Inter Press ServiceEditors’ Choice – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Jul 2018 00:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Even Rocks Harvest Water in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Northeasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 10:02:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156776 Rocks, once a hindrance since they reduced arable land, have become an asset. Pedrina Pereira and João Leite used them to build four ponds to collect rainwater in a farming community in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. On their six-hectare property, the couple store water in three other reservoirs, the “mud trenches”, the name given locally to […]

The post Even Rocks Harvest Water in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Northeast appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Beans are left to dry in the sun on Pedrina Pereira’s small farm. In the background, a tank collects rainwater for drinking and cooking, from the rooftop. It is part of a programme of the organisation Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), which aims to distribute one million rainwater tanks to achieve coexistence with the semi-arid climate which extends across 982,000 sq km in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Beans are left to dry in the sun on Pedrina Pereira’s small farm. In the background, a tank collects rainwater for drinking and cooking, from the rooftop. It is part of a programme of the organisation Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), which aims to distribute one million rainwater tanks to achieve coexistence with the semi-arid climate which extends across 982,000 sq km in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
JUAZEIRINHO/BOM JARDIM, Brazil, Jul 20 2018 (IPS)

Rocks, once a hindrance since they reduced arable land, have become an asset. Pedrina Pereira and João Leite used them to build four ponds to collect rainwater in a farming community in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast.

On their six-hectare property, the couple store water in three other reservoirs, the “mud trenches”, the name given locally to pits that are dug deep in the ground to store as much water as possible in the smallest possible area to reduce evaporation.

“We no longer suffer from a shortage of water,” not even during the drought that has lasted the last six years, said Pereira, a 47-year-old peasant farmer, on the family’s small farm in Juazeirinho, a municipality in the Northeast state of Paraíba.

Only at the beginning of this year did they have to resort to water distributed by the army to local settlements, but “only for drinking,” Pereira told IPS proudly during a visit to several communities that use innovative water technologies that are changing the lives of small villages and family farmers in this rugged region.

To irrigate their maize, bean, vegetable crops and fruit trees, the couple had four “stone ponds” and three mud trenches, enough to water their sheep and chickens.

“The water in that pond is even drinkable, it has that whitish colour because of the soil,” but that does not affect its taste or people’s health, said Pereira, pointing to the smallest of the ponds, “which my husband dug out of the rocks with the help of neighbours.”

“There was nothing here when we arrived in 2007, just a small mud pond, which dried up after the rainy season ended,” she said. They bought the property where they built the house and lived without electricity until 2010, when they got electric power and a rainwater tank, which changed their lives.

The One Million Cisterns Programme (P1MC) was underway for a decade. With the programme, the Articulation of the Semi Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, is seeking to achieve universal access to drinking water in the rural areas of the Northeast semi-arid ecoregion, which had eight million inhabitants in the 2010 official census.

Two of the four stone ponds on the farm belonging to Pedrina Pereira and João Leite, built by Leite with the help of neighbours, in a farming community in Juazeirinho. The tanks store rainwater for their livestock and their diversified crops during the frequent droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two of the four stone ponds on the farm belonging to Pedrina Pereira and João Leite, built by Leite with the help of neighbours, in a farming community in Juazeirinho. The tanks store rainwater for their livestock and their diversified crops during the frequent droughts in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The network promoted the construction of 615,597 tanks that collect water from rooftops, for use in drinking and cooking. The tanks hold 16,000 litres of water, considered sufficient for a family of five during the usual eight-month low-water period.

Other initiatives outside ASA helped disseminate rainwater tanks, which mitigated the effects of the drought that affected the semi-arid Northeast between 2012 and 2017.

According to Antonio Barbosa, coordinator of the One Land, Two Waters Programme (P1+2) promoted by ASA since 2007, the rainwater tanks helped to prevent a repeat of the tragedy seen during previous droughts, such as the 1979-1983 drought, which “caused the death of a million people.”

After the initial tank is built, rainwater collection is expanded for the purposes of irrigation and raising livestock, by means of tanks like the ones built in 2013 on the farm belonging to Pereira and her husband since 2013. ASA has distributed 97,508 of these tanks, benefiting 100,828 families.

Other solutions, used for irrigation or water for livestock, include ponds built on large rocks or water pumps used by communities to draw water from deep wells.

Tanks holding up to 52,000 litres of rainwater, collected using the “calçadão” system, where water runs down a sloping concrete terrace or even a road into the tank, are another of the seven “water technologies” for irrigation and animal consumption disseminated by the organisations that make up ASA.

Pedro Custodio da Silva shows his native seed bank at his farm in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in Northeast Brazil, part of a movement driven by the Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, to promote family farming based on their own seeds adapted to the local climate. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Custodio da Silva shows his native seed bank at his farm in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in Northeast Brazil, part of a movement driven by the Articulation in Brazil’s Semi Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, to promote family farming based on their own seeds adapted to the local climate. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In the case of Pereira and Leite, this water infrastructure came through the Programme for the Application of Appropriate Technologies for Communities (Patac), an organisation that seeks to strengthen family farming in small agricultural communities in Paraiba.

The tanks and terraces are made with donated material, and the beneficiaries must take part in the construction and receive training in water management, focused on coexistence with the semi-arid climate. Community action and sharing of experiences among farmers is also promoted.

Beans drying in the courtyard, and piled up inside the house, even in the bedroom, show that the Pereira and Leite family, which also includes their son, Salvador – who has inherited his parents’ devotion to farming – managed to get a good harvest after this year’s adequate rainfall.

Maize, sweet potato, watermelon, pumpkin, pepper, tomato, aubergine, other vegetables and medicinal herbs make up the vegetable garden that mother and son manage, within a productive diversification that is a widespread practice among farmers in the semi-arid region.

A pond supplied by a water source revived by reforestation on the 2.5-hectare farm of Pedro Custodio da Silva, who adopted an agroforestry system and applied agro-ecological principles in the production of fruit and vegetables, in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A pond supplied by a water source revived by reforestation on the 2.5-hectare farm of Pedro Custodio da Silva, who adopted an agroforestry system and applied agro-ecological principles in the production of fruit and vegetables, in the municipality of Bom Jardim, in the semi-arid region of Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Also contributing to this diversification are eight sheep and a large chicken coop, which are for self-consumption and for sale. “Our family lives off agriculture alone,” said Pereira, who also benefits from the Bolsa Familia programme, a government subsidy for poor families, which in their case amounts to 34 dollars a month.

“I am one of the customers for Pedrina’s ‘cuzcuz’, which is not only tasty but is also made without toxic agricultural chemicals,” said Gloria Araujo, the head of Patac. She was referring to a kind of corn tortilla that is very popular in the Brazilian Northeast, an important source of income for the family.

Living in the community of Sussuarana, home to 180 families, and forming part of the Regional Collective of farmers, trade unions and associations from 11 municipalities from the central part of the state of Paraiba, offers other opportunities.

Pereira has been able to raise chickens thanks to a barbed wire fence that she acquired through the Revolving Solidarity Fund, which provides a loan, in cash or animals, that when it is paid off goes immediately to another person and so on. A wire mesh weaving machine is for collective use in the community.

In Bom Jardim, 180 km from Juazeirinho, in the neighbouring state of Pernambuco, the community of Feijão (which means ‘beans’) stands out for its agroforestry system and fruit production, much of which is sold at agroecological fairs in Recife, the state capital, 100 km away and with a population of 1.6 million.

“I’ve lived here for 25 years, I started reforesting bare land and they called me crazy, but those who criticised me later planted a beautiful forest,” said Pedro Custodio da Silva, owner of 2.5 hectares and technical coordinator of the Association of Agroecological Farmers of Bom Jardim (Agroflor), which provides assistance to the community.

In addition to a diversified fruit tree orchard and vegetable garden, which provide income from the sale of fruit, vegetables and pulp, “without agrochemicals,” a stream that had dried up three decades ago was revived on his property and continued to run in the severe drought of recent years.

It filled a small 60,000-litre pond whose “water level drops in the dry season, but no longer dries up,” he said.

The post Even Rocks Harvest Water in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Northeast appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/even-rocks-harvest-water-brazils-semi-arid-northeast/feed/ 0
“The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 03:55:57 +0000 Ela Zambrano http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156798 Ela Zambrano interviews TARSICIO GRANIZO, Ecuador’s minister of Environment

The post “The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post “The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ela Zambrano interviews TARSICIO GRANIZO, Ecuador’s minister of Environment

The post “The Sustainable Bioeconomy, a Path Towards Post-Extractivism” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-bioeconomy-path-towards-post-extractivism/feed/ 0
Support of Influential World Leaders Not Enough to End Rohingya Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis/#respond Thu, 19 Jul 2018 21:04:56 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156793 Despite having the strong support of influential global leaders, Bangladesh has “missed” the opportunity to mobilise the world’s superpowers and place pressure on Myanmar to allow for the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.  Experts specialising in international affairs expressed their disappointment to IPS that despite the recent joint visit by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres […]

The post Support of Influential World Leaders Not Enough to End Rohingya Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Over a million Rohingya refugees are now cramped in hilly terrains of Ukhiya in southeastern regions of Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Credit: ASM Suza Uddin/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Jul 19 2018 (IPS)

Despite having the strong support of influential global leaders, Bangladesh has “missed” the opportunity to mobilise the world’s superpowers and place pressure on Myanmar to allow for the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees. 

Experts specialising in international affairs expressed their disappointment to IPS that despite the recent joint visit by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, the world’s biggest refugee crisis remains unresolved.

“No single event of such magnitude ever drew so much global attention and solidarity, not even the ethnic cleansing in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina where tens of thousands of Muslims were killed in conflicts among the three main ethnic groups,” professor Tareq Shamsur Rehman, who teaches International Relations at Jahangirnagar University, told IPS.

Since the influx of over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from August last year, leaders from around the world have visited Bangladesh, travelling to the coastal Cox’s Bazar district were the refugee camps are. 

Foreign ministers from Japan, Germany and Sweden; a high-level delegation from 58 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation; a delegation from the U.N. Security Council and the European Union; a United States Congressional fact-finding mission and Dhaka-based diplomats have all heard the recounts of the refugees. In February, Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman travelled to Cox’s Bazar to highlight the plight of the Rohingya.

During his visit earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Guterres said he heard “heartbreaking” accounts of suffering from the refugees and expressed concern about the conditions in the camps ahead of the monsoon season.

The World Bank announced almost half a billion dollars in grant-based support to Bangladesh for health, education, sanitation, disaster preparedness, and other services for the refugees until they can return home safely, voluntarily and with dignity.

But the aid may have come too late. In Bangladesh some 63 million of the country’s 160 million people live below the poverty line. The influx of over one million refugees has impacted not only the country’s monetary resources, but natural resources also. The environmental impact is significant as over a million refugees are now cramped in hilly terrains of Ukhiya in southeastern regions of Cox’s Bazar along Bangladesh border with Myanmar. Trees on over 20 acres of land near the camps are being cut down daily for firewood for cooking.

And there has been a social impact too. Some locals have said that since the arrival of the refugees the crime rate in Ukhiya has increased, with many accusing the Rohingya of assault, murder, human trafficking and drug dealing.

“The solution to the Rohingya crisis is possible if two-way pressure on Myanmar is possible. The way the U.S. imposed sanctions on North Korea, like preventing remittance and imposing economic sanctions, it has really had the desired impact,” Mohammad Zamir, a former ambassador and international relations analyst, told IPS.

“If the world imposes a similar ban on Myanmar that there will be no foreign investment in Myanmar, I think they would then be under tremendous pressure and may bow to the demands to repatriate the Rohingya refugees. If the world adopts these preventive measures on Myanmar then there will be a possibility to solve the Rohingya problem.”

It is estimated that over one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are housed in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Credit: Mojibur Rahaman Rana/IPS

IPS visited Cox’s Bazar early this month and spoke to a number of people in the 21 Rohingya camps, including those in the largest camps of Kutupalong and Balukhali.

Mohammad Mohibullah, a spokesperson for the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, told IPS that while they welcomed the visit of U.N. and World Bank chiefs, “the money they pledged is for our survival and not for resolving our crisis.”

“We have not noticed any effective role of the leaders in pressurising Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya,” Abdul Gaffar, another spokesman for the group told IPS. “They come and go but leave us with no hope of any permanent solution. We want to return to our ancestral home and not live in shambles like we are doing now.”

In January, the Myanmar government agreed with Bangladesh to take back Rohingya refugees. However, weeks after the agreement they allowed only about 50 families, mostly comprising Hindus, to return. Then the so-called repatriation process stopped after Myanmar demanded that a joint Bangladeshi/Myanmaris team first identify the Rohingya as their citizens.

The U.N. and other international agencies have previously been denied access to Rakhine State to assess the conditions for returning refugees, however, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was allowed entry in May. Then in June the Myanmar government signed an agreement with the U.N. Refugee Agency and U.N. Development Programme as a first step in setting up a framework for the return of the refugees.

But the process is slow.

Just this week the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, urged U.N. Special Envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener to persuade Myanmar to take back the refugees.

Experts have pointed out the “misreading in diplomacy” by Bangladesh towards resolving the Rohingya crisis has resulted in the current deadlock.

“Instead of using influential powers like China and Russia, Bangladesh engaged itself in bi-lateral negotiation, which is a stalemate. They [Myanmar] have clearly demonstrated defiance once again. For instance, every demand we put forward, like the demand for fixing the start of repatriation date, Myanmar instead of complying with the bilateral agreement insisted on verifying their citizens – a tactic used to delay the process and ultimately enforce deadlock,” professor Delware Hossain from the International Relations Department at the University of Dhaka told IPS.

