Inter Press Service » Editors’ Choice http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:05:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Feminism Slowly Gaining Support at United Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/feminism-slowly-gaining-support-at-united-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=feminism-slowly-gaining-support-at-united-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/feminism-slowly-gaining-support-at-united-nations/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 04:22:27 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146150 Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 21 2016 (IPS)

Achieving gender equality has long been one of the United Nations’ top priorities yet the word feminism has only recently begun to find its way into speeches at UN headquarters.

Croatia’s Vesna Pusic, one of 12 candidates for the post of UN Secretary-General, explained why she thought her feminism made her suitable for the UN’s top job, during a globally televised debate, on 12 July.

“I happen to be a woman, I don’t think this is enough, I happen to be a feminist and I think this is (important),” Pusic said, to applause from the diplomats and UN staff filling the UN General Assembly hall.

Pusic joins other high profile feminists at the UN including British actor Emma Watson, whose September 2014 speech about her own feminism gained worldwide media attention.

More recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at a UN meeting in March 2016 that there shouldn’t be such a big reaction every time he uses the word feminist.

“For me, it’s just really obvious. We should be standing up for women’s rights and trying to create more equal societies,” he said.

Perhaps more significant though than these speeches is Sweden’s recent election to the UN Security Council on a feminist foreign policy platform.

“I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.” -- Emma Watson

Sweden will join the 15-member council for two years in January 2017, the same month that the new Secretary-General will take office. There are hopes that the UN’s ninth Secretary-General, will be the first woman to lead the organisation, with women making up half of the 12 candidates currently under consideration.

“There could be a lot of elements coming together to finally create some momentum for progress,” Jessica Neuwirth, one of the founders and Honorary President of Equality Now told IPS.

Even the number of female candidates running represents a change for the UN, Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association UK told IPS.

“Not only has no woman ever held the UN’s top job, but just three of 31 formal candidates in previous appointments have been female.”

The push to select a female Secretary-General has seen all candidates, both male and female, eager to show their commitment to gender equality.

Whoever is selected will be continuing on work already started by current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Neuwirth, who believes that Ban has shown a commitment to gender equality at the UN, even if he may not use the word feminist to describe himself.

“I’m not a person who really lives or dies on the words, I think what people do is really much more important than what they call themselves,” said Neuwirth, who is the director of Donor Direct Action, founded to raise funds for frontline women’s groups.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever heard (Ban) use the word feminist, definitely not to describe himself,” she added. “On the other hand as somebody who had the privilege of working at the UN during his tenure I did see first hand the efforts he made to increase the representation of women at the UN at the highest levels, he made a very conscious effort to increase those numbers.”

“It’s still not 50:50 and it’s even slid backwards which is disappointing, but he showed that one person can make a big difference.”

Samarasinghe also noted that even if the word feminist is not explicitly used at the UN, its meaning is reflected in the UN’s many objectives for achieving gender equality.

“Feminism is about women and men having equal opportunities and rights – something reaffirmed countless times in UN documents, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights onwards.”

However Samarasinghe noted that the word feminist remains controversial. The UN’s 193 member states include many countries which lag far behind outliers such as Sweden and Canada on gender equality.

“Being a feminist is a complete no-brainer. It’s like having to explain to people that you’re not racist. But clearly the word is still controversial so we have to keep using it until people get it,” she said.

Emma Watson noted in her high profile UN speech, that the word feminist is not as easy to use as it should be.

“I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.”

“Apparently, I’m among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even,” said Watson.

In late 2015, some media reported that Watson had said she had been advised not to use the word feminist in her speech.

Neuwirth who was present when Watson made her speech told IPS that Watson’s choice of words ultimately had a strong impact.

“That was an incredible event, I mean the level of emotion in that room was so high it was kind of shocking to me.”

“There were so many diplomats there, which was a good thing, and it was just really a powerful speech that she made, and it moved them, you could just see visibly that it moved them,” said Neuwirth.

However since Watson’s speech, progress on gender equality at the UN has not always been easy.

Media organisation PassBlue, which monitors gender equality at the UN, has noted that the number of women appointed to senior UN positions has been slipping.

When Sweden takes up its position on the Security Council, it will have big strides to make on both improving women’s representation in decision making positions at the UN and enacting policies which promote gender equality more broadly.

In fact, it is anticipated that all 15 permanent representatives on the UN Security Council in 2017 will be men, unless the United States chooses a woman to replace Samantha Power, who is expected to leave her post by the end of 2016.

Sweden hopes to use its seat on the Security Council to increase women’s involvement in negotiating and mediating peace agreements, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at a media briefing hosted by Donor Direct Action on 30 June.

Neuwirth welcomed Wallstrom’s comments, noting that in Syria, for example, women continue to be shut out of peace negotiations.

Syrian women “are trying to play a meaningful role in the negotiations over Syria, which are totally a mess,” she said, “yet these women really just are struggling so hard to get even inside a corridor let alone to the table.”

“Why wouldn’t they just give these women a little more of a chance to see if they could do better, because it would be hard to do worse?”

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Malawi Leads Africa’s Largest Elephant Translocationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malawi-leads-africas-largest-elephant-translocation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malawi-leads-africas-largest-elephant-translocation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/malawi-leads-africas-largest-elephant-translocation/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 11:13:47 +0000 Charles Mkoka http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146153 Elephants in a solar-powered holding pen in Malawi, which is carrying out a major translocation between conservation parks. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

Elephants in a solar-powered holding pen in Malawi, which is carrying out a major translocation between conservation parks. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

By Charles Mkoka
LILONGWE, Jul 20 2016 (IPS)

One of the world’s largest and most significant elephant translocations kicked off earlier this month within Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi.

Patricio Ndadzela, Malawi country director of African Parks, a non-profit conservation group based in South Africa that is leading the relocation, told IPS that so far, 10 bulls and 144 family groups of elephants have been successfully captured from the park and transported 300 kilometers by truck to their new home in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in central Malawi.

A few decades ago, around 1,500 elephants roamed Malawi’s biggest wildlife reserve, but now only a few herds totaling about 100 remain. The park is poised to be revitalised and serve as a critical elephant sanctuary for populations nationwide.

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve covers 1,800 square kms of Miombo woodlands and afro-montane forest along Chipata Mountain on the border with Ntchisi district. The relocation, which began on July 3, involves tranquilising the elephants by dart from a helicopter and loading them by crane onto trucks for the journey to Nkhotakota."It's a story of hope and survival. It is a story of possibility." -- Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks

The World Wildlife Federation notes that elephants remain under severe threat from ivory poaching, habitat loss, and human-wildlife conflict. Since 1979, African elephants have lost over half of their natural range. Less than 20 percent of African elephant habitat is currently under formal protection.

Local engagement for a balanced ecosystem

But Malawi is setting an example for the rest of the continent in how to protect elephants with the full consent and assistance of local communities. Before embarking on this major translocation exercise, African Parks engaged peripheral communities after taking over the reserve in July last year from government. Zonal area committees were established at the traditional authority level. These are chiefs of jurisdiction in the four districts that border the reserve. The districts are Nkhota Kota, Mzimba, Ntchisi and Kasungu.

“We have had a good working partnership with African Parks, together with the local people. They are managing the reserve for 25 years.  So far a number of activities have been done in consultations with the local people,” says Malijani Kachombo, the Traditional Authority Mphonde in Nkhota Kota district.

“They then brought the issue of restocking endangered species so that we have a more balanced ecosystem. This promise that they made has now been fulfilled today. The translocation of 500 elephants is no more a promise but reality.”

The animals will be well secured now as a new fence is already under construction and communities have been given ownership of the reserve, said the chief.

Other animals were also relocated, including 23 zebras, 25 elands, 220 waterbuck, 284 impalas, 32 warthogs, 99 kudu, 200 sables and two collared black rhinos.

A special landing site

As part of their integration into the reserve, a special landing site for the animals was chosen that provided for basic needs. According to Samuel Kamoto, African Parks Manager for Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, the site was identified after confirming that it had adequate water, shelter and food for the animals.

More importantly, they considered the proximity of the landing site’s accessibility to the road, since the heavy trucks carrying the animals need to align the doors with the entrance of the holding pen.

“Elephants started arriving last night and we let them inside the holding pen so that they can rest and regroup as social beings and families. This enables the animals to settle down first other than just letting them out, which confuses them,” Kamoto told IPS.

Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Wildlife at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, John Kazembe, said that the move was a good option considering the fact that Liwonde National Park was relatively small. Overcrowding of elephant populations in Liwonde had led to the animals devouring large areas of vegetation and coming into conflict with local people.

“Elephant herds should be moved into the reserve at intervals so that the ecosystem is not overwhelmed by a one-off relocation,” Kazembe said.

Peter Fearnhead, Chief Executive Officer of African Parks, said “Most stories we hear about elephants in Africa are doom and gloom. This translocation of 500 elephants, which is a pivotal moment for Malawi who is emerging as a leader in African elephant conservation, is a story of hope and survival. It is a story of possibility.”

It’s hoped that this rich reserve, coupled with a good working partnership with the local populace, will enable the animals to resettle quickly.

The giant seven-week translocation is costing 1.6 million dollars, and has been made possible with support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the Wyss Foundation, the Wildcat Foundation, Donna and Marvin Schwartz, Dioraphte and the People’s Post Code Lottery.

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Forests: To Farm or Not to Farm? This Is the Question!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/forests-to-farm-or-not-to-farm-this-is-the-question/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forests-to-farm-or-not-to-farm-this-is-the-question http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/forests-to-farm-or-not-to-farm-this-is-the-question/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 14:31:09 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146138 Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

The dilemma is critical: on the one hand, there is an absolute need to produce more food for the world’s steadily growing population; on the other, there is pressing urgency to halt -and further revert- the increasing trend to deplete the forests, which are as necessary for human survival as it is for ensuring their dietary needs.

