Inter Press ServiceEnvironment – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 27 Jul 2017 18:27:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Can Economic Growth Be Really Green?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/can-economic-growth-really-green/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-economic-growth-really-green http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/can-economic-growth-really-green/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 11:37:03 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151441 The answer to this big question is apparently “yes” – Economic growth can be really green. How? The facts are there. For instance, in 2016, solar power became the cheapest form of energy in 58 lower income countries, including China India and Brazil. In Europe, in 2016, 86 per cent of the newly installed energy […]

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The main impediments to a 100% clean energy infrastructure are are fossil fuel subsidies and current government legislation

Credit: GGGI

By IPS World Desk
ROME/SEOUL, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

The answer to this big question is apparently “yes” – Economic growth can be really green. How?

The facts are there. For instance, in 2016, solar power became the cheapest form of energy in 58 lower income countries, including China India and Brazil. In Europe, in 2016, 86 per cent of the newly installed energy capacity was from renewable sources. And solar power will likely be the lowest-cost energy option in almost all parts of the world in less than 10 years.

This bold, fact-based information has been provided by Frank Rijsberman, the Director General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), a well-known expert in the field of sustainable development and former CEO of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Consortium.

The G20 countries pledged in 2009 to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, yet they continue to this day

Frank Rijsberman. Credit: GGGI

Building on this documented information, Rijsberman, in an article Will fossil fuels and conventional cars be obsolete by 2030?, which was published on 23 February in The Huffington Post, asks “Is it all over for fossil fuels?”

The GGGI chief then answers: “Tony Seba, Author of “Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation,” predicts that the industrial era of centralized fossil-fuel based energy production and transportation will be all over by 2030.”

Solar Energy, Self-Driving Electric Vehicles

Solar energy and self-driving electric vehicles will take over, explains Rijsberman. “New business models will allow people to call a self-driving car on their phone for a ride, ending the need for private car ownership.”

This change will occur as quickly as the transition from horse-drawn carriages to cars a century ago.

“The Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, and independent think-tank the Carbon Tracker Initiative echoed Seba’s prediction in their recent report, stating that electric vehicles and solar panels could dominate by 2020, sparking revolution in the energy sector and putting an end to demand growth for oil and coal.”

The Global Green Growth Institute invited experts to debate Seba’s “clean disruption” last month [January 2017] at the World Economic Forum in Davos (see short summary of our conclusions here).

“We discussed what are the main impediments to a 100% clean energy infrastructure. The most immediate barriers are fossil fuel subsidies and current government legislation. The G20 countries pledged in 2009 to eliminate these subsidies, yet they continue to this day, Rijsberman informed.

“Significant volumes of investment are shifting away from fossil fuels and towards alternative energy services, particularly in countries with binding renewable energy targets such as in Europe.”

The Energy Transition

According to the head of GGGI — a treaty-based international, inter-governmental organisation dedicated to supporting and promoting strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries and emerging economies–the energy transition can accelerate through the removal of fossil fuel subsidies.

Globally fossil fuel subsidies still amount to some 450 billion dollars per year, warned Rijsberman.

Even African governments, with limited budgets and many competing priorities still subsidise fossil fuels to the tune of 20-25 billion dollars per year according to Dr. Frannie Laeutier of the African Development Bank, speaking in Davos, he added.

Rijsberman then underlined that the best way for governments to attract the private sector is to stand aside (i.e., remove impeding policies such as fossil fuel subsidies and enable market access) and let the market develop by itself.

“Easier said than done, of course, for countries with monopolistic power utilities, with large political influence; or for countries with heavy subsidies on electricity prices.”

Unsustainable Depletion of Natural Resources

The Seoul-based Global Green Growth Institute, which was established in 2012, at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, has been accelerating the transition toward a new model of economic growth –green growth– founded on principles of social inclusivity and environmental sustainability.

In contrast to conventional development models that rely on the “unsustainable depletion and destruction of natural resources,” green growth is a coordinated advancement of economic growth, environmental sustainability, poverty reduction and social inclusion driven by the sustainable development and use of global resources, according to GGGI.

Sirpa Jarvenpaa. Credit: GGGI

On this, GGGI incoming Director of Strategy, Partnerships and Communications, Sirpa Jarvenpaa, in an interview to IPS, emphasised the importance of the Institute in “supporting developing and emerging country governments in their transition to an inclusive green growth development.”

“We do it through mainstreaming green growth in development and sector plans, mobilising finance to green growth investments, and improving multi-directional knowledge sharing and learning for achieving green outcomes on the ground.”

Green Jobs, Clean Energy

Sirpa Jarvenpaa explains that, globally, GGGI’s strategy contributes to “reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, green job creation, access to sustainable services (clean energy, sustainable waste management improved sanitation, and sustainable transport), improved air quality, access to enhanced ecosystem services, and climate change adaptation.”

In Jordan, for example, GGGI is helping the government prepare a national green growth plan –an overarching and influential policy instrument enabling incorporation of green growth objectives across the national investment planning, Jarvenpaa told IPS.

There, the Institute works in partnership with the Ministry of Environment as well as the German Ministry for the Environment

This interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder organisation believes “economic growth and environmental sustainability are not merely compatible objectives; their integration is essential for the future of humankind.”

For that, it works with developing and emerging countries to design and deliver programs and services that demonstrate new pathways to pro-poor economic growth. And it provides member countries with the tools to help build institutional capacity and develop green growth policy, strengthen peer learning and knowledge sharing, and engage private investors and public donors.

The Global Green Growth Institute supports stakeholders two complementary and integrated work-streams –Green Growth Planning & Implementation and Knowledge Solutions– that deliver comprehensive products and services designed to assist in developing, financing and mainstreaming green growth in national economic development plans.

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Barbados Steps Up Plans for Renewables, Energy Efficiencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/barbados-steps-plans-renewables-energy-efficiency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=barbados-steps-plans-renewables-energy-efficiency http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/barbados-steps-plans-renewables-energy-efficiency/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 00:01:54 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151446 With wind, solar and other renewable energy sources steadily increasing their share in energy consumption across the Caribbean, Barbados is taking steps to further reduce the need for CO2-emitting fossil fuel energy. The tiny Caribbean island is rolling out a project to reduce both electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while driving down government’s fuel […]

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Minister with responsibility for energy of Barbados, Darcy Boyce (right). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Barbados’ minister with responsibility for energy, Darcy Boyce (right). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

With wind, solar and other renewable energy sources steadily increasing their share in energy consumption across the Caribbean, Barbados is taking steps to further reduce the need for CO2-emitting fossil fuel energy.

The tiny Caribbean island is rolling out a project to reduce both electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while driving down government’s fuel import bill.In addition to changing out the street lights and retrofitting the 13 government buildings, the project will also see the use of more electric vehicles in Barbados.

The country is hoping to save up to 3 million dollars in electricity bills annually with the implementation of a 24.6-million-dollar Public Sector Smart Energy Programme (PSPP).

The project, which is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the European Union (EU), includes changing out close to 30,000 street lights across the country, replacing them with Light Emitting Diode (LED) fixtures.

“So, this project will save us a couple million dollars a year, [up to] 3 million a year. It is a small amount in the context of Barbados but it is a start to save some money,” Minister with responsibility for Energy Darcy Boyce said, while explaining that based on a 2009 study, government is aiming for a 29 percent per year reduction in electricity consumption through various methods of renewable energy use and energy efficiency.

“When that is combined with the work to retrofit 13 government buildings with solar photovoltaic, it begins to add up.”

Boyce acknowledged that government is a significant user of electricity, adding that the street lamps account for a great portion of that usage.

Renewables have become a major contributor to the energy transition occurring in many parts of the world and the growth in renewables continues to bolster climate change mitigation.

In December 2013, Barbados passed the Electric Light and Power Act (ELPA) in parliament and later amended it in April 2015. It replaced the original 116-year-old Electric Light and Power Act which was passed in 1899.

The ELPA revised the law relating to the supply and use of electricity and promotes the generation of electricity from sources of renewable energy, to enhance the security and reliability of the supply of electricity and to provide for related matters.

A key aim of the government in passing the Act was reducing the Bds$800 million fuel import bill (50 percent of which is used to generate electricity). It also intended to promote the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources and allows independent power producers to supply electricity in addition to the Barbados Light and Power Company (BL&P).

Boyce urged those involved in the PSPP to “keep the momentum going”, adding that it was his intention for Barbados to reach 100 percent reliance on renewable energy by 2045 as outlined in the BL&P 100/100 Vision.

“The Light & Power has reached to a wonderful point where they are committing to have 100 percent renewable energy within 30 years. I pressed them and I wanted them there by 2035 but they say no, 2045 and I will live with 2045,” Boyce said.

“And that I think is really a very good commitment to the country’s economy because when we reduce the use of fossil fuels, when we reduce the importation of fossil fuels whether it is by efficiency gains or it is by renewable energy, we reduce the amount of foreign exchange that we use.”

The shift towards renewables is driving down greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, buildings’ heating and cooling, and transport.

In addition to changing out the street lights and retrofitting the 13 government buildings, the project will also see the use of more electric vehicles in Barbados.

So far government has two electric vehicles as part of a pilot project and is expected to procure about six more by the end of this year.

Head of the Green Economy and Resilience Section of the EU Peter Sturesson urged officials to go even further to focus on energy efficiency, pointing out that this is an important aspect if the country is to save critical foreign exchange.

“As you know, the European Union remains committed to support renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable development in Barbados and in the Caribbean region,” Sturesson said.

“Of course, we must embrace the role of energy efficiency in this master plan because this is one of the low hanging fruits for Barbados in the transition to clean energy. This will assist in the reduction of the fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions and by that, lowering the carbon footprint of the island.”

Sturesson pointed out that the project marked “yet another milestone” in Barbados’ development.

While the Barbados government leads the renewables drive, everyone on the island is catching on. In addition to the solar panels and water heaters which can be seen on government buildings, hospitals, police stations and bus shelters, thousands of private homes also have them installed. And desalinization plants are installing large photovoltaic arrays to help defray their own electricity costs.

The combination of the ever-escalating and volatile price of oil, and the cost of importation, place Barbados and other island nations in the unenviable position of having the highest electricity prices in the world.

The effective cost of electricity in Barbados is around $0.65/kWh. This rate varies slightly from residential to commercial power users. Roughly 60 percent of the bill is simply a fuel charge. This component, the Fuel Clause Adjustment (FCA), varies month to month but has been increasing at a normalized rate of 3.7 percent per year over the past seven years.

Representative of the IDB Juan Carlos De La Hoz Viñas said there are many benefits to be derived by reducing the cost of electricity in the country.

“We all know and it’s part of the day to day conversation with the private sector that electricity costs are a major hurdle in terms of doing business in the country. So every attempt to reduce the electricity cost is a path to a greater competitiveness in the country,” he said.