“What we really need is lobbying with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council who have the powers to impose economic, military and political sanctions. It is sad though that until now we have not seen our foreign ministers visiting Moscow, Beijing, London and Paris in mobilising them acting in favour of Bangladesh,” Rehman said, adding that in other international cases of genocide, military leaders have been identified, tried and punished because of the strong commitment and involvement of leading nations.

Others argue that despite such powerful political support, even from the United States, Myanmar remains unmoved continuing their mission of ethnic cleansing.

Human rights organisation, Fortify Rights, stated in a report released today, Jul. 19, that the lack of action by the international community against the 2016 attacks against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State allowed Myanmar to proceed with genocide. The report is based on over 250 interviews conducted over two years with eyewitnesses, survivors of attacks, and Myanmar military and police sources, among others.

“The international community failed to act after the Myanmar Army killed, raped, tortured, and forcibly displaced Rohingya civilians in October and November 2016. That inaction effectively paved the way for genocide, providing the Myanmar authorities with an enabling environment to make deeper preparations for more mass atrocity crimes,” the report stated.

But professor Amena Mohsin who teaches International Relations at the University of Dhaka believes that there is significance to the recent visits of Guterres and Kim.

“Let us not forget that the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly will open in September next and their visits act as a pressure. We hope that the Rohingya issue will be discussed during the assembly and Myanmar will further feel the pressure,” Mohsin told IPS.

World Bank Group spokesperson in Washington, David Theis, responded to questions from IPS, saying they were collaborating closely with the U.N. and other partners to encourage Myanmar to put in place the conditions for “the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and to improve the welfare of all communities in Rakhine State.”

He said they would incentivise further progress through a proposed project focused on employment and economic opportunities for all communities in Rakhine State.

“This is part of our strategy to stay fully engaged in Myanmar’s economic transition, with a greater focus on social inclusion in conflict-affected areas.”

However, noted journalist Afsan Chowdhury told IPS that the U.N. had not been very effective since the Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh. “One of the reasons is that the U.N. is effective only when big powers are interested. The World Bank’s impact in this issue is very low end, not a high end impact, as I see it.”

Additional reporting by A S M Suza Uddin from Cox Bazaar.

The post Support of Influential World Leaders Not Enough to End Rohingya Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/support-influential-world-leaders-not-enough-end-rohingya-crisis/feed/ 0
India Fast Becoming a Pillar of Global Growth & Stabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/india-fast-becoming-pillar-global-growth-stability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-fast-becoming-pillar-global-growth-stability http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/india-fast-becoming-pillar-global-growth-stability/#respond Thu, 19 Jul 2018 07:54:04 +0000 Hardeep S. Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156782 Hardeep S. Puri, India’s Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs, in his address to the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The post India Fast Becoming a Pillar of Global Growth & Stability appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Hardeep S. Puri, India’s Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs, in his address to the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

By Hardeep S. Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2018 (IPS)

It is with great pleasure and pride that I interact with you this afternoon as India’s Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, to share some thoughts on India’s extremely ambitious, and arguably the world’s largest planned urbanization programme under the leadership of our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Hardeep S. Puri

In 1947, when we became an independent country, 17% of our population lived in urban areas. This 17% was on a population base of 350 million or so. At present, over 30% of our population, on a base of 1.2 billion, lives in urban centres.

By 2030, when we complete work of the 2030 Development Agenda, nearly 600 million Indians, or 40% of our population, will reside in urban spaces. To lay further emphasis on India’s urban prospects – from now till 2030, India has to build 700 to 900 million square meters of urban space every year.

In other words, India will have to build a new Chicago every year from now till 2030 to meet its urban demand. More importantly, the new urban infrastructure India builds for 2030, 70% of which still needs to be constructed, will have to be green and resilient.

India has been in the vanguard of the sustainable development agenda even prior to 2015. By promoting cooperative federalism, ensuring integrated planning through convergence, and focusing on an outcome-based approach compared to a project-based approach, we have embarked upon the most ambitious and comprehensive programme of planned urbanisation ever undertaken in the world.

With these principles as the backbone, India is implementing some of the world’s largest and most ambitious national schemes for social inclusion, economic growth, and environmental sustainability, through silo-breaking approaches.

In the words of Prime Minister Modi at the UN summit for post-2015 development agenda, “Just as our vision behind Agenda 2030 is lofty, our goals are comprehensive. It gives priority to the problems that have endured through the past decades. And, it reflects our evolving understanding of the social, economic and environmental linkages that define our lives”.

India has consistently achieved a growth rate of over 7% year on year through bold economic reforms, and has strong prospects for an even higher growth rate in the near future. Given our size and scale, India is fast becoming a pillar of global growth and stability.

SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

As President of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat, it gives me great pleasure to note international efforts towards inclusive, resilient, and sustainable human settlements and SDG 11 have been greatly strengthened in the last few years by the New Urban Agenda signed at Habitat III, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements.

Today, more than 90% of the global urban growth is occurring in the developing world. India, China, and Nigeria together will account for 35 % of the growth in the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050. It would not be an overstatement to say that India’s urban agenda will constitute one of the defining projects of the 21st century.

Urban areas in India face multi-pronged challenges. We remain confronted by a complex ecosystem of urban challenges through and in ensuring housing for all, technology based solutions to enhance service delivery, better mobility and greener transport, smart governance, and in doing more with less.

Mahatma Gandhi had famously said, “Freedom from insanitary practices is even more important than political freedom”.

As a tribute to the father of the nation, India launched the largest sanitation and hygiene program in the world – the Swachh Bharat Mission, with the objective of make India open defecation free and achieve scientific waste management by October 2nd 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma, well ahead of the deadline for SDG 6.

The Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the National Rural Drinking Water Program (NRDWP) seek to provide urban and rural areas with universal drinking water supply and sewage treatment respectively. Both these missions have been making steady progress and are on track to achieve their goals.

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or the Prime Minister’s scheme on Affordable Housing for All is the world’s largest housing programme for the poor. The government aims to build 11 million affordable homes for urban Indians by the year 2022.

We have already sanctioned over 5 million and are confident of meeting the targets by middle of 2019. Giving a fillip to gender empowerment, the title of each home under the Mission is under the lady of the house, or co-jointly.

The mission also encompasses a Technology Sub-Mission to facilitate adoption of green, disaster resistant building materials and construction techniques for ensuring faster and cost- effective construction.

This not only addresses SDG 11 directly but also aims to effectuate, SDG 1 by ending spatial poverty of homeless people; SDG 3 by giving access to all-weather protected living environment; SDG 7 through increased usage of sustainable, affordable construction practices; and SDG 10 by reducing inequalities of access to basic minimum standard of living.

India is in the process of creating 100 Smart Cities to strengthen urban infrastructure by applying smart solutions and giving a decent quality of life to citizens. Improving the urban governance reforms through creation of Integrated Command and Control Centre has made city management efficient and effective resulting in savings of city revenues.

This has made a significant impact on India’s promise to create inclusive and sustainable cities under the SDG 11 by building institutional capabilities through efficient administrative processes and strengthening grassroots democracy.

Smart Cities Mission also focuses on SDG 12 by reducing the pressure on resources through promotion of sustainable consumption and production pattern which again is promoted by sustainable practices being adopted by cities in reducing the carbon footprint, leveraging vertical expansion and reducing the overall burden on infrastructural resources by switching to cleaner substitutes.

India has ensured that all its international commitments are mirrored in the national development goals. With India striving to meet its national socio-economic development targets, achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 169 targets linked to them will be a major success story of the millennium affecting more than a billion persons all at once.

India’s national development goals and its “Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas” or “development with all, and for all,” policy initiatives for inclusive development converge well with the SDGs, and India will play a leading role in determining the success of the SDGs, globally.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted, “The sustainable development of one-sixth of humanity will be of great consequence to the world and our beautiful planet.” India stands truly committed to achieving an equitable and sustainable future for all its citizens, and in working with the global community to achieve the SDGs together.

The post India Fast Becoming a Pillar of Global Growth & Stability appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Hardeep S. Puri, India’s Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs, in his address to the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The post India Fast Becoming a Pillar of Global Growth & Stability appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/india-fast-becoming-pillar-global-growth-stability/feed/ 0
Social Media – the New Testing Ground for Sri Lanka’s Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/social-media-new-testing-ground-sri-lankas-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=social-media-new-testing-ground-sri-lankas-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/social-media-new-testing-ground-sri-lankas-freedom/#comments Wed, 18 Jul 2018 11:49:40 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156753 Journalists and media activists have cautioned against Sri Lanka’s newfound press freedom as the country heads to the polls in 2020. Separate incidents of hate-speech against a Muslim minority—and the subsequent shutdown of social media platforms—and the harassment of reporters critical of the country’s opposition have led some to believe that the changes in media […]

The post Social Media – the New Testing Ground for Sri Lanka’s Freedom appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Sri Lanka's media has been under pressure for most of the past decade and only gained some breathing space since the 2015 presidential election. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
COLOMBO, Jul 18 2018 (IPS)

Journalists and media activists have cautioned against Sri Lanka’s newfound press freedom as the country heads to the polls in 2020. Separate incidents of hate-speech against a Muslim minority—and the subsequent shutdown of social media platforms—and the harassment of reporters critical of the country’s opposition have led some to believe that the changes in media independence could reverse.

In the latest world press freedom rankings by Reporters Without Borders, Sri Lanka is listed 131 out of 180 countries across the globe—a marginal improvement from its 2014 ranking of 165.

The unexpected 2015 electoral victory for current president Maithripala Sirisena, who championed greater press freedom during his campaign, was responsible for this island nation’s rise on the index.

But Shan Wijethunge, head of the Sri Lanka Press Institute, the island’s premier media training centre, is apprehensive as he takes stock of what has transpired over the last six months.

In February, the government lost the local government elections to a resurgent opposition led by ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which prompted opposition supporters to increase the tempo of their anti-government campaign. Many became critical of the New York Times (NYT) and its Sri Lanka journalists who reported that Rajapaksa had allegedly received funds from Chinese state companies. In a delicately balanced national political scenario, the reporters who worked on the story were accused of working for a pro-government agenda and their independence was questioned.

“The journalists were criticised and trolled rather than [there being] any challenge on the contents of the story, because what matters right now is setting the headlines,” Wijethunge told IPS.

Family and friends of the NYT journalists in Sri Lanka said that they were shocked at the personal level of the attacks and pointed out that there had been no requests for the story to be retracted.

“They just felt so vulnerable, as if things suddenly regressed by three years. It just shows how quickly things can get bad here,” said a colleague of the harassed journalists. He requested to remain anonymous due to the fear of being targeted.

It was only less than a decade ago when the Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was assassinated in 2009—just months before the country’s 26-year civil war ended. A year after Wickrematunge’s death, cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda disappeared.

However, there are signs that media freedom has improved on the island nation.

In 2016 when the respected regional magazine Himal Southasian came under increased bureaucratic pressure in Nepal, where it had been operating since 1996, the Sri Lankan capital Colombo became the obvious choice for relocation. In March, the magazine opened a new office in a Colombo suburb. Amnesty International also now has a regional office in the capital.

But many are concerned that if the upcoming 2020 presidential election proves to be a tight race, there will be heightened pressure on journalists to toe the line.

Not only that, the recent shut down of social media platforms across the country has left analysts concerned that freedom of speech in general could be targeted.

In March, parts of Sri Lanka’s Central Province experienced a wave of anti-Muslim riots that led to a weeklong shutdown of the social media platforms Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and Viber. The government blamed the riots on hate speech against the minority Muslim community that was spread over the various platforms. After meeting with Facebook, which owns Whatsapp and Instagram, the government unblocked the platforms.

“It was a knee jerk reaction, but it is a reaction that is again possible in the future, especially when we are heading into elections,” Wijethunge said.

He feels that social media was targeted because that is where Sri Lankans tend be freest in airing their views and disseminating news.

Facebook data shows that there are between five to six million accounts of Sri Lankan origin, generating one billion posts on Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram each month. Even politicians like president Sirisena, ex-president Rajapaksa and his son Namal Rajapaksa have been using their Facebook and Twitter profiles as integral parts of campaigning and reaching out to their constituencies.

Sanjana Hattotuwa, a senior researcher with the think-tank Centre for Policy Alternatives, has extensively researched the impact social media has on voters. His research shows that for a quarter of the country’s eligible voters, those within the age bracket of 18 to 34, social media is the primary platform of political interaction.

“Misinformation and disinformation are clearly engineered to heighten their anxieties and anger,” he said, referring to fake news content.

Hattotuwa’s research also shows that hate speech, trolling and fake news were quite visible on accounts and groups originating in Sri Lanka long before the March riots. He said these should have been tackled in a much more organised and professional manner with technology and human vetting playing an important role. He said he feared that old political games could be at play on these new forums.

“The growth of social media and the spread of internet access, in Sri Lanka, cannot be equated with a stronger democracy, and the growth of liberal government. The weaponisation of social media needs thus to be seen as the latest strategy of an older political game.”

With its growing popularity, Wijethunge feels social media is now the main vector for political news and sentiment.

Given that there is no effective countering of fake content and misinformation other than outright blocking, “it will be the testing ground where we will see all these freedoms gained in the last three and half years are really sustainable or just an illusion.” More so as the criticism of the government increases.

The post Social Media – the New Testing Ground for Sri Lanka’s Freedom appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/social-media-new-testing-ground-sri-lankas-freedom/feed/ 1
Chile Has Medicine Against Desertification, But Does Not Take Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-medicine-desertification-not-take http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 22:30:00 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156750 The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities. “One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, […]

The post Chile Has Medicine Against Desertification, But Does Not Take It appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities.

“One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, is the retention of rainwater. That is key because since we have eroded and degraded soil and we have occasional rains in winter, the soil is not able to retain more than 10 percent of the water that falls,” Daniel Rojas, the head of the Peña Blanca farmers’ association, told IPS.

