the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), the organisation that pushed for the first declaration that the amnesty laws were unconstitutional, in 2001.

Palmás Zaldúa mentioned some trials in particular, such as the one involving Operation Condor, which ended in 2016 with 15 convictions, “in which it was proven that there was a plan of political repression implemented by the dictatorships in the Southern Cone of South America.”

He also highlights the trials involving abuses at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA), the dictatorship’s largest detention and torture centre, which ended last November with life sentences for 29 people.

“The so-called death flights, where the founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, for example, were thrown (alive) into the River Plate, were proven in those trials,” Palmás Zaldúa told IPS.

The lawyer, however, warned that the process of justice and memory “faces a number of difficulties, which are the responsibility of the three branches of the State.”

CELS was one of the 13 Argentine human rights organisations that denounced, in an October 2017 hearing before the IACHR in Montevideo, that the Argentine government had undermined or dismantled official bodies dedicated to reviewing dictatorship-era documents to provide evidence in the courts.

They also complained that Congress did not put into operation the bicameral commission that was to investigate economic complicities with the dictatorship, created by law in November 2015.

Since President Mauricio Macri took office in December 2015, “the dismemberment or cutting of research areas and the emptying of prosecutors’ offices dedicated to these cases has been noted with concern,” sociologist and researcher Daniel Feierstein told IPS.

In addition, “it would appear that a new judicial climate has been created which has led many courts to easily grant house arrest to those guilty of genocide, significantly increase the number of acquittals, and reject preventive detention at a time when its use is no the rise for less serious crimes,” added Feierstein.

“So the outlook is contradictory, with a process that seems to be ongoing but under changing conditions, which generate great uncertainty,” he said.

The report by the Public Prosecutor’s Office states that of the 2,979 people charged since the cases were resumed in 2003, 1,038 were detained, 1,305 were released, 37 went on the run, and 599 died – 100 after receiving a sentence and 499 while still awaiting sentencing.

A significant fact is that more than half of the prisoners (549) enjoy the benefit of house arrest, which in some cases has aroused strong social condemnation.

“Even if they go home, they are condemned by history, by society and in some cases even by their own families,” stressed Norma Ríos, leader of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH), in a dialogue with IPS.

“A few years ago, we would never have imagined all this. And perhaps the most important thing is that it has been broadly proven that we were not lying when we denounced the crimes committed by the dictatorship,” she added.

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Davos: a Tale of Two Mountainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/davos-tale-two-mountains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=davos-tale-two-mountains http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/davos-tale-two-mountains/#respond Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:58:52 +0000 Ben Phillips http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153934 Ben Phillips is Launch Director, Fight Inequality Alliance.

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As the elite in the world of finance gather in the Swiss luxury town of Davos, rallies are taking place around the world as citizens demand for solutions to rising inequality.

By Ben Phillips
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 18 2018 (IPS)

As the elite in the world of finance gather in the Swiss luxury town of Davos, rallies are taking place around the world as citizens demand for solutions to rising inequality.

At the same time as the World Economic Forum’s rich and powerful hold forth about fixing the crisis of inequality they created, a new movement called the Fight Inequality Alliance is telling another story that is growing around the world.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking at the World Economic Forum in 2017. Credit: World Economic Forum/Valeriano Di Domenico

As the world’s 1% gather in the luxury Swiss mountain resort Davos this week, rallies are taking place around the world on mountains of a very different sort – the mountains of garbage and of open pit mines that millions of the most unequal call home.

People will be gathering in events in countries including India, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, United Kingdom, The Gambia, Tunisia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Mexico to publicly demand an end to inequality.

Worldwide the groups involved include Greenpeace, ActionAid, Oxfam, Asia People’s Movement on Debt and Development, Femnet, Global Alliance for Tax Justice and the International Trade Union Confederation. Events worldwide include a pop concert at a slum next to a garbage mountain in Kenya, a football match in Senegal, a public meal sharing in Denmark, a rally at open-pit an mine in South Africa, a sound truck in Nigeria, and a giant “weighing scales of injustice” in the UK.


Worldwide the groups involved include Greenpeace, ActionAid, Oxfam, Asia People’s Movement on Debt and Development, Femnet, Global Alliance for Tax Justice and the International Trade Union Confederation.

The protesters are demanding an end to the age of greed, and say that the solutions to the inequality crisis will not come from the same elites that caused the problem. People living on the frontlines of inequality are the key to the radical change that is needed, they say.

They are already organising to build their power by joining together in a global Fight Inequality Alliance that unites social movements, women’s rights groups, trade unions, and NGOs in over 30 countries across the world. They are urging the world to hear the solutions to inequality from those who suffer it not those who caused it.

Nester Ndebele, challenging mining the companies widening inequality in South Africa, remarks: “These mining companies claim to bring development but they make a fortune while leaving our land unfarmable, our air dangerously polluted, and our communities ripped apart. Women bear the brunt of this. They claim it is worth it for the energy they provide but the wires go over our homes with no connection. The politicians need to stop listening to the mining companies fancy speeches and hear from us instead.”

Mildred Ngesa, fighting for women’s rights in Kenya, explains why the events are taking place at the same time as, and as a counter to, the elite Davos meeting in Switzerland: “All these rich men at Davos say all these nice things about women’s empowerment but when young women in the places I grew up have no economic security, many have little real choices beyond the red light. We need jobs, housing, and free education and health, not speeches from the same people who push for corporate tax exemptions which take away resources needed to advance equality.”

Campaigners call on governments to curb the murky influence of the super-rich who they blame for the Age of Greed, where billionaires are buying not just yachts but laws. Community groups ideas, which elites don’t mention, include an end to corporate tax breaks, higher taxation on the top 1% to enable quality health and education for all, increases in minimum wages and stronger enforcement, and a limit how many times more a boss can earn than a worker.

“We have rising inequality because the rich are determining what governments should do. Davos can never be the answer because the problem is caused by the influence of the people at Davos. Governments around the world must listen instead to their citizens, and end the Age of Greed. We know that governments will only do that when we organize and unite, so we are coming together as one. The power of the people is greater than the people in power.” says Filipina activist Lidy Nacpil, a co-founder of the international Fight Inequality Alliance.

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Excerpt:

Ben Phillips is Launch Director, Fight Inequality Alliance.

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US, Led by an Erratic Trump, Seeks to Undermine UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/us-led-erratic-trump-seeks-undermine-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-led-erratic-trump-seeks-undermine-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/us-led-erratic-trump-seeks-undermine-un/#comments Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:33:00 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153931 The continued erratic and outrageous comments by President Donald Trump – and his attempts to undermine the United Nations – are threatening to cause irreparable damage to the world body. The signs are ominous: the US withdrawal from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the threats against member states voting for anti-Israeli resolutions; […]

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US president Donald Trump addressing the UN General Assembly in September 2017. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 2018 (IPS)

The continued erratic and outrageous comments by President Donald Trump – and his attempts to undermine the United Nations – are threatening to cause irreparable damage to the world body.

The signs are ominous: the US withdrawal from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the threats against member states voting for anti-Israeli resolutions; slashing funds to a 69-year-old UN agency for Palestinian refugees; withdrawal from the 2016 Paris climate change agreement; threats to “totally destroy” a UN member state, North Korea; a US-inspired $285 million reduction in the UN’s regular budget for 2018-2019, and the insidious attempts to wreck the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement.

And more recently, Trump triggered a global backlash when he singled out Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” eliciting protests from the 55-member African Union (AU).

Trump has also come under fire for his insulting statements that “all Haitians have AIDS” and Nigerians who visit the US “would never go back to their huts.”

But running notoriously true to form, he has reversed himself again and again — and denied making any of these statements, despite credible evidence.

In its editorial last week, the New York Times rightly declared that Trump “is not just racist, ignorant, incompetent and undignified. He’s also a liar.”

That’s quite a mouthful to characterize the supreme leader of the free world: a crown which he may lose, paradoxically, to President Xi Jinping of totalitarian China.

James A. Paul, Executive Director of Global Policy Forum (1993-2012), an NGO monitoring the work of the United Nations, told IPS the Trump administration poses a grave threat to the future of the UN and to the development of international cooperation more generally.

“But we have to ask: how much does the present differ from the past and how close are we to a collapse of the UN under assault from Washington?.”

Every day, there appears new confirmation of the problem, whether it is President Trump’s crude statements about world leaders, his harsh commentary and stereotypical remarks about other countries and peoples, his upsetting of carefully-constructed international agreements, and his utter disregard for the tactfulness of diplomacy, said Paul.

“In terms of the UN as an institution, we see such blows as the US withdrawal from the Climate Change Agreement, looming US defunding of the UN’s Palestinian refugee aid, and US-led slashing of the regular UN budget.”

Crude blackmailing to enforce favorable votes in UN bodies, said Paul, has also been practiced by Washington more than ever.

“At the same time, there is an increasingly-harsh US government rhetoric about the UN as a useless bureaucracy, undeserving of respect and support.”

Paul said “right-wing nationalism has arisen in many lands in recent years, of course, and we should remember that the US has often in the past acted towards the UN and the international community with condescension and domination”.

Recent developments, he argued, are therefore not so much unique as they are extreme, posing deeper-than-ever threats to the viability of the UN in an extremely unstable and dangerous time.

Meanwhile, the US has already announced it will cut about $65 million in funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which providence sustenance to millions of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon.

Responding to a question at a press conference January 16, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “very concerned” about the US funding cuts.

“I strongly hope that, in the end, it will be possible for the United States to maintain the funding of UNRWA, in which the US has a very important share.”

And he made it clear that UNRWA, contrary to a misconception, is “not a Palestinian institution. UNRWA is a UN institution created by the General Assembly.”

Last December, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who has hinted at linking America’s financial leverage as the biggest single donor, to Washington’s political demands, claimed the US had successfully negotiated the $285 million reduction of the UN budget for 2018-2019.