“This is part of a long-standing cooperation between the IDB, European Union and the Government of Barbados to establish a sustainable energy matrix in Barbados.”

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Sinking Island Seeks Seat in Security Councilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/sinking-island-seeks-seat-security-council/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sinking-island-seeks-seat-security-council http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/sinking-island-seeks-seat-security-council/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 16:44:55 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151443 The Maldives, one of the world’s low-lying, small island developing states (SIDS) — threatened with extinction because of a sea-level rise– is shoring up its coastal defences in anticipation of the impending calamity. And it is seeking international support for its very survival.—at a time when most Western nations are either cutting down on development […]

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An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 26 2017 (IPS)

The Maldives, one of the world’s low-lying, small island developing states (SIDS) — threatened with extinction because of a sea-level rise– is shoring up its coastal defences in anticipation of the impending calamity.

And it is seeking international support for its very survival.—at a time when most Western nations are either cutting down on development aid or diverting funds to boost domestic security.

“The danger of sea level rise is very real and threatens not just the Maldives and other low-lying nations, but also major coastal cities like New York and Miami,” Ambassador Ahmed Sareer, the outgoing Permanent Representative of the Maldives, told IPS.

Sareer, who held the chairmanship of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) for over two years, said that even though projections vary, scientists anticipate at least three feet of sea level rise by the end of the century.

“This would be problematic for the Maldives, SIDS and many other coastal regions. We are currently building coastal defences to mitigate the danger, but need more support,” said Sareer, currently Foreign Secretary of the Maldives.

Along with Maldives, there are several low lying UN member states who are in danger of disappearing from the face of the earth, including the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Palau and Micronesia.

Asked if the United Nations and the international community were doing enough to help alleviate low-lying small island states, Sareer told IPS: “There has been a heightened focus on the risks SIDS face in recent years, not just from climate change but economic challenges as well. We are grateful for the progress, of course, but it is fair to say we still have much further to go.”

Beginning July 31, the Columbia Broadcast System (CBS), one of the major US television networks, is planning to do a series of stories on “Sinking Islands” threatened by rising sea levels triggered by climate change.

Described as “one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries” and comprising more than a thousand coral islands scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has a population of over 390,000 people compared to India, one of its neighbours, with a hefty population of over 1.2 billion.

The island nation was devastated by the December 2004 tsunami, and according to one report, 57 islands faced serious damage to critical infrastructure, 14 had to be totally evacuated, and six islands were destroyed. A further twenty-one resort islands were forced to close because of tsunami damage estimated at over $400 million.

As part of its defences, the Maldives has been erecting a wall around the capital of Malé to thwart a rising sea and a future tsumani.

Meanwhile, in a dramatic publicity gimmick back in October 2009, former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed held an underwater cabinet meeting, with ministers in scuba diving gear, to highlight the threat of global warming.

And earlier, at a Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting in Kuala Lumpur in October 1989, then Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told delegates that if his country is to host the annual meeting in the foreseeable future, the meeting may have to be held underwater in a gradually disappearing island nation.

The World Bank has warned that with “future sea levels projected to increase in the range of 10 to 100 centimeters by the year 2100, the entire country could be submerged”.

But still, the Maldives which graduated from the status of a least developed country (LDC) to that of a developing nation in 2011, is very much alive – and currently campaigning for a two-year non-permanent seat in the most powerful body at the United Nations: the 15-member Security Council.

This is the first time in its 51 years of UN Membership that the Maldives has presented its candidacy for a seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Over the past 25 years, only six SIDS have served on the Council, out of the 125 elected members during that period. SIDS constitutes 20% of the UN Membership.

Since January 2015, the Maldives has chaired the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a group it helped form in 1990, leading a coalition of 39 member states, of which 37 are UN Members, through landmark agreements on sustainable development, climate change, disaster risk reduction, financing for development, sustainable urbanization, and the follow-up to the SAMOA Pathway- the sustainable development programme of action for SIDS.

In a long-planned effort, the Maldives put forward its candidature on 30 January 2008: ten years before the election, which will take place next year in the 193-member UN General Assembly which will vote for new, rotating non-permanent members of the UNSC.

Sareer said the Maldives seeks to bring a fresh and unique perspective to old challenges.”

And the Maldives believes that non-traditional security threats are as important if not more, than traditional security threats, in today’s world. The Maldives also believes in multi-dimensional approaches to solving issues.

Despite its size, he said, the Maldives has always punched above its weight on the international stage. And it has been a staunch advocate for climate change, and a champion of small States.

Sri Lanka’s former Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Palitha Kohona told IPS Maldives has a commendable mission to realise – to push for action on climate change through the Security Council.

This, though a laudable aspiration, will be an uphill battle given that a powerful Permanent Member of the UNSC (the United States) is a declared opponent of the majority global view on climate change, having recently pulled out of the Paris Accord. It will also run in to opposition from the fossil fuel lobby.

However, if elected to the UNSC, Maldives is likely to enjoy the sympathy of the vast majority of the membership of the UN, including those who initiated a movement to seek an advisory opinion in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on responsibility for global warming and climate change in 2012, said Kohona, who co-chaired the UN Working Group on Biological Diversity Beyond National Jurisdiction and is a former Chief of the UN Treaty Section.

“It will need to deploy considerable resources to secure a seat and then to realise its goal
because Security Council elections, unfortunately, have become a competition among aspirants to see who can spend most on entertaining, junkets and obligatory visits to capitals. These ‘poojas’ become bigger and bigger by the year,” said Kohona.

He said Maldives will be a trend setter for small island developing states, which also must be able to play a role in the UNSC. “They have concerns of global import. It is unsatisfactory in every sense for the UNSC to increasingly become a preserve of big and the powerful.”

He also pointed out that Maldives is well placed and eminently qualified to raise awareness on climate change, global warming and sea level rise. These are threats to the very existence of humanity and could very well morph in to threats to global peace and security.

Already the flood of refugees is having a destabilizing effect on Europe. Refugee flows, which could be massive, resulting from climate change would pose a greater threat to global peace and stability requiring UNSC action. Such action could be taken preemptively rather than after the catastrophe has occurred, he noted.

“Seeing our loyal friend and neighbour seeking a non permanent Security Council seat should also encourage Sri Lanka to do the same in the not-too-distant future,” he added.

Asked whether the 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement reflected the fears expressed by SIDS on sea level rise, Sareer said sea level rise is just one of the many impacts of climate change, which are of significance to SIDS.

“The Paris Agreement’s main objective is to enhance climate actions, and hence doesn’t directly address sea level rise. However it did include a strong temperature goal and a stand-alone article on loss and damage, which indirectly address these concerns. What is important now is for countries to make deep cuts in their emissions immediately.”

Asked whether the Maldives expects funding from the multi-billion dollar Green Climate Fund (GCF), he said: “We do. The GCF is a primary multilateral vehicle to deliver climate financing to developing countries and therefore ramping up support for the GCF will be critical for all vulnerable countries.”

However, other funds under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are also crucial for transforming climate action in SIDS and also in developing countries.

He said changing rainfall patterns and increasing salinization caused by rising sea levels have led to challenges in securing reliable supplies of drinking water in many Small Island Developing States.

In this context, the Maldives submitted one of the first projects approved through the GCF which will see almost a third of the population of the Maldives becoming freshwater self-sufficient over the next five years.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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To Achieve Ambitious Goals – We Need to Start with our Basic Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-ambitious-goals-need-start-basic-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieve-ambitious-goals-need-start-basic-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-ambitious-goals-need-start-basic-rights/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 14:16:40 +0000 Oliver Henman and Andrew Firmin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151434 Oliver Henman and Andrew Firmin, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

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By Oliver Henman and Andrew Firmin
NEW YORK, Jul 26 2017 (IPS)

Recent protests in Ethiopia have seen people demonstrate in their thousands, angry at their authoritarian government, its favouritism towards those close to the ruling elite, and its failure to share the country’s wealth more equally.

The response of the state, in a country where dissent is simply not tolerated, has been predictably brutal: at the height of protests last year hundreds of people were killed, and a staggering estimated 24,000 were arrested, many of whom remain in detention today.

Perhaps not many of those marching in Ethiopia were aware of Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies with provisions to protect civic freedoms, ensure equal access to justice and uphold the rule of law.

Clearly, in countries like Ethiopia, the current reality falls a long way short of these basic standards: if people felt that the government was listening to them and they could take part in making the decisions that affect their lives, they wouldn’t have protested in such large numbers.

If fundamental freedoms were upheld, including the essential civil society rights of association, peaceful assembly and expression, then people wouldn’t have been met with mass killings and detentions. It is no surprise that on the CIVICUS Monitor, a new online platform that assesses the space for civil society – civic space – in every country of the world, Ethiopia is rated in the worst category, as having an entirely closed civic space.

It’s a matter of disappointment for civil society that progress on Goal 16 was not one of the goals reviewed by the governance body of the global goals at last week´s High Level Political Forum, which convened all UN member states and leaders from across sectors to review goal progress. A common concern amongst the 2,5000 civil society representatives that attended the global forum is that without progress on Goal 16, all the other goals cannot be achieved. And Goal 16 can only be realised if the role of civil society is respected and civic freedoms are protected.

On this score, two years into the Sustainable Development Goals, the early signs are worrying. Of the 44 countries whose progress was checked, four of them – Azerbaijan, Belarus and Iran, alongside Ethiopia – have entirely closed civic space, according to CIVICUS Monitor ratings. A further 18 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and from Brazil to Thailand – are rated as also having serious civic space restrictions. Only ten countries are assessed as having entirely open civic space.

The fact that there are worrying levels of restrictions placed on civil society in over three quarters of the countries up for review in New York indicates that civil society’s ability to realise Goal 16 is being hampered, and potential for SDG progress is being lost.

The SDGs must go further than their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which enabled governments to receive praise for making advances on a narrow set of indicators even while they were cracking down on fundamental freedoms: Ethiopia, for example, was rated highly for its MDG performance, alongside other countries where civic space is heavily restricted. It must be remembered that the promise of the SDGs is to be much more ambitious than the MDGs, and to advance social justice and human rights.

The ambition of the SDGs calls for everyone – governments, businesses and civil society – to play their part; the agenda is too big for any one sector to deliver on its own. But when civil society is being constrained – including widespread restrictions on the ability of civil society organisations (CSOs) to receive funds and organise the masses – then its capacity to help deliver the Sustainable Development Goals at the community level is severally limited.

Goal 16 must be on the agenda whenever countries meet to evaluate progress on the SDGs. As of now it is only scheduled to be reviewed in 2019. The key test for Goal 16, for Ethiopia’s citizens, and the many other countries with restricted civic space, is if people are able to freely express their opinions, protest in peace and promote the interests of their communities without fear of persecution. On these measures, the Sustainable Development Goals still have a long way to go.