“The rest ends up in the sea,” added Rojas, the head of the association of 85 small-scale farmers, located 385 km north of Santiago, which has 6,587 hectares, 98 percent of them rainfed, irrigated exclusively by rainfall."If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business." -- Daniel Rojas

Rojas considered that “if we had retention works we could use between 50 and 70 percent of that water and restore our groundwater.”

In the region of Coquimbo, where Peña Blanca is located, within the municipality of Ovalle, 90 percent of the land is eroded and degraded.

Between 2000 and 2016, the area planted with fruit trees in Chile grew 50 percent, but in Coquimbo it fell 22.9 percent, from 35,558 to 27,395 hectares.

Water is vital in Chile, an agrifood powerhouse that last year exported 15.751 billion dollars in food and is the world’s leading exporter of various kinds of fruit.

According to Rojas, there is academic, social and even political consensus on a solution that focuses on water retention, “but the necessary resources are not allocated and the necessary laws are not enacted.”

Pedro Castillo, mayor of the municipality of Combarbalá, agreed with Rojas.

“Because of the strong centralism that prevails in our country, desertification won’t be given importance until the desert is knocking on the doors of Santiago,” Castillo, the highest authority in this municipality of small-scale farmers and goat farmers told IPS.

Castillo believes that all the projects “will be only declarations of good intentions if there is no powerful and determined investment by the state of Chile to halt desertification.”

The mayor said that desertification can be combated by investing in water catchment systems, through “works that are not expensive,” such as the construction of infiltration ditches and dams in the gorges.

“With rainwater catchment systems with plastic sheeting, rainwater can be optimised, wells can be recharged and the need for additional water, which is now being delivered to the population with tanker trucks, can be reduced,” he said.

“The cost of these systems does not exceed five million pesos (7,936 dollars) because the works use materials that exist on-site and do not require much engineering. A tanker truck that delivers water costs the state about 40 million pesos (63,492 dollars) each year,” Castillo said.

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

He also proposed curbing desertification through afforestation with native species of lands handed by agricultural communities to the government’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF).

“Afforestation efforts involve the replanting of native trees tolerant of the scarce rainfall in semi-arid areas, and they generate fodder for local farmers,” he said.

The region of Coquimbo comprises the southern border of the Atacama Desert, the driest desert on earth which has the most intense solar radiation on the planet. Covering 105,000 sq km, it encompasses six northern regions in this long and narrow country that stretches between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

This year Peña Blanca, at the southern tip of the desert, received 150 mm of rainfall, a high figure compared to the average of the last few years.

Rojas said “there are many things to be done, not to halt the advance of desertification completely, but to slow it down.”

The social leader said that in meetings with both academics and politicians there is agreement on what to do, “but that is not reflected when it comes to creating a law or allocating resources to do these works.”

To illustrate, he mentioned a novel project for the retention of rainwater underground, saying the studies and development of the initiative were financed, “but not the works itself.”

“And this way, it’s no use. Ideas must be put into practice through works. This is what is urgently needed: fewer studies and more works,” he said.

Rojas also criticised the fact that the state spends “billions of pesos” on the distribution of water to rural areas through tanker trucks.

“If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business,” Rojas said.

Geographer Nicolás Schneider, the driving force behind the non-governmental “Un Alto en el Desierto” (A Stop in the Desert) Foundation, told IPS that in Chile “there is no public policy in terms of tools, concrete policies and the provision of resources” to halt desertification in the country.

“Successful alternatives are isolated experiences that are the product of enthusiasm or group ventures, but not of a state policy to stop this scientifically accredited advance (of the desertification process),” he said.

He mentioned Chilean physicist Carlos Espinosa, who invented the fog catcher, a system whose patent he donated in the 1980s to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and which consists of harvesting water from the fog.

Fog catchers consist of fine mesh nets known as raschel set up on foggy slopes to catch suspended drops of water, which gather and merge, running from small gutters to collection tanks.

These systems, which are becoming more and more sophisticated, have been providing water for human consumption and for irrigation on land generally higher than 600 metres above sea level for decades.

In the Cerro Grande Ecological Reserve, owned by Peña Blanca, the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation installed 24 fog catchers and a fog study centre.

“The average daily water from fog there is six litres per cubic metre of raschel mesh and 35 percent shade. Since they are nine square metres in size, we have a catchment area of 216 metres, which gives us 1,296 litres of water per day,” Schneider said.

He explained that “this water is mainly used for reforestation and ecological restoration, beer making, water for animals and – when there is severe drought – for human consumption.”

“It is also an educational element because thousands of children have visited the fog catchers, so they have been turned into an open-air classroom against desertification,” he said.

He added that there is great potential for fog from Papudo, on the central Chilean coast, to Arica, in the far north of the country, which has not been exploited to the benefit of coastal communities that have problems of access and water quality.

Eduardo Rodríguez, regional director of Conaf in Coquimbo, told IPS that all of the corporation’s programmes are aimed at combating desertification, including one against forest fires, which now have better indicators.

“However, we have problems with afforestation because we do not yet have a policy for providing incentives to increase afforestation, reforestation and replanting in a region that has been degraded for practically a century and a half,” he acknowledged.

The post Chile Has Medicine Against Desertification, But Does Not Take It appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/feed/ 0
Q&A: Air Pollution Remains Cause for Alarm in Asiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/qa-air-pollution-remains-cause-alarm-asia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-air-pollution-remains-cause-alarm-asia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/qa-air-pollution-remains-cause-alarm-asia/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 13:44:59 +0000 Sinsiri Tiwutanond http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156734 IPS correspondent Sinsiri Tiwutanond spoke to Global Green Growth Institute’s director-general Dr. Frank Rijsberman about Asia's fight against air pollution.

The post Q&A: Air Pollution Remains Cause for Alarm in Asia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

On any given day, a pall of smog and dust hangs over Kabul's streets. It clings to the face, burns the eyes, and stains the hands. It bathes the cars, often stuck bumper-to-bumper in traffic, and occludes the view of the distant mountains. Credit: Anand Gopal/IPS

By Sinsiri Tiwutanond
BANGKOK , Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

At the start of the year the pollution in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, reached six times the World Health Organization’s guideline levels for air quality.

Yet the levels, which appear higher than those of South Korea’s capital Seoul—where most people monitor the air pollution levels daily—is not treated with equal concern because of a lack of general awareness. This is despite the fact that air pollution has become the largest cause of premature deaths in Asia.

“When I went to Vietnam, I realised no one thought there was an air pollution problem because no one was directly addressing it. It was worse than Seoul when we checked the level there. In Seoul, people talk about air pollution everyday. In the morning, you check the air quality to see if you need a mask or if the kids can play outside. In Hanoi, the problem is just as bad but people just don’t know about it,” Global Green Growth Institute’s director-general Dr. Frank Rijsberman told IPS.

GGGI is one of the organisations working directly with governments in the region to tackle the growing concern of air pollution, as it has become the largest cause of premature death in many nations.

A study released by the WHO this March found air pollution to be the most lethal environmental threat to human health in Asia.  "Pollution is the largest cause of premature death now, even more than smoking." -- GGGI director-general Dr. Frank Rijsberman

The WHO estimated around 2.2 million of the global seven million premature deaths each year occur in low and middle-income countries, most of them in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The study also found that the world’s megacities exceed the WHO’s guideline levels for air quality by more than five times.

Inefficient energy use in households, industry, agriculture and transport sectors, and coal-fired power plants were the major sources attributed to outdoor air pollution, while the lack of access to clean cooking fuels and technologies contributed most to indoor pollution. The latter puts women and children as the biggest group at risk.

As a result, two-thirds of Southeast Asian cities saw a five percent growth in air pollution between 2008 and 2013 according to a WHO report in 2016. However, the report noted that more governments were increasing their commitments to reduce air pollution.

On his latest visit to Bangkok, Rijsberman spoke to IPS about the efforts governments in the region are making to mitigate the risks from air pollution, and key areas the region needed to focus on before the effects of pollution become irreversible.

Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman says the issue of air pollution in Asia has become “surprisingly alarming”. Credit: Sinsiri Tiwutanond/IPS

Q: You were in Singapore for the World Cities Summit prior to your Bangkok visit. Can you share some of the key insights and trends discussed on the panel?

There was a lot of focus on smart cities at the social innovation panel I was part of. I am very excited about electric mobility from the environmental perspective but also because it is a more sustainable, affordable and healthier form of public transportation.

For example, three-wheelers are the most important form of public transport in Vientiane, Laos, but it is also the biggest source of air pollution.

So we are working on a project to replace these three-wheelers with electric ones. Most of the things I talked about was a shift in perspective to focus on basic public services that need to be more sustainable, inclusive and help to improve the quality of life for the citizens.

Q: Where do you see the impact most visible now that Asia has become a key battleground in the fight against air pollution?

The issue is surprisingly alarming everywhere. The most immediately visible [impact can be seen] in places like Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where you cannot even see the other side of the street during winter. The government had to declare a national emergency last year and we worked on a whole series of projects to help reduce that, mostly focusing on indoor air pollution.

A lot of the locals still heat their tents with coal and that means that the children have incredible levels of pneumonia, asthma and bronchitis. Air pollution is actually the second-largest cause of premature deaths for children in Mongolia. But there is also cause for alarm in countries where it is not as clearly visible and people are not so aware of the problem.

Q: What are some of these places that are still falling behind in pollution awareness?

Air pollution is virtually everywhere in Asia in the big cities because of transport, coal-fired power plants and industry. Even in less-developed rural areas where you don’t expect the level to be as high.

Eighty percent of people in Cambodia are still cooking food on an open fire and using coal for heating and as a result, indoor air pollution is a huge problem for them. Pollution is the largest cause of premature death now, even more than smoking. It is something that worries us a lot and plays a large part in green growth.

Q: Who do you see as leaders within the region on these issues?

There are quite a few leaders now in renewable energy for electricity production. India, however, is moving fast in positioning itself in the renewable energy industry. The prices have drastically decreased because of large-scale subsidy options where the Indian government says for the next 100 megawatts you can build a power plant or if you want you can offer us the cheapest form of energy.

For those options, the prices have come down comparatively to coal, which used to be assumed as the cheapest option. As a result, a lot of the companies abandon their plans to build coal-fired power plants, which is a huge change.

Southeast Asia appears to have small success but by and large, it is still waiting to take off. However, it can grow very rapidly once it has a breakthrough. In Vietnam late last year, they introduced some good policies for net metering, feed-in-tariff and power purchase agreement. There is a lot of interest but the breakthrough is likely to come in the next one or two years.

Q: What are some challenges facing this breakthrough?

Southeast Asia is variable. In Cambodia, the government is interested in renewable energy but the ministry of environment also just recently signed a contract for a coal-fired power plant. I think we just need to ensure that the stakeholders can see these investments as financially viable on top of the immediate environmental consequences.

We are working on that in quite a few places.

Q: Lastly, what do you think are some areas that have been overlooked in the region?

Only 20 percent of the total global energy use goes to electricity and power production. The other two large parts are mobility/transport and buildings. In Asia, energy efficiency in building materials or cooling and heating structures are hugely important. The technology tends to be there but there is remarkably little interest.

In Mongolia, we are working to prepare a project to improve these existing Soviet-style housing where people control the temperature by opening windows. Everything is over heated and it is the worst way to manage energy. We are proposing to them to retrofit these buildings by insulating them and improving the temperature control. The project will be successful to us if by the end of the year we can mobilise the finance to retrofit the 15,000 apartments with better insulation and e-meters.

Energy efficiency in general whether it is for air conditioning or building is a huge topic, which has not received enough attention. It is as good as adding new energy if you can improve energy efficiency. It is something we think can be shared more within the region.

The post Q&A: Air Pollution Remains Cause for Alarm in Asia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Sinsiri Tiwutanond spoke to Global Green Growth Institute’s director-general Dr. Frank Rijsberman about Asia's fight against air pollution.

The post Q&A: Air Pollution Remains Cause for Alarm in Asia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/qa-air-pollution-remains-cause-alarm-asia/feed/ 0
New York, With 8.5 Million People, Among Cities Heading for a Sustainable Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-york-8-5-million-people-among-cities-heading-sustainable-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-york-8-5-million-people-among-cities-heading-sustainable-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-york-8-5-million-people-among-cities-heading-sustainable-future/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 12:11:39 +0000 Maimunah Mohd Sharif and Achim Steiner http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156736 Maimunah Mohd Sharif is Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

The post New York, With 8.5 Million People, Among Cities Heading for a Sustainable Future appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Maimunah Mohd Sharif is Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

By Maimunah Mohd Sharif and Achim Steiner
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

New York has long been considered a pioneer – in fashion, art, music, and food, just to name a few. Now this city of 8.5 million is leading a shift in how we tackle today’s toughest global challenges like climate change, education, inequality, and poverty.

UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

These issues are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, an agenda agreed by all nations in 2015 that chart a path for people, prosperity, and the planet. This July, New York is joining countries at the United Nations to report on its progress and to share experiences, becoming the first city to do so.

It makes good sense for New York and other cities to spearhead progress on these global goals – including the need for decent housing, public transport, green spaces and clean air.

More than half of the world’s 7 billion people currently live in cities, and by 2050 that number will be closer to 70%. By 2030, there will be over 700 cities with more than a million inhabitants.

Urban growth is happening fastest in developing countries, which often struggle to meet the demand for quality municipal services and have little experience in planning. Rapid growth can also push up the prices of housing and energy, and can increase pollution, threatening the health and well-being of millions.

Cities are also financial powerhouses, generating 82% of global GDP, yet they also account for 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions, use 80% of the world’s energy, and generate over 1 billion tonnes of waste per year.