So what is at stake ? Forests play a major role in sustainable agricultural development through a host of channels, including: water cycle, soil conservation, carbon sequestration, natural pest control, influencing local climates and providing habitat protection for pollinators and other species.

But agriculture accounts for the lion’s share of the conversion of forests. In the tropics and subtropics large-scale commercial agriculture and local subsistence agriculture are responsible for about 40 per cent and 33 per cent of forest conversion, respectively, and the remaining 27 per cent of deforestation happens due to urban growth, infrastructure expansion and mining.

How to achieve the two vital objectives? The top United Nations organisation dealing with food and agriculture speaks loud and clear while providing specific data.

“While agriculture remains the most significant driver of global deforestation, there is an urgent need to promote more positive interactions between agriculture and forestry to build sustainable agricultural systems and improve food security, says UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

This has been the key message of the FAO flagship publication The State of the World’s Forests, presented on July 18 at the opening of the one-week Session (Rome, 18-22 July) of the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO).

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the Paris Agreement on climate change, recognises that we can no longer look at food security and the management of natural resources separately,” says FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

“Both agreements call for a coherent and integrated approach to sustainability across all agricultural sectors and food systems. Forests and forestry have key roles to play in this regard. The key message from SOFO is clear: it is not necessary to cut down forests to produce more food,” Graziano da Silva added.

But while agriculture plays a major role in the on-going conversion of forests, FAO’s report stresses that forests serve many vital ecological functions that benefit agriculture and boost food production.

“Food security can be achieved through agricultural intensification and other measures such as social protection, rather than through expansion of agricultural areas at the expense of forests,” says Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division.

Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

“What we need is better cross-sectoral coordination of policies on agriculture, forestry, food and land use, better land use planning, effective legal frameworks, and stronger involvement of local communities and smallholders.”

According to Müller “Governments should provide local communities not only with secure land tenure but also with secure forest tenure rights. A farmer knows best how to manage his or her own resources but often lacks legal instruments to do so.”

How to Improve Food Security While Halting Deforestation

The fact is that well-managed forests have tremendous potential to promote food security. Besides their vital ecological contributions, FAO reports, forests contribute to rural livelihoods and poverty alleviation through income generated by engaging in the production of forest goods and environmental services.

Not only – approximately 2.4 billion people rely on wood-fuel for cooking and water sterilisation. And forest foods provide protein, minerals and vitamins to rural diets and can also serve as safety nets in periods of food scarcity.

According to The State of the World’s Forests report, since 1990, over 20 countries succeeded in improving national levels of food security while at the same time maintaining or increasing forest cover – demonstrating that it is not necessary to cut down forests to produce more food.

Twelve of these countries increased forest cover by over 10 per cent: Algeria, Chile, China, the Dominican Republic, the Gambia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Morocco, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, Viet Nam.

“Their successes all relied on a similar set of tools: effective legal frameworks, secure land tenure, measures to regulate land-use change, policy incentives for sustainable agriculture and forestry, adequate funding, and clear definition of roles and responsibilities of governments and local communities.”

Successful Case Studies

The report cites case studies from seven countries –Chile, Costa Rica, The Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Tunisia and Viet Nam– that illustrate the opportunities for improving food security while increasing or maintaining forest cover.

Six of these countries achieved positive change in the period 1990-2015 in two food-security indicators – the prevalence of undernourishment and the number of undernourished people – as well as increases in forest area.

Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

The report explains as follows the case of some of these countries:

The Gambia, the only low-income country among the seven, succeeded in achieving the first goal of halving the proportion of hungry people within the same period.

Viet Nam, for example, has implemented a successful land reform to provide secure land tenure as a way of encouraging long-term investment.

This process was accompanied by a shift from state forestry to multi-stakeholder forestry with the active participation of local communities including a forest land allocation programme and forest protection contracts with local households.

The land reform was also coupled with policy instruments to increase agricultural productivity, including land tax exemptions, soft loans, export promotion, price guarantees, support for mechanisation and reductions in post-harvest losses.

In Costa Rica, deforestation reached its peak in the 1980s, mainly due to the conversion of forest cover to pastures.

The country has since reversed this trend largely due to the forest law, which now prohibits changes in land use from natural forest, and its system of Payments for Environmental Services, which provides farmers with incentives to plant trees, and supports forest conservation.

As a result, forest cover has increased to nearly 54 per cent of the country’s land area in 2015.

In Tunisia national development plans recognise the beneficial role of forests in protecting land against erosion and desertification.

There, agricultural production has increased through intensification that makes better use of existing agricultural land through irrigation, fertilisers, mechanisation, improved seeds and better farming practice. Incentives for establishing forest plantations in the country include free seedlings and compensation for the loss of agricultural income.

The key themes of the FAO Committee on Forestry session seek to respond directly to the milestone agreements of 2015 and investigate how forests and sustainable forest management can contribute to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals.

Together with the World Forest Week, the committee considers how the full potential of forests, including forests’ contributions to livelihoods, food security, jobs, gender equality and many other global development goals including the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreements, can best be unlocked.

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Germany’s Energy Transition: The Good, the Bad and the Uglyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:19:42 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146128 In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
COLOGNE, Germany, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

Immerath, 90 km away from the German city of Cologne, has become a ghost town. The local church bells no longer ring and no children are seen in the streets riding their bicycles. Its former residents have even carried off their dead from its cemetery.

Expansion of Garzweiler, an open-pit lignite mine, has led to the town’s remaining residents being relocated to New Immerath, several kilometres away from the original town site, in North Rhine-Westphalia, whose biggest city is Cologne.

The fate of this small village, which in 2015 was home to 70 people, reflects the advances, retreats and contradictions of the world-renowned transition to renewable energy in Germany.

Since 2011, Germany has implemented a comprehensive energy transition policy, backed by a broad political consensus, seeking to make steps towards a low-carbon economy. This has encouraged the generation and consumption of alternative energy sources.

But so far these policies have not facilitated the release from the country’s industry based on coal and lignite, a highly polluting fossil fuel.

“The initial phases of the energy transition have been successful so far, with strong growth in renewables, broad public support for the idea of the transition and major medium and long term goals for government,” told IPS analyst Sascha Samadi of the non-governmental Wuppertal Institute, devoted to studies on energy transformation.

Renewable electricity generation accounted for 30 percent of the total of Germany’s electrical power in 2015, while lignite fuelled 24 percent, coal 18 percent, nuclear energy 14 percent, gas 8.8 percent and other sources the rest.

This European country is the third world power in renewable energies – excluding hydropower – and holds third place in wind power and biodiesel and fifth place in geothermal power.

Germany is also renowned for having the highest solar power capacity per capita in photovoltaic technology, even though its climate is not the most suitable for that purpose.

But the persistence of fossil fuels casts a shadow on this green energy matrix.

“The successful phasing out of fossil fuels entails a great deal of planning and organisation. If we do not promote renewables, we will have to import energy at some point,” Johannes Remmel, the minister for climate protection and the environment for North Rhine-Westphalia, told IPS.

Germany has nine lignite mines operating in three regions. Combined, the mines employ 16,000 people, produce 170 million tonnes of lignite a year and have combined reserves of three billion tonnes. China, Greece and Poland are other large world producers of lignite.

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Garzweiler, which is owned by the private company RWE, produces 35 million tonnes of lignite a year. From a distance it is possible to see its cut-out terraces and blackened soil, waiting for giant steel jaws to devour it and start to separate the lignite.

Lignite from this mine fuels nearby electricity generators at Frimmersdorf, Neurath, Niederaussen and Weisweiller, some of the most polluting power plants in Germany.

RWE is one of the four main power generation companies in Germany, together with E.ON, EnBW and Swedish-based Vattenfall.

Coal has an expiry date

The fate of coal is different. The government has already decided that its demise will be in 2018, when the two mines that are still currently active will cease to operate.

The Rhine watershed, comprising North Rhine-Westphalia together with other states, has traditionally been the hub of Germany’s industry. Mining and its consumers are an aftermath of that world, whose rattling is interspersed with the emergence of a decarbonized economy.

A tour of the mine and the adjoining power plant of  Ibberbüren in North Rhine-Westphalia shows the struggle between two models that still coexist.

In the mine compound, underground mouths splutter the coal that feeds the hungry plant at a pace of 157 kilowatt-hour per tonne.

In 2015 the mine produced 6.2 million tonnes of extracted coal, an amount projected to be reduced to 3.6 million tonnes this year and next, and to further drop to 2.9 million in 2018.

The mine employs 1,600 people and has a 300,000 tonne inventory which needs to be sold by 2018.

“I am a miner, and I am very much attached to my job. I speak on behalf of my co-workers. It is hard to close it down. There is a feeling of sadness, we are attending our own funeral”, told IPS the manager of the mine operator, Hubert Hüls.

Before the energy transition policy was in place, laws that promoted renewable energies had been passed in 1991 and 2000, with measures such as a special royalty fee included in electricity tariffs paid to generators that are fuelled by renewable energy sources.

The renewable energy sector invests some 20 billion dollars yearly and employs around 370.000 people.

Another measure, adopted in 2015 by the government in Berlin, sets out an auction plan for the purchase of photovoltaic solar power, but opponents have argued that large generation companies are being favoured over small ones as the successful bidder will be the one offering the lowest price.

Energy transition and climate change

Energy transition also seeks to meet Germany’s global warming mitigation commitments.

Germany has undertaken to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent in 2020 and by 95 per cent in 2015. Moreover, it has set itself the goal of increasing the share of renewable energies in the end-use power market from the current figure of 12 per cent to 60 per cent in 2050.