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China Seeks to Export Its Green Finance Model to the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/china-seeks-export-green-finance-model-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-seeks-export-green-finance-model-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/china-seeks-export-green-finance-model-world/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 03:05:44 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151431 Hand in hand with UN Environment and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) disembarked in the Argentine capital to prompt this country to adopt and promote the agenda of so-called green finance, which supports clean or sustainable development projects and combats climate change. The PBOC, which as China’s central bank […]

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Ma Jun, chief economist at the People’s Bank of China, together with Rubén Mercado, from the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP) in Argentina. The high-ranking Chinese official promoted Beijing’s green finance while in Buenos Aires. Credit: UNDP

Ma Jun, chief economist at the People’s Bank of China, together with Rubén Mercado, from the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP) in Argentina. The high-ranking Chinese official promoted Beijing’s green finance while in Buenos Aires. Credit: UNDP

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jul 26 2017 (IPS)

Hand in hand with UN Environment and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) disembarked in the Argentine capital to prompt this country to adopt and promote the agenda of so-called green finance, which supports clean or sustainable development projects and combats climate change.

The PBOC, which as China’s central bank regulates the country’s financial activity and monitors its monetary activity, has been particularly interested in Argentina, because next year it will preside over the Group of 20 (G20) industrialised and emerging economies.

In 2018, Buenos Aires will become the first Latin American city to organise a summit of the G20 forum, in which the major global powers discuss issues on the global agenda.

“China started to develop strategies to promote green finance international collaboration in the G20 framework in 2016, the year when it took over the presidency. And Germany took over this year the presidency and decided to continue. We are looking forward to Argentina to continue with this topic of green finance in 2018,” said Ma Jun, chief economist at the PBoC, in a meeting with a small group of reporters at the UNDP offices in Buenos Aires. “Once the companies begin to release the environmental information, we’ll see that money will begin to change direction. Some of the money which is invested in the polluting sector will be redirected to the green companies. And that costs governments zero. It’s only a requirement for the companies to disclose their environmental information.” -- Ma Jun

Ma, a distinguished economist who has worked at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Deutsche Bank, was the keynote speaker at the International Symposium on Green Finance, held Jul. 20-21 at IDB headquarters in Buenos Aires.

At that event, he told representatives of the public sector and private companies from a number of countries that over the past three years China has been making an important effort for its financial system to underpin a change in the development model, putting aside polluting industries and supporting projects that respect the environment and use resources more efficiently.

Ma, a high-ranking PBoC official since 2014, surprised participants in the Symposium stating that in 2015, China decided to change its development model because of the enormous environmental impact it had, which is reflected in the estimate he quoted: that “a million people a year die in China due to pollution-related diseases.“

He said four trillion yuan – approximately 600 billion dollars – will be needed to finance investments in environmentally sustainable projects over the next few years in China.

Simon Zadek, co-director of the UN Environment Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, concurred with Ma.

He explained that the UN agency he co-heads promotes the “mobilisation of private capital towards undertakings compatible with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the commitments made in the Paris Agreement on climate change, by the financial markets, banks, investment funds and insurance companies.“

He added that “many countries have taken steps in that direction and China is one of the most inspiring, most ambitious at an internal level and most active in promoting international cooperation.“

“Financial markets and capital should take environmental and climate issues into account now, not tomorrow. We are hoping for Argentina’s leadership next year on this matter and we are ready to collaborate if it decides to do so,“ said the UN Environment official.

The Symposium was held a few days after this year’s G20 summit, which was hosted Jul. 7-8 by Hamburg, Germany.

During the summit the discrepancy became evident between the rest of the heads of government and U.S. President Donald Trump, who does not believe in climate change and withdrew his country from the Paris Agreement, which in December 2015 set commitments for all governments to reduce global warming.

In Hamburg, a meeting was held by the Green Finance Study Group (GFSG), created in 2016, the year China presided over the G20, and which is headed by Ma and Michael Sheren, senior advisor to the Bank of England, with UN Environment acting as its secretariat.

There are two main issues that the GFSG currently promotes for the financial industry to consider when deciding on the financing of infrastructure or productive projects: setting up an environmental risk analysis and using publicly available environmental data.

“PBoC, the largest Chinese bank, has verified that to invest too much in the polluting sector is not beneficial. The costs are higher and the profits lower, because lots of policies are more and more restrictive in the polluting sector,” Ma said, noting that the bank began to carry out environmental risk analysis two years ago.

For the chief economist, “the other focus is to allow financial markets to distinguish who is green and who is brown,” referring to the predominant model of development, based on draining natural resources and not preserving ecosystems.

“Once the companies begin to release the environmental information, we’ll see that money will begin to change direction. Some of the money which is invested in the polluting sector will be redirected to the green companies. And that costs governments zero. It’s only a requirement for the companies to disclose their environmental information,” added Ma.

An important part of the initiative is the promotion of the emission of so-called green bonds, to finance projects of renewable energy, energy saving, treatment of wastewater or solid waste, the construction of green buildings that emit less pollutants and reduce their energy consumption, and green transport.

But the promotion of green finance does not foresee the arrival of special funds for that purpose to countries of the developing South.

In fact, the “greening of the financial system“ mainly depends on the private sector, especially where the state has limited fiscal capacity, according to the conclusions of the G20’s GFSG.

For Rubén Mercado, UNDP economist in Argentina, governments can facilitate undertakings that are beneficial to the environment by changing policies, without the need for spending additional funds.

“The key issue is that of relative prices. In Argentina we have subsidised fossil fuels for years. Perhaps we would not even have to subsidise renewable forms of energy, but simply reduce our subsidies for fossil fuels so that the other sources can be developed,“ he said.

Ma took a similar approach, pointing out that “You don´t need to spend money, you just need to eliminate the subsidies” that are traditionally granted to fossil fuel producers, which hamper investments in clean energies.

In the Symposium in Buenos Aires a study was released about the economies of Germany, China and India, which revealed that in the last year they have invested in renewable energies just 0.7, 0.4 and 0.1 per cent of GDP, respectively.

“The massive demand for green financing simply cannot be met by the public sector or the fiscal system,” said Ma.

“In a country like China, 90 percent is being covered by the private sector. Globally, my feeling is that in the OECD countries the fiscal capacity is probably higher. Maybe more than 10 percent could be provided by governments,” he said.

“But in other economies with weaker fiscal capacity, the rate should be even lower than in China.”

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Tobago Gears Up to Fight Sargassum Invasionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/tobago-gears-fight-sargassum-invasion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tobago-gears-fight-sargassum-invasion http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/tobago-gears-fight-sargassum-invasion/#comments Tue, 25 Jul 2017 00:01:35 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151421 As Tobago’s tourism industry struggles to repel the sargassum invasions that have smothered its beaches with massive layers of seaweed as far as the eye can see – in some places half a metre thick – and left residents retching from the stench, the island’s government is working to establish an early warning system that […]

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Sargassum inundates a beach on Barbados. Credit: H. Oxenford/Mission Blue

Sargassum inundates a beach on Barbados. Credit: H. Oxenford/Mission Blue

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jul 25 2017 (IPS)

As Tobago’s tourism industry struggles to repel the sargassum invasions that have smothered its beaches with massive layers of seaweed as far as the eye can see – in some places half a metre thick – and left residents retching from the stench, the island’s government is working to establish an early warning system that will alert islanders to imminent invasions so they can take defensive action.

The Deputy Director of Trinidad and Tobago’s Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), Dr. Rahanna Juman, told IPS, “After the 2015 sargassum event, the IMA got stakeholders together and developed a sargassum response plan. We looked at some sort of early warning mechanism [using satellites]. We know that it comes off of the South American mainland. If we know when it is coming and we can forecast which part of the coast it is going to land, we can inform the relevant regional authority so they can put things in place.A particularly heart-rending consequence of the sargassum invasions has been the devastation it causes to turtle nesting sites on the island.

“We have this network set up. We got the Met Services to provide an idea of where [the sargassum] is going to land,” she said.

The 2010-2015 State of the Marine Environment (SOME) report, released in May this year by the IMA, states, “Sargassum invasion of Trinidad and Tobago’s beaches is a relatively novel phenomenon for which we have been largely unprepared for in the past. However, with climate change causing continuous warming of the oceans, it appears that future events are likely.”

The country experienced massive onslaughts of sargassum, a type of seaweed, in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015, and some again this year. “Sargassum is a natural phenomenon,” said Dr. Juman, but it was the quantity of the seaweed that stunned the public during these years.

The consequences for Tobago’s tourism industry have been debilitating.

A director on the board of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association, Environment Tobago and the Association of Tobago Dive Operators, Wendy Austin, told IPS the first major event for the Tobago tourism industry was in 2015. “People were cancelling their bookings. Visitors were having to move, particularly from the north end of the island. Speyside had it very bad and the smell was awful. The restaurants had to close because people were not coming out to eat.” As the sargassum rotted, it emitted a nauseating stench.

“This year we have been hit fairly hard once again,” Austin added. “Recommendations have been put forward to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) as to how the situation can be handled environmentally so that tourism would then have fewer problems. However, there is no money to put these recommendations into action.”

The THA reportedly spent approximately 500,000 dollars during one year to clear up the decaying sargassum.

Apart from the tourism industry taking a hit, the country’s marine environment has also been adversely affected .

A particularly heart-rending consequence of the sargassum invasions has been the devastation it causes to turtle nesting sites on the island. The SOME report notes, “Ecologically, both adult and juvenile sea turtles can become entangled in the thick masses.”

Dr. Juman said hatchlings making their way out to sea from Tobago’s shores in 2015 got caught in the mass of sargassum, as well as many leaving the beaches of Trinidad in the northeast after they were hatched. Local media reports earlier this year expressed fears that turtle hatchlings would die because of becoming entangled in the masses of sargassum that washed ashore in April.

Further, “sargassum can smother your coral reef and seagrass, and they can bring in organisms that are not native to [Tobago], so that can have a negative impact on the native species,” said Dr. Juman, who is a wetlands ecologist.

The SOME report notes that the seagrasses which the sargassum destroyed off southwest Tobago are important for the marine environment since they “stabilize bottom sediments, slow current flow, prevent erosion, and filter suspended nutrients and solids from coastal waters.”

In response to this phenomenon, as well as other threats caused by climate change to the nation’s coastlines, the Trinidad and Tobago government has established as a priority of its new Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) policy the objective of maintaining “the diversity, health and productivity of coastal and marine processes and ecosystems”.

Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Planning Marie Hinds said via e-mail that this objective, the eighth one listed under the ICZM policy, incorporates tackling the sargassum problem.

She said achieving the objective would involve implementing a “programme to manage/control the introduction of alien invasive species into the coastal and marine zones.”