Inequality within cities on issues like income, health, and education are also a big challenge.

Cities are a fulcrum for sustainable development worldwide and crucible for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Unleashing the power of cities to help solve global challenges means linking local plans to national plans, and also to global agendas.

Cities are already showing how to lead by example on one of our most pressing global challenges: climate change.

The global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is an alliance of cities and local governments working to combat climate change and move to a low-emission and resilient society. This group has commitments from over 9,000 cities and local governments from 6 continents and 127 countries.

The Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this September is another example of how cities, as well as states, regions, companies and citizens, are coming together to show how every group can do something and accelerate action.

Which brings us back to New York.

Cities are on the frontlines of nearly every global challenge we currently face, and they need to be at the center of our strategy to solve them. The urban development of yesterday will not suffice.

By using the Sustainable Development Goals as their guide, New York is showing how cities can adapt their plans to mirror development plans, allowing them to grow in the most sustainable way possible while creating policies for the things people living in cities need.

Things like jobs, affordable housing, good education, quality health care, clean air and good waste management, just to name a few. Getting cities right can provide opportunities to address poverty, migration, employment and pollution.

We invite all cities to join New York and help lead the way in planning for a shared and sustainable future that benefits all people of the world.

On 17 July 2018, the UN will host an event at the High-level Political Forum: ‘The SDGs in Action – Working together for inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements. The event will focus on how cities and human settlement are accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and contributing to a transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.

The post New York, With 8.5 Million People, Among Cities Heading for a Sustainable Future appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Maimunah Mohd Sharif is Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

The post New York, With 8.5 Million People, Among Cities Heading for a Sustainable Future appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-york-8-5-million-people-among-cities-heading-sustainable-future/feed/ 0
Agroecology Beats Land and Water Scarcity in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 01:26:19 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156656 “Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques. Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did […]

The post Agroecology Beats Land and Water Scarcity in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ESPERANÇA/CUMARU, Brazil, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

“Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques.

Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did his military service, married and had three children. Then he returned to his homeland, where it was not easy for him to restart his life on a farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern state of Paraiba, with his new wife, Maria das Graças, whom everyone knows as Nina and with whom he has a 15-year-old daughter.

“I’d leave at four in the morning to fetch water. I would walk 40 minutes with two cans on my shoulders, going up and down hills,” recalled the 48-year-old farmer.

But in 2000, thanks to a rainwater collection tank, he finally managed to get potable water on Caldeirão, his farm, part of which he inherited.

And in 2011 he got water for production, through a “barreiro” or pond dug into the ground. Two years later, a “calçadão” tank was built on a terrace with a slope to channel rainwater, with the capacity to hold 52,000 litres.

“Now we have plenty of water, despite the drought in the last six years,” said 47-year-old Nina. The “barreiro” only dried up once, two years ago, and for a short time, she said.

The water allowed the couple to expand their fruit orchard with orange, grapefruit, mango, acerola (Malpighia emarginata) and hog plum (Spondias mombin L, typical of the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil) trees.

With funding from a government programme to support family farming and from the non-governmental organisation Assessment and Services for Alternative Agricultural Projects (ASPTA), focused on agroecology, the couple purchased a machine to produce fruit pulp and a freezer to store it.

“When the pulp sale takes off, our income will grow,” said Givaldo. “For now we earn more with orange and lemon seedlings, which sell better because they last longer than other fruits.”

Besides storing water in the “barreiro”, they also raise tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species of fish, for their own consumption. Meanwhile, in the garden, in addition to fruit trees, they grow vegetables, whose production will increase thanks to a small greenhouse that they have just built, where they will plant tomatoes, cilantro and other vegetables for sale, Nina said with enthusiasm.

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The productive activities on their small farm are further diversified by an ecological oven, which they use to make cakes and which cuts down on the use of cooking gas while at the same time using very little wood; by the production of fertilizer using manure from calves they raise and sell when they reach the right weight; and by the storage of native seeds.

The boundaries of their farm are marked by fences made of gliricidias (Gliricidia sepium), a tree native to Mexico and Central America, which offers good animal feed. The Dos Santos family hopes that they will serve as a barrier to the agrochemicals used on the corn crops on neighbouring farms.

Some time ago, the couple stopped raising chickens, which were sold at a good price due to their natural diet. “We had 200, but we sold them all, because there are a lot of robberies here. You can lose your life for a chicken,” Givaldo said.

Organic production, diversified and integrated with the efficient utilisation of water, turned this small farm into a showcase for ASPTA, an example of how to coexist with the semi-arid climate in Brazil’s Northeast.

This is why they frequently receive visitors. “Once we were visited by 52 people,” said the husband.

In the last week of June, the couple received 20 visitors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, mostly farmers, in an exchange promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Brazil’s Articulation of the Semi-Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, including ASPTA.

Another farm visited during the exchange, accompanied by IPS, was that of Joelma and Roberto Pereira, in the municipality of Cumaru, in the state of Pernambuco, also in the Northeast. They even built a roof over the sloping terrace that collects rainwater on their property, to hold meetings there.

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Three tanks for drinking water and one for production, a biodigester that generates much more gas than the family consumes, a system for producing liquid biofertiliser, another for composting, a small seedbed, cactus (Nopalea cochinilifera) and other forage plants are squeezed onto just half a hectare.

“We bought this half hectare in 2002 from a guy who raised cattle and left the soil trampled and only two trees. Now everything looks green,” said Joelma, who has three children in their twenties and lives surrounded by relatives, including her father, 65, who was born and still lives in the community, Pedra Branca, part of Cumaru.

The couple later acquired two other farms, of two and four hectares in size, just a few hundred metres away, where they raise cows, sheep, goats and pigs. The production of cheese, butter and other dairy products are, along with honey, their main income-earners.

On the original farm they have an agro-ecological laboratory, where they also have chicken coops and a bathroom with a dry toilet, built on rocks, in order to use human faeces as fertiliser and to “save water”.

“We reuse 60 percent of the water we use in the kitchen and bathroom, which passes through the bio water (filtration system) before it is used for irrigation,” Joelma said, while reciting her almost endless list of sustainable farm practices.

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

It all began many years ago, when her husband became a builder of rainwater collection tanks and she learned about the technologies promoted by the non-governmental Sabiá Agro-ecological Development Centre in the neighbouring municipality of Bom Jardim. Sabiá is the name of a bird and a tree that symbolise biodiversity.

Some tobacco seedlings stand out in a seedbed. “They serve as a natural insecticide, along with other plants with a strong odor,” she said.

“Joelma is an important model because she incorporated the agroforestry system and a set of values into her practices,” Alexandre Bezerra Pires, general coordinator of the Sabiá Centre, told the Central American farmers during the visit to her farm.

“The exchanges with Central America and Africa are a fantastic opportunity to boost cooperation, strengthen ties and help other countries. The idea of coexisting with the Semi-Arid (ASA’s motto) took the Central Americans by surprise,” he said.

The biodigester is the technology of “greatest interest for Guatemala, where they use a lot of firewood,” said Doris Chavarría, a FAO technician in that Central American country. She also noted the practices of making pulp from fruit that are not generally used because they are seasonal and diversifying techniques for preparing corn as interesting to adopt in her country.

“We don’t have enough resources, the government doesn’t help us, the only institution that supports us is FAO,” said Guatemalan farmer Gloria Diaz, after pointing out that Brazilian farmers have the support of various non-governmental organisations.

Mariana García from El Salvador was impressed by the “great diversity of vegetables” that the Brazilians grow and “the fairs 130 km away, an opportunity to sell at better prices, with the cost of transportation cut when several farmers go together.”

She was referring to family farmers in Bom Jardim who sell their produce in Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, with a population of 1.6 million.

The post Agroecology Beats Land and Water Scarcity in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/feed/ 0
Is Asia Pacific on Track to Meet UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/asia-pacific-track-meet-uns-sustainable-development-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-pacific-track-meet-uns-sustainable-development-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/asia-pacific-track-meet-uns-sustainable-development-goals/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 12:31:58 +0000 Kaveh Zahedi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156653 Kaveh Zahedi is Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

The post Is Asia Pacific on Track to Meet UN’s Sustainable Development Goals? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

"Trolleys" - makeshift carts with a bench fashioned out of scrap wood and bamboo - being pushed along the tracks of the Philippine National Railway. Not only is this mode of transportation cheap (Php5.00), it is also environment-friendly compared to pollution-causing trains and other modern vehicles. Credit: ESCAP/Anthony Into

By Kaveh Zahedi
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

Three years into the implementation period of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is Asia Pacific on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

According to ESCAP’s recent Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report, the answer is yes for only one Goal, unlikely for many Goals, and probably not for a few Goals where the region is moving in the wrong direction, most notably on inequality.

While there are major variations across the vast Asia Pacific region, between and within countries, the overall trajectories are clear and point to areas where urgent action is needed.

ESCAP’s analysis shows that inequalities are widening in terms of income and wealth, opportunity and access to services. Income inequalities grew in almost 40 per cent of all countries. Large disparities exist in access to education, bank accounts, clean fuels and basic sanitation.

Poor and disadvantaged groups are disproportionally impacted by environmental degradation, including diseases from air pollution and natural disasters. Inequalities in income and lack of employment opportunities, along with poverty, landlessness, and vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change, all heighten the risk of extremism and conflicts that could unravel development gains in Asia Pacific.

This is a concern as disaster risk is outpacing efforts to build resilience in Asia Pacific. A person living in the Asia Pacific region is five times more likely to be affected by natural disasters than a person living in any other region. Poor people are disproportionately affected by such disasters: between 2000 and 2015 the low and lower middle-income countries experienced by far the most disaster deaths.

Extreme weather events, including slow onset disasters such as drought, are undermining food security. They can lead to hunger among the most vulnerable, particularly those in rural areas working in agriculture. Yet disasters also widen inequalities in urban areas. Climate change will continue to magnify and reshape the risk of disasters and increase their costs.

As a result, risk governance needs to be strengthened, investments in disaster risk reduction increased and the fiscal burden of disasters better managed to avoid a disproportionate impact on the poor and vulnerable. With over half of global GHG emissions coming from Asia Pacific, countries in the region also face the considerable challenge of decarbonization.

Children living in an urban slum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Credit: ESCAP/Kibae Park

However, the necessary energy transformation in Asia Pacific is still in an early stage. Progress on achieving SDG 7 is insufficient. Major gaps remain between current trajectories and what is needed to meet SDG targets and wider aspirations from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

While access to electricity has reached 90%, up from 70% in 1990 at a time of major population growth, the progress in access to clean cooking fuels has been slow. The significant growth in renewable energy has been outpaced by growth in energy demand and fossil fuel use.

There are signs the region has begun to decouple energy use and gross domestic product, an important step for energy efficiency, but again progress is too slow to meet energy efficiency targets under SDG 7.

The energy transition pathways to 2030 will require full alignment of national energy policies with SDG 7, the development of national energy transition roadmaps, a quantum leap in the financing of sustainable energy, especially from the private sector, and the rapid phase out of fossil fuel subsidies.

Over the past few decades, Asia Pacific has succeeded in dramatically reducing poverty, increasing levels of education, extending life expectancy and building fast growing and resilient economies that have largely weathered the global financial crisis. The region is at the forefront of many technological developments that will shape the future of manufacturing, work and daily lives.

But leaving no one behind will require re-aligning investments to deliver the 2030 Agenda and targeted policies for the most vulnerable. This includes addressing the challenges of population ageing in Asia Pacific, where one in four people will be 60 years or older by 2050.

It also includes building disability inclusive societies for over 600 million people with disabilities, to address their disproportionate rate of poverty, remove barriers to education and work, and enable their full and effective participation in decision-making processes. It calls for achieving safe, orderly and regular migration to address the challenges faced by over 60 million international migrants in the Asia Pacific region.

It requires investment in building resilience and in promoting innovation. And it demands eliminating gender disparities, closing gender gaps and investing in women, including by promoting women’s entrepreneurship.

What ESCAP’s work over the past year has shown is that the region has not yet put in place the policies that will drive the transformative change needed to deliver on the Regional Road Map for Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.

Recent history has demonstrated the region has everything it takes to change course. Whether this will happen soon enough and fast enough to achieve the SDGs remains an open question.

The link to the original article: https://www.unescap.org/blog/is-asia-pacific-on-track-to-meet-the-sustainable-development-goals

The post Is Asia Pacific on Track to Meet UN’s Sustainable Development Goals? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Kaveh Zahedi is Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

The post Is Asia Pacific on Track to Meet UN’s Sustainable Development Goals? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/asia-pacific-track-meet-uns-sustainable-development-goals/feed/ 0
Youth Skills: Have We Addressed the Need?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/youth-skills-addressed-need/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=youth-skills-addressed-need http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/youth-skills-addressed-need/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 10:59:47 +0000 Dr. Palitha Kohona http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156644 Dr. Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka
to the United Nations.

The post Youth Skills: Have We Addressed the Need? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Working youth, otherwise without educational opportunities and from a wide range of ages, attend classes at a Social Support Center in Marka, east of Amman, Jordan. Credit: ILO/Jared J. Kohler

By Dr. Palitha Kohona
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

The World Youth Skills Day is being celebrated around the world on 15 July. This day was established on 18 December 2014 by General Assembly resolution A/RES/69/145 which was initiated by Sri Lanka. Following a lengthy consultation process, at the UN and outside, during which some delegations, including some Europeans expressed reservations, the resolution was eventually adopted unanimously. It received solid support from youth delegations from around the world.