In the second half of the year, the German government will analyse the drafting of the 2050 Climate Action Plan, which envisages actions towards reducing by half the amount of emissions from the power sector and a fossil fuel phase-out programme.

In 2014, Germany reduced its emissions by 346 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 27.7 per cent of the 1990 total. However, the German Federal Agency for Environment warned that in 2015 emissions went up by six million tonnes, amounting to 0.7 per cent, reaching a total of 908 million tonnes.

Polluting gases are derived mainly from the generation and use of energy, transport and agriculture.

In 2019, the government will review the current incentives for the development of renewable energies and will seek to make adjustments aimed at fostering the sector.

Meanwhile, Germany’s last three nuclear power plants will cease operation in 2022. However, Garzweiler mine will continue to operate until 2045.

“There are technological, infrastructure, investment, political, social and innovation challenges to overcome. Recent decisions taken by the government are indicative of a lack of political will to undertake the tough decisions that are required for deep decarbonisation”, pointed out Samadi.

Companies “now try to mitigate the damage and leave the search for solutions in the hands of the (central) government. There will be fierce debate over how to expand renewable energies. The process may be slowed but not halted”, pointed out academic Heinz-J Bontrup, of the state University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen.

Meanwhile, the regional government has opted to reduce the Garzweiler mine extension plan, leaving 400 million tonnes of lignite underground.

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Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: The Sooner, the Betterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/implementing-the-sustainable-development-goals-the-sooner-the-better/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=implementing-the-sustainable-development-goals-the-sooner-the-better http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/implementing-the-sustainable-development-goals-the-sooner-the-better/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 04:05:53 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146119 The UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals are projected onto UN headquarters. UN Photo/Cia Pak

The UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals are projected onto UN headquarters. UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Phillip Kaeding
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

The first 1000 days after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals are critical, according to a report published last week, urging UN member states to take action quickly.

“It’s a little bit like a pension,” Elizabeth Stuart of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) says, “the longer you leave paying into a pension, the more expensive it gets… The SDGs work the same way.”

The ODI compared current progress on some of the development goals with the goals and targets and showed that a delay of six years in Sub-Saharan Africa can almost double the effort that have to be put into achieving goals such as universal birth registration.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are supposed to be attained by 2030. A first review is in progress at the moment as part of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, although officially the goals have only been in place for 7 months, and most member states are yet to even gather baseline data, showing where they are beginning from.

Without explicit data, experts think that it will be difficult to motivate states to start working on the SDGs early. That is why the report “Leaving no one behind” emphasizes the benefits of tackling the most urgent development problems as soon as possible.

“It’s a little bit like a pension... the longer you leave paying into a pension, the more expensive it gets… The SDGs work the same way.” -- Elizabeth Stuart, ODI.

At a high-level meeting here on Monday, many states expressed their approval of a quick start to implementation. Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation stated that “you cannot only point at others, you also have to point to yourself”.

For Boima Kamara, Liberian Minister of Finance, it is important to “give voice to those who are marginalized” as a way to ensure that no one is left behind. Of course, apart from the unanimous approval of the 2030 Agenda, all participants at the event highlighted their own countries’ milestones.

However, one of the main issues is, as the Colombian representative Simon Gaviria said, that ‘leaving no one behind’ can mean “everything, and nothing, at the same time”. Each country therefore has to set a focus and re-structure the Agenda according to its own national context.

Developed countries like the UK, Germany or Canada explained that they would be splitting the work on sustainable development in aid for countries in greater need and particular areas of deficit in their own societies.

Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Program, and candidate for the position of UN Secretary General, identified the three most urgent steps for everyone:

“First, identifying what is actually driving inequalities… Second, understanding why people are falling back into poverty… And thirdly, identifying how critical it is to work across the different silos of the humanitarian, the development, the human rights, the peacebuilding. Working in silos just doesn’t get the best results for people.”

The ODI report also discusses the needs people want to see addressed. It argues that instead of specific goals, the people that are ‘left behind’ actually wish for government spending on key services like roads and electricity in general.

The report makes it clear that the costs of achieving the ambitious goals are high. But it also shows that delaying action will push them up even more.

“If countries are not travelling along this critical pathway, it may already be too late to reach the SDGs for all their citizens. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, countries already need to reduce preventable child deaths at a rate of 7 percent each year between 2015 and 2030 to meet the global target. If they wait until 2018, that rate increases to 9 percent”, the report states.

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Fast-track Development Threatens to Leave Indigenous Peoples Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 20:26:39 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146115 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fast-track-development-threatens-to-leave-indigenous-peoples-behind/feed/ 0 Biodiversity, GMOs, Gene Drives and the Militarised Mindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biodiversity-gmos-gene-drives-and-the-militarised-mind/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 12:44:27 +0000 Vandana Shiva 2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146103 TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.]]>

TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.

By Dr Vandana Shiva
NEW DELHI, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

A recent report from the National Academy of Science of The United States, titled Gene Drives on the Horizon : Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values”, warns:

Dr Vandana Shiva

Dr Vandana Shiva

“One possible goal of release of a gene-drive modified organism is to cause the extinction of the target species or a drastic reduction in its abundance.”

Gene Drives have been called “mutagenic chain reactions”, and are to the biological world what chain reactions are to the nuclear world. The Guardian describes Gene Drives as the “gene bomb”.

Kevin Esvelt of MIT exclaims “a release anywhere is likely to be a release everywhere”, and asks “Do you really have the right to run an experiment where if you screw up, it affects the whole world?”

The NAS report cites the case of wiping out amaranth as an example of “potential benefit”. Yet, the “magical technology” of Gene Drives remains a Ghost, or the Department of Defence of the United States Government’s secret “weapon” to continue its War on Amaranthus Culturis.

The aforementioned study on ghost-tech was sponsored by DARPA (The Pentagon’s Research Ghost) and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (The ghost of the Microsoft Monopoly). DARPA has been busy.

Interestingly, Microsoft BASIC was developed on a DARPA Supercomputer across the street from MIT, at Harvard. Where does DARPA end and MIT start? Where does Microsoft end and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation start.

The orientation of our technologies has been dictated by the DARPA-Mind, a Mechanical Mind trained in War, and Gates continues to colonise meaning, just as gates had done to our lands, and the Green Revolution has done to our food.

Our planet has evolved, in balance, creating balance, for 4.6 billion years. Homo sapiens emerged around 200,000 years ago. About 10,000 years ago, Peasants developed the selection and breeding of seeds and domesticated agriculture began.

Human creativity combined with nature to provide the abundance that allowed the evolution of societies and species. Humanity and Nature renewed each other, sustaining civilisation and providing the potential for the Industrial Revolution.

75 years ago DARPA-Mind began its Extermination Experiment, and sent humanity off-axis. The Chemicals, Materials, and Technologies acquired during “The War”, and patented (interestingly, the Internal Combustion Engine Patent belongs to Texaco), were forced on Amaranthus Culturis – The Cultures of Living Cycles.

DARPA-Mind called it “The Green Revolution”, colonised the meanings of those two words, and began Stockpiling Chemicals of War in Our Fields; there is nothing “green” or “revolutionary” about Extermination, it must be a secret service code name for the assault that now has the names “Gene Drives”, “CRISPR”, or more accurately, Genetic Engineering.

“CASE STUDY 6: CONTROLLING PALMER AMARANTH TO INCREASE AGRICULTURE PRODUCTIVITY

Objective: Create gene drives in Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri also called pigweed), to reduce or eliminate the weed on agricultural fields in the Southern United States.


Rationale: Palmer amaranth infests agricultural fields throughout the American South. It has evolved resistance to the herbicide glyphosate, the world’s most-used herbicide (Powles, 2008), and this resistance has be- come geographically widespread.”

Palmer Amaranth has emerged as one of the superweeds. Instead of seeing the emergence of Palmer Amaranth as a superweed, as a result of the failure of the misguided approach of Herbicide Resistant GMOs, Monsanto & Co – which includes investors, scientists, corporations, DARPA, and Gates, are now rushing to drive the Amaranth species to extinction through the deployment of an untested Tool.

The tool of gene editing and gene drives – genetic “Copy-Paste”. Untested DARPA-Mind Tools have real impacts on our world. Intelligence requires that we stop, and assess why the tool of GMOs is creating superweeds, instead of controlling weeds, as it promised. Such assessment is real Science.

The ‘DARPA-Mind report’ casually states potential harm:

“Gene drives developed for agricultural purposes could also have adverse effects on human well- being. Transfer of a suppression drive to a non-target wild species could have both adverse environmental outcomes and harmful effects on vegetable crops, for example. Palmer amaranth in Case Study 6 is a damaging weed in the United States, but related Amaranthus species are cultivated for food in in Mexico, South America, India, and China.”

A scientific assessment would tell us that plants evolve resistance to herbicides which are supposed to kill them because they have intelligence, and they evolve. Denial of intelligence in life, and denial of evolution is unscientific. 107 Nobel Laureates – including two that have long passed on – “signed” a letter in support Genetic Engineering a few days ago. Clearly ‘Science’ did not prompt that “communication”.

Amaranth’s root, the word amara – meaning ‘eternal’ and ‘deathless’ in both Greek and Sanskrit – connects two formidable Houses of the Ancient World. From the high slopes of the Himalayas, through the plains of north, central and south India, to the coastlines of the east, west and the south, Amaranth is a web of life in itself. Numerous varieties are found throughout the country. In fact, the Himalayan region is one of the ‘centres of diversity’ for the Amara-nth.

Amaranth, Amaranto, love-lies-bleeding, tassel flower, Joseph’s coat, or ramdana (gods own grain) is the grain of well-being. It is rich in names, nutrition, history and meaning. There are records of Amaranth cultivation in South and Meso America as far back as 5,000 B.C.