Establishment of an ICZM policy was a requirement of the Inter-American Development Bank for Trinidad and Tobago to access funding to deal with climate change, Hinds added. The ICZM policy will facilitate coordination and cooperation between civil society, government and the private sector in addressing the impacts of climate change.

However, there is still relatively little research data on which to base decision-making and management of the sargassum problem because it is such a new phenomenon, said Dr. Juman.

Among the proposals for disposing of the sargassum is to transform it into a biogas. But, “if you are going to invest in some sort of industry…you have to have a known quantity, you need to know how much, you need to have a consistent supply.

“You also need research to quantify such an industry’s impact on the fishing and shipping industry, as well as tourism. We do not have that kind of data,” said Dr. Juman. “Having the research and knowing how to treat with it so we can be proactive not reactive,” she said, was important for the IMA in finding solutions to the sargassum problem.

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Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast Pools Efforts Against Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/costa-ricas-caribbean-coast-pools-efforts-climate-change/#respond Mon, 24 Jul 2017 03:18:10 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151406 Jonathan Barrantes walks between the rows of shoots, naming one by one each species in the tree nursery that he manages, in the south of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastal region. There are fruit trees, ceibas that will take decades to grow to full size. and timber species for forestry plantations. The tree nursery run by […]

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Pope Francis Donates to FAO for Drought, Conflict-Stricken East Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/pope-francis-donates-fao-drought-conflict-stricken-east-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pope-francis-donates-fao-drought-conflict-stricken-east-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/pope-francis-donates-fao-drought-conflict-stricken-east-africa/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 13:45:38 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151391 As an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis has donated 25,000 euro to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s efforts supporting people facing food insecurity and famine in East Africa. Pope Francis said the funds are “a symbolic contribution to an FAO programme that provides seeds to rural families in areas affected by the combined effects of […]

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Children in the town of Embetyo, Eritrea. Credit: OCHA/Gemma Connell

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jul 21 2017 (IPS)

As an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis has donated 25,000 euro to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s efforts supporting people facing food insecurity and famine in East Africa.

Pope Francis said the funds are “a symbolic contribution to an FAO programme that provides seeds to rural families in areas affected by the combined effects of conflicts and drought.” See: East Africa’s Poor Rains: Hunger Worsened, Crops Scorched, Livestock Dead

Pope Francis speaking at FAO in 2014. Credit: FAO

The Pontiff’s remarks were contained in a letter addressed to FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva by Monsignor Fernando Chica Arellano, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN food agencies in Rome.

Pope Francis’ gesture stemmed from a pledge he made in a message to FAO’s Conference on 3 July 2017 and was “inspired also by the desire to encourage Governments,” Monsignor Chica stated in the letter.

Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan in February and while the situation has eased after a significant scaling up in the humanitarian response, some 6 million people in the country are still struggling to find enough food every day.

Meanwhile the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in five other East African countries – Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – is currently estimated at about 16 million, which marks an increase of about 30 per cent since late 2016.

Pope Francis, who has made solidarity a major theme of his pontificate, is set to visit FAO’s headquarters on 16 October to mark World Food Day.

This year the event is being held under the slogan: “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development”.

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UAE Leading the Way on Shifting to Greener Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/uae-leading-way-shifting-greener-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uae-leading-way-shifting-greener-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/uae-leading-way-shifting-greener-energy/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 20:59:54 +0000 Rabiya Jaffery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151386 Much of the world is moving away from oil for its electricity generation, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which says that globally the fossil fuel has dropped from a 25 percent share to 3.6 percent over the last four decades. The total global production capacity of power converted from solar energy has also […]

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By Rabiya Jaffery
ABU DHABI, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)

Much of the world is moving away from oil for its electricity generation, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which says that globally the fossil fuel has dropped from a 25 percent share to 3.6 percent over the last four decades.

Credit: WAM

The total global production capacity of power converted from solar energy has also increased by 33 percent in 2016 and is expected to increase to 983GW by 2030 and, by doing so, comprise of over 10 percent of the world’s expected capacity, according to the latest Renewables Global Status Report.

And, as the Gulf States take steps to expand their use of clean energy, an ambitious plan by the United Arab Emirates to boost its use of renewable electricity from less than 1 percent to 50 percent by 2050 could be a game-changer for the region, experts say.

Dropping oil prices and growing concerns about climate change have exposed the downsides of relying on oil. As the Gulf’s demand for power continues to rise, the UAE is leading the way in shifting to greener energy resources including multiple major investments in solar projects in order to reduce energy consumption and preserve natural resources.

In Abu Dhabi, for example, construction began earlier this year for an 11.1.1GW plant, its largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant yet, which is to produce enough electricity to power about 200,000 houses.

According to a press release, the plant, being constructed by Japan’s Marubeni and China’s JinkoSolar, is to be connected to the grid between the last quarter of next year and March 2019.

“This project must be associated with the creation of advanced research centre to drive the economic and technological journey, placing the UAE on the world map of knowledge-based economies,” tweeted Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, the vice chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, about the launch of the construction.

This project falls in line with the UAE Energy Plan 2050, which aims to increase clean energy use by 50 per cent and improve energy efficiency by 40 per cent, resulting in savings worth Dh700 bn.

Dubai’s Electricity and Water Authority, DEWA, has also launched a number of major projects on renewable energy, to drive the sustainable development of the Emirate.

This includes the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world and the first of its kind to be implemented according to the Independent Power Produce (IPP) model, with a total investment of AED 50 billion, and a planned capacity of 1,000 MW by 2020 and 5,000 MW by 2030.

According to Energy Digital, the park will eventually save approximately 6.5 million tons per annum in emissions.

Hazza bin Zayed also wrote that UAE’s interest in producing renewable energy is leading to a decline in the global cost of energy tenders in solar power and wind energy, , especially in Europe and other parts of the Middle East.

DEWA has already broken two world records with the project – first, by obtaining the lowest price globally for the park’s second phase, at USD 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour (kW/h) last year and another, earlier this year, with the lowest recorded bid being USD 2.99 cents per kW/h for the 800MW third phase of the park.

DEWA’s has also launched the Shams Dubai initiative, the largest distributed solar rooftop project in the Middle East, which has commissioned DP world into installing 88,000 rooftop solar panels in some of its houses and building complexes. Any surplus energy will be exported back into DEWA’s grid.
“This supports our efforts to achieve the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, launched, to transform Dubai into a global hub for clean energy and green economy,” writes Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD and CEO of DEWA about the initiative, in a column for a local publication.

He added that DEWA’s strategy is in line with Dubai’s target of generating 5,000MW of solar power by 2030, comprising 25 percent of its total power output.

Dubai has also taken up a number of other initiatives and projects including a 1.5MW system deployed at the Jebel Ali Power Station and the Dubai solar schools program, which targets around 50MW over three years of systems installed in schools across the emirate. The Dubai based Al Nabooda Automobiles has also signed a solar lease for the development of 6.7MW of solar power to their new DIC facility and Aramex has a new 3MW system on their logistics facility.

Al Tayer added that due to UAE’s positioning on the solar belt makes solar energy the most common source of clean energy in the UAE and the country now realizes the importance of harnessing it.

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Farming Beyond Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/farming-beyond-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farming-beyond-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/farming-beyond-drought/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 00:01:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151372 The Caribbean accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries and Barbados is in the top ten. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines countries like Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis as water-scarce with less than 1000 m3 freshwater resources per capita. With droughts becoming more seasonal in nature […]

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Caribbean farmers have been battling extreme droughts in recent years. A FAO official says drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, making it a key issue for Caribbean food security. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Caribbean farmers have been battling extreme droughts in recent years. A FAO official says drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, making it a key issue for Caribbean food security. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)

The Caribbean accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries and Barbados is in the top ten. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines countries like Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis as water-scarce with less than 1000 m3 freshwater resources per capita.

With droughts becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean, experts say agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences.Expensive, desalinated water resources are also becoming more important in the Caribbean, accounting for as much as 70 percent in Antigua and Barbuda.

This is particularly important since the majority of Caribbean agriculture is rain fed. With irrigation use becoming more widespread in the Caribbean, countries’ fresh-water supply will become increasingly important.

In light of the dilemma faced by the region, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) is spearheading a climate smart agriculture project in which 90 farmers from three Caribbean countries, including Barbados, will participate over the next 18 months.

Executive director of the CPDC Gordon Bispham said the aim of the project, in which farmers from Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines are also involved, is to support sustainable livelihoods and reinforce that farming is serious business.

“Farming is not a hobby. It is a business where we can apply specific technology and methodologies, not only to be sustainable, but to be profitable. That is going to be very central to our programme,” Bispham said at the project’s launch last week.

“If we are going to be successful, it means that we are going to have to build partnerships and networks so that we can share the information that we learn from the project. We must not only upscale agriculture in the three countries identified, but bring more countries of the region into the fold,” he said.

According to the FAO, drought can affect the agriculture sector in several ways, by reducing crop yields and productivity, and causing premature death of livestock and poultry. Even a dry spell of 7-10 days can result in a reduction of yields, influencing the livelihoods of farmers.

Farmers, particularly small farmers, are vulnerable to drought as their livelihoods are threatened by low rainfall where crops are rain fed and by low water levels and increased production costs due to increased irrigation, the FAO said.

It notes that livestock grazing areas change in nutritional value, as more low quality, drought tolerant species dominate during extensive droughts, causing the vulnerability of livestock to increase. The potential for livestock diseases also increases.

“Drought ranks as the single most common cause of severe food shortages in developing countries, so this is a key issue for Caribbean food security,” said Deep Ford, Regional Coordinator for FAO in the Caribbean.

He adds that the poor are vulnerable as food price increases are often associated with drought. Expensive, desalinated water resources are also becoming more important in the Caribbean, accounting for as much as 70 percent in Antigua and Barbuda, and this can impact the poor significantly.

The FAO official adds that rural communities are vulnerable since potable water networks are less dense and therefore more heavily impacted during drought, while children are at highest risk from inadequate water supplies during drought.

Bispham said the youth and women would be a focus of the climate smart agriculture project, adding that with their inclusion in the sector, countries can depend on agriculture to make a sizable contribution to their gross domestic product (GDP).

While throwing her support behind the agriculture project, head of the political section and chargé d’affaires of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Silvia Kofler, highlighted the threat presented by global warning.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impact of climate change. It is an all-encompassing threat, and the nature and scale of this global challenge that we are facing demands a concerted action of us all,” she said.

She gave policymakers in Barbados the assurance that the European Union was willing to assist the region in transforming their societies and sectors into smart and sustainable ones, whether in farming or otherwise. 

FAO said climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of droughts in the Caribbean, so countries must enhance their capabilities to deal with this and other climate related challenges to ensure food security and hunger eradication.