And it was Haley who threatened to “take down names” and cut US aid to countries that voted for a resolution last December condemning US recognition of Jerusalem as the new Israeli capital.

Ian Williams, UN correspondent for Tribune and Senior Analyst, Foreign Policy in Focus, told IPS “Trump’s ignorance and arrogance makes a dangerous compound mixed with Nikki Haley’s ambitions and her pro-Israeli prejudices.”

Her job as Permanent Representative of the UN includes letting the US government know the views of the rest of the world, but it is clear from her counterproductive threats that she does not really care, he said.

Sarah Palin (a former Republican Vice Presidential candidate), announcing her foreign policy credentials, once remarked she could monitor Russia from her backyard in her home state of Alaska.

“And it is clear that Haley can only see Israel from the US mission on First Avenue,” said Williams, author of “UNtold: The Real Story of the UN in Peace and War,” recently released by Just World Books.

That seems to reflect some deep prejudices as well as blatant domestic political ambition. While Bush appeased his right wring by letting John Bolton bluster, Washington and the White House made sure that he did not break up the playground, he added

“Trump shows no signs of restraining the damage that Haley is doing to the UN and international law – nor indeed to American diplomacy which Haley even more than some of her predecessors is making an oxymoron.”

But unlike earlier times, a newly involved, and newly affluent China is waiting to pick up the balls that Haley and Trump throw out, said Williams who has been covering the United Nations since 1989.

Mouin Rabbani, Contributing Editor, Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), told IPS history is demonstrating once again that there is an inherent threat to international peace and security “when powerful states are led by volatile airheads.”

The United Nations is as exposed to these risks as any other state or institution, and arguably more so given its dependency on not only American funding but also US engagement, he added.

“At the same time, it would be a little unfair to assign blame solely to Trump and his diplomats, in this case led by the extraordinarily vulgar Nikki Haley.”

This is because UN-bashing has become something of a national sport if not civic requirement in the US for decades, fed by a ceaseless stream of morbid, utterly fantastical conspiracy theories of the type that Americans excel at concocting and revel in ingesting, he noted.

“We are witnessing, in real time, what happens when powerful states cease to properly invest in the education of their children.”

The problem for the UN is that making the world body a more effective organization is the one item not on the agenda of its US critics, he declared.

With Trump, they smell a unique opportunity to administer permanent and irreparable damage to the UN (and for that matter pretty much everything else they identify with modern civilization).

“It will be for the international community to decide whether to yet again roll over and play dead or prevent the lunatics from taking over the asylum,” Rabbani declared.

Paul told IPS that to get perspective and avoid idealizing earlier years at the UN, “we should remember the negative effects of the Cold War on the UN, including the proxy wars, the fierce battles over decolonization, and the negative pressure constantly brought to bear on UN budgets.”

The Congo crisis in the early 1960s had a deadly effect on the UN in more ways than one. Recent information points to the assassination of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961, showing how far Washington and its allies were prepared to go to weaken the UN so as to protect mining and other interests in Congo and throughout Africa, he noted.

“Today, the budget cuts may be the UN’s most serious danger. In the previous biennium, the Obama Administration already forced budget reductions but this time the cuts have been deeper and more fundamental.”

After years of “doing more with less,” the UN system is desperately short of funds for basic programs. Still, the Trump people in Washington have declared that cuts must go deeper and further shrinkage is necessary.

“Beyond the Regular Budget, Washington is imposing deep austerity on UN agencies, funds and programs. Will the Trump administration simply strangle the UN with steadily more draconian under-funding?,” he asked.

This has apparently been the Trump plan for US government agencies as well, from Environmental Protection to the State Department. “Kill the Beast!” chant the alt-right ideologues to the applause of their neo-liberal corporate backers. said Paul, author of the newly-released book “Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy & Global Power in the UN Security Council.”

To assess the danger, “we need to go beyond calculations about whether Trump will be voted out of office in 2020.” Such possibilities, he noted, are a reminder that Trump’s own peculiarly odious politics could be short-lived.

“But they do not answer the larger question: what is happening in the world that has given rise to so many thuggish right-wing populists and so many corrupt, rightward-leaning centrists as well?”

Could it be the rising hegemony of the multinational corporations and their owners, who think they can rule over the global system with a minimum of interference, from old-fashioned states and ineffective intergovernmental bodies?, asked Paul, a former editor of the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World.

“We, the peoples,” the globe’s citizens, have been lured into this trap, to the surprise of so many intellectuals, globalists, and internationalists. This, not Trump, is the existential threat that the UN faces.

“Can a new leadership arise, with new ability to bring the public to its senses? Can the climate crisis stimulate a new transnational political movement? Can a global constituency for a revived national politics and a new and transformed UN come soon into being?,” he asked.

“The UN’s future almost certainly depends on it”, he said.

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Argentina’s Law on Forests Is Good, But Lacks Enforcementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentinas-law-forests-good-lacks-enforcement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentinas-law-forests-good-lacks-enforcement http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentinas-law-forests-good-lacks-enforcement/#comments Thu, 18 Jan 2018 07:52:07 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153918 Never in the parliamentary history of Argentina had something similar happened: one and a half million people in 2007 signed a petition asking the Senate to pass a law to reduce deforestation. The law was quickly approved, and promulgated on Dec. 26 of that year. But 10 years later, it has left a bittersweet taste. […]

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A 2017 demonstration in the capital of the province of Córdoba, Argentina, against government plans for laxer zoning and land-use management, which would have favoured deforestation, successfully blocked the initiative. Credit: Sebastián Salguero / Greenpeace

A 2017 demonstration in the capital of the province of Córdoba, Argentina, against government plans for laxer zoning and land-use management, which would have favoured deforestation, successfully blocked the initiative. Credit: Sebastián Salguero / Greenpeace

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 18 2018 (IPS)

Never in the parliamentary history of Argentina had something similar happened: one and a half million people in 2007 signed a petition asking the Senate to pass a law to reduce deforestation. The law was quickly approved, and promulgated on Dec. 26 of that year. But 10 years later, it has left a bittersweet taste.

Researchers and environmental organisations admit that the law had positive impacts and slowed down the destruction of the country’s native forests, caused to a large extent by the expansion of the agricultural frontier.

But they warn that deforestation continues in areas where it is banned, and that the national government has shown a strong lack of interest in enforcing the law, reflected in the lack of funds necessary to finance conservation policies.

“The most positive aspect of the law was that it brought visibility to the problems of indigenous and peasant communities, and society began to look with critical eyes on agricultural activity, which had always been identified as a positive factor, as Argentina is a country that depends on agro-exports,” José Volante, who has a PhD in agricultural sciences, told IPS.

“The expansion of the agricultural frontier entails the concentration of production in a few hands, advanced technology, little employment and expulsion of rural dwellers. The forest law was aimed at curtailing that model, and put on the table another approach that allows the incorporation of more people and is more socially and environmentally friendly,” added Volante, a researcher at the Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) in Salta.

Salta, in the northwest of the country, is one of the provinces that is crucial from the point of view of deforestation. A portion of the province forms part of the Gran Chaco, a vast arid subtropical region of low forests and savannas that extends into Paraguay and Bolivia, which in the last few decades has been experiencing a process called “pampanisation”.

Pampanisation is a local term given to the expansion of agriculture and livestock farming into areas near the pampas, the region of fertile grassland in central Argentina and Uruguay, driven by advances in biotechnology and favourable international commodity prices.

The area sown in Argentina went from 15 million hectares to more than double that in about 30 years. And the Chaco forests have been precisely the main victim, since not only agriculture has expanded there, but also livestock farming, which is often displaced from fertile areas to make room for crops.

More than half of that sown area is currently planted in genetically modified soy, resistant to herbicides, which was allowed into the market by the government in 1996. Since then it has boomed, pushing wheat and corn to second place, thanks to higher profitability.

Salta lost 415,000 hectares of native forest between 2002 and 2006, according to official data, but the process accelerated in 2007, when it was made public that the National Congress was close to passing a law that would place severe restrictions on the possibility of provincial governments to authorise logging and clear-cut activities.

According to global environmental watchdog Greenpeace, in 2007, Salta convened public hearings to authorise the clearing of 425,958 hectares of forest, a figure more than five times higher than the previous year, and which far exceeded the average annual deforestation in the entire country.

“Precisely the flurry of deforestation permits that provinces like Salta granted during 2007 is the best proof that the forestry law was seen as a tool for actually changing things,” Juan Carlos Villalonga, a lawmaker from the ruling Cambiemos alliance, told IPS.

“And to some extent it was, because although it seemed impossible, the deforestation rate in Argentina began to fall. We went from an average of approximately 300,000 annual hectares to 200,000 in 2016,” he added.

Villalonga entered into politics from Greenpeace, one of the approximately 30 organisations that in the second half of 2007, with an intense publicity campaign, achieved the feat of collecting a million and a half signatures to urge the Senate to pass the law protecting the forests.

The law had already been passed by the lower house, but it was bogged down by resistance from senators who saw it as an obstacle to productive development in their provinces.

Thanks to the grassroots pressure, the senators had no choice but to approve the law, against a backdrop of a national deforestation rate six times higher than the world average, according to a report by the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN).

But despite the entry into force of the law, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ranked Argentina among the countries with the largest forest area lost between 2010 and 2015. The list also includes countries in Africa and Asia and three in South America: Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Law 26,631 was an extraordinary case of participation by civil society in public policy, and today is an important tool for this country to meet its international commitments, in the fight against climate change and for the conservation of biodiversity.

The law recognises the environmental services provided by forests and instructs the provinces to carry out land-use planning and zoning in their forested areas, according to three categories.

Red areas are those of high conservation value that should not be transformed; yellow ones have medium value and can be used for sustainable activities; and green ones have low conservation value and can be transformed.

Argentina’s 23 provinces have already completed this process for a total of about 54 million hectares of forest, approximately 19 percent of the country’s land area.