World Youth Skills Day resolution was a landmark UN initiative and had its origins in a visionary statement made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka at the 2013 UNGA. The idea was subsequently championed by the Sri Lankan Minister for Youth Affairs, Dulles Alahapperuma. The Sri Lankan delegation, at the time, worked the corridors tirelessly until the scales were tipped and the adoption of the resolution became certain.

Resolution A/RES/69/145 built upon the World Programme of Action for Youth of 2007, International Youth Day in 1999 and the Colombo Declaration on Youth of 2014, which, for the first time, was adopted with the concurrence of both youth and official delegations. The Colombo Declaration on Youth required youth needs to be mainstreamed in policy making.

With an increasing number of unemployed youth worldwide, the majority of whom are in developing countries, the United Nations was activated to take action to help young people to achieve their intrinsic potential.

The World Youth Skills Day 2018, as did all youth skills days before, aims to encourage the acquisition of marketable skills and training by the young. By acquiring core professional and lifestyle skills, young people will be able to contribute to the development and growth of their own communities.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has identified marketable skills and jobs for youth as a priority. The World Youth Skills Day embodies the values of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with special emphasis on:

SDG 4: Quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities,
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.an you get involved?

The youth component of the global population is increasing and a new problem of critical magnitude is slowly creeping upon policy makers, especially in developing countries. Many developing countries, consistent with their commitments under the Millennium Development Goals, some with great difficulty, have provided basic literacy and health care to their populations.

Many youth now survive in to old age. But providing meaningful employment to these millions who possess basic literacy has not been successfully addressed. The key challenge today is the paucity of marketable skills among youth. An educated and skilled workforce is also a key factor in attracting investments.

While the situation for all youth remains a challenge, the unfortunate tendency for young women in many developing countries to fall behind even further compared with their male counterparts due to the lack of employable skills and social attitudes has been highlighted frequently. Equipping young women also with employable skills will enhance the economic potential of a country dramatically.

The modern skill sets required to operate in a high tech environment, including in the areas of management, environment conservation, ICT, banking, transport, aviation, etc, are simply not being provided in quantity. The result is a burgeoning, restless and disenchanted generation that could cause social and more serious problems, instead of being an economic asset.

The world today is home to the largest generation of youth in history. 90% of young people live in developing countries. Unemployment affects more than 73 million young people around the world, with the jobless rate exceeding 50 per cent in some developing countries.

Even some developed countries, especially in the south of Europe, have not been able to avoid the youth unemployment crisis. Many are still to recover from the financial crisis and youth have been its major victims.

The world will need to add 600 million new jobs by 2026 to accommodate the flood tide of youth entering the job market. The former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said: “Empowering young people through skills development strengthens their capacity to help address the many challenges facing society….”.

These multiple challenges include, inter alia, alleviating poverty, eliminating injustice, conserving the environment and controlling violent conflict.

In order to focus attention on youth issues, the outgoing UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, established the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and appointed Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan as his first Envoy on Youth.

Today, Jayathma Wickremanayaka from Sri Lanka is the SG’s Youth Envoy. She cut her teeth in global youth affairs during the Youth Summit held in Sri Lanka in 2014.

The youth of today will be directly confronted by two major challenges. They will be required to generate wealth through employment or entrepreneurship, not only to support themselves but also a rapidly ageing older generation. Employment for the young was not a major issue in developed countries in the past, but today it is. Without income generating employment, the youth demographic will be a burden on itself and a worry for the older generation.

Industrialisation, so clearly emphasised in the SDGs, will require the new generation to be adequately prepared, as the industrialisation process will rely mostly on high tech. Some developed countries, especially the Northern Europeans, have well tested programmes for enhancing the technical skills of youth. Youth are channelled into technical studies at an early age.

There are many lessons that could be learnt from the education and training methods of these countries, especially in the context of North South Cooperation. Some developing countries have also succeeded in harnessing the youth component of their populations for economically productive endeavours. Their experiences could be shared in the context of South-South Cooperation.

The private sector, if necessary in partnership with the state, can play a vital role in disseminating advanced skills to today’s youth.

The importance of youth participation and representation in institutional political processes and policy-making has been highlighted in recent discussions. Youth need to be able to influence policy making.

For far too long policy making for youth had little or no youth input. Sri Lanka was among the first to establish a youth parliament to provide training in political activity for youth.

In certain countries, where youth disenchantment is rife, especially for economic reasons, young people have often been coerced or otherwise channelled to joining extremist elements. But it is a mistake to suggest that economic circumstances alone are the major factor that drives youth in to extremism. The causes of youth extremism need to be addressed as a separate exercise.

The post Youth Skills: Have We Addressed the Need? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr. Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka
to the United Nations.

The post Youth Skills: Have We Addressed the Need? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/youth-skills-addressed-need/feed/ 0
Family Planning Is A Human Righthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-planning-human-right http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2018 07:32:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156639 It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world. For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is […]

The post Family Planning Is A Human Right appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A basket of condoms passed around during International Women’s Day in Manila. Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world.

For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is a Human Right,” and aptly so.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights where family planning was, for the first time, understood to be a human right.“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children,” the Tehran Proclamation from the conference states.

The historic meeting also linked the right to the “dignity and worth of the human person.”

“Family planning is not only a matter of human rights; it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty, and achieving sustainable development,” said UNFPA’s Executive Director Natalia Kanem.

However, in developing countries, more than 200 million women still lack safe and effective family planning methods largely due to the lack of information or services.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently found that clinical guidelines are followed in less than 50 percent of cases in poorer nations, resulting in “deficient” family planning.

In such circumstances and without access to contraception, women and girls often turn to dangerous methods such as ingesting or inserting vinegar, which can cause bodily damage.

UNFPA found that in one country, the stiff plastic wrapper of an ice popsicle is used as a replacement for condoms which could result in genital lacerations.

While such practices have generally decreased, countries like Yemen where conflict has restricted access to family planning are seeing more women using unsafe, traditional methods of contraception.

In other places such as the United States, family planning is deliberately under attack.

Just a year after implementing the global gag rule, which cuts off international family planning funds to any foreign nongovernmental organization who advocate or even give information about abortion, the Trump administration is now turning inwards and targeting its own.

Title X is a USD300 million government programme dedicated to helping the four million low-income women who wish to access birth control and other family planning services

However, new proposed regulations echo a sense of a “domestic gag rule” by restricting people’s access to family planning care. One such proposal forbids doctors from counselling patients with unplanned pregnancies about their reproductive options and instead advocates coercing pregnant patients towards having children regardless of their own wishes.

The scenario can already be seen playing out across the country.

Recently in California, the Supreme Court reversed a law that required crisis pregnancy centres, which often trick women into believing they provide family planning services, to provide full disclosure.

The Supreme Court found that it “imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.”

“It’s clear the U.S. government is taking more and more swipes at a fundamental aspect of the right to health—the right to information,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” she continued.

Withholding such essential resources and information from women also heightens the risk of ill-health or even death for newborns.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, women with unintended pregnancies, which is often higher among the poor, often receive worse prenatal care and poor birth outcomes. When women are able to decide when to have children and space out their pregnancies, their children are less likely to be born prematurely or have low birth weights.

Already, a study found that U.S. babies are three times more likely to die compared to 19 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development largely due to high poverty rates and a weak social safety net.

Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S.

And now with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a history of undermining women’s reproductive freedom, we may even see worse including the dismantling of the historic Roe v. Wade case which legalised abortions.

If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and meeting all family planning needs, the international community should not forget its affirmation at the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights.

“Investments in family planning today are investments in the health and well-being of women for generations to come,” Kanem concluded.

The post Family Planning Is A Human Right appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/feed/ 1
Strengthening Cuban Coastal Landscape in the Face of Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/cuban-coastal-landscape-strengthened-face-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cuban-coastal-landscape-strengthened-face-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/cuban-coastal-landscape-strengthened-face-climate-change/#respond Mon, 09 Jul 2018 21:42:46 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156610 Strong winds agitate the sea that crashes over Punta de Maisí, the most extreme point in eastern Cuba, where no building stands on the coast made up of rocky areas intermingled with vegetation and with sandy areas where people can swim and sunbathe. A little inland, a white, well-kept lighthouse rises 37 metres above sea […]

The post Strengthening Cuban Coastal Landscape in the Face of Climate Change appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The 37-metre tall lighthouse is a symbol of the municipality of Maisí. Built in 1862, it is located at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The 37-metre tall lighthouse is a symbol of the municipality of Maisí. Built in 1862, it is located at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Ivet González
MAISÍ, Cuba, Jul 9 2018 (IPS)

Strong winds agitate the sea that crashes over Punta de Maisí, the most extreme point in eastern Cuba, where no building stands on the coast made up of rocky areas intermingled with vegetation and with sandy areas where people can swim and sunbathe.

A little inland, a white, well-kept lighthouse rises 37 metres above sea level. Standing there since 1862, it is an icon of the municipality of Maisí, in the province of Guantánamo, in the east of this Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million inhabitants.

“Occasionally there’s a cyclone. Matthew recently passed by and devastated this area,” said Hidalgo Matos, who has been the lighthouse keeper for more than 40 years.

Matos was referring to the last major disaster to strike the area, when Hurricane Matthew, category four on the one to five Saffir-Simpson scale, hit Guantánamo on Oct. 4-5, 2016.

Thanks to this rare trade, which has been maintained from generation to generation by the three families who live next to the lighthouse, the 64-year-old Matos has seen from the privileged height of the tower the fury of the sea and the winds from the hurricanes that are devastating Cuba and other Caribbean islands, more and more intensely due to climate change.

“One of the benefits of the area is that the majority of the population makes a living from fishing,” said the lighthouse-keeper.

This is the main reason why coastal populations are reluctant to leave their homes by the sea, and even return after being relocated to safer areas inland.

Facing this and other obstacles, the Cuban authorities in the 1990s began to modify the management of coastal areas, which was accelerated with the implementation in 2017 of the first government plan to address climate change, better known as Life Task.

Currently, more than 193,000 people live in vulnerable areas, in conditions that will only get worse, as the sea level is forecast to rise 27 centimetres by 2050 and 85 centimetres by 2100.

The relocation of coastal communities and the restoration of native landscapes are key to boosting resilience in the face of extreme natural events.

Hidalgo Matos is the keeper of the lighthouse located in Punta de Maisí at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. From his watchtower, he has witnessed the effects of climate change - the increasingly recurrent and extreme natural events. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Hidalgo Matos is the keeper of the lighthouse located in Punta de Maisí at the eastern tip of Cuba, in the province of Guantánamo. From his watchtower, he has witnessed the effects of climate change – the increasingly recurrent and extreme natural events. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Scientists say that natural elements of coastal protection such as sandy beaches, sea grasses, reefs and mangroves cushion the tides.

Of the country’s 262 coastal settlements, 121 are estimated to be affected by climate change. Of these, 67 are located on the north coast, which was affected almost in its entirety by the powerful Hurricane Irma in September 2017, and 54 are in the south.

In total, 34,454 people, 11,956 year-round homes, 3,646 holiday homes and 1,383 other facilities are at risk.

Cuban authorities reported that 93 of the 262 coastal settlements had been the target of some form of climate change adaptation and mitigation action by 2016.

Measures for relocation to safer areas were also being carried out in 65 of these communities, 25 had partial plans for housing relocation, 22 had to be completely relocated from the shoreline, and another 56 were to be reaccommodated, rehabilitated and protected.

“There are no plans to move any settlements or people in the municipality because after Cyclone Matthew everything was moved,” said Eddy Pellegrin, a high-level official in the government of Maisí, with a population of 28,752 people who depend mostly on agriculture.

“Since 2015 we have been working on it. From that year to 2017, we relocated some 120 people,” he said in an interview with IPS in Punta de Maisí.

The view towards the mainland from the emblematic lighthouse in the farming town of Maisí, at the eastern tip of Cuba, where the municipal government is implementing several projects to adapt the vulnerable coastline to climate change. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The view towards the mainland from the emblematic lighthouse in the farming town of Maisí, at the eastern tip of Cuba, where the municipal government is implementing several projects to adapt the vulnerable coastline to climate change. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A total of 840 people live along the 254 km of coastline in this municipality, “who are not in dangerous or vulnerable places,” the official said, discussing the national programme to manage the coastal area that Maisí is preparing to conclude with a local development project.

“There is no need to make new investments in the coastal area, what remains is to plant sea grapes (Coccoloba uvifera) to increase production,” he said of a local development project that consists of planting these bushes typical of the beaches, to restore the natural protective barrier and produce wine from the fruit.

Punta de Maisí and Boca de Jauco are the areas to be reforested with sea grape plants.

Pellegrin added that coconut groves – a key element of Guantánamo’s economy – will be replanted 250 m from the coast.

Maisí is an illustration of the long-term challenges and complexities of coastal management, ranging from the demolition of poorly located homes and facilities, to changing the economic alternatives in those communities that depend on fishing, to major engineering works.

Guantánamo has been hit continuously in recent years by major hurricanes: Sandy (2012), Matthew (2016) and Irma (2017), in addition to the severe drought between 2014 and 2017 that affected virtually the entire country.

“The latest atmospheric phenomena have affected the entire coastal area,” Daysi Sarmiento, an official in the government of the province of Guantánamo, told IPS.

Sports coach Milaydis Griñán lives near the historic Punta de Maisí lighthouse on the eastern tip of the Cuban island. Members of three families have worked as lighthouse keepers for generations. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Sports coach Milaydis Griñán lives near the historic Punta de Maisí lighthouse on the eastern tip of the Cuban island. Members of three families have worked as lighthouse keepers for generations. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

“Now Baracoa Bay is being dredged,” said Sarmiento, referring to Baracoa, the first town in the area built by the Spaniards in colonial times, which faces the worst coastal risks.

The dredging is part of investments expected to be completed in September to protect Baracoa’s coast, which is highly vulnerable to floods, hurricanes and tsunamis.