A new FAO study says the Caribbean faces significant challenges in terms of drought. The region already experiences drought-like events every year, often with low water availability impacting agriculture and water resources, and a significant number of bush fires.

The Caribbean also experiences intense dry seasons, particularly in years with El Niño events. The impacts are usually offset by the next wet season, but wet seasons often end early and dry seasons last longer with the result that annual rainfall is less than expected.

Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society James Paul said 2016 was an extremely tough year for farmers, as the limited rainfall affected the harvesting and planting of crops.

But he is encouraged by the fact that unlike last year there is no prediction of a prolonged drought for Barbados.

“Rain if still falling on some areas off and on, so that is a good sign. But the good thing is that we haven’t had any warning of a possible drought and we are hoping that it remains that way,” he said.

“With the little rainfall we got last year, farmers had some serious problems so we are definitely hoping for more rain this time around.”

Deputy Director of the Barbados Meteorological Services Sonia Nurse explained that 2016 started with below-normal rainfall levels in the first half of the year. However, by the end of the year, a total of 1,422 mm (55.62 inches), recorded at the Grantley Adams station, was in excess of the 30-year average of 1,270 mm (50.05 inches), while the 2015 total of 789 mm (31.07 inches) fell way below the 30-year average.

“Figures showed that approximately 78 per cent or 1,099.1 mm (43.27 inches) of the total rainfall measured last year was experienced during the wet season (June-November) as opposed to 461 mm (18.15 inches) recorded during the same period of the 2015 wet season.

“However, rainfall data showed that 2015 started out significantly wetter than 2016, with accumulations of over nine inches recorded between January and April as opposed to a mere five inches, which was recorded January to April 2016. A similar rainfall pattern was reported from some of the other stations around the island.”

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WHO Urges Govt’s to Raise Taxes on Tobaccohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 21:27:30 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151369 Seven million people die each year from tobacco-related deaths, according to a new report published by the World Health Organisation today. Stressing the urgent need to curb deaths from smoking, Dr. Vinayak Prasad, the head of WHO’s tobacco control programme, told IPS that “countries have to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies at the best-level.” […]

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Credit: IPS

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

Seven million people die each year from tobacco-related deaths, according to a new report published by the World Health Organisation today.

Stressing the urgent need to curb deaths from smoking, Dr. Vinayak Prasad, the head of WHO’s tobacco control programme, told IPS that “countries have to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies at the best-level.”

He mentioned the adoption of core policies, called MPOWER, to monitor and protect people from tobacco smoke. At the highest level of implementation of these policies, countries will have eliminated tobacco-related deaths.

“The focus of the report is to monitor effective implementation of policies. The trend is good, but there’s room for vast improvement. Many countries are helping people to quit by putting out larger warning labels, but there’s no stringent action by measures of raising tax, for example,” said Dr. Prasad.

Still, there is good news—almost 71 countries have two or more of MPOWER policies in place, protecting a total of 3.2 billion people worldwide. In 2007, only 42 countries had some policy in place.

Every country, of course, follows a mix of different measures.

In terms of the newer countries on board, Afghanistan and Cambodia have adopted smoke-free laws in indoor public places and workplaces. Other countries have expanded existing measures—Nepal and Bangladesh passed laws at the national level for larger warning labels clearly demonstrating the harmful effects of smoking.

Still others, like Austria and Malta, have adopted the surest but politically most charged approach to combat the epidemic—raising taxes.

“The important issue is to support the benefit of raising taxes—it’ll bring down both demand and generate resources. In Philippines—which raised taxes in 2012—two things happened. The country generated extra revenue by as much as 5 billion dollars, and the use of tobacco declined. More governments have to understand this,” said Dr. Prasad.

The importance of raising taxes so that governments are able to spend that extra money on healthcare is a crucial and proven linkage, but has faltered after enormous pressure from powerful tobacco lobbyists to maintain the status quo.

“The countries which have shown progress are moving in the right direction. There needs to be greater political will because we have the evidence and the knowledge to back it up. We need to understand that the tobacco industry is not our friend,” Dr. Prasad explained.

Similarly, adoption of other effective measures like a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and promotion also ranks low among countries. Mainly low and middle income countries, like Afghanistan and Senegal, among five others, have implemented the policy.

Combating a tobacco epidemic does not rest on curbing sale of cigarettes alone. Tobacco can be consumed in several other ways, such as its widespread consumption as khaini and bidis in India.

“Of the 300 million smokers in India, 72 million smoke bidis. The majority of the population consume khaini,” explained Dr. Prasad on the multifaceted tasks of fighting the tobacco industry.

The report was launched on the sidelines of the UN high-level political forum on sustainable development. Controlling tobacco is a key part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

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Educating Children One Radio Wave at a Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/educating-children-one-radio-wave-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=educating-children-one-radio-wave-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/educating-children-one-radio-wave-time/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 20:40:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151366 Nigeria’s conflict has displaced more than a million children, leaving them without access to education. However, an innovative radio program aims to transform this bleak scenario. Concerned by the ongoing insecurity and its impacts, the UN’s children agency (UNICEF) created a radio program to help educate displaced children in the Lake Chad region. “Boko Haram […]

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'Kidnappy' is one of the fears that Nigerian children shared as part of UNICEF's Education in Emergencies exercise. Thousands of young girls have been kidnapped and held for year by Boko Haram since the start of the insurgency in 2009. Credit: UNICEF

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

Nigeria’s conflict has displaced more than a million children, leaving them without access to education. However, an innovative radio program aims to transform this bleak scenario.

Concerned by the ongoing insecurity and its impacts, the UN’s children agency (UNICEF) created a radio program to help educate displaced children in the Lake Chad region.

“Boko Haram has disrupted the lives of 1.3 million children with a radical insurgency that has burned villages, displaced people, and created a culture of fear,” said UNICEF’s Crisis Communications Specialist Patrick Rose.

Now entering its eight year, Boko Haram’s violent insurgency has intensified and spilled over in the Lake Chad region, displacing over 2 million people across four countries.

The group has particularly targeted education, destroying more than 900 schools and forcing at least 1,500 more to close.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 611 teachers have been killed and another 19,000 forced to flee. Boko Haram has also attacked students to keep them out of school and forcibly recruited students into its ranks.

Such targeted attacks and destruction have created an education gap in crisis-affected areas, especially where displaced communities have fled to.

“Short of going through and building new schools in all of those communities when we don’t know how long this conflict is going to last, we tried to develop ways that we could reach these children and deliver some sort of educational routine that will keep them at least learning,” Rose told IPS.

Created with support from the European Union (EU) and in partnership with the governments of Cameroon and Niger, UNICEF’s radio education programs serve as an alternative platform for the 200,000 children in the two countries unable to access schools.

It includes 144 episodes of educational programming on literacy and numeracy for various ages and will be broadcast through state channels in both French and the local languages of Kanouri, Fulfulde, and Hausa.

The curriculum also includes a child protection component such as psychosocial support, guiding teachers to create a space for children to share their experiences and learn how to manage their fears.

“When you have children who have been deeply disturbed by displacement, many of whom have witnessed the murders of their own families, and you create a situation in which they are expected to spend eight hours a day in a classroom that isn’t engaging at all with the reality that they are encountering outside, you get a fundamental dissonance and ultimately low engagement,” Rose said.

As part of its Education in Emergencies initiatives, UNICEF works closely with communities to identify the risks they face as individuals and schools as a whole.

In one such workshop about fears, one girl wrote “kidnappy,” reflecting the deep distress and risk of kidnapping that young girls face.

Not only does the radio program have the potential to decrease the likelihood of kidnapping as children listen from home, but it also creates a “positive” space that addresses children’s realities.

Discussions are underway with the governments of Cameroon and Niger to make radio courses certified, allowing children to receive a certification and pass the school year.

Rose called the approach to the complex crisis “unique,” as it moves from a focus on individual countries to a multi-country response.

He also highlighted the potential for the radio education program to be replicated in other regions of the world.

In 35 crisis-affected countries, humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises have disrupted the education of 75 million children between the ages of 3 and 18.

“In the same way that radio played a key role in the Cold War and reaching people around the world with messages, it is the same sort of situation here—radio doesn’t respect the borders of conflicts,” Rose concluded.

Ongoing insecurity has impeded humanitarian response in the Lake Chad basin, leaving children’s needs largely unmet.

UNICEF has so far received 50 percent of a 38.5-million-dollar appeal to meet the education needs of children in the region.

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East Africa’s Poor Rains: Hunger Worsened, Crops Scorched, Livestock Deadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/east-africas-poor-rains-hunger-worsened-crops-scorched-livestock-dead/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=east-africas-poor-rains-hunger-worsened-crops-scorched-livestock-dead http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/east-africas-poor-rains-hunger-worsened-crops-scorched-livestock-dead/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 05:32:29 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151355 Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert. The most affected areas, which received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall, are central and southern Somalia, South-Eastern Ethiopia, northern and […]

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

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert.

The most affected areas, which received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall, are central and southern Somalia, South-Eastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, northern Tanzania and north-eastern and South-Western Uganda, according to a new alert by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The alert, issued on 14 July by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), warns that the third consecutive failed rainy season has seriously eroded families’ resilience, and urgent and effective livelihood support is required. “We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.” – FAO chief

“This is the third season in a row that families have had to endure failed rains – they are simply running out of ways to cope,” said FAO’s Director of Emergencies Dominique Burgeon. “Support is needed now before the situation rapidly deteriorates further.”

Increasing Humanitarian Need

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the five aforementioned countries, currently estimated at about 16 million, has increased by about 30 per cent since late 2016. In Somalia, almost half of the total population is food insecure, the UN specialised body reported.

Timely humanitarian assistance has averted famine so far but must be sustained. Conditions across the region are expected to further deteriorate in the coming months with the onset of the dry season and an anticipated early start of the lean season, it added.

The food security situation for pastoralists is of particular concern, in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where animal mortality rates are high and milk production from the surviving animals has declined sharply with negative consequences on food security and nutrition, FAO warned.

“When we know how critical milk is for the healthy development of children aged under five, and the irreversible damage its lack can create, it is evident that supporting pastoralists going through this drought is essential,” said Burgeon.

Poor Crop Prospects

On this, FAO provides the following detailed information:

In several cropping areas across the region, poor rains have caused sharp reductions in planting, and wilting of crops currently being harvested. Despite some late rainfall in May, damage to crops is irreversible.

In addition, fall armyworm, which has caused extensive damage to maize crops in southern Africa, has spread to the east and has worsened the situation. In Kenya, the pest has so far affected about 200 000 hectares of crops, and in Uganda more than half the country’s 111 districts are affected.

In Somalia there are unfavourable prospects for this year’s main gu crops, after the gu rains were late with poor rainfall and erratic distribution over most areas of the country.