In the face of rumors circulating recently in Argentina’s environmental circles, the national director of Forestry, Juan Pedro Cano, told IPS that the government does not intend to propose changing the law.

“On the contrary, we consider it a very positive law and we are working to improve its implementation,” Cano said.

“We have already created a trust fund to ensure that the national budget funds allocated to the Fund for the compensation of landowners who preserve their forests cannot be reassigned to other needs of the State, as happened in other years,” he added.

That fund should is to 0.3 percent of the national budget, according to the law, but the funds allocated to it have never come close to reaching that level, with a worrying downward trend seen in recent years, warned the FARN report.

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Expansion of Soy Resurrects Key Railway Line in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/expansion-soy-resurrects-key-railway-line-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=expansion-soy-resurrects-key-railway-line-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/expansion-soy-resurrects-key-railway-line-brazil/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 21:44:44 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153893 The railroad can contribute to the economy, making transportation cheaper, but it is unlikely to foment equitable development in and of itself, apart from facing complex construction obstacles in countries like Brazil. The North-South Railway (FNS) is an excellent example. Thirty years after the start of its construction and three years after the central stretch […]

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A train and biofuel storage tanks seen in the yard of the North-South Railway in Porto Nacional, final point of the stretch in operation since 2013, which is using only half of its capacity, most of it to carry soybeans and by-products for export. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A train and biofuel storage tanks seen in the yard of the North-South Railway in Porto Nacional, final point of the stretch in operation since 2013, which is using only half of its capacity, most of it to carry soybeans and by-products for export. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
PORTO NACIONAL, Brazil, Jan 16 2018 (IPS)

The railroad can contribute to the economy, making transportation cheaper, but it is unlikely to foment equitable development in and of itself, apart from facing complex construction obstacles in countries like Brazil.

The North-South Railway (FNS) is an excellent example. Thirty years after the start of its construction and three years after the central stretch began to operate, its viability is uncertain, even though it runs across an area of expanding soy production, which requires large-scale logistics to export.

“It only strengthens agribusiness, it offers nothing to family farms but environmental impacts,” said Messias Vieira Barbosa, one of the coordinators of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Tocantins, a state in north-central Brazil, crossed from end to end by the FNS.

Nor does it benefit the population in general, since it does not provide the passenger transport demanded by a movement to that end, said the activist, a geographer with postgraduate studies on land reform.

Tocantins is a new agricultural frontier, where soy accelerates the concentration of land in the hands of a few landowners, in a process that will intensify with the railway, whose primary function is to transport grains to the northern port of Itaqui to be exported across the Atlantic Ocean.

But even those who benefit directly complain about this new means of transport.

“The freight is still expensive, farmers are not happy because it has not brought down their costs,” complained Mauricio Buffon, president of the Association of Soy and Corn Producers of the State of Tocantins (Aprosoja).

A sea of soy is seen near the city of Porto Nacional, on the right bank of the Tocantins River. The expansion of soy in Tocantins resurrected the North-South Railway, designed in the 1980s with the abstract objective of integrating railway lines east to west, crossing the centre of Brazil, which had little production at that time. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A sea of soy is seen near the city of Porto Nacional, on the right bank of the Tocantins River. The expansion of soy in Tocantins resurrected the North-South Railway, designed in the 1980s with the abstract objective of integrating railway lines east to west, crossing the centre of Brazil, which had little production at that time. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“It is necessary to end the monopoly” of the concessionaire that operates the railway, said the farmer, who moved eight years ago to the city of Porto Nacional from Mato Grosso, the neighbouring state to the west, that produces the most soy and corn in Brazil.

“I came here because the land is cheaper,” he explained. Despite this, Tocantins is not producing soy at lower final prices than Mato Grosso, and the railway did not help in that, he lamented.

Modifying the existing model or making it more flexible, opening the rails to independent logistics operators, is necessary to boost rail transport in Brazil, currently limited to 25 percent of total cargo, and even to reactivate lines that are now abandoned because the companies that control them are not interested in using them.

For the North-South railway, change is indispensable because it is a rail line designed as a “backbone” of the networks in the centre of the country, depending on other lines to deliver their cargo to the port.

“From the middle of nowhere to nowhere” would be its route, according to the sarcastic reaction by experts and the press to the announcement of the project by then president José Sarney in 1986.

At that time the states that it crossed, Maranhão, Tocantins and Goiás, did not have production levels to justify a railway in any foreseeable future. Soy was a crop almost unknown in those territories.

Despite everything, construction began in 1987 and then faltered, with lengthy interruptions, allegations of corruption and decay of stretches already built. But it became a reality along two stretches that total 1,574 km.

It seemed destined to become another white elephant among the many megaprojects that have failed in the last ten years in Brazil, but it started to make sense with the agricultural boom, led by soy, in Tocantins and neighbouring states, such as Bahia, Goiás and Maranhão.

In 1988, Tocantins produced only 47,000 tons of soy, according to the National Supply Company (CONAB) under the Ministry of Agriculture. Twenty years later, by 2008, it climbed to 911,000 tons, and this year the total reached 2.82 million tons.

This is little compared to the 30.5 million tons produced in Mato Grosso, whose exports are transported by truck traveling about 2,000 km to Santos Port, to the southeast, or just over 1,000 km north to Miritituba, a river port from where they continue by waterway to the Atlantic Ocean.

“The current demand (in Tocantins) still does not make the railway financially viable,” but having that infrastructure promotes new productive investments; it depends on how it is managed, said Lilian Bracarense, a professor at the Federal University of Tocantins (UFT) who has a PhD in transport.

Milton Cavichioli Junior, business manager of Granol’s industrial plant in Porto Nacional, estimates the savings made possible with the FNS at 20 percent. That is why the company exports soy bran by train and uses trucks only when there is an express delivery.

Soy producer Elio Rossato, who together with two brothers, all from the extreme south of Brazil, grow the crop on more than 6,000 hectares in Tocantins, after 15 years in the state of Bahia, where the lack of electricity and roads frustrated their goals. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Soy producer Elio Rossato, who together with two brothers, all from the extreme south of Brazil, grow the crop on more than 6,000 hectares in Tocantins, after 15 years in the state of Bahia, where the lack of electricity and roads frustrated their goals. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Granol can be an important user of the FNS because it has another plant in Anapolis, next to the rails, and demands double-track railway, since it buys grains and sells bran and biodiesel, he said.

The logistics in Porto Nacional have an additional cost for those who cross the Tocantins River to transport their products to the railway on the left bank.

The bridge built in 1979 withstands only 30 tons. Today’s large trucks, which carry more than twice that weight, have to go over a sturdier bridge in Palmas, the capital of Tocantins, 60 km away.

“A new bridge will be built in 2018 and will be completed in 1,000 days,” said Olimpio Mascarenhas, secretary of Production and Development in the Porto Nacional city government.

“What increases costs is not the distance, but crossing Palmas in limited hours and at the risk of fines,” complained Elio Rossato, who together with two brothers has grown more than 6,000 hectares of soy on lands that they own or lease, 20 km from the city of Porto Nacional, for the past five years.

The brothers, who migrated from the extreme south of Brazil, lived for 15 years in the state of Bahia, east of Tocantins. “We used to suffer there, without roads or electricity; this is the best place in the world,” he said, praising the roads and the railroad that are now available.

But he pointed out obstacles to growing soy in the low-lying state of Tocantins, about 260 m above sea level in average, which is less than the ideal altitude that soy needs, and the presence of nematodes or roundworms, a disease still without proven remedy.

Solutions may be on the way, as five agricultural research companies are carrying out studies in Porto Nacional and will be able to overcome these problems and diversify production, especially of fruit, he said.

And according to Mascarenhas, the future of the municipality is promising, because it has a great deal of land for agricultural expansion, water to irrigate three crops a year, people trained by three local universities and ideal logistics, with railways, an airport and roads within a radius of 60 km.

But Tocantins will not be “another Mato Grosso”, where soy dominated the countryside, displacing peasants and food production. “Here family agriculture is still resisting: 520 agrarian settlements were created with 28,448 families, from 1987 to 2015,” said Messias Barbosa.

“It depends on public policies to diversify the economy, which are still timid,” argued Thiago de Oliveira, who has a PhD in Regional Development from the UFT. He pointed out that the Belém-Brasilia highway, inaugurated in 1960, dictated the direction taken by Tocantins, with landowners taking over land and displacing peasants to the cities.

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Tocantins, a River of Many Dams in Central Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil/#respond Fri, 12 Jan 2018 02:12:26 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153844 Tocantins, the newest of Brazil’s 26 states, which was created in 1988 to seek its own paths to development in central Brazil, fell into the common plight of expanding borders, based on soy and hydroelectricity. The area owes its name to a river that crosses the state from south to north, but which has been […]

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Access stairway to the Tocantins River in the central Brazilian state of Tocantins, which no longer has flowing water since it was dammed to generate electricity, mostly to be used in other parts of the country, and which contributes very little to local development. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Access stairway to the Tocantins River in the central Brazilian state of Tocantins, which no longer has flowing water since it was dammed to generate electricity, mostly to be used in other parts of the country, and which contributes very little to local development. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
PALMAS and PORTO NACIONAL, Brazil, Jan 12 2018 (IPS)

Tocantins, the newest of Brazil’s 26 states, which was created in 1988 to seek its own paths to development in central Brazil, fell into the common plight of expanding borders, based on soy and hydroelectricity.

The area owes its name to a river that crosses the state from south to north, but which has been converted into a sequence of dams to generate electricity, almost entirely for other states. With no industries and with a population of just 1.5 million, consumption in this state is very limited.

“The lake is beautiful, but it left us without the tourism potential of the river and the electricity is more expensive for us than elsewhere,” complained journalist and writer Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, which he founded in 1987 in Porto Nacional.