By August 2017, the authorities had eliminated more than 900 state facilities and 673 private buildings from beaches nationwide. On the sandy coasts in this area alone, a total of 14,103 irregularly-built constructions were identified at the beginning of the Life Task plan.

The central provinces of Ciego de Avila and Sancti Spíritus are the only ones that today have beaches free of zoning and urban planning violations.

There are at least six laws that protect the coastline in various ways, in particular Decree-Law 212 on “Coastal Area Management”, which has been in force since 2000 and prohibits human activities that accelerate natural soil erosion, a problem that had not been given importance for decades.

“The community has grown further away from the coast,” sports coach Milaydis Griñán told IPS. She defines herself as Cuba’s “first inhabitant” because of the proximity of her humble home to the Punta de Maisí lighthouse, which is still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Matthew.

“The risks have been high because we are very close to the beach, especially when there is a storm or hurricane or tsunami alert, but we don’t have plans for relocation inland,” she said.

The post Strengthening Cuban Coastal Landscape in the Face of Climate Change appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/cuban-coastal-landscape-strengthened-face-climate-change/feed/ 0
“We Have to Redefine Policies for Sustainable Development”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/redefine-policies-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=redefine-policies-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/redefine-policies-sustainable-development/#respond Mon, 09 Jul 2018 09:48:05 +0000 Jens Martens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156599 Jens Martens is Director of Global Policy Forum, and coordinates the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The post “We Have to Redefine Policies for Sustainable Development” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Conflict and Climate Change Challenge Sustainable Development. Credit: Sebastian Rich / UNICEF

By Jens Martens
BONN, Germany, Jul 9 2018 (IPS)

When UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda, they signaled with the title Transforming our World that it should trigger fundamental changes in politics and society.

But three years after its adoption, most governments have failed to turn the proclaimed transformational vision of the 2030 Agenda into real policies.

Even worse, the civil society report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2018 shows that policies in a growing number of countries are moving in the opposite direction, seriously undermining the spirit and the goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Not a lack of resources

The problem is not a lack of global financial resources. On the contrary, in recent years we have experienced a massive growth and accumulation of individual and corporate wealth worldwide.

The policy choices that have enabled this unprecedented accumulation of wealth are the same fiscal and regulatory policies that led to the weakening of the public sector and produced extreme market concentration and socio-economic inequality.

The extreme concentration of wealth has not increased the resources that are available for sustainable development. As the World Inequality Report 2018 states, “Over the past decades, countries have become richer, but governments have become poor” due to a massive shift towards private capital.

But even where public money is available, all too often public funds are not allocated in line with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs but spent for harmful or at least dubious purposes, be it environmentally harmful subsidies or excessive military expenditures.

The Un-Sustainable Development Goal

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), global military expenditure rose again in 2017, after five years of relatively unchanged spending, to US$ 1.739 trillion. In contrast, net ODA by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) was only US$ 146.6 billion in 2017, thus less than one tenth of global military spending.

“The world is over-armed while peace is under-funded,” states the Global Campaign on Military Spending. Particularly alarming has been the decision of the NATO member countries, to increase military spending to at least 2 percent of their national GDP.

Even just for the European NATO members, this decision would mean a minimum increase of 300 billion Euros per year, most likely at the expense of other parts of their national budgets. The 2 percent goal represents a kind of ‘Un-Sustainable Development Goal’ and is in sharp contradiction to the spirit of the 2030 Agenda.

Gaps and contradictions exist not only in fiscal policy and the provision of the financial means of implementation for the SDGs. The most striking examples are climate and energy policies.

Instead of tackling unsustainable production patterns and taking the ‘polluter pays principle’ seriously, action is postponed, placing hope on technical solutions, including research on geoengineering, i.e. dangerous large-scale technological manipulations of the Earth’s systems.

Need to address the ‘dark side of innovation’

Of course, major technological shifts are necessary to unleash the transformative potential of the SDGs and to turn towards less resource-intensive and more resilient economic and social development models.

But this must not mean an uncritical belief in salvation through technological innovations, whether with regard to climate change or to the potential of information and communications technologies.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently called on Member States to address the ‘dark side of innovation’. This includes the new challenges of cybersecurity threats, the intrusion into privacy by artificial intelligence, its impact on labour markets, and the use of military-related ‘cyber operations’ and ‘cyber attacks’.

The ‘dark side of innovation’ could also be the leitmotif characterizing the dominant fallacies about feeding the world through intensified industrial agriculture. While the prevailing industrial agriculture system has enabled increased yields, this has come at a great cost to the environment as well as to human health and animal welfare.

At the same time, it has done little to address the root causes of hunger or to deal with inherent vulnerabilities to climate change.

Alternatives to business as usual

But despite these gloomy perspectives, there is still room for change. Contradicting policies are not an extraordinary phenomenon. They simply reflect contradicting interests and power relations within and between societies – and these are in constant flux and can be changed.

Bold and comprehensive alternatives to business as usual exist in all areas of the 2030 Agenda, and it is up to progressive actors in governments, parliaments, civil society and the private sector to gain the hegemony in the societal discourse to be able to put them into practice. Some of the necessary political action and reforms can be summarized in the following four points:

1. Turning the commitment to policy coherence into practice.
To date, the mainstream approach to sustainable development has been one of tackling its three dimensions in their own zones, complemented by (occasional) coordination between them. This approach has not created a strong institutional basis for decision-making and policy change across the three pillars. There is a need for a whole-of-government approach towards sustainability. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs must not be hidden in the niche of environment and development policies but must be declared a top priority by heads of government.

2. Strengthening public finance at all levels. Widening public policy space requires, among other things, the necessary changes in fiscal policies. In other words, governments have to formulate Sustainable Development Budgets in order to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. This includes, for example, taxing the extraction and consumption of non-renewable resources, and adopting forms of progressive taxation that prioritize the rights and welfare of poor and low-income people.

Fiscal policy space can be further broadened by the elimination of corporate tax incentives, and the phasing out of harmful subsidies, particularly in the areas of industrial agriculture and fishing, fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Military spending should be reduced, and the resource savings reallocated, inter alia, for civil conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

3. Improving regulation for sustainability and human rights. Governments have too often weakened themselves by adopting policies of deregulation or ‘better regulation’ (which is in fact a euphemism for regulation in the interest of the corporate sector) and trusted in corporate voluntarism and self-regulation of ‘the markets’. With regard to the human rights responsibilities of companies there is still a need for a legally binding instrument.

The Human Rights Council took a milestone decision in establishing an intergovernmental working group to elaborate such an instrument (or ‘treaty’). Governments should take this ‘treaty process’ seriously and engage actively in it. The expected start of the negotiation process in October 2018 offers an historic opportunity for governments to demonstrate that they put human rights over the interests of big business.

4. Closing global governance gaps and strengthening the institutional framework for sustainable development. The effectiveness of the required policy reforms depends on the existence of strong, well-equipped public institutions at national and international levels. It is essential to reflect the overarching character of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in the institutional arrangements of governments and parliaments. At the global level, the claim to make the UN system ‘fit for purpose’ requires reforms of existing institutions and the creation of new bodies in areas where governance gaps exist.

Governments decided in the 2030 Agenda that the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) under the auspices of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council should have the central role in overseeing follow-up and review, provide political leadership, and ensure that the Agenda remains relevant and ambitious.

However, compared to other policy arenas, such as the Security Council or the Human Rights Council, the HLPF has remained weak and with only one meeting of eight days a year absolutely unable to fulfil its mandate effectively.

The HLPF 2019 at the level of heads of State and government, the subsequent review of the HLPF, and the 75th anniversary of the UN 2020 provide new opportunities for strengthening and renewal of the institutional framework for sustainable development in the UN.

The post “We Have to Redefine Policies for Sustainable Development” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jens Martens is Director of Global Policy Forum, and coordinates the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The post “We Have to Redefine Policies for Sustainable Development” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/redefine-policies-sustainable-development/feed/ 0
United Nations Compact Must End Child Detentionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/#respond Sat, 07 Jul 2018 06:17:28 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156589 World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said. Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations. As images and […]

The post United Nations Compact Must End Child Detention appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2018 (IPS)

World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said.

Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations.

As images and stories of children trapped in detention centres in the United States continue to come out, Amnesty International (AI) has called on negotiation participants to end child detention. “Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the USA irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action.”

“The appalling scenes in the U.S. have illustrated why an international commitment to ending child migration detention is so desperately needed – these negotiations could not have come at a more crucial time,” said AI’s Senior Americas Advocate Perseo Quiroz.

“Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the U.S. irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action,” he added.

As a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and detained since May after crossing the country’s southern border.

Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S.

“At the U.N. next week there is a real opportunity for states to show they are serious about ending child migration detention for good by pushing for the strongest protections possible for all children, accompanied or otherwise,” Quiroz said.

The current draft of the GCM does mention the issue including a clause to “work to end the practice of child detention in the context of international migration” and to “use migration detention only as a last resort.”

However, AI believes the language is not strong enough as there is no circumstance in which migration-related detention of children is justified.

While U.S. president Donald Trump has signed an executive order reversing the family separation policy, he has replaced it with a policy of detaining entire families together.

This means that children, along with their parents, can be detained for a prolonged and indefinite period of time.

“Now is not the time to look away,” said Brian Root and Rachel Schmidt from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Family separation and detention policies are symptoms are a much larger global issue: how receiving countries treat migrants, who are often fleeing unstable and/or violent situations,” they added.

Recently, Oxfam found that children as young as 12 are physically abused, detained, and illegally returned to Italy by French border guards, contrary to French and European Union laws.

Over 4,000 child migrants have passed through the Italian border town of Ventimiglia between July 2017 and April 2018. The majority are fleeing persecution and conflict in countries such as Sudan, Eritrea, and Syria and are often trying to reach relatives or friends in other European countries.

Children have reported being detained overnight in French cells without food, water, or blankets and with no access to an official guardian.

In Australia, over 200 children are in asylum-seeker detention centres including on Nauru and are often detained for months, if not years.

“The Global Compact on Migration…offers some hope, but it will not work if many countries continue to see the issue purely in terms of border control,” HRW said.

“In addition, this compact will have little effect on an American president who seems to hold contempt for the idea of international cooperation,” they continued.

Last year, the U.S. withdrew from the U.N. Global Compact on Migration, just days before  a migration conference in Mexico, citing that the document undermines the country’s sovereignty.

Though the GCM itself is also not legally binding, AI said that it is politically binding and establishes a basis for future discussions on migration.

“Recent events have shone a spotlight on the brutal realities of detaining children simply because their parents are on the move, and we hope this will compel other governments to take concrete steps to protect all children from this cruel treatment,” Quiroz said.

Starting on Jul. 9, leaders of the 193 U.N. member states will meet in New York to agree on the final text of the GCM.

The post United Nations Compact Must End Child Detention appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/feed/ 0
From the Soccer Field to the Political Arenahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/soccer-field-political-arena/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soccer-field-political-arena http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/soccer-field-political-arena/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 12:33:53 +0000 Oliver Philipp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156582 Oliver Philipp, who studied European and political science in Mainz, Dijon and Oppeln / Poland, has been working for the Department of International Policy Analysis of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).

The post From the Soccer Field to the Political Arena appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

A young Russian soccer fan shows his skills outside the Cathedral of St. Theodore Ushakov near the FIFA Fan Fest in Saransk, Russia

By Oliver Philipp
BERLIN, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

Was your childhood room not adorned with posters of Gerd Müller or Zinedine Zidane? Were Willy Brandt or Mikhail Gorbachev the idols you looked up to in your youth?

And is the World Cup the worst time of the year for you, and are you already thinking about what remote place to flee to for four weeks to get away from the football frenzy? There’s no need to. We are about to tell you why the World Cup, now in its final stages, could be interesting to you, too.

Football is football and politics is politics. This statement does not always hold true, as demonstrated recently by the debate about the photograph of German national team members Ilkay Gündogan and Mesut Özil posing with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Football just can’t get away from politics. 60 members of the EU Parliament demanded a boycott of the World Cup in Russia in an open letter, and the debate about Putin’s politics will be a constant fixture over the next four weeks. The statements from the German national team were rather predictable. Coach Joachim Löw said that taking part in a World Cup does not equate to ‘associating with a system, regime or ruler’, and no matter where the German national football team plays, it always advocates its values of ‘diversity, openness and tolerance’.

Oliver Philipp

The business manager of the German national team, Oliver Bierhoff, even emphasised that his players were mature and allowed to have an opinion on politics. According to common clichés about footballers, those who are skilled with a ball are not usually skilled with words.

In Germany, you always had to decide at an early age whether you wanted to be famous, enjoy social recognition, have millions in the bank and keep in shape – or go into politics. The examples of Rhenania Würselen 09 defender and former German Chancellor candidate Martin Schulz and striker Gerhard Schröder, former German chancellor, show that football missed out on promising talents because they chose to go into politics.

It looks like it might be a while before the next German top politician with international football experience emerges. Other countries have made some more progress in this regard.

A former World Player of the Year is now head of state in Africa, and in Brazil, the idol of an entire generation has traded in his position on the right wing of the football field for the same position in the political arena. We would like to present four footballers who tried their hand at politics after their active career in football.

A president, an exiled Erdoğan critic and a Brazilian senator

Let’s start with what is perhaps the most prominent example: George Weah. Football fans in Paris and Milan celebrated him for his goals, and FIFA nominated him as the first and, to date, only African World Footballer of the Year in 1995. Weah was celebrated once more in 2017, this time by followers in his home state of Liberia. He won the presidential elections and brought the first peaceful change of government since 1944.

