Inter Press Service » Featured http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 30 May 2016 18:14:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.11 Achieving Universal Access to Energy; Africa Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Placehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/achieving-universal-access-to-energy-africa-caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieving-universal-access-to-energy-africa-caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/achieving-universal-access-to-energy-africa-caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/#comments Mon, 30 May 2016 14:52:06 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145363 African Heads of State during the official opening ceremony of the AfDB Annual meetings in Lusaka. Credit: Yoka | @vandvictors

African Heads of State during the official opening ceremony of the AfDB Annual meetings in Lusaka. Credit: Yoka | @vandvictors

By Friday Phiri
LUSAKA, May 30 2016 (IPS)

“It is unacceptable that 138 years after Thomas Edison developed the light bulb, hundreds of millions of people cannot have access to electricity to simply light up the bulb in Africa,” says Africa Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, mourning the gloomy statistics showing that over 645 million people in Africa lack access to electricity, while over 700 million are without clean energy for cooking.

Adesina attributes Africa’s poverty and the perennial migration of youths to Europe in search of a good life, to lack of energy. “Even insects run from the dark to where there is light. Our youths are running away, hundreds of them drowning but the future of African’s youth does not lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea,” he declared during the official opening of the just ended 51st AfDB annual meetings held in Lusaka, from 23-27 May under the theme, ‘Energy and Climate Change’.

It is for this reason that top on the list of the bank’s strategies for all—referred to as the High fives (5s), is Light Up and Power Africa, with the goal of achieving universal access to energy for Africa within ten years through expansion of grid power by 160 gigawatts to connect 130 million people, and 75 million people to off-grid systems.

“Africa is simply tired of being in the dark,” said Adesina, outlining AfDB’s strategy to achieve universal access to energy which he believes, would unlock Africa’s potential to feed itself, achieve industrialisation, integration and ultimately improve the quality of life for the people.

However, ambition alone is not enough—it requires a realistic roadmap. And for the bank, the plan is to increase investment into the energy sector. “To deliver on the New Deal on Energy for Africa, the African Development Bank will invest $12 billion in the energy sector over the next five years,” he said, adding that, with this investment, the bank expects to leverage $45-50 billion.

But with the 2015 Paris climate agreement centred on a transition to renewable energy, Africa may have to re-think its strategies on how to achieve its ambitious dream. And this was one key question that divided opinion at the 2016 AfDB annual meetings—Should Africa lead the way on Green growth or follow a carbon intensive path that the developed countries took to achieve industrialisation?

Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo argued for Africa’s right to do so. “We in Africa must use what we have to get what we need. The West used coal to develop and I think we should also be allowed to pollute a bit and then, we will all join in cleaning up,” said Obasanjo during a panel discussion on Africa’s New Deal on Energy, one of the bank’s initiatives launched during the annual meetings.

While Obasanjo’s line of thought seemed out of place considering the world’s renewable energy push, there was a sense of support for the continent’s right to develop as it pleases, especially that big polluters are seemingly elusive on financial support and emission cuts.

“We first have to get access to energy for us to know which one is clean and which one is dirty,” said Chadian President, Idris Derby, the current African Union Chairman, before the host President, Edgar Lungu summarised Africa’s dilemma.

“It is always challenging to make a choice when you don’t have what to choose from…while we need to provide universal access to energy, climate change hinders our efforts, as some approaches are considered dirty,” said Lungu, highlighting his own country’s energy challenges emanating from poor rainfall in two consecutive seasons leading to low water levels for electricity generation at its main hydro power stations.

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, were more concerned as to whether renewable energy is a realistic option in relation to the industrialisation agenda on the continent.

“For us, we think renewable energy and climate change are serious but development of our people is a priority. Africa’s situation is unique, for example, we have been talking about industry here which requires base load power and this might require countries to put up hundreds of hectares of solar plants to achieve the needed power,” said Osinbajo, whose sentiments seemed to sum up those of Paul Kagame and Uhuru Kenyatta as expressed during a televised panel discussion.