The sacred Amaranth criss-crosses the Ancient World, nourishing cultures from the Andes to the Himalayas. Amaranth is a sacred grain for the Indian Civilisation as much as it is for the Aztec Civilisation, civilisations in the shadow of time, yet very much alive. To force cultivation of cash crops that could be traded more easily, the cultivation of Amaranth was forbidden, and punishable by death.

The “pagan” grain that built civilisations was outlawed, to pave the way for Cash Crops for traders.

amaranto.com reports:

“Amaranth was also used as a ceremonial plant in the Aztec empire. In several days the religious calendar, Aztec or Inca women grind or roasted amaranth seed, mixing it with honey or human blood, giving it the shape of birds snakes, deer, or mountains and Gods, ate them with respect and devotion as Food of the Gods.”

The leaves of the amaranth contain more iron than spinach, and have a much more delicate taste. If Popeye – “the sailor man”, had Amaranth on his “ship”, he wouldn’t have needed canned food to fight off his nemesis – “the bearded captain”. Besides rice bran, the grain of the amaranth has the highest content of iron amongst cereals.

1 kilogram of Amaranth flour, added to 1 kilogram of refined wheat flour, increases its iron content from 25 milligrams to 245milligrams. Adding amaranth flour to wheat/rice flour is a cheaper and healthier way to prevent nutritional anaemia; rather than buying expensive tablets, tonics, health drinks, branded and bio fortified flour, or canned spinach from the ship.

The Amaranth is extremely rich in complex carbohydrates and in proteins. It has 12-18% more protein than other cereals, particularly lysine – a critical amino acid.It also differs from other cereals in that 65% is found in the germ and 35% in the endosperm, as compared to an average of 15% in the germ and 85% in the endosperm for other cereals.

When Amaranth flour is mixed 30:70 with either rice flour or wheat flour, protein quality rises, from 72 to 90, and 32 to 52, respectively. The Amaranth grain is about the richest source of calcium, other than milk. It has 390 grams of calcium compared to 10 grams in rice, and 23 grams in refined flour.

The diversity of Amaranth Greens are incredible, edibles that grow uncultivated in our fields. They are a major source of nutrition. Per 100 grams, Amaranth greens can give us 5.9 grams of protein, 530 milligrams of calcium, 83 milligrams of phosphorous, 38.5 milligrams of iron, 14,190 micrograms of carotene, 179 micrograms of Vitamin-C, 122 milligrams of Magnesium.

Amaranth is nearly 500% richer in Carotene than GMO Golden Rice – which is being promoted as a ~~~future miracle~~~ for addressing Vitamin A deficiency.

Golden Rice has failed to materialise for 2 decades. Phantom technology?

The poorest, landless woman and her children have access to nutrition through the generous gift of the Amaranth .

Industrial agriculture – promoted by United States Foreign Policy – treated Amaranth greens as “weeds”, and tried to exterminate with herbicides. Then came Monsanto, with Round Up Ready crops, genetically engineered to resist the spraying of Round Up so that the GMO crop would survive the otherwise lethal chemical, while everything else that was green perished.

As was stated by a Monsanto spokesman during the negotiations of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Herbicide resistant GMOs “prevent the weeds from stealing the sunshine”.

This DARPA-Mind world view is distorted.

Firstly, what are weeds to Monsanto are food and nutrition for women of the South. Secondly, the sun shines with abundance for all. Sharing the sun’s blessing is a right of all species.

In Amaranthus Culturis – the world of biodiversity and the sun, scarcity is alien, there is merely abundance. Sharing abundance creates abundance. It is not stealing. Stealing is a concept created by Monsanto & Co. When farmers save and share seeds, Monsanto would like to define it as “stealing”.

When the sun shines on the earth and plants grow, Monsanto would like to define it as a plants “stealing” the sunshine, while Monsanto Co. privateers our biodiversity.

This is exactly how seed famine and food famine are engineered through a world view which transforms the richness of diversity into monocultures, abundance into scarcity. The paradigm of Genetic Engineering is based on Genetic Determinism and Genetic Reductionism.

It is based on a denial of the self organised, evolutionary potential of living organisms. It treats living organisms as a lego set. But life is not lego, meccano, or stratego. It is life – complex, self organised, dynamic evolution – auto poetic.

The right to food and nutrition of the people outside the US , and the right of the amaranth to continue to grow and evolve and nourish people, can be extinguished by powerful men in the US because they messed up their agriculture with Round up Ready crops, and now want to mess up the planet, its biodiversity , and food and agriculture systems of the world with the tool of gene drives to push species to extinction.

As in the case of GMOs, the rush for Gene Drives, and CRISPR-based Gene Editing are linked to patents.

Bill Gates is financing the research that is leading to patents. And he with other billionaires has invested $130 million in a company EDITAS to promote these technologies. Bayer, the new face on Monsanto & Co, has invested $35 million in the new GMO Technologies, and committed $300 million over the next 5 years.

“Biofortification” has been given the world food prize of 2016, yet biofortification is inferior to the nutrition provided by biodiversity and indigenous knowledge. The same forces promoting biofortification are also promoting the extermination of nutritious crops like amaranth, as well as rich indigenous cultures of food.

The project of deliberately exterminating species is a crime against nature and humanity. It was a crime when Bayer and others, of IG Farben, exterminated Jews in concentration camps, and is a crime still. The very idea of extermination is a crime. Developing tools of extermination in the garb of saving the world is a crime. A crime that must not be allowed to continue any further.

The DARPA-Mind is obsolete

We are members of an Earth Family. Every species, every race is a member of one Earth Community. We cannot allow some members of our Earth Family to allocate to themselves the power and hubris to decide who will live, and who will be exterminated.

A scientific assessment of the failure of herbicides and GMOs to control weeds , and the success of ecological agriculture in controlling pests and weeds without the use of violent tools will lead us to a paradigm-shift from industrial farming to ecological agriculture – to cultures of eternity.

Dr Vandana Shiva’s article was published in vandanashiva.com. Go to Original – vandanashiva.com | Source: TRANSCEND Media Service.

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

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Rewriting Africa’s Agricultural Narrativehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 11:08:02 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146098 Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

Albert Kanga Azaguie no longer considers himself a smallholder farmer. By learning and monitoring the supply and demand value chains of one of the country’s staple crops, plantain (similar to bananas), Kanga ventured into off-season production to sell his produce at relatively higher prices.

“I am now a big farmer. The logic is simple: I deal in off-season plantain. When there is almost nothing on the market, mine is ready and therefore sells at a higher price,” says Kanga, who owns a 15 Ha plantain farm 30 kilometres from Abidjan, the Ivorian capital.

Harvesting 12 tonnes on average per hectare, Kanga is one of a few farmers re-writing the African story on agriculture, defying the common tale of a poor, hungry and food-insecure region with more than 232 million undernourished people – approximately one in four.

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

With an estimated food import bill valued at 35.4 billion dollars in 2015, experts consider this scenario ironic because of Africa’s potential, boasting 60 percent of the world’s unused arable land, and where 60 percent of the workforce is employed in agriculture, accounting for roughly a third of the continent’s GDP.

The question is why? Several reasons emerge which include structural challenges rooted in poor infrastructure, governance and weak market value chains and institutions, resulting in low productivity. Additionally, women, who form the backbone of agricultural labour, are systematically discriminated against in terms of land ownership and other incentives such as credit and inputs, limiting their opportunities to benefit from agricultural value chains.

“Women own only one percent of land in Africa, receive one percent of agricultural credit and yet, constitute the majority of the agricultural labour force,” says Buba Khan, Africa Advocacy Officer at ActionAid.

Khan believes Africa may not be able to achieve food security, let alone sovereignty, if women remain marginalised in terms of land rights, and the World Bank Agenda for Global Food System sourcebook supports the ‘closing the gender gap’ argument.

According to the sourcebook, ensuring that women have the same access to assets, inputs, and services in agriculture as men could increase women’s yields on farms by 20-30 percent and potentially reduce the number of hungry people by 12-17 percent.

But empowering women is just one of the key pieces to the puzzle. According to the African Development Bank’s Feeding Africa agenda, number two on its agenda is dealing with deep-seated structural challenges, requiring ambition and investments.

According to the Bank’s analysis, transforming agricultural value chains would require approximately 280-340 billion dollars over the next decade, and this would likely create new markets worth 55-65 billion dollars per year by 2025. And the AfDB envisages quadrupling its investments from a current annual average of US 612 million to about 2.4 billion dollars to achieve this ambition.

“Our goal is clear: achieve food self-sufficiency for Africa in 10 years, eliminate malnutrition and hunger and move Africa to the top of agricultural value chains, and accelerate access to water and sanitation,” said Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB Group President at the 2016 Annual Meetings, highlighting that the major focus of the bank’s “Feed Africa” agenda, is transforming agriculture into a business for farmers.

But even with this ambitious goal, and the colossal financial resources on the table, the how question remains critical. Through its strategy, the Bank sets to use agriculture as a starting point for industrialisation through multi-sectoral interventions in infrastructure, intensive use of agro inputs, mechanisation, enhanced access to credit and improved land tenure systems.

Notwithstanding these well tabulated interventions, there are trade-offs required to create a balance in either system considering the climate change challenge already causing havoc in the agriculture sector. The two schools of thought for agriculture development—Intensification (more yields per unit through intensive agronomical practices) and Extensification (bringing more land under cultivation), require a right balance.

“Agriculture matters for Africa’s development, it is the single largest source of income, food and market security, and it is also the single largest source of jobs. Yet, agriculture faces some enormous challenges, the most urgent being climate change and the sector is called to act. But there are trade-offs to either approaches of up-scaling. For example, extensification entails cutting more forests and in some cases, displacing people—both of which have a negative impact on Agriculture’s role to climate change mitigation,” says Sarwatt Hussein, Head of Communications at World Bank’s Agriculture Global Practice.