The Lajeado hydroelectric power plant, with a capacity of 902.5 megawatts and which is officially named after former member of parliament Luis Eduardo Magalhães, who died in 1998, submerged beaches, crops and houses with its 630 square km reservoir, along a 170-km stretch of the Tocantins river.

“We had beaches in the dry season, islands of white sand that attracted many tourists”, and it was all lost when the water level rose, Rodrigues lamented, at his home in the city’s historical district, a few metres from the shore of the lake.

The journalist, who is the author of 12 books, chronicles, memoirs and novels, is a privileged witness to the transformations in Tocantins, especially in Porto Nacional, the cultural cradle of the state, with a population of about 53,000 people.

His historical novels show the violence of old landowners, the “colonels” appointed by the National Guard, a paramilitary militia that was disbanded in 1922, who dominated the region of Tocantins, as well as the advance in education brought by Dominican priests who came from France in 1886 to spread Catholicism from their base in Porto Nacional.

“They brought knowledge from Europe, they created schools, turning Porto Nacional into a cultural centre, and today a university town, with three universities and students from all over the country,” said the journalist who studied Communication and History in Goiania, capital of the neighboring state of Goiás.

Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, from Porto Nacional, a cultural and university centre in central Brazil with a population of 53,000 located on the right bank of the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, from Porto Nacional, a cultural and university centre in central Brazil with a population of 53,000 located on the right bank of the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The river, which was part and parcel of the city, more than doubled in width when it became a lake, but now it is farther away from the population. Now there are ravines between the coastal avenue and where the water starts, accessed only through two stairways.

Some old families from the city were resettled away from the shore of the lake and indemnified, but most of the displaced were peasant farmers who lived on the other side, on the left bank, where the reservoir was extended the most across the plain.

Anesia Marques Fernandes, 59, is one of those victims.

“We lost the river, the beaches, the tourists, the nearby fish and the fertile lands which we sowed in the dry season,” recalled the peasant farmer, who was resettled along with her mother 21 km from the river in 2000, before the reservoir was filled the following year.

“My mother is the one who suffered the most and still suffers today, at 80 years of age,” after having raised her five children on her own in the flooded rural community, Carreira, because her husband died when she was pregnant with their fifth child, Fernandes said.

In the Flor de la Sierra Resettlement community, home to 49 displaced families, the four hectares of land that were given to them are not even a tenth of what they had before, she said. “But the houses are better,” she acknowledged.

The most important thing, however, was community life, the solidarity among “neighbours who helped each other, shared the meat of a butchered cow. We were one big family that was broken up,” she lamented. In the resettlement community there are only three families from her old village.

Bernardete Batista de Araujo stands in front of the house where she was relocated in Palmas, together with others displaced by the Lajeado hydroelectric dam in central Brazil. The high walls and a street muddy because of the rain make her miss Vila Canela, her old village on an island that no longer exists on the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Bernardete Batista de Araujo stands in front of the house where she was relocated in Palmas, together with others displaced by the Lajeado hydroelectric dam in central Brazil. The high walls and a street muddy because of the rain make her miss Vila Canela, her old village on an island that no longer exists on the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

That is the same complaint voiced by Maria do Socorro Araujo, a 56-year-old retired teacher, displaced from Canela, a submerged beach community, 10 km from Palmas, the capital of the state of Tocantins.

“The community was fragmented, it dispersed, it forgot its culture, its unity and its way of live,” said Araujo, who was resettled in 2001 on block 508 in the north of Palmas, with her husband and three children.

“We lost our land, tranquillity and freedom, there were no fences there; here we live behind high walls,” complained her neighbour Bernardete Batista de Araujo, referring to the house where she was resettled in the capital.

She is pleased, however, to have a roof over her head, a solid three-bedroom house, better than her rustic dwelling in Canela, which had been rebuilt after the river flooded and destroyed it in 1980.

In her small yard, she now tries to compensate for the loss of the many fruit trees in the village flooded by the reservoir, planting papaya, mango and pineapple.

“The bad thing here is the dust in the dry season and the mud when it rains because of the unpaved roads,” a long-standing complaint by the inhabitants of La Cuadra, who are demanding that the road be paved.

Palmas, with a current population of 290,000, is an artificial city, planned according to the model of Brasilia, with wide avenues and squares to accommodate large numbers of cars and blocks arranged by numbers and cardinal points.

Founded in 1989, it took years of construction before becoming in practice the administrative capital of Tocantins.

Antonio Alves de Oliveira, 63, is proud to have been “the third taxi driver” in Palmas, when the city, in its second year, “had nothing but dust and huge numbers of mosquitoes.”

“Fried fly” was the nickname given to an improvised restaurant, he recalled.

Where Palmas is located, the Tocantins River now has an 8.4-km bridge which crosses the reservoir – almost eight times the width before the construction of the Lajeado dam, 50 km downstream (to the north).

The environmental impact study carried out by Investco, the company that built the Lajeado hydropower plant between 1999 and 2001 and has a concession for 35 years, registered only 1,526 families, of which 997 are rural, directly affected by the dam and reservoir.

But Judite da Rocha, local coordinator of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), believes that the real number is close to 8,000 families.

Many groups were not recognised as affected, such as the Xerente indigenous people, boatmen, fishermen, potters, dredgers who extracted sand from the river and seasonal workers, such as “barraqueros” who set up stands to sell beach products in the tourist season, she argued.

But the “worst and most complex situation” is that of the Estreito hydroelectric plant, inaugurated in 2012 in the north of the state of Tocantins, with an installed capacity of 1,087 megawatts.

There are “almost 1,000 families displaced and without compensation”, scattered in seven camps, so that the total number of people affected could reach 12,000, according to Rocha.

MAB estimates that there are 25,000 families in total who suffer the consequences of the hydroelectric power plants built in the state of Tocantins, four of which are on the Tocantins River. Added to three other large plants built in other states, the Tocantins River has a generation capacity of 12,785 megawatts.

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The Reality of North Korea as a Nuclear Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reality-north-korea-nuclear-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/#comments Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:12:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153823 With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel. But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued […]

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Credit: UN photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 2018 (IPS)

With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel.

But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued war of words between two of the world’s most unpredictable leaders: US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Arguing that North Koreans have little reason to give up their weapons program, the New York Times ran a story last November with a realistically arresting headline which read: “The North is a Nuclear Power Now. Get Used to it”.

But the world’s five major nuclear powers, the UK, US, France, China and Russia, who are also permanent members of the UN Security Council, have refused to bestow the nuclear badge of honour to the North Koreans.

North Korea, meanwhile, has pointed out that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, were perhaps facilitated by one fact: none of these countries had nuclear weapons or had given up developing nuclear weapons.

“And that is why we will never give up ours,” a North Korean diplomat was quoted as saying.

Dr M.V. Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, told IPS there is, however, hope in the recent placatory moves by North and South Korea.

“I think that the situation can return to a calmer state, although it is entirely possible that this calmer state would involve North Korea holding on to nuclear weapons. I suspect that for the time being the world will have to live with North Korea’s nuclear arsenal,” he added.

“Although that is not a desirable goal, there is no reason why one should presume that North Korea having nuclear weapons is any more of a problem than India, Pakistan, or Israel, or for that matter, China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, or the United States,” said Dr Ramana, author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, Penguin Books, New Delhi (2012).

“I think the greater problem is the current leadership of the United States that has been making provocative statements and taunts. I think it is for the powerful countries to start the process of calming down the rhetoric and initiate negotiations with North Korea.”

Also, any peace process should be based on reciprocal moves: one cannot simply expect North Korea to scale down its programs without corresponding moves by the United States, he declared.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003), told IPS there is little doubt that North Korea, (also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), has acquired a nuclear weapon capability and the means of delivering it to the mainland of the USA.

That this is clearly in defiance of international norms and a violation of international law and Security Council resolutions is also clear, he noted.

Those norms, quite apart from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), now include the recently negotiated Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

It was adopted on 7 July 2017, but neither the USA nor the DPRK have acceded to it, said Dhanapala a former President of Pugwash (2007-17),

He also pointed out that the persistent efforts of the DPRK since the end of the Korean War to conclude a just and equitable peace with the USA have been rebuffed again and again.

“Past agreements and talks both bilateral and multilateral have failed and we are now witnessing the puerile antics of two leaders engaged in the mutual recrimination of two school-yard bullies asserting that one man’s nuclear button is bigger than the other’s while tensions reminiscent of the Cold War build up alarmingly.”

Such escalation reached dangerous proportions at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis where the historical record proves that the world was saved from nuclear catastrophe by sheer luck.

“We cannot trust to luck anymore,” he warned.

“Some small steps between the two Koreas hold promise of a dialogue beginning on the eve of the Winter Olympics. This must be the opportunity for all major powers to intervene and resume negotiations. The Secretary-General of the UN must act and act now,” he added.

The number of nuclear weapons in the world has declined significantly since the end of the Cold War: down from approximately 70,300 in 1986 to an estimated 14,550, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

According to US intelligence sources, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is anywhere between 20 to 50 weapons. The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) estimates a total of over 50 weapons.

Joseph Gerson, President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, told IPS that successive North Korean governments have pursued their nuclear weapons program for two primary reasons: to ensure the survival of the Kim Dynasty and to preserve the survival of the North Korean state.

“As Scott Snyder (a Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy Council on Foreign Relations) taught us years ago, there is a logic – potentially deadly as is the case with any nuclear weapons program – to the development of North Korea’s deterrent nuclear arsenal.”

Beginning with the Korean War, the United States has threatened and or prepared to initiate nuclear war against North Korea. These threats have added resonance for North Koreans as a consequence of the United States military having destroyed 90% of all structures north of the 38th parallel during the Korean War.

Gerson said it is also worth noting that in the wake of the 1994 U.S.-DPRK nuclear crisis, North Korea was prepared to trade its nuclear weapons program in exchange for security guarantees, normalization of relations and economic development assistance.