In Ethiopia, unfavourable belg rains in southern cropping areas are likely to result in localized cereal production shortfalls. Drought is also affecting yields in Kenya’s central, Southeastern and coastal areas.

In Tanzania, unfavourable rains are likely to result in localized cereal production shortfalls in northern and central areas; while in Uganda there are unfavourable production prospects are unfavourable for first season crops in the Southwestern and northern districts.

108 Million People Face Severe Acute Food Insecurity

Meanwhile, despite international efforts to address food insecurity, around 108 million people living in 48 food-crisis countries were at high risk of or already facing severe acute food insecurity in 2016, a dramatic increase compared with 80 million in 2015, according to a new global report on food crises released on 31 March in Brussels.

Children lining up for their one meal per day at a school in Bandarero, Northern Kenya. Credit: OCHA/ Daniel Pfister


The report, whose compilation required integrating several measurement methodologies, represents a new and politically innovative collaboration between the European Union (EU) and USAID/FEWSNET, regional food security institutions together with UN agencies including the FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“The dramatic increase reflects the trouble people have in producing and accessing food due to conflict, record-high food prices in local markets in affected countries and extreme weather conditions such drought and erratic rainfall caused by El Niño. “

Civil conflict is the driving factor in nine of the 10 worst humanitarian crises, underscoring the strong linkage between peace and food security, says the Global Report on Food Crises 2017.

By joining forces to deliver neutral analytical insights drawn from multiple institutions, the report – to be issued annually – enables better-informed planning decisions to respond to food crises in a more timely, global and coordinated way.

“This report highlights the critical need for prompt and targeted action to effectively respond to the food crises and to address their root causes. The EU has taken leadership in this response. In 2016, we allocated € 550 million already, followed by another € 165 million that we have just mobilized to assist the people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa,” said Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.

“The report is the outcome of a joint effort and a concrete follow-up to the commitments the EU made at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which identified the urgent need for transparent, independent but consensus-based analysis of crises,” added Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

Most Critical Situations Worsening

This year, the demand for humanitarian and resilience building assistance will further escalate as four countries are at risk of famine: South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and northeast Nigeria, the report warns.

Other countries that require massive levels of assistance because of widespread food insecurity are Iraq, Syria (including refugees in neighbouring countries) Malawi and Zimbabwe. In the absence of immediate and substantive action not only to save people’s lives, but also to pull them back from the brink of famine, the food security situation in these countries will continue to worsen in coming months, according to the report.

“The cost in human and resource terms only increases if we let situations deteriorate,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.”

“The numbers tell a deeply worrying story with more than 100 million people severely food-insecure, a level of suffering which is driven by conflict and climate change. Hunger exacerbates crisis, creating ever -greater instability and insecurity. What is a food security challenge today becomes tomorrow’s security challenge,” said Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

“It is a race against time – the world must act now to save the lives and livelihoods of the millions at the brink of starvation.”

The 108 million people reported to be facing severe food insecurity in 2016 represent those suffering from higher-than-usual acute malnutrition and a broad lack of minimally adequate food even with external assistance.

This includes households that can cope with their minimum food needs only by depleting seeds, livestock and agricultural assets needed to produce food in the future, the report adds.

“Without robust and sustained action, people struggling with severe food insecurity risk slipping into an even worse situation and eventual starvation.”

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How to Achieve Universal Goals, Strategicallyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-universal-goals-strategically/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieve-universal-goals-strategically http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/achieve-universal-goals-strategically/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 16:49:00 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151328 Discussion around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a list of 17 goals listed by the UN, was all the buzz in the conference rooms of UN headquarters this week. Forty-four countries came together in a series of high-level political forum meetings to assess their standing and discuss their challenges in the fight to achieve […]

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By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Discussion around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a list of 17 goals listed by the UN, was all the buzz in the conference rooms of UN headquarters this week.

A view of the Trusteeship Council Chamber during the Ministerial Segment of the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Forty-four countries came together in a series of high-level political forum meetings to assess their standing and discuss their challenges in the fight to achieve the 2030 universal goals—such as eradication of poverty and hunger.

“We have come to New York in order to find common solutions for common problems,” said Debapriya Bhattacharya, a top expert on policies on the Global South, to IPS News.

Debapriya Bhattacharya, among other key panelists, led discussions on the exchange of information, also addressed as interlinkages, between countries in one such panel, called Leveraging Interlinkages for Effective Implementation of SDGs.

The main goal of the panel was to identify the different ways in which different targets and goals could be mix and matched to produce maximum results.

For example, the goal of eradicating hunger necessarily means a sustainable chain of food production and consumption. Food production relies on fertile soil, which ultimately caters to goals of environmental conservation. This pattern of information in an interdependent ecosystem sits at the heart of reviews and assessment to improve implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Crucial information, such as who needs the most help and how to provide it, are collected by different agencies, governmental and non-governmental, in every country. While this exchange of information becomes important to identify synergies between countries, they are not enough to bring the goals to a vivid global reality.

“Setting up various kinds of agencies is important to ensure the flow of information is important, but are not fully adequate. We need to assess how to build one policy over another, so that two policies don’t add up to two, but more than two,” Debapriya Bhattacharya told IPS news.

The next crucial part of this flow is establishing a relationship—or seeking leverage—with the global community.

This partnering with a resourceful global community is especially important for countries to mitigate financial and technological issues. For example, a landlocked country with varying special needs can also quickly benefit from a global partnership.

To achieve this partnership, panelists stressed on the importance of political leadership.

Ultimately, with the help of newer technologies, this wide array of information coalesces into quantitative and qualitative data, and guides policy making.

Hopefully, in the next and complimentary step—the implementation of the data to deliver on the goals—all that glitters will turn to gold.

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Not Just Numbers: Migrants Tell Their Storieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 09:52:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151317 Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures. […]

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures.

Every now and then a reporter talks to a couple of them or interviews some of the tens of humanitarian organisations and groups, mostly to get information about their life conditions in the numerous so called “reception centres” that are often considered rather as “detention centres” installed on both shores of the Mediterranean sea.

How to participate in IOM “i am a migrant” campaign


Answer a few questions:
- Country of origin/ current country/occupation,
- At what age did you leave your country and why (and where did you go to)?
- What was your first impression?
- What do you miss from your country?
- What do you think you bring to the country you're living in?
- What do you want to do/what do you actually do for your country of origin? (Example) What's your greatest challenge right now?
- Do you have a piece of advice you'd like to give to the people back in your country?
- And to those living in your host country?
- Where is home for you?
- Share a high-resolution picture of yourself

SOURCE: IOM

It is a fact that their numbers are shocking: 101,417 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 9 July, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported. Of this total, 2,353 died.

Beyond the figures, migrants and refugees live inhumane drama, are victims of rights abuse, discrimination, xenophobia and hatred–often encouraged by some politicians. Let alone that tragic realty that they fall easy pry to human traffickers who handle them as mere merchandise. See: African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libya..

On top of that, another UN organisation—the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women.

“The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life,” it reports. See: A Grisly Tale of Children Falling Easy Prey to Ruthless Smugglers.

On this, Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said that this route “is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life.”

Moreover, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has estimated that 7 of 10 victims of human traffickers are women and children.

True that statistics help evaluate the magnitude of such an inhumane drama. But, is this enough?

1,200 Migrants Tell Their Dreams and Realities

2,716 kms from home. “I’ll probably go back to Senegal to use what I have learnt here (Niger) to contribute to my country’s development and to Africa as a whole” – Fatou. Read her story. Credit: IOM/Amanda Nero

In a singular initiative, IOM launched “i am a migrant” – a platform to promote diversity and inclusion of migrants in society.

3,385 kms from home. “Before, they used to ask how I came here. Now they ask migrants why they came” – Jasmine. Occupation: Law-maker. Current Country: Republic of Korea. Country of Origin: Philippines. Read her story. Credit: IOM

It’s specifically designed to support volunteer groups, local authorities, companies, associations, groups, indeed, anyone of goodwill who is concerned about the hostile public discourse against migrants, says IOM.

i am a migrant” allows the voices of individuals to shine through and provides an honest insight into the triumphs and tribulations of migrants of all backgrounds and at all phases of their migratory journeys.”

“While we aim to promote positive perceptions of migrants we do not shy away from presenting life as it is experienced. We seek to combat xenophobia and discrimination at a time when so many are exposed to negative narratives about migration – whether on our social media feeds or on the airwaves.”

The IOM campaign uses the testimonials of migrants to connect people with the human stories of migration. Thus far, it has seen 1,200 profiles published. The anecdotes and memories shared on the platform help us understand what words such as “integration”, “multiculturalism” and “diversity” truly mean.

Through stories collected by IOM teams around the world, “diversity finally finds a human face.” While inviting migrants to share their stories with its teams, IOM informs that “i am a migrant” is part of the UN TOGETHER initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone who has left home in search of a better life.

Read their stories here.

From the Ashes of World War II

IOM is among the world’s most experienced international agencies dealing with migrants. No wonder– it rose from the ashes of World War Two over 65 years ago.

“In the battle-scarred continent of Europe, no government alone could help survivors who wanted no more than an opportunity to resume their lives in freedom and with dignity. The first incarnation of IOM was created to resettle refugees during this post-war period,” it reminds.

The agency’s history tracks the man-made and natural disasters of the past over 65 years – Hungary 1956; Czechoslovakia 1968; Chile 1973; the Viet Nam boat people 1975; Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and Timor 1999; the 2003 invasion of Iraq; the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

Now under the United Nations umbrella as part of its system since 2016, IOM quickly grew from a focus on migrant and refugee resettlement to become the world’s leading inter-governmental organisation dedicated to the well-being, safety and engagement of migrants.

Over the years, IOM has grown into 166 member states. Its global presence has expanded to over 400 field locations. With over 90 per cent of its staff deployed in the field, it has become a lead responder to the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.

Shall these facts –and the stories migrants tell—help awaken the consciousness of those European politicians who ignore the fact that their peoples were once migrants and refugees as a consequences of wars their predecessors provoked? And that the migration agency was born for them?

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Civil Society on SDG Engagement: “We Are Not Guests”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/civil-society-sdg-engagement-not-guests/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 08:55:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151313 Showing up in record numbers, civil society groups are urging greater inclusion and accountability in sustainable development processes at a UN high level meeting. Almost 2,500 representatives are currently gathered at the UN for its High Level Political Forum(HLPF), a meeting to monitor and review progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in […]

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Indigenous children hold signs supporting the struggle in Cherán. Credit: Daniela Pastrana/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Showing up in record numbers, civil society groups are urging greater inclusion and accountability in sustainable development processes at a UN high level meeting.

Almost 2,500 representatives are currently gathered at the UN for its High Level Political Forum(HLPF), a meeting to monitor and review progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015.