And this is a point that Ivorian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mamadou Coulibaly Sangafowa, stresses regarding Agricultural investments in Africa. “The emphasis is that agricultural investments should be climate-sensitive to unlock the opportunities especially for young Africans, and stop them from crossing the Mediterranean seeking economic opportunities elsewhere,” he said.

Coulibaly, who is also president of the African conference of Agricultural Ministers, identifies the need to improve specialised agricultural communication, without which farmers would continue working in the dark. “Farmers need information about latest technologies but it is not getting to them when they need it the most,” he said, highlighting the existing information gap, which the World Bank and the African Media Initiative (AMI) have also noted regarding media coverage of Agriculture in Africa.

While agriculture accounts for well over 60 percent of national economic activity and revenue in Africa, the sector gets a disproportionately small amount of media coverage, contributing less than 10 percent to the national economic and political discourse. And this underreporting has resulted not only in limited public knowledge of what actually goes on in the sector, but also in general, misconceptions about its place in the national and regional economy, notes the AMI-World bank analysis.

Whichever route Africa uses to achieve the overall target of feeding itself and be a net food exporter by 2025, Ivorian farmer, Albert Kanga has already started the journey—thanks to the World Bank supported West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme-WAAPP, which introduced him to off-season production techniques.

According to Abdoulaye Toure, lead agro-economist at the World Bank, the WAAPP initiative which started in 2007 has changed the face of agriculture in the region. “When we started in 2007, there was a huge food deficit gap in West Africa, with productivity at around 20 percent, but it is now at 30 percent, and two similar programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa, have been launched as a result,” said Toure.

Some of the key elements of the programme include research, training of young scientists to replace the older generation, and dissemination of improved technologies to farmers. With in-country cluster research stations set up based on a particular country’s potential, there is improved information sharing on best practices.

“With new varieties introduced and off-season irrigation techniques through WAAPP, I am now an example,” says Farmer Kanga, who does not only supply to big supermarkets, but also exports to international markets such as Italy.

He recalls how he started the farm named after his late brother, Dougba, and wishes “he was alive to see how successful it has become.”

The feed Africa agenda targets to feed 150 million, and lift 100 million people out of poverty by 2025. But is it an achievable dream? Farmer Kanga is already showing that it is doable.

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‘Monster’ El Niño Subsides, La Niña Hitting Soonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/monster-el-nino-subsides-la-nina-hitting-soon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=monster-el-nino-subsides-la-nina-hitting-soon http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/monster-el-nino-subsides-la-nina-hitting-soon/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 07:25:54 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146095 West Hararghe region, Ethiopia, December 2015. Some 10.2 million people are food insecure amidst one of the worst droughts to hit Ethiopia in decades. Photo credit: WFP/Stephanie Savariaud

West Hararghe region, Ethiopia, December 2015. Some 10.2 million people are food insecure amidst one of the worst droughts to hit Ethiopia in decades. Photo credit: WFP/Stephanie Savariaud

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

As if human-made armed conflicts, wickedness, rights abuse, gender violence, cruel inequality and climate catastrophes were not enough, now the saying “God Always Forgives, Men Sometimes, Nature Never” appear to be more true than ever. See what happens.

Now that the 2015-2016 El Niño –one of the strongest on record– has subsided, La Niña – El Niño’s ‘counterpart’– could strike soon, further exacerbating a severe humanitarian crisis that is affecting millions of people in the most vulnerable communities in tens of countries worldwide, especially in Africa and Asia Pacific.

El Niño is the term used to describe the warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every three to seven years. It raises sea surface temperatures and impacts weather systems around the globe so that some places receive more rain while others receive none at all, often in a reversal of their usual weather pattern.

La Niña is the opposite weather phenomena—it lowers sea surface temperature producing a counter impact and anyway bringing more catastrophes with heavy rains in areas affected by El Niño draughts and more of these in flooded regions.

Devastation

While El Niño has devastated harvests, livestock and thus livelihoods, its huge impact on children is worsening, “as hunger, malnutrition and disease continue to increase following the severe droughts and floods spawned by the event,” a new report from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has just revealed.

Making matters worse, there is a strong chance La Niña could strike at some stage this year, UNICEF’s report “It’s not over – El Niño’s impact on children” alerts.

Drought associated with the El Niño phenomenon has severely affected Arsi, Ethiopia. Photo credit: OCHA/Charlotte Cans

Drought associated with the El Niño phenomenon has severely affected Arsi, Ethiopia. Photo credit: OCHA/Charlotte Cans

El Niño, and its counterpart La Niña, occur cyclically, in recent years, mainly due to the effects of global climate change, extreme weather events associated with these phenomena –such as droughts and floods– have increased in frequency and severity.

“Millions of children and their communities need support in order to survive. They need help to prepare for the eventuality La Niña will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. And they need help to step up disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change, which is causing more intense and more frequent extreme weather events,” said UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programs, Afshan Khan.

Millions of Children in Dire Need

Indeed, the UN Children Fund reports that children in the worst affected areas are going hungry. In Eastern and Southern Africa –the worst hit regions– some 26.5 million children need support, including more than one million who need treatment for severe acute malnutrition. “

The same children who are affected by El Niño and threatened by La Niña, find themselves on the front-lines of climate change,” added Khan.

Children in the worst affected areas are going hungry now, UNICEF report says, and warns that their futures are at risk, as extreme weather has disrupted schooling, increased disease and malnutrition, and robbed families of their livelihoods. In drought-affected areas, some children are staying away from class to fetch water over long distances, or have moved away with their families following loss of crops or livestock.

Moreover, being out of school often increases a child’s risk of abuse, exploitation and, in some areas, child marriage, UNICEF adds, while warning that malnutrition among children under five has increased alarmingly in many of the affected areas, as families who were already living hand-to-mouth.

In many countries, El Niño affects access to safe water, and has been linked to increases in diseases such as dengue fever, diarrhoea and cholera, which are “major killers of children.” Drought can also force adolescent girls and women to engage in transactional sex to survive. And mortality for children living with HIV is two to six times higher for those who are severely malnourished than for those who are not, UNICEF reports.

Global Development at Risk

UNICEF is not the sole UN agency to warn against the devastating effects of El Niño and the huge threats from La Niña.

Farmers in Ethiopia. The Horn of Africa is one of the areas hardest hit by El Niño. Photo credit: FAO/Tamiru Legesse

Farmers in Ethiopia. The Horn of Africa is one of the areas hardest hit by El Niño. Photo credit: FAO/Tamiru Legesse

In fact, failure to prepare for and adapt to the ‘new normal’ of increasing climate-linked emergencies such as El Niño could put global development targets at risk and deepen widespread human suffering in areas already hard hit by floods and droughts, top United Nations officials alerted.

The heads of the three Rome-based UN agencies, FAO, IFAD and WFP, along with the UN Special Envoy on El Niño & Climate, warned in a recent meeting that more than 60 million people worldwide, about 40 million in East and Southern Africa alone, are projected to be food insecure due to the impact of the El Niño climate event.

To coordinate responses to these challenges UN agencies and partners on July 6 met at the Rome headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The joint meeting included the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva warned that the impact of El Niño on agricultural livelihoods has been enormous and with La Niña on the doorsteps the situation could worsen.

“El Niño has caused primarily a food and agricultural crisis,” he said, announcing that FAO will therefore mobilise additional new funding to “enable it to focus on anticipatory early action in particular, for agriculture, food and nutrition, to mitigate the impacts of anticipated events and to strengthen emergency response capabilities through targeted preparedness investments.”

Meanwhile, OXFAM international–a confederation of non-governmental organisations, reported that about 60 million people across Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa, Central America, and the Pacific now face worsening hunger and poverty due to droughts and crop failures in 2014/5 that have been exacerbated by the El Niño weather system in 2015/6.

“This number is likely to rise,” warns this international confederation of NGOs working together for “a just world without poverty, where people are valued and treated equally, enjoy their rights as full citizens, and can influence decisions affecting their lives.”

OXFAM has recently issued a short report giving a voice to some of the people that it is working with in Ethiopia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, El Salvador and Papua New Guinea. “They’ve told us that they have lived through bad times before, but that this drought is much worse than previous ones,” says the report, which is authored Debbie Hillier.

These are some of the most impacting excerpts of OXFAM’s report, titled ”What Will Become of Us:Voices from around the world on drought and El Nino.”

“… People go to bed with empty stomachs; toil in their fields or go to school with the gnawing pain of hunger; they walk or cycle for miles to try to find food. Many people have reduced the number of meals they eat per day to two or even one.

… Hunger hurts. For parents, the struggle to put food on the table has been acutely painful; children cry for food, babies nurse on empty breasts.

… Many people have nothing left. Farmers and herders have worked hard, but now they watch their crops fail and their animals die.

… Despite their best efforts, many communities and governments are being overwhelmed.

People cope by draining their savings and stocks, selling assets, borrowing money, and migrating to find work.

… When these are exhausted, coping strategies become more damaging and women and girls often bear the brunt: dropping out of school, entering early and forced marriages, facing an increased risk of violence during longer trips to collect wood, food or water, and transactional sex.”

In its GROW blog channel, OXFAM has also published a short report on El Niño and Climate Change:All You Need to Know, showing the relation between the two weather events.