The United States failed to fulfill its commitments under the 1994 Agreed Framework, by refusing to deliver promised oil supplies and endlessly delaying its promised construction of two light water nuclear reactors in exchange for the suspension of the DPRK nuclear weapons program.

In 2000, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright negotiated a comprehensive agreement with North Korea. And President Clinton was to travel to Pyongyang to finalize the agreement, but with the political crisis caused by the disputed outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election, he did not make that trip.

Among the first disastrous orders of business of the Bush Administration was the sabotaging of that agreement. This, in turn, led to North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test, said Gerson, author of “Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World”, “The Sun Never Sets…Confronting the Network of U.S. Foreign Military Bases”, and “With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination”.

While expectations for the meeting of North and South Korean officials, currently underway, are low, said Gerson, the world should be celebrating South Korean President Moon’s winter Olympic-related diplomatic initiatives and the resulting functional Olympic Truce.

By welcoming North Korean athletes to participate in the Olympics and by postponing threatening U.S.-South Korean military “exercises,” President Trump’s “my nuclear button is bigger than yours” –ratcheting up of dangers of war have been sidelined– he pointed out.

Following his inauguration last year, President Moon announced that he had a veto over the possibility of a disastrous U.S. initiated second Korean War. Having exercised that veto and forced Trump’s hand, he has opened the way for deeper diplomacy and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Gerson said: “There remains, of course, the danger the Olympic Truce will simply serve as a temporary reprieve, with President Trump, beleaguered by the Muller investigation and seemingly endless scandals, again ratcheting up tensions. Disastrous war remains a possibility should the nuclear monarch opt for a desperate and deadly maneuver in his struggle for political survival.”

There never was, nor will there be, a military solution to the U.S.-North Korean nuclear crisis, and as U.S. military authorities have repeated warned, given Seoul’s proximity to North Korean artillery, even a conventional U.S. military attack against North Korea would result in hundreds of thousands of South Korean casualties and could escalate to uncontrollable and genocidal nuclear war.

The way forward requires direct U.S.-North Korean negotiations, possibly in multi-lateral frameworks like the Six Party Talks, Gerson noted.

As the growing international consensus advocates, resolution of the tensions will necessitate some form of a “freeze for freeze” agreement, limiting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in exchange for halting U.S. threats to destroy or overturn the North Korean government and to implement previous commitments to normalization of relations.

With this foundation in place, future diplomacy can address finally ending the Korea War by replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty and building on numerous proposals for the creation of a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.

In the end, Gerson said, the only way to prevent similar nuclear weapons proliferation crises is for the nuclear powers to finally fulfill their Article VI Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligation to negotiate the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

As the Nobel Peace Laureate and senior Manhattan Project scientists Joseph Rotblat warned, humanity faces a stark choice. “We can either completely eliminate the world’s nuclear weapons, or we will witness their global proliferation and the nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will long tolerate what it perceives to be an unjust hierarchy of nuclear terror.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Argentina Pursues the Lithium Dreamhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentina-pursues-lithium-dream/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-pursues-lithium-dream http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentina-pursues-lithium-dream/#respond Thu, 11 Jan 2018 01:33:47 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153818 The government of Mauricio Macri dreams of Argentina becoming the world leader in lithium production. But it does not seem so clear that this aspiration, underpinned by the interest of multinational corporations, would also drive the development of local communities. With just two projects in operation, Argentina today contributes some 40,000 tons per year of […]

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The effort to search for lithium in the Salar de Caucharí-Olaroz, in the province of Jujuy, is a project developed by the Exar mining company, a joint venture between Canadian Lithium Americas Corp (LAC) and the Chilean Sociedad Química y Minera (SQM). In total, there are 53 projects in the exploration or project feasibility phases. Credit: Mining Chamber of Commerce of the Province of Jujuy

The effort to search for lithium in the Salar de Caucharí-Olaroz, in the province of Jujuy, is a project developed by the Exar mining company, a joint venture between Canadian Lithium Americas Corp (LAC) and the Chilean Sociedad Química y Minera (SQM). In total, there are 53 projects in the exploration or project feasibility phases. Credit: Mining Chamber of Commerce of the Province of Jujuy

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 11 2018 (IPS)

The government of Mauricio Macri dreams of Argentina becoming the world leader in lithium production. But it does not seem so clear that this aspiration, underpinned by the interest of multinational corporations, would also drive the development of local communities.

With just two projects in operation, Argentina today contributes some 40,000 tons per year of that key chemical element for batteries that are used around the world in, for example, cell phones and electric cars, representing 16 percent of global production, according to data from Argentina’s Energy and Mining Ministry (MinEM).

But these numbers are expected to increase significantly in the near future, because the main international companies engaged in this business – strongly linked to the energy transition from fossil fuels to clean sources – have already landed in Argentina.

Thus, in the last two years the sector has received nearly two billion dollars in foreign investment, and today there are no less than 53 projects in the phases of exploration or technical and economic feasibility studies, which cover a total area of 876,000 hectares in the northwest of the country, according to MinEM.

“In Argentina what we can do so far is extract lithium carbonate. The problem is that we do not have the technology or the patents for the assembly of the batteries,” economist Benito Carlos Aramayo told IPS.

“As a result, lithium will not change the production model of the northwest of the country, which is the production of raw materials. It will only expand it a little, because today we depend mainly on sugarcane and tobacco,” added Aramayo, assistant dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the National University of Jujuy.

The llama is the animal best adapted to the arid conditions of the Argentinean region of the Puna de Atacama. The photo shows a group of llamas near a salt flat where exploration for lithium is being carried out. Credit: Mining Chamber of Commerce of the Province of Jujuy

The llama is the animal best adapted to the arid conditions of the Argentinean region of the Puna de Atacama. The photo shows a group of llamas near a salt flat where exploration for lithium is being carried out. Credit: Mining Chamber of Commerce of the Province of Jujuy

Together with Salta and Catamarca, Jujuy is one of the northwestern provinces that account for most of the country’s lithium reserves. In fact, of the 53 projects that are expected to begin to operate soon, 48 are in these three provinces, in the Puna ecoregion.

The Puna is an arid zone, with salt flats that are over 4,000 meters above sea level, which is part of what has been called the “Lithium Triangle”, and includes northern Chile and southwestern Bolivia. In recent years, different scientific reports have pointed out that the region has approximately half of the world’s lithium reserves.

Chile has led the world market in recent years, but at present big investors in the sector seem to be looking towards Argentina, just as global demand for lithium is expected to rise threefold by 2025.

The intense exploratory activity carried out recently in the Argentine Puna increased the country’s lithium reserves, which in 2015 were estimated at 6.3 percent of the global total, compared to 13.8 percent today.

This growth was shown in a report jointly prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Argentina’s Geological and Mining Service (SEGEMAR), which was made public in late November 2017.

“Argentina can become the world’s leading lithium exporter,” said Tom Schneberger, vice president of FMC Lithium, which through its subsidiary Minera del Altiplano produces some 22,500 tons of lithium a year in the Salar del Hombre Muerto, in the northwestern province of Catamarca.

In November, Schneberger announced investments for 300 million dollars with the objective of doubling the production in the salt flat by 2019, and gave two reasons to justify the company’s expectation: increased global demand and the “clear rules” set by the Macri administration.

“The previous government’s policies offered few certainties,” he said.

The question is whether the exploitation of lithium reserves can bring benefits to the inhabitants of northwestern Argentina, a particularly impoverished area that has been increasingly in decline in recent years.

According to a paper by Aramayo, the province of Jujuy accounted for just 1.3 percent of Argentina’s GDP in 1980, and for only 0.6 percent this decade.

Historian Bruno Fornillo, who has researched what he calls “the geopolitics of lithium,” wrote that “the profits of the lithium energy industry – as in the case of the processing of all raw materials since the very start of capitalism – rise as you go up the value chain”.

Fornillo sees lithium as a possible tool for a new model of development and urges that local activity not be restricted to the extraction of the metal, but that it move towards the manufacturing of batteries, which requires a strong production of scientific knowledge.

This would, of course, involve the difficult task of breaking with the export and extractivist model.

“The extraction of lithium has things in common with other extractivisms, which are disguised as industries, but they are not, because they produce nothing, they only extract,” naturalist Claudio Bertonatti, an adviser to the Félix de Azara environmental foundation, told IPS.

“These industries have such economic power that they tend to overpower institutions in poor regions. And until a while ago they were associated with neoliberal governments, but lately we have realised that these companies have such power that the extractivism does not change, regardless of who is in the government,” he added.

The process of extracting lithium in the salt flats begins with the pumping of brine and continues with a long process of evaporation. Thus, using chemical substances, lithium is separated from other salts.

It is a similar method, although on an industrial scale, to the one used for generations to produce salt by the indigenous populations of the area, who have lived for thousands of years in the region where the lithium reserves are concentrated.

The indigenous property of many of the territories is also a source of conflict and, in fact, 33 communities from the provinces of Salta and Jujuy filed a claim in 2010 with Argentina’s Supreme Court, to try to assert their right to to be consulted, but was rejected by the highest court for formal reasons.

Later, in 2015, the same communities presented a consultation protocol that respects the principles and ancestral values of their peoples, the Kolla and Atacama, called Kachi Yupi (“Footprints of Salt”, in their native language). The document was delivered to the authorities to be used in any project that could affect them.