The underlying tone of African leaders in these discussions pointed to inconsistent flow of climate finance and technology transfer—a subject of debate at the core of the continent’s development, in relation to climate change.

Climate change is real and it is unanimously agreed by both the North and the South that Africa is at the receiving end. This therefore entails climate justice through finance for the continent which has been short changed by climate change.

The argument is that Africa must be supported financially to adapt to negative effects of climate change ravaging its people, but at the same time play a key role in mitigation efforts. However, the much debated climate finance has not been forthcoming.

“Very little money is flowing into adaptation and the bank is concerned with this trend…wants to see more resources also being channeled to adaptation as the case is with mitigation where a huge chunk of resources is being invested,” observes Kurt Lonsway, the AfDB Manager of the Environment and Climate Change division.

The inconsistent flow of financial resources, coupled with lukewarm emission cut commitments by the developed world, could be the cause for African leaders’ defying tone to take a lead on renewable energy despite being fully in support of the Paris climate deal.

Mary Robinson making a point during a round table discussion of African Presidents.

Mary Robinson making a point during a round table discussion of African Presidents.

And former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson is alive to this state of affairs. However, she wants African leaders to use their collective voice to demand for climate justice.

“Climate finance is no longer about aid to Africa but the means by which to serve the world from catastrophic climate change. I therefore plead with you, African leaders to use your collective voice to get what you want,” stressed the former Irish President who now heads the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice.

But former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan’s concern is African leaders’ political will. “The transformation we seek also requires decisive action on the part of Africa’s leaders in reforming inefficient, inequitable and often corrupt utilities that have failed to provide firms with a reliable power supply and people with access to electricity,” said the former top UN diplomat, who now chairs the Africa Progress Panel.

Whichever route Africa takes to achieve its ambition of universal access to energy, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Executive Secretary, Carlos Lopez wants Africa to do it with its own money because “donor money has been a disappointment, slow and not reliable.”

For Caroline Kende-Robb, Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel, African countries will have to choose an energy mix that suits them because “we cannot certainly expect Africa just to drop from fossil fuels while there are other countries at the top polluting the world.”

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Menstrual Hygiene Gaps Continue to Keep Girls from Schoolhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/menstrual-hygiene-gaps-continue-to-keep-girls-from-school/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=menstrual-hygiene-gaps-continue-to-keep-girls-from-school http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/menstrual-hygiene-gaps-continue-to-keep-girls-from-school/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 21:16:02 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145341 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/menstrual-hygiene-gaps-continue-to-keep-girls-from-school/feed/ 0 New International Accord to Tackle Illegal Fishinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 16:27:29 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145337 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-international-accord-to-tackle-illegal-fishing/feed/ 0 Malawi’s Drought Leaves Millions High and Dryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/malawis-drought-leaves-millions-high-and-dry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=malawis-drought-leaves-millions-high-and-dry http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/malawis-drought-leaves-millions-high-and-dry/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 15:27:22 +0000 Charity Chimungu Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145335 Felistas Ngoma, 72, from Nkhamenya in the Kasungu District of Malawi, prepares nsima in her kitchen. Credit: Charity Chimungu Phiri/IPS

Felistas Ngoma, 72, from Nkhamenya in the Kasungu District of Malawi, prepares nsima in her kitchen. Credit: Charity Chimungu Phiri/IPS

By Charity Chimungu Phiri
BLANTYRE, May 27 2016 (IPS)

It’s Saturday, market day at the popular Bvumbwe market in Thyolo district. About 40 kilometers away in Chiradzulu district, a vegetable vendor and mother of five, Esnart Nthawa, 35, has woken up at three a.m. to prepare for the journey to the market.

The day before, she went about her village buying tomatoes and okra from farmers, which she has safely packed in her dengu (woven basket).

Now she’s just waiting for a hired bicycle to take her and her merchandise to the bus station, where she will catch a minibus to Bvumbwe market. This way, her goods reach the market quicker and safer. Afterwards, she and her colleagues will pack their baskets and walk back home.