By contrast, the political career of Hakan Şükür could be subsumed under the title ‘From football star to enemy of the state’. Being one of Turkey’s golden generation that unexpectedly won third place at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, he is one of the most well-known and popular Turkish footballers. He took advantage of this popularity at the presidential elections in 2014, when he took a seat on the Turkish parliament as a member of the AKP.

However, he declared in 2016 that he was leaving Erdoğan’s AKP and accused the party of taking hostile steps against the Gülen movement. He was subsequently indicted for insulting the president in an alleged tweet about President Erdoğan and investigated for ‘membership in an armed terrorist organisation’. Şükür has been living in the USA since 2015 and was forced to watch from afar as his membership with Galatasaray Istanbul, the club with which he won eight Turkish championships and even the UEFA Cup, was revoked.

Brazilian football star Ronaldinho has received the title as World Player of the Year twice. There was hardly another footballer who’s dribbling skills we enjoyed watching more than those of the ponytailed Brazilian.

It was therefore not only the world of football that was shocked when headlines such as ‘The World Player of the Year and the fascist’ appeared this year. These headlines emerged in light of Ronaldinho’s announcement that he intended to support Jair Bolsonaro, an open racist and candidate to be reckoned with in the presidential elections in October 2018.

But there are other examples from Brazil. Romario, for example, who was also once nominated as World Player of the Year and won the World Cup, is now a member of the Brazilian Congress as senator for Rio de Janeiro, where he is fighting corruption and advocating for the equality of people with disabilities.

It looks like the World Cup has something to offer even to the biggest football grouches and politics nerds. For who knows what future head of state we will be watching on the field. We hope that all the others who want to let politics be politics during the World Cup will forgive us for writing these lines.

The post From the Soccer Field to the Political Arena appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Oliver Philipp, who studied European and political science in Mainz, Dijon and Oppeln / Poland, has been working for the Department of International Policy Analysis of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).

The post From the Soccer Field to the Political Arena appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/soccer-field-political-arena/feed/ 0
Experts Decry Exclusion of Africa’s Local Farmers in Food Security Effortshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 10:36:49 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156574 Joshua Kiragu reminisces of years gone by when just one of his two hectares of land produced at least 40 bags of maize. But that was 10 years ago. Today, Kiragu can barely scrape up 20 bags from the little piece of land that he has left – it measures just under a hectare. Kiragu, […]

The post Experts Decry Exclusion of Africa’s Local Farmers in Food Security Efforts appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Ibrahim Ndegwa at his farm in Ngangarithi, Wetlands in Nyeri County, Central Kenya. Experts are are concerned that local farmers remain at the periphery of efforts to address the impact of desertification. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

Joshua Kiragu reminisces of years gone by when just one of his two hectares of land produced at least 40 bags of maize. But that was 10 years ago. Today, Kiragu can barely scrape up 20 bags from the little piece of land that he has left – it measures just under a hectare.

Kiragu, who is from Kenya’s Rift Valley region, tells IPS that years of extreme and drastic weather patterns continue to take their toll on his once-thriving maize business. His business, he says, has all but collapsed.

But Kiragu’s situation is not unique. Effects of land degradation and desertification are some of the major challenges facing smallholder farmers today.

“Population pressures have led to extreme subdivision of land, farms are shrinking and this affects proper land management – smaller pieces of land mean that farmers are overusing their farms by planting every year,” says Allan Moshi, a land policy expert on sub-Saharan Africa.

Statistics from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) show that a majority of Africa’s farmers now farm on less than one hectare of land. “This is the case for Zambia where nearly half of the farms comprise less than one hectare of land, with at least 75 percent of smallholder farmers farming on less than two hectares,” Moshi tells IPS.

Although smallholder farmers contribute to land degradation through poor land management, experts like Moshi are concerned that local farmers remain at the periphery of efforts to address the impact of desertification.

“Their exclusion will continue to limit how much success we can achieve with ongoing interventions,” he adds.

Moshi says that the situation is dire as small-scale farmers across Africa account for at least 75 percent of agricultural outputs, according to FAO. In Zambia, for instance, over 600,000 farms with an average land size of less than a hectare produce about 300,000 metric tonnes of maize. While this production meets the food needs of the country’s 17 million people, they lack modernised irrigation systems, making their crops vulnerable to drastic weather changes when they occur.

He adds that in order to address the challenges of declining soil fertility and to heal the land, farmers have to “adopt a more resilient seed system, better farming practices and technologies.”

Reckson Matengarufu, an agro-forestry and food security expert in Zimbabwe, says that in the last decade Zambia has joined a growing list of countries characterised by a rainfall deficit, a shortage of water, unusually high temperatures and shrinking farmlands.

Other countries include Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Zimbabwe

“These are also countries that have signed and ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that aims to fight desertification and address the effects of drought and particularly threats to food security from unusually high temperatures,” Moshi explains.

But Matengarufu emphasises the need for countries to build the capacity and understanding of small-scale farmers about transformative efforts.

“There is a need to introduce agro-forestry, whereby farmers integrate trees, crops and livestock on the same plot of land, into discussions on food and nutrition security,” he says.

According to a UNCCD report ‘Investing in Land Degradation Neutrality: Making the Case’, in Zimbabwe alone more than half of all agricultural land is affected by soil degradation. And in Burkina Faso, approximately 470,000 of a total 12 million hectares of agricultural land are under the looming cloud of severe land degradation.

Experts like Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, a professor of horticulture at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, are raising the alarm that desertification is rapidly reducing the amount of land available for agriculture.

Agro-forestry experts are increasingly encouraging farmers to incorporate integration efforts “so that they can benefit from the harvest of many crops and not just from planting maize on the same plot each year,” says Matengarufu.

Abukutsa-Onyango adds that the poor seed system in Africa has made it difficult for farmers to cushion their land from further degradation.

Research shows that for sub-Saharan Africa to improve production there is a need to overhaul the seed system and for the average age of commonly-grown seeds to drop from the current 15 to 20 years to below 10 years.

“Farms are rapidly losing their capacity to produce because they save seeds from previous harvests, borrow from their neighbours or buy uncertified seeds from their local markets. These seeds cannot withstand the serious challenges facing the agricultural sector,” Abukutsa-Onyango says.

In countries like Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe farmers receive at least 90 percent of their seeds from the informal sector. Research from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) shows that on average only 20 percent of farmers in Africa use improved variety seeds.

“For African countries to achieve food and nutrition security, farmers must have access to high-yielding varieties that are designed to adapt and flourish despite the high temperatures and erratic weather we are experiencing,” Abukutsa-Onyango says.

Within this context, AGRA decries the fact that there are still very few local private seed-producing companies across Africa.

AGRA continues to push for more of these companies. The alliance has contributed to the rise in local seed companies across sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, from a paltry 10 in 2007 to at least 10 times that by 2018.

Experts emphasise that on average the use of improved seeds and proper farming practices will enable farmers to produce more than double what they are currently producing.

Moshi nonetheless says that the battle to combat the effects of drought and desertification is far from won.

He decries the exclusion of local communities and the general lack of awareness, particularly among farmers, on the connection between poor land management and land degradation.

“We also have divided opinions among stakeholders and experts on effective strategies to combat desertification, financial constraints and in many countries, a lack of political goodwill,” he concludes.

The post Experts Decry Exclusion of Africa’s Local Farmers in Food Security Efforts appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/feed/ 0
The Voice of Argentina’s Slums, Under Threathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/voice-argentinas-slums-threat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=voice-argentinas-slums-threat http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/voice-argentinas-slums-threat/#respond Thu, 05 Jul 2018 02:23:54 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156545 Between the dimly-lit, narrow alleyways of Villa 21, only 30 minutes by bus from the centre of the Argentine capital, more than 50,000 people live in poverty. It was there that La Garganta Poderosa (which means powerful throat), the magazine that gave a voice to the “villeros” or slum-dwellers and whose members today feel threatened, […]

The post The Voice of Argentina’s Slums, Under Threat appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

One of the offices in Buenos Aires of La Poderosa, the social organisation that publishes the magazine La Garganta Poderosa and is involved in a number of activities, ranging from soup kitchens to skills training for adults and workshops for youngsters in the “villas” or slums in the capital and the rest of Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jul 5 2018 (IPS)

Between the dimly-lit, narrow alleyways of Villa 21, only 30 minutes by bus from the centre of the Argentine capital, more than 50,000 people live in poverty. It was there that La Garganta Poderosa (which means powerful throat), the magazine that gave a voice to the “villeros” or slum-dwellers and whose members today feel threatened, emerged in 2010.

“’Villeros’ don’t generally reach the media in Argentina. Others see us as people who don’t want to work, or as people who are dangerous. La Garganta Poderosa is the cry that comes from our soul,” says Marcos Basualdo, in one of the organisation’s offices, a narrow shop with a cement floor and unpainted walls, where the only furniture is an old metal cabinet where copies of the magazine are stored.

Basualdo, 28, says that it was after his house was destroyed by a fire in 2015 that he joined La Poderosa, the social organisation that created the magazine, which is made up of 79 neighbourhood assemblies of “villas” or shantytowns across the country.

From that time, Basualdo recalls that “people from different political parties asked me what I needed, but nobody gave me anything.”

“Then the people of La Poderosa brought me clothes, blankets, food, without asking me for anything in return. So I decided to join this self-managed organisation, which helps us help each other and helps us realize that we can,” he tells IPS.

Villa 21, the largest shantytown in Buenos Aires, is on the south side of the city, on the banks of the Riachuelo, a river polluted for at least two centuries, recently described as an “open sewer” by the Environment Ministry, which has failed to comply with a Supreme Court ruling ordering its clean-up.

Small naked cement and brick homes are piled on each other and crowded together along the narrow alleyways in the shantytowns and families have no basic services or privacy.

As you walk through the neighbourhood, you see sights that are inconceivable in other parts of the city, such as police officers carrying semi-automatic weapons at the ready.

Across the country, villas have continued to grow over the last few decades. Official and social organisation surveys show that at least three million of the 44 million people in this South American country live in slums, without access to basic services, which means approximately 10 percent of the urban population.

In this alleyway in Villa 21, a slum in the capital of Argentina, is located the house where nine-year-old Kevin Molina was hit and killed by a stray bullet in a shootout between drug gangs in 2013, and the police refused to intervene, according to reports. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

In this alleyway in Villa 21, a slum in the capital of Argentina, is located the house where nine-year-old Kevin Molina was hit and killed by a stray bullet in a shootout between drug gangs in 2013, and the police refused to intervene, according to reports. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

La Garganta Poderosa, whose editorial board is made up of “all the members of all the assemblies” of the villas, also grew, both in its monthly print edition and in its active participation in social networks and other projects, such as a book, radio programmes, videos and a film.

It has interviewed politicians such as former presidents Dilma Rousseff or Brazil and José “Pepe” Mujica of Uruguay or sports stars like Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona of Argentina, and has established itself as a cultural reference in Argentina, with its characteristic covers generally showing the main subjects of that edition with their mouths wide open as if screaming.

The writing style is more typical of spoken than written communication, using idioms and vocabulary generally heard in the villas, and the magazine’s journalism is internationally recognised and is studied as an example of alternative communication at some local universities.

The work this organisation carries out, as a means of creative and peaceful expression of a community living in a hostile environment, was even highlighted by the U.N. Special Rapporteur against Torture, Nils Melzer, who visited the villa in April.

However, recently, after the magazine denounced abuses and arbitrary detentions by security forces in Villa 21, the government accused it of being an accomplice to drug trafficking.

On Jun. 7, all media outlets were summoned by e-mail to a press conference at the Ministry of National Security, “to unmask the lies told by La Garganta Poderosa.”

 Activists from La Poderosa, on Avenida Iriarte, the main street of Villa 21 in Buenos Aires, on Jun. 1, as they leave for the courthouse to follow a trial against six police officers for alleged brutality against two teenagers from the slum. Credit: Courtesy of La Garganta Poderosa


Activists from La Poderosa, on Avenida Iriarte, the main street of Villa 21 in Buenos Aires, on Jun. 1, as they leave for the courthouse to follow a trial against six police officers for alleged brutality against two teenagers from the slum. Credit: Courtesy of La Garganta Poderosa

The next day, Minister Patricia Bullrich stated that the magazine and the social organisation that supports it are seeking to “free the neighbourhood so that it is not controlled by a state of law but by the illegal state.”

“This is a message that authorises violence against us. The minister showed images of our main leader, Nacho Levy, and since that day he has been receiving threats,” one of La Poderosa’s members told IPS, asking to remain anonymous for security reasons.

A few minutes walk from La Poderosa’s premises is the house where Kevin Molina, a nine-year-old boy, was shot in the head inside his house during a shootout between two drug gangs, in 2013.

“The neighbours called the police, but they didn’t want to get involved and said they would come and get the bodies the next day,” says the La Poderosa’s activist.

In recent weeks, the situation has become more tense.

Minister Bullrich’s accusation was a response to the repercussions from the arrest of La Garganta Poderosa photographer Roque Azcurriare and his brother-in-law. It happened on the night of May 26 and they were only released two days later.

Lucy Mercado and Marcos Basualdo, two members of La Poderosa's social organisation, pose in front of a mural in Villa 21, a slum in Buenos Aires, that pays tribute to Marielle Franco, the Brazilian politician and human rights activist who was murdered in March in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Lucy Mercado and Marcos Basualdo, two members of La Poderosa’s social organisation, pose in front of a mural in Villa 21, a slum in Buenos Aires, that pays tribute to Marielle Franco, the Brazilian politician and human rights activist who was murdered in March in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Using his cell-phone, Azcurriare tried to film police officers entering his house, which is located at the end of a short alleyway next to the house of Iván Navarro, a teenager who a few days earlier had testified about police brutality, during a public oral trial.