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Clean Energy Sources Manage to Cut Electricity Bill in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/clean-energy-sources-manage-cut-electricity-bill-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=clean-energy-sources-manage-cut-electricity-bill-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/clean-energy-sources-manage-cut-electricity-bill-chile/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 01:59:20 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153796 A 75 percent drop in electricity rates, thanks to a quadrupled clean generation capacity, is one of the legacies to be left in Chile by the administration of Michelle Bachelet, who steps down on Mar. 11. In December 2013, the electricity supply tender for families, companies and small businesses was awarded at a price of […]

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The Maipo River, where the Alto Maipo hydroelectric project is being built, flows down from the Andes range to Santiago and is vital to supply drinking water to the Chilean capital, a city of seven million people. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The Maipo River, where the Alto Maipo hydroelectric project is being built, flows down from the Andes range to Santiago and is vital to supply drinking water to the Chilean capital, a city of seven million people. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jan 9 2018 (IPS)

A 75 percent drop in electricity rates, thanks to a quadrupled clean generation capacity, is one of the legacies to be left in Chile by the administration of Michelle Bachelet, who steps down on Mar. 11.

In December 2013, the electricity supply tender for families, companies and small businesses was awarded at a price of 128 dollars per megawatt hour, compared to just 32.5 dollars in the last tender of 2017.

“An important regulatory change was carried out with the passage of seven laws on energy that gave a greater and more active role to the State as a planner. This generated the conditions for more competition in the market,” Energy Minister Andrés Rebolledo told IPS."According to the projections, from here to 2021 there is a portfolio of projects totaling 11 billion dollars in different tenders on energy, generation and electricity transmission. The interesting thing is that 80 percent are NCRE projects." -- Andrés Rebolledo

Four years ago, large companies were concerned over the rise in electricity rates in Chile, and several mining companies stated that due to the high price of energy they were considering moving their operations to other countries. Currently, big industrialists have access to lower prices because they renegotiate their contracts with the generating companies.

The new regulatory framework changed things and allowed many actors, Chilean or foreign, to enter the industry, thanks to bidding rules that gave more room to bids for generating electricity from non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE), mainly photovoltaic and wind, the most efficient sources in the country.

“This happened at a time when a very important technological shift regarding these very technologies was happening in the world. We carried out this change at the right time and we took advantage of the significant decline in cost of these technologies, especially in the case of solar and wind energy,” the minister said.

Eighty companies submitted to the tender for electricity supply and distribution in 2016, and 15 submitted to the next distribution tender, “in a phenomenon very different from what was typical in the Chilean energy sector, which was very concentrated, with only a few players,” he added.

Manuel Baquedano, president of the Chilean non-governmental Institute of Political Ecology, believes that there was “a turning point in the Chilean energy mix, with a shift towards renewable energy.”

This change occurred, Baquedano told IPS, “because people didn’t want more megaprojects like the Hydroaysén hydroelectric plant in the south, and Punta de Choros in the north (both widely rejected for environmental reasons), and that curbed the growth of the oligopolies.”

The Atacama desert in northern Chile has the highest solar radiation on the planet, one of this country’s advantages when it comes to developing solar energy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud / IPS

The Atacama desert in northern Chile has the highest solar radiation on the planet, one of this country’s advantages when it comes to developing solar energy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud / IPS

“Globally, solar and wind energy are much more competitive than even fossil fuels. Today solar energy is being produced at a lower cost than even coal. That has led to the creation of a new scenario, thanks to this new regulation policy,” he added.

In addition, said the expert in geopolitics of energy, “that change was approved by the community and environmentalists who have raised no objections to the wind and solar projects.”

... But conflicts over hydroelectric projects continue to rage

Marcela Mella, spokesperson for the environmental group No al Alto Maipo, told IPS that they have various strategies to continue opposing the construction of the hydroelectric project of that name, promoted by the US company AES Gener on the river that supplies water to Santiago.

The project would involve the construction of 67 km of tunnels to bring water to two power plants, Alfalfal II and Las Lajas, with a capacity to generate 531 megawatts. Started in 2007, it is now paralysed due to financial and construction problems. But in November the company anticipated that in March it would resume the work after solving these problems.

"The project puts at risk Santiago's reliable drinking water supply. This was demonstrated when construction began and heavy downpours, which have been natural phenomena in the Andes mountain range, dragged all the material that had been removed and left four million people without water in Santiago," said Mella.

He added that Alto Maipo will also cause problems in terms of irrigation water for farmers in the Maipo Valley, who own 120,000 hectares.

“In the past four years, the government enjoyed a fairly free situation to develop projects (of those energy sources) that some have qualms about from an environmental perspective,” he said.

“It is not a process that any future government can stop. It is a global process into which Chile has already entered and is being rewarded for that choice. There is no longer a possibility of returning to fossil fuels, as is happening in the United States where there is an authoritarian government like that of Donald Trump,” Baquedano added.

The environmental leader warned that although “there is a margin for the rates and costs to decrease, it will not last forever.” For that reason, he proposed “continuing to raise public awareness of NCRE.”

The energy sector was a leader in investments in the last two years in Chile, surpassing mining, the pillar of the local economy.

Rebolledo said: “During the government of President Bachelet, 17 billion dollars have been invested (in the energy industry). In Chile today there are some 250 power generation plants, half of which were built under this government. And half of that half are solar plants.”

In May 2014, just two months after starting her second term, after governing the country between 2006 and 2010, Bachelet – a socialist – launched the “Energy Agenda, a challenge for the entire country, progress for all“.

“According to the projections, from here to 2021 there is a portfolio of projects totaling 11 billion dollars in different tenders on energy, generation and electricity transmission. The interesting thing is that 80 percent are NCRE projects,” he said.

Currently there are 40 electrical projects under construction, almost all of them involving NCRE.

Another result is that Chile now has a surplus in electricity and the large increase in solar power is expected to continue as the country takes advantage of the enormous possibilities presented by the north, which includes the Atacama desert, with its merciless sun.

Chile’s power grid, previously dependent on oil, coal and large hydroelectric dams, changed radically, which led to a drop of around 20 percent in fossil fuel imports between 2016 and 2017. In addition, it no longer depends on Argentine gas, which plunged the country into crisis when supply was abruptly cut off in 2007.

“In March 2014, when Bachelet’s term began, the installed capacity in Chile of NCRE, mainly solar and wind, was five percent. This changed significantly, and by November of this year it had reached 19 percent,” said Rebolledo.

The minister pointed out that if solar and wind generation is added to the large-scale hydropower plants, “almost 50 percent of everything we generate today is renewable energy. The rest is still thermal energy, which uses gas, diesel and coal.”

In the Energy Agenda, as in the nationally determined contribution (NDC), the commitment assumed under the Paris Agreement on climate change, Chile set goal for 20 percent of its energy to come from NCRE by 2025 – a target that the country already reached in October.

“We have set ourselves the goal that by 2050, 70 percent of all electricity generated will be renewable, and this no longer includes only the NCRE but also hydro,” Rebolledo said.

For the minister, a key aspect was that these goals were agreed by all the actors in the sector.

“Because this change happened so rapidly, that 70 percent could be 90 percent by 2050, and within that 90 percent, solar energy will probably be the most important,” he said.

Baquedano, for his part, argues that now “comes the second stage, which is to democratise the use of energy by allowing solar energy and renewables to reach citizens and small and medium industries directly, therefore modifying distribution.”

“”Democratisation means that we are going to demand that all NCRE projects have environmental impact studies and not just declarations (of environmental impact),” he said.

“Democratisation means that every person who has resources or who can acquire them, becomes a generator of energy for their own consumption and that of their neighbours. Let new actors come in, but also citizens. These new actors are the indigenous communities, the community sector and the municipalities, which are not after profits,” he asserted.

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Landlocked, a Railway Remains Idle in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/landlocked-railway-remains-idle-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=landlocked-railway-remains-idle-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/landlocked-railway-remains-idle-brazil/#respond Sat, 06 Jan 2018 00:13:37 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153765 The rails have been laid – thousands of km of rails deteriorating due to lack of use, to the despair of those who believe that a country as vast as Brazil can only be developed by means of trains. Brazil built 37,000 km of railways up to six decades ago, but their use has declined […]

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Several underused tracks of the North-South Railway near Anápolis, an industrial city in Brazil that can expand its economy as a logistics hub, thanks to the confluence of rail, road and air transport, together with its proximity to Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Several underused tracks of the North-South Railway near Anápolis, an industrial city in Brazil that can expand its economy as a logistics hub, thanks to the confluence of rail, road and air transport, together with its proximity to Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
ANÁPOLIS, Brazil, Jan 6 2018 (IPS)

The rails have been laid – thousands of km of rails deteriorating due to lack of use, to the despair of those who believe that a country as vast as Brazil can only be developed by means of trains.

Brazil built 37,000 km of railways up to six decades ago, but their use has declined since then. Today about one- third of the network is abandoned and another third is underutilised.

This stands out in the North-South Railway (FNS). Its longest stretch, in Brazil’s geographical centre, was inaugurated in May 2014, but it still does not operate regularly in this country of 8,515,770 square km and 208 million inhabitants.

The 855-km FNS, which runs from the north-central state of Tocantins toAnápolis, 130 km from Brasilia, will be extended by an additional 682 km – a project that is in the final phase of construction and will reach Estrela D’Oeste, in the interior of São Paulo, the most developed state in Brazil.

“It’s a mess, a series of errors and bottlenecks,” according to Edson Tavares, former superintendent of the Anapolis Dry Port and transport consultant. With terminals far from the sea, the FNS depends on more railways to become viable, he told IPS.

The Dry Port is an inland port or multimodal logistics centre or terminal connected to seaports by rail.

The chosen route of the FNS includes “curves that make it necessary to cut in half the intended speed of 80 km per hour” and moves away from busy loading areas such as mines and cement factories, complained the expert, who believes it will take “much more time” for the new railway to take off.

Construction began in 1987 and suffered frequent interruptions and allegations of corruption. The first section, to the north,did not start operating until 2013, and the concession is held by VLI, a logistics company controlled by Vale, the world’s largest exporter of iron ore.