Concerned about the slow progress towards sustainable development by governments after two years, civil society organisations (CSOs) from around the world have descended upon the global meeting to make their voices heard and demand engagement in order to achieve the ambitious agenda.

“One thing that is very different in the 2030 Agenda is the call for inclusion of all stakeholders and all people…we are not guests, we are not in the shadow, we are part of the implementation of this agenda as we were also part of the crafting of the agenda,” co-chair of the Steering Group of the Coordination Mechanism of Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) Naiara Costa told IPS.

MGoS is a newly created space to help civil society access information, increase their participation in decision-making processes, and facilitate collaboration across major stakeholder groups including indigenous peoples, women, and persons with disabilities.

“It is an agenda that is attracting so much attention and that civil society is taking so seriously that you need to have a space where people can come and get information and be prepared…if we are not engaged, [the agenda] is not going to be delivered,” Costa added.

Though there has been some progress towards inclusion of marginalised groups, there is still a long way to go.

Yetnebersh Nigussie, who is the senior inclusion advisor of international disability and development organisation Light for the World, told IPS that persons with disabilities have long been neglected, stating: “When talking about persons with disability, we are talking about billions—that’s 1/7th of the global population which is a huge segment of the population that has been highly overlooked.”

Though comprising of 15 percent of the global population, persons with disabilities are overrepresented among those living in absolute poverty.

They encounter exclusion and discrimination on a daily basis, including in development programmes and agendas like the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which made no reference to persons with disabilities.

Two years into the new 2030 Agenda, participation is still uneven for persons with disabilities, Nigussie said.

“Most of disability organizations were not fully informed—even in cases that they were consulted, accessibility needs were not addressed, and they were not meaningfully included,” she said, adding that there are also cases of exclusion against disability organizations within civil society itself.

Filipino indigenous activist and former Secretary-General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Joan Carling echoed similar sentiments to IPS on the exclusion of indigenous groups.

“Indigenous people who are defending our lands are being killed. So how can there be effective participation of indigenous peoples if that is the situation at the local level?” she said.

According to Global Witness, more than 200 environmental defenders, including indigenous leaders, were killed trying to protect their land in 2016, more than double the number five years ago.

Almost 100 have already been killed so far in 2017, including Mexican indigenous leader and illegal logging opponent Isidro Baldenergo Lopez.

States often exclude indigenous groups in development processes because it is too political otherwise, Carling noted.

“[States] are threatened by our demand of our rights to our territories and resources…so they try to avoid any reference to indigenous peoples because once they call us indigenous peoples, then they have to recognize our rights,” she told IPS.

Both Carling and Nigussie also highlighted the shrinking space for civil society around the world.

CIVICUS has found that civic space is severely constrained in 106 countries, over half of the UN’s members, through practices such as forced closure of CSOs, violence, and detentions.

Civil society activists are imprisoned most when they criticise the government and its policies or call attention to human rights abuses, the group noted.

Nigussie told IPS that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a “joint responsibility” between governments and civil society and that if they fail, they are “mutually accountable.”

To promote such accountability, the SDGs must be linked to the human rights model which will entail frequent consultations with persons with disabilities from the grassroots to the international levels.

Though engagement at the local and national levels are most important to successfully achieve sustainable development, global forums like HLPF at the UN allow civil society to make sure their concerns are heard.

“There is a lot of interest in bring the issue of lack of consultations at the global level simply because the space at the national levels are not provided,” Carling told IPS.

She highlighted the importance of indigenous peoples to identify, support, and have ownership of their own solutions.

“The goal is leaving no one behind—so if it is not participatory or rights-based, then it will end up as business as usual again,” Carling said.

Costa urged for nations to bring lessons learned back home, concluding: “It cannot stop here, [countries] need to bring the discussion back home. Otherwise its just a talk shop and we cannot allow this to happen.”

This year’s HLPF is held at the UN from 10-19 July with the theme of “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” It will focus on evaluating implementation of SDGs in 44 countries including Argentina, Ethiopia, and Thailand.

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Extreme Weather Wiping Out Hard-Won GDP Gains in Hourshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/extreme-weather-wiping-hard-won-gdp-gains-hours/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=extreme-weather-wiping-hard-won-gdp-gains-hours http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/extreme-weather-wiping-hard-won-gdp-gains-hours/#respond Fri, 14 Jul 2017 12:23:47 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151307 With Antigua and Barbuda joining St. Kitts and Nevis as the two eastern Caribbean nations to attain middle-income country status, a senior diplomat has identified climate change as a major factor preventing other nations in the grouping from taking the same step forward. According to the World Bank, a middle-income economy is one with a […]

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Climate change is a major factor preventing other nations in the eastern Caribbean to attain middle-income country status

A poorly constructed house in Gelée, Les Cayes, Haiti is further damaged by trees that fell during the passage of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. A senior Caribbean diplomat assigned to the European Union says climate change events are preventing many Caribbean countries from moving up the development ladder. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jul 14 2017 (IPS)

With Antigua and Barbuda joining St. Kitts and Nevis as the two eastern Caribbean nations to attain middle-income country status, a senior diplomat has identified climate change as a major factor preventing other nations in the grouping from taking the same step forward.

According to the World Bank, a middle-income economy is one with a gross national income per capita of between 1,026 and 12,475 dollars in 2016, calculated according to the Atlas method — a formula used by the World Bank to estimate the size of economies in terms of gross national income in U.S. dollars."Those who are indigent, they would enter...an avenue in Dante’s Hell which is indescribable. So that is the real story.” --Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves

“What I do want to say is that the other countries, the independent ones in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) like Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, all of them are exposed to climate events annually and the climate events are devastating for us and you could have situations where 90 per cent of our GDP is wiped out in 22 hours, 23 hours, 15 hours, depending on how long a tropical storm sits on you,” says Sharlene Shillingford-McKlmon, chargé d’affaires at the Eastern Caribbean States Embassy to Belgium and Mission to the European Union

She was speaking to Caribbean journalists on a tour of the European Union Headquarters as part of activities to mark the 40th anniversary of the European Union Mission to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

Shillingford-McKlmon’s comments came as she spoke to some of the developmental challenges affecting OECS nations and the response options available to them.

Between Dec. 23 and 24, 2013, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia began reporting heavy rain with accumulations over that 12- to 24-hour period recorded at 406 mm in St. Lucia, 156 mm in Dominica, and 109 mm in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The heavy rains were associated with a low-level trough system, and with the traditional hurricane having ended almost a month earlier, many residents had dismissed the rains as just another tropical downpour.

However, by the time the hours-long downpour subsided in St. Vincent and the Grenadines around 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, nine people were confirmed dead, three were missing and presumed dead, and 37 were injured.

Over 500 people were affected, of which 222 had to be provided with emergency shelter, while 278 took refuge with family, friends and neighbours.

The Caribbean Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA) said that sectoral damage assessment estimated that 495 houses were damaged/destroyed; over 98 acres of crops damaged; 28 bridges damaged/destroyed; and the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital suffered major losses.

The total damage/losses and cost of clean-up operations were estimated at 58.44 million dollars — some 17 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product wiped out in a matter of hours.

In St. Lucia, there were six confirmed deaths related to the weather system and an estimated 1,050 persons were severely affected.

In Dominica, an estimated 106 households in approximately 12 communities were affected by the Christmas Eve weather system.

And, just over 18 months later, Dominica would be struck by yet another weather system, this time by Tropical Storm Erika on Aug. 24, 2015, which left at least 20 persons dead, and a number of other missing.

The storm also rendered 574 persons homeless and resulted in the evacuation of 1,034 others due to the unsafe conditions in their communities.

Damage and losses were estimated at EC$1.3 billion or 90 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

In noting the impact of these weather system on OECS nations, Shillingford-McKlmon pointed out that previously, it was only when a hurricane struck that the Caribbean saw such levels of destruction.

“Now, we have to be concerned about a tropical storm, because you really don’t know what is going to happen. And what has happened is that with respect to graduation from middle- to high-income status, if you do not retain your GDP per capita level for three years in a row, you can’t graduate — and it is really sad to say that some of our countries, the only reason they have not graduated to higher income status, where we receive less help, less official development assistance, less concessionary loans, is because of a storm or hurricane comes and devastates us.”

She said such a position puts Caribbean nations in a quagmire, because they want to be proud of the development they have achieved. However, at the same time, once they graduate to high-come countries status, one climate event can wipe out all those gains even as the countries would no longer qualify for official development assistance.

“You are going to lose financing and at the same time you don’t want to be hit by a hurricane, you don’t want to be in a situation where … if a hurricane comes and something happens, I may not graduate because I lose my GDP. Who wants to be in that position? What an awful place to be.”

Shillingford-McKlmon said that currently, OECS nations do not have an alternative with respect to the criteria for graduation but are having that conversation with the European Union and other development partners.

“A country will graduate when its GDP per capita remains at a certain level for a three-year period and then it will move from one category to another. And so what we are doing, we are arguing this at the European Commission level and they’ve begun to have discussion with us that give us the impression that they are willing to consider new criteria or alternate criteria for graduation,” she said.

The diplomat argued that with the severe impact of climate events on OECS economies, “GDP per capita is not a full and complete reflection of a country’s development.

“We have inherent vulnerabilities as small island developing states that make it very difficult for us to be graduated and not receive aid when we could be struck down by environmental and other exogenous shocks and be severely affected,” she said.

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves has also spoken to the impact on climate change on national development – particularly the economic situation of individual families.

“Let us understand this. When we have a natural disaster, you go to bed at night middle class and after three hours of rainfall and landslides, torrential downpour, like we never used to have before the acceleration of man-made climate change, that person, in three hours, would move from middle class to poor,” he said in late June at Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum.

Gonsalves further said that after a few hours of intense rainfall, some persons who are poor become indigent.

“And those who are indigent, they would enter…an avenue in Dante’s Hell which is indescribable. So that is the real story.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We Have to Reclaim the Public Policy Space for SDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/reclaim-public-policy-space-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reclaim-public-policy-space-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/reclaim-public-policy-space-sdgs/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:28:36 +0000 Jens Martens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151286 Jens Martens is Executive Director of Global Policy Forum and coordinates the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

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New report states that various forms of privatization and corporate capture have become obstacles to implement the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs

Open drains in Ankorondrano-Andranomahery, Madagascar. Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakotondravony/IPS

By Jens Martens
BONN, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

At the High-Level Political Forum which currently takes place at the United Nations in New York several events, for instance a SDG Business Forum, are devoted to the critical role of business and public-private partnerships (PPPs) in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

New report states that various forms of privatization and corporate capture have become obstacles to implement the 2030 Agenda and its SDGsBut many civil society organizations and trade unions warn in their joint report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2017 that the various forms of privatization and corporate capture have become obstacles to implement the 2030 Agenda and its goals.