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Women Empowerment Holds the Key for Global Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 20:32:35 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146086 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development/feed/ 0 Indigenous Villages in Honduras Overcome Hunger at Schoolshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/indigenous-villages-in-honduras-overcome-hunger-at-schools/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-villages-in-honduras-overcome-hunger-at-schools http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/indigenous-villages-in-honduras-overcome-hunger-at-schools/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:14:53 +0000 Thelma Mejia http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146074 Students at the “República de Venezuela” School in the indigenous Lenca village of Coloaca in western Honduras, where they have a vegetable garden to grow produce and at the same time learn about the importance of a healthy and nutritious diet. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Students at the “República de Venezuela” School in the indigenous Lenca village of Coloaca in western Honduras, where they have a vegetable garden to grow produce and at the same time learn about the importance of a healthy and nutritious diet. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

By Thelma Mejía
COALACA, Honduras, Jul 15 2016 (IPS)

Barely 11 years old and in the sixth grade of primary school, this student dreams of becoming a farmer in order to produce food so that the children in his community never have to go hungry. Josué Orlando Torres of the indigenous Lenca people lives in a remote corner of the west of Honduras.

He is part of a success story in this village of Coalaca, population 750, in the municipality of Las Flores in the department (province) of Lempira.

Five years ago a Sustainable School Feeding Programme (PAES) was launched in this area. It has improved local children’s nutritional status and enjoys plenty of local, governmental and international participation.

Torres is proud of his school, named for the Republic of Venezuela, where 107 students are supported by their three teachers in their work in a “teaching vegetable garden”. They grow peas and beans, fruit and vegetables that are used daily in their school meals.

Torres told IPS that he did not used to like green vegetables, but now “I’ve started to like them, and I love the fresh salads and green juices.”

Josué Orlando Torres, an 11-year-old student, dreams of becoming a farmer to ensure that children like himself have access to free high-quality food at this school in the indigenous community of Coloaca, where a sustainable school programme is beginning to overcome chronic malnutrition. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Josué Orlando Torres, an 11-year-old student, dreams of becoming a farmer to ensure that children like himself have access to free high-quality food at this school in the indigenous community of Coloaca, where a sustainable school programme is beginning to overcome chronic malnutrition. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

“Here they taught us what is good for us to eat, and also to plant produce so that there will always be food for us. We have a vegetable garden in which we all plant coriander, radishes, cucumbers, cassava (yucca), squash (pumpkin), mustard and cress, lettuce, carrots and other nutritious foods,” he said while indicating each plant in the school garden.

When he grows up, Torres does not want to be a doctor, engineer or fireman like other children of his age. He wants to be “a good farmer to grow food to help my community, help kids like me to be well-fed and not to fall asleep in class because they had not eaten and were ill,” as happened before, he said.

The 48 schools scattered throughout Las Flores municipality, together with other schools in Lempira province, especially those located within what is called the dry corridor of Honduras, characterised by poverty and the onslaughts of climate change, are part of a series of sustainable pilot projects being promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and PAES is one of these.

The purpose of these sustainable school projects is to improve the nutritional status of students and at the same time give direct support to small farmers, by means of a comprehensive approach and effective local-local, local-regional and central government-international aid  interactions.

As a result of this effort in indigenous Lenca communities and Ladino (mixed indigenous-white or mestizo) communities such as Coalaca, La Cañada, Belén and Lepaera (all of them in Lempira province), schoolchildren and teachers alike have said goodbye to fizzy drinks and sweets, and undertaken a radical change in their food habits.

Parents, teachers, students, each community and municipal government, three national Secretariats (Ministries) and FAO have joined forces so that these remote Honduran regions may see off the problems of famine and malnutrition that once were rife here.

A family production chain was developed to supply the schools with food for their students, who average over 100 at each educational centre, complementing the school vegetable gardens.

Every Monday, small farmers bring their produce to a central distribution centre, and municipal vehicles distribute it to the schools.

View of Belén, a town that is the head of a rural municipality of the same name amid the mountains of western Honduras, in the department (province) of Lempira, where a programme rooted in local schools is improving nutrition among remote indigenous communities. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

View of Belén, a town that is the head of a rural municipality of the same name amid the mountains of western Honduras, in the department (province) of Lempira, where a programme rooted in local schools is improving nutrition among remote indigenous communities. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

Erlín Omar Perdomo, from the village of La Cañada in Belén municipality, told IPS: “When FAO first started to organise us we never thought things would go as far as they did, our initial concern was to stave off the hunger there was around here and help our children to be better nourished.”

“But as the project developed, they trained us to become food providers as well. Today this community is supplying 13 schools in Belén with fresh, high-quality produce,” the community leader said with satisfaction.

They organised themselves as savings micro-cooperatives to which members pay small subscriptions and which finance projects or businesses at lowinterest rates and without the need for collateral, as required by banks, or for payment of abusive interest rates, as charged by intermediaries known as “coyotes”.

“We never dreamed the project would reach the size it is today. FAO sent us to Brazil to see for ourselves how food was being supplied to schools by the families of students, but, here we are and this is our story,” said the 36-year-old Perdomo.

“We all participate, we generate income and bring development to our communities, to the extent that now the drop-out rate is practically nil, and our women have also joined the project. They organise themselves in groups to attend the school every week to cook our children’s food,” he said.

Rubenia Cortes, a mother and volunteer cook at the school in the remote village of La Cañada in the department (province) of Lempira, in western Honduras. They cook in a kitchen that was built by parents and teachers at the school. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

Rubenia Cortes, a mother and volunteer cook at the school in the remote village of La Cañada in the department (province) of Lempira, in western Honduras. They cook in a kitchen that was built by parents and teachers at the school. Credit: Courtesy of Thelma Mejía

A 2012 report by the World Food Programmme (WFP) indicated that in Central America, Honduras had the second worst child malnutrition levels, after Guatemala. According to the WFP, one in four children suffers from chronic malnutrition, with the worst problems seen in the south and west of the country.

But in Coalaca, La Cañada and other nearby villages and small towns, the situation has begun to be reverted in the past five years. The FAO project is based on the creation of a new nutritional culture; an expert advises and educates local families in eating a healthy and balanced diet.

“We don’t put salt and pepper on our food any more. We have replaced them with aromatic herbs. FAO trained us, teaching us what nutrients were to be found in each vegetable, fruit or pulse, and in what quantities,” said Rubenia Cortes.

“Look, our children now have beautiful skin, not dull like before,” she explained proudly to IPS. Cortes is a cook at the Claudio Barrera school in La Cañada, population 700, part of Belén municipality where there are 32 PAES centres.

Cortes and the other women are all heads of households who do voluntary work to prepare food at the school. “Before, we would sell our oranges and buy fizzy drinks or sweets, but now we do not; it is better to make orange juice for all of us to drink,” she said as an example.

From Monday to Friday, students at the PAES schools have a highly nutritious meal which they eat mid-morning.

The change is remarkable, according to Edwin Cortes, the head teacher of the La Cañada school. “The children no longer fall asleep in class. I used to ask them, ‘Did you understand the lesson?’ But what could they answer? They had come to school on an empty stomach. How could they learn anything?” he exclaimed.

In the view of María Julia Cárdenas, the FAO representative in Honduras, the most valuable thing about this project is that “we can leave the project, but it will not die, because everyone has appropriated it.”

“It is highly sustainable, and models like this one overcome frontiers and barriers, because everyone is united in a common purpose, that of feeding the children,” she told IPS after giving a delegation of experts and Central American Parliamentarians a guided tour of the untold stories that arise in this part of the dry corridor of Honduras.

There are 1.4 million children in primary and basic secondary schooling in Honduras, out of a total population of 8.7 million people. Seven ethnic groups live alongside each other in the country, of which the largest is the Lenca people, a group of just over 400,000 people.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/ Translated by Valerie Dee

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South Sudan Tense but Calm Following Intense Fighting: UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/south-sudan-tense-but-calm-following-intense-fighting-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-tense-but-calm-following-intense-fighting-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/south-sudan-tense-but-calm-following-intense-fighting-un/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 03:38:40 +0000 Aruna Dutt and Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146068 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/south-sudan-tense-but-calm-following-intense-fighting-un/feed/ 0 Teachers and Students: Tip of Iceberg of Mexico’s Human Rights Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/teachers-and-students-tip-of-iceberg-of-mexicos-human-rights-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teachers-and-students-tip-of-iceberg-of-mexicos-human-rights-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/teachers-and-students-tip-of-iceberg-of-mexicos-human-rights-crisis/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 19:07:01 +0000 Ines M Pousadela http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146063 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/teachers-and-students-tip-of-iceberg-of-mexicos-human-rights-crisis/feed/ 0 Is Sustainable Development Hindering Economic Recovery?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-sustainable-development-hindering-economic-recovery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-sustainable-development-hindering-economic-recovery http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-sustainable-development-hindering-economic-recovery/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 13:04:02 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146053 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015 and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015 and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jul 14 2016 (IPS)

The global economic and employment situation is alarmingly protracted, with recovery not expected any time soon. In October 2012, then IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard indicated he did not see a global economic recovery before 2016.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Now, in mid-2016, it is clear that the global crisis has dragged on for several reasons; many governments, especially in advanced economies, still prioritize fiscal austerity and tough labour market reforms, even though such measures undermine livelihoods, incomes, the social fabric and economic recovery prospects.

Meanwhile, despite ‘quantitative easing’, investments remain depressed, blocking employment creation. Easy credit before the crisis led to over-investment in sectors expected to be profitable. Hence, despite low-interest rates, with the overhang of excess capacity, there has been less private investment in recent years.

Since 2007, employment rates have only risen in six of the 36 developed economies, while youth unemployment rates have increased in four-fifths of advanced countries and two-thirds of developing countries.

With higher inequality and unemployment, as well as shrinking incomes and domestic markets, it is obviously unrealistic for everyone to recover by exporting. Even developing countries, long pressed to produce for export, are switching course – producing increasingly for the domestic market once again.