Trucks fill the streets of the Anápolis Agribusiness District, in Brazil, loading or unloading products and raw materials, next to the North-South Railway, which is practically unused, waiting for the concession to be granted to an operator in 2018. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Trucks fill the streets of the Anápolis Agribusiness District, in Brazil, loading or unloading products and raw materials, next to the North-South Railway, which is practically unused, waiting for the concession to be granted to an operator in 2018. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This 720 km-stretch is able to operate thanks to having “right of passage” through the Carajás Railway, which reaches the Port of São Luis, through which Vale ships iron ore from the Carajás range, in the north of Brazil.

This makes it possible to transport to a port soy and other products from Tocantins, a state in the northern region of Brazil, which contrasts with the other six northern states because only nine percent of its territory is in the Amazon rainforest and the rest in the Cerrado, the Brazilian savanna.

But the southern stretch of the FNS has been left unresolved.

“With the railway operating, Anápolis will become the main logistics centre in Brazil, since it is also the kilometre zero (start) of the Belém-Brasilia highway, crossing two other national roads, and it will have an important cargo airport which in its final phase of construction”, said Vander Barbosa, secretary of Development and Agriculture in the city government.

That city in the state of Goiás also has the most important industrial district in the west-central region of Brazil, with a pharmaceutical hub of 20 companies, a car-making and engine factory run bySouth Korea’s Hyundai and food, beverage and construction materials firms.

Many of these companies produce their own heavy and bulky goods for railway transport. The Granolcompany, for example, processes soybeans and was the first of the few companies that used the new railway to sporadically export their bran.

Since its plant is right next to the rails, it can load the trains through a short pipeline that carries the bran directly to the wagons. Biodiesel is another of its products transportable through the FNS.

A plant belonging to the Granolcompany, which produces soy branand biodiesel, next to the North-South railroad, in Brazil, where a pipeline from the factory makes it possible to load the wagons directly. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A plant belonging to the Granolcompany, which produces soy branand biodiesel, next to the North-South railroad, in Brazil, where a pipeline from the factory makes it possible to load the wagons directly. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Anapolisis also set to be a storage and shipment point of grains for much of the central-west, the region with the highest agricultural production, especially of soy, corn and cotton. For this purpose, the FNS Intermodal terminal still has plenty of available space.

The military defense equipment industry is also strong in the city, which has a strategic air base for the protection of Brasilia, 130 km away as the crow flies.

The idea that transport routes, whether roads or railways, “attract development” does not always automatically come true; “it requires other policies in an integrated manner to generate economic growth,” said Lilian Bracarense, a professor of post-graduate studies in Regional Development at the Federal University of Tocantins.

“The Central-West, North and Northeast regions of Brazil have a lack of infrastructure, but that does not always justify private investments in the sector, as occurs in the South and Southeast, where there is an established demand,” she told IPS.

“The vicious circle that without demand infrastructure is not built, and without infrastructure demand is not generated”, according to the researcher who has a PhD in transport, seems to be broken by the government decision to introduce the railway that runs across the centre of the country from north to south.

Tocantins, with a population of 1.5 million, has an agricultural production limited to about 4.5 million tons of various grains, but the state of Goiás, population 6.8 million, recorded a harvest this year of almost 22 million tons, according to the National Supply Company (Conab) attached to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The idea behind the FNS is to create loading and unloading terminals throughout Goiás, especially in Anápolis due to the importance of industry there, and to attract productive investments as well. But that is where rail transport runs into obstacles.

The city and state of Goiás is more integrated with the economy of the Brazilian Southeast, more developed and closer to the port of Santos, more than 1,000 kilometers away by road, than with the northern ports, which are all at least 1,600 km away.

As a railway without an outlet to the sea, but with an “extensive area of influence”, the North-South railway, and the Brazilian rail system in general, need three conditions to operate satisfactorily, according to José Carlos Medaglia, CEO of the Planning and Logistics Company, attached to the Transport Ministry.

“The right of passage”, which allows logistics operators and a railroad concession company to transport cargo by rail from another company, is already legal but has to be fulfilled in practice, that is the first requirement, Medaglia told IPS.

To be effective, the railways must also have “surplus”transport capacity to provide to third parties, and standardised operation, with rails, equipment, personnel and other uniform technical requirements, of the same level of quality and training, so that they can operate on the railways of other companies, he said.

“All that was unimaginable in the past in Brazil”, which has a tradition of a “vertical” railway system, where the company that holds the concession for the infrastructure is its only operator.

This does not prevent competition, said Medaglia, who added that what is needed in any case is “good regulation,” to enforce the right of passage, and investments to expand capacity and modernise the system.

This can be achieved by negotiating with the country’s five railway networks new operating conditions to extend their concessions that will expire in the coming years.

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Critical Issues to Watch in 2018http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/critical-issues-watch-2018/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=critical-issues-watch-2018 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/critical-issues-watch-2018/#comments Tue, 02 Jan 2018 11:27:44 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153698 Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

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More than 480 billion plastic bottles were sold in the world in 2016, in 2018 we can expect international cooperation to reduce the use of plastic and how to treat plastic waste. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS

More than 480 billion plastic bottles were sold in the world in 2016, in 2018 we can expect international cooperation to reduce the use of plastic and how to treat plastic waste. Credit: Athar Parvaiz/IPS

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Malaysia, Jan 2 2018 (IPS)

Another new year has dawned, and on a world facing serious disruption on many fronts.  What are the trends and issues to watch out for in 2018?

One obvious answer is to anticipate how Donald Trump, the most unorthodox of American Presidents, will continue to upset the world order.  But more about that later.

Just as importantly as politics, we are now in the midst of several social and environmental trends that have important long-lasting effects.  Some are on the verge of reaching a tipping point, where a long-term trend produces critical and sometimes irreversible events. We may see some of that in 2018.

Who would have expected that 2017 would end with such an upsurge of the movement against sexual harassment? Like a tidal wave it swept away famous or important persons from their posts, including Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, film star Kevin Spacey, TV talk-show host Charlie Rose, US Senator Al Franken, and UK Minister Michael Fallon.

The #MeToo movement took years to gather steam, with the 1991 Anita Hill testimony against then US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas being a trailblazer.  It paved the way over many years for other women to speak up until the tipping point was reached last year. In 2018, expect the momentum to continue and in more countries.

 

Clicktivism & Real Life Activism Potent Instruments Against Sexual Violence

Another issue that has been brewing is the rapid growth and effects of digital technology.  Those enjoying the benefits of the smartphone, Google search, Whatsapp, Uber and on-line shopping usually sing its praises and wonder what life would be like without them.

But the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.  It has many benefits such as more convenience and choice for consumers and higher efficiency and reduced costs for businesses.  But it also has serious downsides, and the debate is now picking up.

First, automation with artificial intelligence can make many jobs redundant.  Uber displaced taxis, and has now booked thousands of driver-less cars which will soon displace its army of drivers.

The global alarm over job losses was sounded a few years ago and is gathering speed.  Scholarly studies warn that as many as half of jobs or work tasks in industries including electronics, automobiles and textiles, and professional services such as accountancy, law and healthcare, will be replaced by robots within one or two decades.

New country-based estimates are being produced. An estimated 44% of jobs in the United Kingdom could feasibly be automated, equating to 13.7 million people who together earn about 290 billion pounds sterling, according to a 28 December 2017 article in The Guardian (London), citing a new study by the UK  think tank IPPR.

In Malaysia, 54% of jobs is at high risk of being displaced by technology in the next 20 years according to a 2017 study by government-owned think-tank Khazanah Research Institute, citing a International Labour Office report.

The global alarm over job losses was sounded a few years ago and is gathering speed. Scholarly studies warn that as many as half of jobs or work tasks in industries including electronics, automobiles and textiles, and professional services such as accountancy, law and healthcare, will be replaced by robots within one or two decades.


Second is a recent chorus of warnings, including by some of digital technology’s creators, that addiction and frequent use of the smartphone are making humans less intelligent (as time and interest traditionally used to acquire broad and in-depth knowledge is now replaced by the narrow skills and short span attention required by social media) and socially deficient (as relations through social media replace direct human relationships).

Third is the loss of privacy, as personal data obtained from our internet use is collected by tech companies like Facebook and Google and sold to advertisers.  The companies have the data on personal details and preferences of millions or even billions of individuals which can be used for commercial, and possibly non-commercial, purposes.

Fourth is the threat of cyber-fraud, other cyber-crimes and cyber-warfare as data from hacked devices can be used to damage computers and websites; empty bank accounts; steal information from governments and companies;  send out false information; and engage in high-tech warfare.

Fifth is the worsening of inequality and the digital divide as those countries and people with little access to digital devices will be left behind or even lose their livelihoods.  The internet can be used by big companies or tech-savvy small and medium sized firms to establish growing markets for their products, which is one of the major attractions of the digital economy.

But firms, individual entrepreneurs and the self-employed that cannot adapt or keep pace with the new internet technologies, or that operate in places that do not even have access to the internet, are unable to take advantage of internet marketing and are also at increasing risk of their business being taken over by the big wave of on-line shopping.

The developing countries will be most badly hit by the inequities of the digital revolution; except for a few, they have much less capacity to gain.  Even in developed countries, the digital revolution will widen the rich-poor gap.  According to the IPPR study, low-paid job-related roles are in greatest danger as automation threatens jobs generating wages worth 290 billion pounds.

The usual response to these points is that people and governments must be prepared to take advantage of the benefits of the digital revolution and offset  the ill effects.  Suggestions include that laid-off workers should be retrained, companies be taught to use e-commerce, and a tax can be imposed on using robots (an idea supported by Microsoft founder Bill Gates).

But the technologies are moving ahead faster than policy makers’ capacity to understand or keep track of them, let alone come up with policies and regulations.

Expect this debate to move from conference rooms to the public arena in 2018, as more technologies are introduced and more effects become evident.

In 2018, the environmental crisis will continue to attract great public concern. On climate change, scientists frustrated by the lack of action, will continue to raise the alarm that the situation is far worse than earlier predicted.