Weakening the State: A vicious circle

The trend towards partnerships with the private sector is based on a number of assumptions, not least the belief that global problems are too big and the public sector is too weak to solve them alone.

But why is it apparently a matter of fact that the public sector is too weak to meet the challenges of the 2030 Agenda? Why are public coffers empty?

In fact, the lack of capacity and financial resources is not an inevitable phenomenon but has been caused by deliberate political decisions. To give just one example, over the past three decades corporate income tax rates have declined in both countries of the global North and South by 15 to 20 percent. Hundreds of billions of US dollars are lost every year through corporate tax incentives and various forms of tax avoidance.

Through their business-friendly fiscal policies and the lack of effective global tax cooperation, governments have weakened their revenue base substantially. This has been driven not least by corporate lobbying.

A recent analysis by Oxfam America estimates that between 2009 and 2015, the USA’s 50 largest companies spent approximately US$ 2.5 billion on lobbying, with approximately US$ 352 million lobbying on tax issues. In the same period, they received over US$ 423 billion in tax breaks.

What we see is a vicious circle of weakening the State: the combination of neoliberal ideology, corporate lobbying, business-friendly fiscal policies, tax avoidance and tax evasion has led to the massive weakening of the public sector and its ability to provide essential goods and services.

These failures have been used by the proponents of privatization and PPPs to present the private sector as the better alternative and to demand its further strengthening. This in turn further weakened the public sector – and so on….

In parallel, the same corporate strategies and fiscal and regulatory policies that led to the weakening of the public sector enabled an unprecedented accumulation of individual wealth and increasing market concentration, often at the expense of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Concentrated power

According to various statistics of the largest national economies, transnational corporations, banks and asset management firms, among the 50 largest global economic entities are more private corporations than countries. The assets under management by the world’s largest asset management company BlackRock are US$ 5.12 trillion (end of 2016), thus higher than the GDP of Japan or Germany.

Large institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies are also the drivers of a new generation of PPPs in infrastructure, forcing governments to offer ‘bankable’ projects that meet the needs of these investors rather than the needs of the affected population.

Particularly alarming for the implementation of SDG 2 on food security and sustainable agriculture are the announced mega-mergers in the food and agriculture sector, especially the acquisition of Syngenta by China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), the merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont and the takeover of Monsanto by Bayer.

If all of these mergers are allowed, the new corporate giants will together control at least 60 percent of global commercial seed sales and 71 percent of global pesticide sales.

Devastating impacts

The Spotlight Report 2017 clearly shows, that privatization, PPPs and the rise of corporate power affect all areas and goals of the 2030 Agenda. One example is the mushrooming of private, fee-charging, profit-making schools in Africa and Asia.

Detrimental corporate influence occurs in the energy sector with the still dominant role of coal and fossil fuel industries, undermining effective measures against climate change and the transformation towards sustainable energy systems.

But why is it apparently a matter of fact that the public sector is too weak to meet the challenges of the 2030 Agenda? Why are public coffers empty?
Studies by scholars, CSOs and trade unions like Public Services International (PSI) have shown that the privatization of public infrastructure and services and various forms of PPPs involve disproportionate risks for the affected people and costs for the public sector. They can even exacerbate inequalities, decrease equitable access to essential services, and thus jeopardize the fulfilment of human rights, particularly the rights of women.

Counter-movements and breaking ranks

Responding to the experiences and testimonies from the ground about the devastating impacts of privatization and PPPs, counter-movements emerged in many parts of the world. Over the past 15 years there has been a significant rise in the number of communities that have taken privatized services back into public hands – a phenomenon called “remunicipalization”. Remunicipalization refers particularly to the return of water supply and sanitation services to public service delivery. Between March 2000 and March 2015 researchers documented 235 cases of water remunicipalization in 37 countries, affecting more than 100 million people.

Furthermore, some pioneering companies are already on the path towards – at least environmentally – sustainable development solutions, for instance in the area of renewable energies.

The private sector is in no way a monolithic bloc. Firms in the social and solidarity economy, social impact investors and small and medium-sized businesses are already making a positive difference, challenging the proponents of global techno-fix solutions and the dinosaurs of the fossil fuel lobby.

Even the firm opposition to international corporate regulation in the field of business and human rights by those pretending to represent business interests is showing cracks. A survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that 20 percent of business representatives who responded to the survey said that a binding international treaty would help them with their responsibilities to respect human rights.

What has to be done?

To be sure, the business sector certainly has an important role to play in the implementation process of the 2030 Agenda, as sustainable development will require large-scale changes in business practices.

However, acknowledging corporations’ role should not mean promoting the accumulation of wealth and economic power, giving them undue influence on policy-making and ignoring their responsibility in creating and exacerbating many of the problems that the 2030 Agenda is supposed to tackle.

Instead of further promoting the misleading discourse of ‘multi-stakeholderism’ and partnerships between inherently unequal partners a fundamental change of course is necessary. In order to achieve the SDGs and to turn the vision of the transformation of our world, as proclaimed in the title of the 2030 Agenda, into reality, we have to reclaim the public policy space.

Governments should strengthen public finance at all levels, fundamentally rethink their approach towards trade and investment liberalization, reconsider PPPs, create binding rules on business and human rights, take effective measures to dismantle corporate power and prevent the further existence of corporate ‘too big to fail’ entities.

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Communities Step Up to Help Save Jamaica’s Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/communities-step-help-save-jamaicas-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=communities-step-help-save-jamaicas-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/communities-step-help-save-jamaicas-forests/#respond Wed, 12 Jul 2017 12:22:32 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151252 According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 31.1 percent or about 337,000 hectares of Jamaica is forested. Of this, 26.1 percent or 88,000 is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense form of forest. But between 1990 and 2010, Jamaica lost an average of 400 hectares or 0.12 percent of […]

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In an effort to halt deforestation in Jamaica, the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica has signed grants with 13 community-based organisations in 5 parishes

Jamaica is the most biodiverse island in the Caribbean with more than 8,000 recorded species of plants and animals and 3,500 marine species. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jul 12 2017 (IPS)

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 31.1 percent or about 337,000 hectares of Jamaica is forested. Of this, 26.1 percent or 88,000 is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense form of forest.

But between 1990 and 2010, Jamaica lost an average of 400 hectares or 0.12 percent of forest per year. In total, between 1990 and 2010, Jamaica lost 2.3 percent of its forest cover, or around 8,000 hectares.“Our forests produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis while reducing the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which contribute to global warming and climate change." --Allison Rangolan McFarlane

Deforestation is a crucial factor in global climate change which results from a build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is estimated that more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released to the atmosphere due to deforestation, mainly the cutting and burning of forests, every year.

Over 30 million acres of forests and woodlands are lost every year due to deforestation; and the continued cutting down of forests, the main tool to diminish CO2 build up, is expected dramatically change the climate over the next decades.

In an effort to conserve the island’s forests, the Environment Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) has turned to communities throughout the island. On July 3, the EFJ signed grants with 13 community-based organisations in five parishes, in support of Jamaica’s forests. The grants total 672,000 dollars and were allocated under the EFJ’s Forest Conservation Fund (FCF).

“Deforestation is an issue. It often takes place as a part of agricultural practices, for example ‘slash and burn’ where fires are used to clear land which is then used for agricultural purposes,” EFJ’s Chief Technical Director Allison Rangolan McFarlane told IPS.

“Trees are also sometimes cut to make charcoal which is used for fuel, to make fish pots, for lumber, etc. Sometimes deforestation occurs because of construction, for example housing or roadways, or industrial activities such as mining.

“Our coastal forests (mangroves) are also affected.  Deforestation has the potential to reduce water quality, increase soil erosion, reduce biological diversity and further impact the watershed,” Rangolan McFarlane added.

She said the consequences as it relates to climate change are just as serious.

“Deforestation does play a role in climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis; carbon dioxide is one example of a greenhouse gas. Deforestation reduces the number of trees available to absorb carbon dioxide,” the EFJ official told IPS.

“Additionally, the carbon stored in a living tree is also released into the atmosphere once it is felled. The greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere contribute to global warming which in turn contributes to climate change.

“Our forests produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis while reducing the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which contribute to global warming and climate change,” she added.

Group photo of grantee representatives awarded funds to halt deforestation by the Environment Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ). Credit: EFJ

Group photo of grantee representatives awarded funds to halt deforestation by the Environment Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ). Credit: EFJ

Stressing the importance of forests to Jamaica, she said the Caribbean nation obtains many products or materials and generate by-products such as food, medicines and cosmetics from them.

She said the forests can also provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for individuals and communities.

“They provide shade and are an integral part of our water cycle and supply. Forests protect our watersheds, and reduce soil erosion and siltation in our water as the tree roots hold the soil in place, and their canopies help to reduce the force of the rain drops on the soil; this allows water to gradually percolate or seep into the ground and recharge the aquifers from which we obtain water,” Rangolan McFarlane explained.

“Forests also provide homes for many plants and animals many of which play many important roles in various ecosystems; for example, Jamaica’s mangrove forests are important nursery areas for many fish and other species. They are very important recreational areas some of which are historically and culturally significant,” she added.

EFJ Chairman Professor Dale Webber said 33 proposals from non-governmental organisations were considered and the FCF projects funded followed at least one of four required themes: alternative livelihoods, especially in buffer zone communities; watershed conservation; natural disaster risk reduction in coastal communities; and reforestation.

The largest single grant of 195,000 dollars to the Lions Club of Mona is in support of a long-term project focusing on sustainable forest management and climate change mitigation through reforestation and research in the Blue and John Crow Mountain Forest Reserve.

Apiculture (beekeeping), eco-tourism and agroforestry programmes will receive funding as alternative means of employment, including three beekeeping projects in the parish of Clarendon.

Several organisations are planning local workshops to sensitize community members on the importance of forest conservation. Local forest restoration will also be a feature of projects in Portland (mangrove restoration) and in Cockpit Country (Trelawny).

“Be sure that the work you are doing has impact,” Professor Webber told the grantees. “We want to help you make a difference in your communities.”

Meantime, Rangolan McFarlane said the partnerships with community based organisations, non-governmental organisations, and others are expected to generate many different results.

Each project/programme addresses the concerns identified by the implementing organisation in the area in which they will work. Some projects/programmes will provide sustainable livelihood opportunities, for example, bee-keeping, to reduce some of the unsustainable environmental practices in some areas such as slash and burn agriculture and charcoal burning.

Others incorporate various types of training, including sustainable livelihoods and project management, public awareness and education activities and disaster risk reduction including erosion control via reforestation and other activities.

“We expect that the results will lead to better environmental and social conditions in the communities in which the projects are implemented, and that the capacities of the implementing communities, organisations, and individuals will also be enhanced,” Rangolan McFarlane said.

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