Having suffered more current and capital account difficulties with greater openness, many emerging market economies still feel compelled to accumulate large reserves for ‘self-protection’. Meanwhile, financial globalization has not enhanced growth but has instead exacerbated volatility and instability.

Recovery for All
There have been few efforts since 2008 to enhance national ‘policy space’ for economic recovery, especially for sustainable development. Increased public investment and other spending, including for social protection, can help turn this situation around, creating tens of millions of jobs.

For decades after the end of World War Two, most advanced economies have used counter-cyclical fiscal policy to great effect. Such deficits have not only financed strong, sustained and inclusive recovery, and growth in their own economies but also abroad — as with the US Marshall Plan at the beginning of the Cold War, so crucial to European post-war reconstruction, recovery and take-off.

A cruel logic has been invoked to justify recent inaction. First, huge financial resources were deployed to selectively rescue ‘too big to fail’ private financial interests. Then, the resulting greatly increased sovereign debt was invoked to impose fiscal austerity, ostensibly in deference to bond markets.

To make matters worse, Eurozone countries are not only constrained by this fiscal fetish, but also by their lack of exchange rate policy space, resulting in insurmountable obstacles to recovery in a monetary union not among equals.

And despite strong evidence to the contrary, the presumption that public spending crowds out private investment continues to deter government-led economic recovery efforts.

Perhaps most frustrating in the recent period have been the limited efforts at multilateral cooperation for global recovery since 2009 — the year of the G20’s London and Pittsburgh summits, including the Global Jobs Pact, on which there has been little meaningful progress since.

As a consequence, subsequent years have seen little progress towards a strong, sustained and inclusive recovery. Instead, after decades of promoting globalization, often recklessly, the recent period has seen a gradual turn to creeping protectionism and currency warfare.

Thankfully, after decades of promoting economic, including financial liberalization and pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, even the IMF, under its recent French leadership, has become more careful, if not skeptical of its own earlier analysis, policy prescriptions, and priorities. But the earlier conventional wisdom still prevails in most of its operations, policy conditions and advice.

Why Sustainable Development?
How can the world get out of this cul-de-sac, worsened by the short-termism of markets, especially financial markets, electoral politics and powerful corporate interests?

Although inclusive multilateralism has been battered by various challenges, including its slow progress, it remains the best option available. Hence, the UN system has to be bolder, but also has to be allowed to play a greater leading role.

In early 2009, the UN Secretary-General proposed a Global Green New Deal. The GGND proposed cross-border public-private partnerships, especially to generate renewable energy and increase food production, recognizing that market forces alone would not generate the investments needed to address climate change as well as to ensure adequate and affordable food production.

If pragmatically implemented, UN initiatives – such as the GGND, the Global Jobs Pact and the Social Protection Floor – can help overcome the current stasis. Likewise, if sufficiently supported, the recently approved UN Decade of Action against Malnutrition can help improve nutrition for all.

As the quadrennial High-Level Political Forum, mandated by the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development in 2012, meets for the first time in mid-July, it is crucial that global leaders recognize that sustainable development is not a luxury which the world cannot afford in these dire times. Instead, it must be recognized as providing the essential sense of common purpose for collective action by the multilateral system, not only for it to stay relevant, but also to lead us all out of the darkness of our times.

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US Elections Cry Out for Reform!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/us-elections-cry-out-for-reform/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-elections-cry-out-for-reform http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/us-elections-cry-out-for-reform/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 06:31:18 +0000 John Scales Avery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146051 The author was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organising the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. He is Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen. He was chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy, and he is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent book is Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century.]]> Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Credit: Neelix. Wikimedia Commons.

Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Credit: Neelix. Wikimedia Commons.

By John Scales Avery
COPENHAGEN, Jul 14 2016 (IPS)

As many observers around the world have pointed out, the United States is no longer a true democracy. It is an oligarchy.

The US government ignores the safety, wishes and needs of the majority of its citizens, and instead makes decisions which will bring profit to enormous corporations, or satisfy the wishes of powerful lobbies.

Governmental secrecy occurs in many nations, but in the United States it has assumed huge proportions.

As Edward Snowden’s revelations have shown, the number of people with security clearance (i.e. the number involved in secret operations in the US) is now as large as the entire population of Norway.

Furthermore, trade deals. which threaten both the global environment and the jobs of millions of American citizens, have been negotiated in secret. If people have no knowledge of what their government is doing, how can they exert the control that the word democracy implies?

It is ironic that the United States justifies aggressive wars for regime change by saying that it is “bringing democracy” to various countries. In fact, its own government is not a democracy.

John Scales Avery

John Scales Avery


Author John Atcheson has given the following examples of the fact that the will of American citizens no longer influences the decisions of their government:

“When 91% wanted to strengthen rules on clean air and protection of drinking water, Congress, led by the Republican majority, proposed to weaken them.”

“When 90% wanted to protect public lands and parks, the Republicans proposed putting them on sale or otherwise privatizing them”

“When 74% of Americans favored ending subsidies to big oil, Congress retained most of them.”

“When 70% of Americans said climate change should be a high priority, Congress took no action.“

Atcheson gives a number of other examples. Read his full article.

According to a recent poll, 91 per cent of American citizens are dissatisfied with their electoral system. Its faults have become glaringly apparent this year, when the presumptive candidates for the two major parties, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are both heartily disliked by most of the voters.

The most dangerous feature of Trump’s candidacy is his denial of climate change. If he should be elected, all hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change may be lost. But Hillary Clinton is dangerous too, since her record shows that she is in favour of war.

At present, US policy risks an all-destroying thermonuclear war by provoking both Russia and China. This would continue under Clinton.

How can we get money out of our elections? How can we restore democracy? The reversal of Citizens United would be a vital first step.

Other steps could be de-lelgitimising lobbies, and a law to make networks give equal free broadcasting time to all major candidates.

In 2016 voters are faced with a dilemma. Very many of them would like to vote for Bernie Sanders, but they are afraid that if they do so, Trump will be elected.

There is, in fact a simple voting system in which such a dilemma would not occur: ranked choice voting. Read the following article, which explains the system and its great advantages.

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

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The Global South’s Untold Human Rights Legacyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-global-souths-untold-human-rights-legacy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-global-souths-untold-human-rights-legacy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-global-souths-untold-human-rights-legacy/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 04:00:01 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146046 Jamaica was one of the early adopters of Human Rights Foreign Policy. Pictured: Courtenay Rattray, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the UN. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Jamaica was one of the early adopters of Human Rights Foreign Policy. Pictured: Courtenay Rattray, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the UN. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

By Aruna Dutt
NEW YORK, Jul 14 2016 (IPS)

While human rights are often viewed as a Western creation, pushed against the will of developing countries, the origins of the international human rights system may prove otherwise, according to a forum held at the the International Peace Institute (IPI) here Wednesday.

“There are many, many legacies of the Global South’s foundational and structural contributions to the evolution of international human rights,” Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly said at the forum.

“The first attempt to undermine The 1948 Declaration of Human Rights came from the United States, UK, and France, in what was the first organizational efficiency review of the United Nations”, said Lykketoft.

This review of the years 1950-1952, called the work on preventing discrimination, the state of the women, and freedom of information and the press inefficient, and even considered closing down the commission on human rights.

“This was strongly countered by countries such as Mexico, Chile, Egypt, Haiti, and the Phillipines, saying that we need to have agreements on social issues and human rights issues.” It is because of these countries’ efforts that these human rights bodies to continue to exist, said Lykketoft.

“Jamaica was the first country to integrate human rights into a foreign policy strategy in 1964, thirteen years before the Jimmy Carter administration of the late 1970’s did that." -- Steven L.B. Jensen

The story of how the global South led the contemporary international human rights system does not end there. The recently published book –The Making of International Human Rights: The 1960s, Decolonization, and the Reconstruction of Global Values – shows that their efforts in the 1960s post-colonial moment laid the foundation for the so-called human rights revolution in the 1970s, when Western activists and states began to embrace human rights.

“The human rights debate of 2016 is still trying to catch up with the richness of the human rights debate of the 1960’s,” said Lykketoft

“Much of human rights work operates with a flawed account of its own historical evolution,” said Søren Pind, Denmark’s Minister of Justice added.

Steven L.B. Jensen, author of the report and Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute, found that Ghana, Jamaica, Liberia and the Philippines took on leading roles.

“Jamaica was the first country to integrate human rights into a foreign policy strategy in 1964, thirteen years before the Jimmy Carter administration of the late 1970’s did that. There is plenty of writing on the Jimmy Carter and U.S. story, but Jamaica’s has never been written about,” said Jensen.

Jamaica’s 1964 foreign policy was focused around the same three elements which the President of the General Assembly has chosen to focus on in 2016: human rights, reforming international aid and trade, and peacekeeping.

Courtenay Rattray, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations said he is proud of his country’s contributions to international human rights.

“As a young state in 1962, and a new member of the United Nations, Jamaica was concerned that the world lagged far behind in the field of human rights, and up to that point, the promotion of human rights had not been accorded the attention and the status it deserved within the united Nations system,” said Rattray.

“At the time of Jamaica’s independence, coming out of post slavery and colonial history, we faced the challenges of identity, inclusiveness and inequality.”

At the same time however, Rattray said it brought a perspective that gave particular importance to those concepts contained in the Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter.

“While these instruments are now considered non-derogable foundational documents, fifty to sixty years ago universal adherence and reverence now paid to human rights documents did not exist.”

“It was remarkable that a small, newly independent country like Jamaica had come on to the world stage determined to move the necessary resources in relation to the advancement of international human rights,” said Rattray.

Jensen’s report also found that The Declaration on Racial Discrimination and the Convention was proposed by nine francophone African states which created a breakthrough in international law that made it possible to finalize in 1956.

Also at this time, Liberia withheld the strong pressure from the Soviet Union and communist states to not only propose but push for the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance.