Navarro said that one night in September 2016, he and his friend Ezequiel were detained without cause in a street in the villa. He said the police beat them, threatened to kill them, stripped them naked, tried to force them to jump into the Riachuelo, and finally ordered them to run for their lives.

In connection with this case, which has been covered and supported by La Poderosa, six police officers are currently being held in pretrial detention awaiting a sentence expected in the next few weeks.

“Ivan Navarro was arrested because he was wearing a nice sports jacket. That’s how things are here in the villa. When someone is wearing brand-name sneakers, the police never think they bought them with their wages, but just assume that they’re stolen,” says Lucy Mercado, a 40-year-old woman born in Ciudad del Este, on the Triple Border between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, who has lived in Villa 21 since she was a little girl.

“It’s no coincidence that this is happening now. In April we had filed six complaints of torture by the police. And this very important oral trial. Never in the history of our organisation have we achieved anything like this,” another La Poderosa activist told IPS, who also asked not to be identified.

Azcurriare’s arrest gave more visibility in Argentina to the trial of the six police officers, to the point that on Jun. 1 there was a march from Villa 21 to the courthouse, in which hundreds of members of human rights organisations participated.

“We will no longer stay silent because it is not a question of harassing a charismatic reporter, but of systematically clamping down on all villa-dwellers,” La Garganta Poderosa stated on its social network accounts.

The post The Voice of Argentina’s Slums, Under Threat appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/voice-argentinas-slums-threat/feed/ 0
Separated Central American Families Suffer Abuse in the United Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states/#respond Mon, 02 Jul 2018 23:20:14 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156513 After three hours of paperwork, Katy Rodriguez from El Salvador, who was deported from the United States, finally exited the government’s immigration facilities together with her young son and embraced family members who were waiting outside. Rodríguez and her three-year-old son were reunited again on Jun. 28, just before she was sent back to her […]

The post Separated Central American Families Suffer Abuse in the United States appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Katy Rodríguez and her son (in his father’s arms) when they were reunited after leaving the Migrant Assistance Centre in San Salvador following their deportation. Like thousands of other Central American families since April, mother and son were separated for four months after entering the United States without the proper documents. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Katy Rodríguez and her son (in his father’s arms) when they were reunited after leaving the Migrant Assistance Centre in San Salvador following their deportation. Like thousands of other Central American families since April, mother and son were separated for four months after entering the United States without the proper documents. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Jul 2 2018 (IPS)

After three hours of paperwork, Katy Rodriguez from El Salvador, who was deported from the United States, finally exited the government’s immigration facilities together with her young son and embraced family members who were waiting outside.

Rodríguez and her three-year-old son were reunited again on Jun. 28, just before she was sent back to her home country El Salvador. She is originally from Chalatenanango, in the central department of the same name.

The 29-year-old mother and her little boy spent more than four months apart after being detained on Feb. 19 for being intercepted without the proper documents in the U.S. state of Texas, where they entered the country from the Mexican border city of Reynosa.

“It’s been bad, very bad, everything we’ve been through, my son in one place and me in another,” Rodríguez told IPS in a brief statement before getting into a family car outside the Migrant Assistance Centre, where Salvadorans deported from both the United States and Mexico arrive.

She was informed she could apply for asylum, but that meant spending more time away from her son, and for that reason she chose to be deported. “I felt immense joy when they finally gave me my child,” she said with a faint smile..

Rodriguez was held in a detention centre on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, while her son was sent to a children’s shelter in far-flung New York City as a result of the “Zero Tolerance” policy on illegal immigration imposed in April by the Donald Trump administration.

The traumatic events experienced by Rodríguez and her son are similar to what has happened to thousands of families, most of them from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, detained and separated on the southern U.S. border after Trump implemented the measure to, in theory, stem the flow of immigrants to the United States.

According to the Salvadoran General Migration Officete, between Jan. 1 and Jun. 27, 39 minors were deported from the US, either alone or accompanied, 1,020 from Mexico and five others from other locations. That figure of 1,064 is well below the 1,472 returned in the first half of 2017.

Of the 2,500 children separated from their parents or guardians on the southern border of the U.S. since April, just over 2,000 are still being held in detention centres and shelters in that country, according to the media and human rights organisations.

This is despite the fact that President Trump signed a decree on Jun. 20 putting an end to the separation of families.

Images of children locked up in cages created by metal fencing, crying and asking to see their parents, triggered an international outcry.

“The detention of children and the separation of families is comparable to the practice of torture under international law and U.S. law itself. There is an intention to inflict harm by the authorities for the purpose of coercion,” Erika Guevara, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, told IPS from Mexico City.

The plane in which Rodríguez was deported carried another 132 migrants, including some 20 women, who told IPS about the abuses and human rights violations suffered in the detention centres.

The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the vice president of the United States gave a press conference after a Jun. 28 meeting in Guatemala City on the issue of migration by undocumented Central Americans to the U.S.. Credit: Presidency of El Salvador

The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the vice president of the United States gave a press conference after a Jun. 28 meeting in Guatemala City on the issue of migration by undocumented Central Americans to the U.S.. Credit: Presidency of El Salvador

Carolina Díaz, 21, who worked in a maquiladora – export assembly plant – before migrating to the United States, told IPS that she was held for a day and a half in what migrants refer to as the “icebox” in McAllen,Texas.

The icebox is kept extremely cold on purpose, because the guards turn up the air conditioning as a form of punishment “for crossing the border without papers,” said Díaz, a native of Ciudad Arce, in the central department of La Libertad, El Salvador.

“You practically freeze to death there, with nothing to keep yourself warm with,” she added, saying she had decided to migrate “because of the economic situation, looking for a better future.”

To sleep, all they gave her was a thermal blanket that looked like a giant sheet of aluminum foil, she said. Another woman, who did not want to be identified, told IPS that she was held in the icebox for nine days without knowing exactly why.

Díaz also spent another day and a half in the “kennel,” as they refer to the metal cages where dozens of undocumented immigrants are held.

“When I was in the kennel, the guards made fun of us, they threw the food at us as if we were dogs, almost always stale bologna sandwiches,” she said.

Díaz said that in McAllen, as well as in a similar detention centre in Laredo, Texas, she saw many mothers who had been separated from their children, crying inconsolably.

“The mothers were traumatised by the pain of the separation,” she said.

Guevara of Amnesty International said Trump’s decree does not stop the separations, but only postpones them, and families will continue to be detained, including those seeking asylum.

“The president’s Jun. 20 decree does not say what they are going to do with the more than 2,000 children already separated, in a situation of disorder that is generating other human rights violations,” she said.

These violations include the failure to notify parents or guardians when children are transferred to other detention facilities.

She added that the United States has created the world’s largest immigrant detention system, and currently operates 115 centres with at least 300,000 people detained each year.

Meanwhile, Marleny Montenegro, a psychologist with the Migrations programme in Guatemala’s non-governmental Psychosocial Action and StudiesTeam, explained that children detained and separated from their parents suffer from depression, fear, anxiety and anguish, among other psychological issues.

“They are affected in their ability to trust, their insecurity and they have trouble reintegrating into the community and in communicating their feelings and thoughts,” Montenegro told IPS from the Guatemalan capital.

The plane with undocumented deportees arrived in El Salvador on the same day as U.S. Vice President Michael Pence, who was meeting in Guatemala with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and El Salvador’s President Sánchez Cerén.

Pence’s aim at the Jun. 28 meeting was to obtain a commitment from the three governments to adopt policies to curb migration to the U.S. According the figures he cited, 150,000 Central Americans have arrived to the US. so far this year – an irregular migration flow that he said “must stop.”

In a joint statement, at the end of what they called “a frank dialogue” with Pence, the three Central American leaders expressed their willingness to work together with the United States on actions that prioritise the well-being of children and adolescents, family unity and the due process of law.

They also stressed the importance of working in a coordinated manner to inform nationals of their countries of the risks involved in irregular migration and to combat human trafficking and smuggling networks.

The post Separated Central American Families Suffer Abuse in the United States appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states/feed/ 0
The ‘Stop Soros’ Bill: Strong Drawback for NGOs in Hungaryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/stop-soros-bill-strong-drawback-ngos-hungary/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-soros-bill-strong-drawback-ngos-hungary http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/stop-soros-bill-strong-drawback-ngos-hungary/#comments Mon, 02 Jul 2018 15:14:15 +0000 Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156501 On World Refugee Day June 20, the Hungarian Parliament passed the ‘Stop Soros’ bill which is aimed at criminalizing groups who support refugees and other types of undocumented immigrants. The government also proposed a 25% migration tax on any organization which deals with immigration in any way. With these measures, the nonprofit sector is experimenting […]

The post The ‘Stop Soros’ Bill: Strong Drawback for NGOs in Hungary appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Sit-in of Syrian migrants. Credit: IPS

By Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 2 2018 (IPS)

On World Refugee Day June 20, the Hungarian Parliament passed the ‘Stop Soros’ bill which is aimed at criminalizing groups who support refugees and other types of undocumented immigrants.

The government also proposed a 25% migration tax on any organization which deals with immigration in any way. With these measures, the nonprofit sector is experimenting a full drawback in the country.

Aron Demeter, the Media Manager of Amnesty International Hungary, told IPS that this bill “might have a chilling effect on the wider civil society in Hungary”.

This bill comes at a tumultuous time, what with similar ideas and protocols being discussed within the United States. Also just this week, dozens of representatives from refugee-led organizations met in Geneva with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the first Global Summit on Refugees, during which they have been developing structures for a global network of refugees.

In Hungary, the sentiment is the contrary from that of the United Nations. The ‘Stop Soros’ bill is named after a notable philanthropist and financialist George Soros, who is known for being involved with Hungarian rights organizations.

Abroad, Soros has been known to support American progressive political issues, even establishing the Open Society Foundation, which in the foundation’s words works to, “build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people”.

Led by the conservative government of prime minister Viktor Orban and its party Fidesz (Hungarian Civic Alliance), the Stop Soros law includes prison time for groups that help illegal immigrants get documents to remain in the country and limitations for NGOs to prevent them of assisting in asylum cases.

Along with these measures and the aforementioned law, the Parliament approved a constitutional amendment which said that foreigners cannot stay in Hungary.

While the bill has not been signed and enacted yet, it will be rather impactful when it is law. According to Amnesty, these new additions to Hungarian law, “pose a serious threat to the right to seek asylum; the freedoms of association, assembly, expression, and movement; the right to housing and associated economic and social rights; and the right to be free from discrimination, in violation of international human rights law and regional law”.

Charlie Yaxley, UNHCR Spokesperson for Asia and Europe, told IPS: “It is our concern that these laws will further inflame what is already a hostile public discourse around refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants and will fuel xenophobic attitudes.”

Hungary has been restricting its immigration policies since the start of the refugee crisis, and with the reelection of Fidesz last April, the country is willing to pass more restrictive legislation in order to protect its Christian identity.

However, with these measures Hungary is slowly drifting away from Western Europe, and the international community is outraged by it. The international system, led by the United Nations, has expressed its discontent with the bill.

Demeter, from Amnesty International, said “Many international actors from the UN, CoE, EU or other stakeholders have openly criticised the adoption of the law and the government’s anti-NGO campaign. We expect the European Commission to launch an infringement procedure and – in case their assessment is the same as ours – take it to CJEU.

“We also expect that MEPs – the EP plenary is going to vote on the possible launch of the Article 7 against Hungary in September – will deem this bill as one of the clear signs that the Hungarian government is systematically neglects the core European values and rules”.

When asked for Amnesty’s views on the present bill, Demeter responded: “The recently adopted STOP Soros is a new low and it “perfectly” fits into the Hungarian government’s witch-hunt against human rights NGOs that has started in 2013”.

He added: “The vague and absurd new bill – by criminalizing totally lawful activities – aims to silence those NGOs who are critical towards the government’s cruel and unlawful refugee and migration policies and other human rights issues. Though the bill at least on the surface aims to put in jail only those who are helping asylum-seekers and refugees, the message is very clear: if you are critical, you are the enemy of the government”.

Yaxley also shared with IPS UNHCR’s views on the impact of the bill on refugees: “What we may see happen to people who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, violence, and persecution, many who have been through traumatic experiences and are simply looking to exercise their fundamental human right to seek asylum, is that they might be deprived of critical aid and services.”

However, according to the Interior Minister Sandor Pinter in a document attached to the draft of the bill, “The STOP Soros package of bills serves that goal, making the organisation of illegal immigration a criminal offence. We want to use the bills to stop Hungary from becoming a country of immigrants”.

The nonprofit sector

Many international NGOs in Hungary will be targeted with this bill. Amnesty International is one of them. “Amnesty International Hungary is one of the organisations that are in the target of the government for many years.

Amnesty International many times has been named as an organisation “supporting illegal migration”. Since the law is vague and incomprehensible from a legal perspective nobody knows what is going to happen”, said Demeter.

Yaxley from UNHCR told IPS that this bill will definitely be a drawback for the nonprofit work in Hungary: “The key aspect is the additional financial requirements that are set to be placed on any NGOs that receive foreign funding. Our understanding is that our own funding [UNHCR’s] could potentially fall under this clause.”

“This may lead to a situation where essentially NGOs feel unable or unwilling to provide assistance that is really needed for refugees and asylum seekers that often arrive to countries with nothing more than the clothes on their backs or a handful of necessities.”

When asked about the repercussions after the bill is implemented, Demeter said: “Amnesty is committed to stay in Hungary and do its job just as in the previous nearly 30 years. We are going to fight against the law in front of every domestic and international court as possible”.

The post The ‘Stop Soros’ Bill: Strong Drawback for NGOs in Hungary appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/stop-soros-bill-strong-drawback-ngos-hungary/feed/ 1