In fact the tipping point may well be reached already.   On 20 December, the United Nations stated that the Arctic has been forever changed by rapidly warming climate.  The Arctic continued in 2017 to warm at double the rate of the global temperature increase, resulting in loss of sea ice, and other effects.  “The Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region it was decades ago,” said the Arctic Report Card authored by 85 scientists.

The Arctic phenomenon is only one of the signs of accelerating global warming.  Last year saw many extreme weather events including hurricanes, tropical storms, wild fires and drought which climate change likely exacerbated; and 2015-2017 have been the three warmest years on record.

The target of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a benchmark just two years ago by the IPCC (the UN’s climate change scientific panel) and the Paris Agreement, now seems out of date and a new target of 1.5 degrees will be considered in 2018.

But it is much harder to meet this new target than the existing one, especially since the rise in average global temperature has already passed the 1 degree level.    Will political leaders and the public rise to the challenge, or will this coming year see a wider disconnect between what scientists say needs to be done, and a lack of response, and what will be the impact of the bad example of the US under President Trump?

And will the developing countries get the financial resources and technologies needed by them to take climate action, as pledged as commitments by the developed countries?

 

Credit: UNEP

 

Air pollution has now gained recognition as one of the world’s top killers.  With urban smog proliferating worldwide, including in the two big capital cities of New Delhi and Beijing, a tipping point may have been reached in public consciousness of its threat to human life and health. In 2018, there should be a big jump in policy measures to tackle this danger.

Plastic pollution in the world’s seas and oceans has also reached alarming proportions with the head of the UN environment programme Erik Solheim describing it as “Armageddon in the making” and predicting there will be the same weight of plastic as fish in the seas by 2050 if this continues.

Last year there was a lot of publicity given to this problem, including estimates there were 480 billion plastic bottles in the world in 2016, and we can expect international cooperation to reduce the use of plastic and how to treat plastic waste.

Another issue reaching tipping point is the continuing rise of antibiotic resistance, with bacteria mutating to render antibiotics increasingly ineffective to treat many diseases.   There are global and national efforts to contain this crisis, but these are only beginning in most countries, and far from adequate. Yet there is little time left to act before millions die from once-treatable ailments.

Finally, back to President Trump.  Since he showed last year that his style and policies are disrupting the domestic and global order, and he does seem to  care but even thrives on this, we can expect more of the same or even more shocking pronouncements and measures from him in 2018.

The opposition to his policies from foreign countries will mean little to him. But Trump has many enemies domestically who consider him a threat to the American system.   So long as the Republicans control both houses in the US Congress, the President may feel his position is secure.  But this may change if he commits what is perceived by his Party as a major blunder, or if the Democrats capture enough seats in the mid-term Congressional elections in November.

At this moment, it looks unlikely that a tipping point will be reached regarding Trump’s presidency and we will probably still be discussing what new policies he will unleash, this time next year.  But in politics today, as in other areas, nothing can be really reliably predicted.

The post Critical Issues to Watch in 2018 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

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Central America Weakens Forest Shield Against Future Droughtshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-weakens-forest-shield-future-droughts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-weakens-forest-shield-future-droughts http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-weakens-forest-shield-future-droughts/#respond Sun, 31 Dec 2017 17:55:22 +0000 DANIEL SALAZAR http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153692 Jazziel Baca lives in the municipality of Esquías, in western Honduras, one of the areas hardest hit by the southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis), which damaged almost 500,000 hectares of forest in that Central American country between 2013 and 2015. Supposedly, the pest that was destroying the pines would stop spreading with the rains, but […]

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Costa Rica increased its forest cover, but some wetlands and areas in the north of the country have been affected by deforestation and drought. The high use of agrochemicals and fertilisers in agro-industrial activities and logging in neighboring lands damaged the Palo Verde wetland and the surrounding forests. Credit: Miriet Abrego / IPS

Costa Rica increased its forest cover, but some wetlands and areas in the north of the country have been affected by deforestation and drought. The high use of agrochemicals and fertilisers in agro-industrial activities and logging in neighboring lands damaged the Palo Verde wetland and the surrounding forests. Credit: Miriet Abrego / IPS

By Daniel Salazar
SAN JOSE, Dec 31 2017 (IPS)

Jazziel Baca lives in the municipality of Esquías, in western Honduras, one of the areas hardest hit by the southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis), which damaged almost 500,000 hectares of forest in that Central American country between 2013 and 2015.

Supposedly, the pest that was destroying the pines would stop spreading with the rains, but the rainy season came and there was no rain. He told IPS that apart from fewer trees, his town also has less water, the soil has eroded and some of the neighboring communities face drought.

This is not the only problem causing them to run out of water.

In Honduras, forest coverage shrank by almost a third, from 57 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2015, explained by an increase of monoculture, extractive projects, livestock production and shifting cultivation. It is the Central American country with the greatest decline in forest cover, in a region where all of the countries, with the exception of Costa Rica, are destroying their forests.The Tapantí National Park, east of San José, has more than 50,000 hectares of forest. Costa Rica is the only one in Central America that has increased its forest cover in the last 15 years. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

According to the State of the Region Programme, the 2017 environmental statistics published this month, since 2000 Central America has lost forest cover and wetlands, vital to the preservation of aquifers, which coincided with a widespread regional increase in greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

It is not good news, said Alberto Mora, the State of the Region research coordinator, who noted that the region could have 68 departments or provinces suffering severe aridity towards the end of the century, compared to fewer than 20 today.

Mora also stressed that demand for drinking water could grow by 1,600 percent by the year 2100, according to the study prepared by the State of the Nation of Costa Rica, an interdisciplinary body of experts funded by the country’s public universities.

“This greatly exacerbates the impacts of global warming and rising temperatures, on ecosystems and their species. It is really a serious problem in Central America,” he told IPS.

Fewer trees, less food

Baca, an environmental engineer active in the environmental NGO Friends of the Earth, explained that farmers are moving higher up the mountains, because the soil they used to farm is no longer fertile. Using the slash-and-burn technique, they grow their staple foods.

But also, he said, “we have very long droughts and, without rainy seasons, the peasant farmers can’t plant their food crops, which gives rise to emergency situations in terms of food security.”

To the west of Honduras, in neighboring Guatemala, losses are also reported in forest cover. In 2000, 39 percent of the territory was covered by trees; that proportion had fallen to 33 percent by 2015.

The Tapantí National Park, east of San José, has more than 50,000 hectares of forest. Costa Rica is the only one in Central America that has increased its forest cover in the last 15 years. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

The Tapantí National Park, east of San José, has more than 50,000 hectares of forest. Costa Rica is the only one in Central America that has increased its forest cover in the last 15 years. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

Although fewer and fewer hectares of forest are cut down in that country, the problem persists and continues to generate serious food security challenges.

Agricultural engineer Ogden Rodas, coordinator of FAO’s Forest and Farm Facility in that country, explained to IPS from Guatemala City that the loss of forests is affecting Guatemala’s ability to obtain food in multiple ways.

Currently, he said, peasant and indigenous communities have less food from seeds, roots, fruits or leaves and fewer jobs, which were previously generated in activities such as weeding and pruning.

Their ability to put food on their tables is also affected, as the destruction of the forest cover impacts on the water cycles, affecting irrigated agriculture.

Rodas believes that her country needs to strengthen governance, the management of agribusiness crops such as sugar cane and African oil palm, to create alternatives for forest-dwelling communities and develop strategies for the sustainable use of firewood, a problem common to the entire region.

In Honduras, another FAO specialist, René Acosta, told IPS from Tegucigalpa that the government has committed to reforesting up to one million hectares by 2030, but the task will only be possible if it is coordinated with all the actors involved, and incentives and ecotourism business capabilities are generated.

Costa Rica increases its forest cover

The forest cover in Central America decreased from 46 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2015.
Forest cover shrank from 32 to 26 percent in Nicaragua, from 66 to 62 percent in Panama, and from 16 to 13 percent in El Salvador.

The exception was Costa Rica where more than half (54 percent) of the land is covered by trees, compared to 47 percent 15 years ago.

Pieter Van Lierop, subregional forestry officer and team leader of the FAO Natural Resources, Risk Management and Climate Change Group in Costa Rica, explained that there are many factors driving this process.

The progress made is due, he said, “in part to the priority put in this country on its forest policy.”

“Another factor is the structural changes in agriculture, which have reduced the pressure to convert forests into agricultural land and have led to an increase in the area covered by secondary forests and to legal controls to prevent the change from natural forest to other uses for the land,” he said.

Some sustainable practices contribute to this increase in forested areas in the country.

For example, there has been a programme of payment for environmental services in place for two decades, financed by a tax on fossil fuels, among other sources.

The State pays the equivalent of 300 dollars every five years for each privately-owned hectare of protected forest and 1,128 dollars to owners who wish to create a secondary forest on their farms.

“What have we gained with this? That many more people come to see the forests,” said Gilmar Navarrrete, one of the heads of the programme of the.National Forestry Financing Fund (FONAFIFO).

“Hurricane Otto also hit recently: if we didn’t have the forest cover we have, the impact would have been very serious,” he told IPS.

There are other programmes in place. Lourdes Salazar works in Paquera, Lepanto and Cóbano, in northwest Costa Rica, with 83 farmers in a programme financed by the non-governmental Fundecooperación and supported by other public institutions.

“We work together with farmers because we want them to adapt to climate change, establish improved pastures, and change their mentality. We want them to let fruit trees grow, as well as timber trees for shade, which will also help them produce more,” the agricultural engineer told IPS.

Salazar takes part in a 10 million dollar project which aims to impact 400 farms around five hectares in size, which each farmer must reforest while raising cattle and pigs and growing organic produce.

“The farmers themselves say it’s more beneficial. If there was only one tree in a pasture all the cows would huddle there. Why not leave more trees? They have been learning that they produce more when they implement this type of practices,” said Salazar.

The post Central America Weakens Forest Shield Against Future Droughts appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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