“This inspired the UK and the US to engage much more substantially in human rights work.” said Jensen.

The UK didn’t acknowledge human rights to be a legitimate issue of international concern until 1966. This push from Jamaica, Liberia, and the Philippines really pushed the Western countries into the human rights field, said Jensen.

“Looking back at this story and this battle to prevent discrimination in the UN agenda, what do we actually mean by ‘leaving no one behind’?, asked Jensen. “These are really important legacies to build on.”

Rattray contended, “As we face our contemporary challenges it falls to us to pick up the mantel of those who went before, to work through our differences, to forge agreements, and find effective solutions.”

 

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Civil Society Organizations Worried About Declining Involvementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/civil-society-organizations-worried-about-declining-involvement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-organizations-worried-about-declining-involvement http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/civil-society-organizations-worried-about-declining-involvement/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 02:48:29 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146044 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/civil-society-organizations-worried-about-declining-involvement/feed/ 0 IPS Interview with Bernadette Lahai On the Pan African Parliament Food and Nutrition Security Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ips-interview-with-bernadette-lahai-on-the-pan-african-parliament-food-and-nutrition-security-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ips-interview-with-bernadette-lahai-on-the-pan-african-parliament-food-and-nutrition-security-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ips-interview-with-bernadette-lahai-on-the-pan-african-parliament-food-and-nutrition-security-agenda/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 10:15:33 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146025 Dr.Bernadette Lahai is a Sierra Leonean politician and the current Minority Leader of Parliament. She is the leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone People's Party in the House of Parliament. She is also the Vice President of the Pan African Parliament.]]>

Dr.Bernadette Lahai is a Sierra Leonean politician and the current Minority Leader of Parliament. She is the leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone People's Party in the House of Parliament. She is also the Vice President of the Pan African Parliament.

By Rose Delaney
JOHANNESBURG, Jul 13 2016 (IPS)

Dr.Bernadette Lahai, Vice President of the Pan African Parliament (PAP), discusses the multitude of challenges facing the African continent and how the PAP plans to overcome them. With the rise of malnutrition as a direct result of ongoing food insecurity, the Parliament will play an indispensable role in the future of food in the African continent.

Through open dialogue, the strengthening of parliamentary institutions, an introduction of awareness-raising initiatives, and most importantly, the commitment of African leaders to positively change the food situation as stated in the Malabo Declaration and the African Regional Nutrition Strategy 2015-2025, Dr.Lahai confirms that Africa will be one step closer to meeting the SDG target of “Zero Hunger” by 2030.

IPS: In what ways has the Pan African Parliament (PAP) ensured that partners are upholding their commitments following the Parliamentary meeting held during the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) organized by FAO and the World Health Organization?

Bernadette Lahai

Bernadette Lahai

Dr.Lahai: PAP, as an advisory body, and their members on both national and regional levels, have continuously called for the attention of governments, international agencies, NGOs as well as individuals to fulfil their various obligations that adhere to international commitments and declarations. In order to communicate these responsibilities, expert hearings, workshops, media outreach and advocacies, lobbying and experiential exchanges have been implemented. There has also been a push for the ratification of treaties and protocols which hinder development. Lacking adequate power to slam sanctions on defaulters, PAP can only advocate and lobby for adherence to these commitments. As a result of the granting of legislative and oversight powers over the African Union, it is hoped that PAP will be calling for more accountability and transparency, with the possibility of sanctioning non-compliant governments and institutions.

IPS: In light of the multiple challenges facing the African continent, in your view, how has the PAP fared in consolidating partnerships to impact policy-makers to consider food security and malnutrition when they design and formulate policies?

Dr.Lahai: The PAP Committee on agriculture, rural economy, environment and climate change have and continue to collaborate with their counterparts in the African Union Committee, the New Partnership for African Development’s “The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme”, national and international agricultural organizations and research institutes. NGOs are also working on food security and nutrition-related matters to exchange information on the subject, undertake joint activities and review data on progress. They also plan to make joint resolutions, declarations, and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) reminding governments and international organizations of their commitments, especially related to laws and policies to address nutritional and food security challenges. Fully aware of the fact that food security and nutrition issues are cross-cutting, PAP has also called for joint collaboration of committees and sectors whose work compliments food security and nutrition. Such sectoral coordination will help in addressing food security and nutrition in a holistic manner, which in turn, will help maximize limited resources and gains. Partnership with other institutions has also helped PAP access data, which is critical for inform decision-making, debate, advocacy, and lobbying.

IPS: Did the outcomes of the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) influence the Pan African Parliaments advancement of the food and security agenda?

Dr.Lahai: Most definitely. During the ICN2, parliamentarians identified an urgent need to advocate for more effective responses to address malnutrition, while ensuring that public policies are safeguarded from real or perceived conflicts of interest. I believe the proposed workshop is exactly what they would deem an “effective response” and “proactive measure” in the strive for a food-secure world.

The parliamentarians also underscored the importance of parliamentary dialogue in countries, regions and globally, in order to share good practice and experiences in ensuring food security and adequate nutrition. Emphasis is placed on the strengthening of parliamentary institutions through proactive measures to endow the parliament with greater accountability and oversight powers. The Parliaments upcoming workshop will communicate and recognize the importance of the parliamentarians observations and conclusions on the future of food.

The workshop will also study the draft MOU to be signed between PAP and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to ensure that the areas of collaboration are agreed upon and are within the legal responsibilities of the two parties. Initial thoughts on the structure of the alliance and the communication strategies to be adopted will also be discussed and agreed on during the workshop.

IPS: In your view, how important are initiatives such as training and workshops focused on the Food Security Agenda for Africa to meet the SDG target of zero hunger by 2030?

Dr.Lahai: First of all, food insecurity and malnutrition is not only an ongoing African problem, it is a global issue that needs to be dealt with in an efficient, proactive manner. In fact, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015, 793 million people suffer from hunger and high levels of malnutrition persist. In Africa, specifically, in spite of significant developments achieved in recent years, approximately 217 million people are undernourished as the continent struggles to cope with the ongoing challenges related to malnutrition.

However, through the support of committed African leaders to positively change the food situation as stated in the Malabo Declaration and the African Regional Nutrition Strategy 2015-2025, the advancement of finding solutions to food and nutrition issues is being encouraged and supported on a national level. Governmental bodies have now recognised the fundamental importance of adopting strategies and innovative measures in the bid to eradicate malnutrition. In my opinion, with the implementation of more workshops and training to effectively communicate and propose solutions to the challenges of food insecurity, Africa could meet the SDG target of “zero hunger” by 2030.

The upcoming workshop will provide an avenue to learn, exchange experiences, and success stories while at the same time consider the challenges presented within the Latin America/Caribbean Parliamentary Alliance( PFH-LAC). This will greatly inform the roadmap for the Pan African Parliament Alliance (PAPA-FNS) / FAO collaboration. The focus will also centre on avoiding pitfalls experienced by the PFH-LAC in its establishment, in addition to replicating rewarding and fruitful strategies and approaches within the cultural and social sensitivities of the continent.

IPS: Why are partnerships with organizations vital to tackle food and nutrition issues in the African continent?

Dr.Lahai: Partners come with difference skills, expertise, strengths, institutional, human and financial capacities and capabilities and when put together, can produce a quick and long term impact.

In light of the gravity and persistence of malnutrition in Africa, partnerships with various stakeholders must be fostered in order to eradicate poverty and combat food security challenges. The FAO is, therefore, developing partnerships and alliances with Parliamentarians to cooperate in areas of mutual interest.

The FAO have been actively pursuing the establishment of PAPA-FNS. As a follow-up to various bilateral meetings held with a wide cross section of African Parliamentarians, a presentation presented to the PAP, and the launching of the Alliance in October 2016,the FAO are organizing a one-day workshop next month that will be essential for the exchange of ideas and solutions to pressing food and nutrition issues.

IPS: What do you expect from the planned workshop in August for the Pan African Parliament and where will you go from there?

Dr.Lahai: The workshop will be part of a series of engagements at various levels with African parliamentarians and is aimed at increasing awareness and knowledge about the role of parliamentarian alliances for food and nutrition security issues in addition to identifying possible areas for FAO’s support. At the end of the workshop, we hope that the participants will have gained a deeper understanding of the role of such alliances as they seek to place food sovereignty and food and nutrition security issues at the top of the regional, sub-regional and national political agendas.

The workshop centred on the advancement of the Food and Nutrition Security Agenda is being supported and coordinated by organizations such as FAO and PAP due to the fundamental importance of food security in the future of African development. The workshop is also critical at this juncture in furthering the advancement of the PAPA-FNS to place food and nutrition security issues at the top of the political and legislative agenda.

The outcomes of the workshop will be to help strengthen, improve and properly align the objectives of the Alliance with that of the Technical Cooperation Project document, which will be the guiding tool for the implementation.

IPS: Finally, what are the key institutional and governance challenges for comprehensive policies that protect and promote nutrition for the most vulnerable and contribute to sustainable and resistant food systems?

Dr.Lahai: The cross-cutting nature of food security and nutrition would call for an effective sectoral collaboration and engagement. As of yet, the collaboration remains sporadic and haphazard. There is a need for high-level inter-ministerial coordination to continuously keep the issue on the front burner. Most countries fail to implement progressive food security policies and rights to food laws. Climate change, which is also affecting food security and nutrition, is in need of stronger legal provisions. Uncoordinated national policies, fluctuation in food prices and production, political unrest, poverty, and a lack of clear national and global leadership are some of the main key institutional and governance challenges hindering the implementation of comprehensive, food-secure policies.

Rose Delaney, IPS Rome, interviewed Dr.Lahai

Rose Delaney

Rose Delaney

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