“We walk for at least three hours…our bodies have just gotten used to it because we have no choice. If I don’t do this, then my children will suffer. As I am talking to you now, they are waiting for me to bring them food,” Nthawa told IPS.

“I will buy a basin of maize there at the maize mill and have it processed into flour for nsima [a thick porridge that is Malawi’s staple food]. That’s the only meal they will eat today,” she said.

Nthawa added: “Last harvest we only realised two bags of maize as you know the weather was bad. That maize has now run out, we are living day by day…eating what we can manage to source for that day.”

Nthawa’s story resonates with many Malawians today. Almost half of the country’s population is facing hunger this year due to no or low harvests, resulting from the effects of El Nino which hit most parts of the southern and northern regions late last year.

Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda said in Parliament on May 25 that 8.4 million Malawians will be food insecure during the 2016/2017 season.

His statement clearly contradicts President Peter Mutharika, who on Friday said in his State of the Nation Address that 2.8 million people faced hunger.

The new high figure follows a World Food Programme Rapid assessment which said over eight million Malawians will be food insecure this year due to the effects of El Nino. Destructive floods in the north have compounded the country’s woes, causing the president to declare a state of emergency in April.

With the drought also affecting Zimbabwe and other countries in southern Africa, an estimated 28 million people are now going hungry.

In order to deal with the crisis, Agriculture Minister Chaponda says the government has “laid out a plan to import about one million metric tons of white maize to fill the food gap”. The authorities project that at least 1,290,000 metric tons of maize are needed to deal with the food crisis, out of which 790,000 metric tons will be distributed to those heavily affected by the drought starting from April 2016 to March 2017.

The government also plans to intensify irrigation on commercial and smallholder farms, with an aim of increasing maize production at the national level. Officials say 18 million dollars is needed to carry out these measures.“There’s too much politicisation and overreliance on maize as a crop for consumption." -- Chairperson of the Right to Food Network Billy Mayaya

In the meantime, food prices continue to rise daily as the national currency, the Kwacha, continues to depreciate, forcing poor farming families to reduce their number of meals per day or sell their property in order to cope with the situation. A bag of maize which normally sells for seven dollars now costs 15 dollars.

As usual, children have been hardest hit by the situation. The latest statistics on Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) show a 100 percent increase from December 2015 to January 2016, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF says it recorded more than 4,300 cases of severe malnutrition in the month of January alone this year, double the number recorded in December 2015.

Dr. Queen Dube, a pediatrician at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre – the main government referral hospital in southern Malawi – affirmed to IPS that there has been an increase in the number of malnutrition cases at the hospital.

“At the moment, we have about 15 children admitted at our Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit…they have Marasmus, where they’re very thin or wasted, while others have Kwashiorkor, where the body is swollen. In other cases, the children have a combination of the two. These children suffer greatly from diarrheal diseases,” said Dube.

She added that the hospital offers these children therapeutic feeding of special types of milk and chiponde (fortified peanut butter) for a determined period of time, until they pick up in weight and improve in general body appearance.

“They are also given treatment for any underlying illness which they might have. Additionally, we also provide counseling to the mothers and guardians on proper nutrition so that when they get back home they can utilize the very little foods they have to prepare nutritious meals for their children,” she explained.

Rights activists say it is high time the authorities started taking on board recommendations on how to make Malawi food secure made by independent groups such as the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee-MVAC, which said 2.8 million people faced hunger in 2015.

Chairperson of the Right to Food Network Billy Mayaya told IPS: “There’s too much politicisation and overreliance on maize as a crop for consumption. The government needs to use the data from MVAC as well as consider the Green Belt Initiative (GBI) and modalities to bring it to fruition.

Calling for greater diversity in the traditional diet, he said, “These plans can be effected as long as there‘s a sustained political will.”

In his state of the nation address on May 20, President Mutharika said the Green Belt Initiative was still his government’s priority “in order to increase productivity of selected high value crops.

“I am therefore pleased to report that construction of the irrigation infrastructure and the sugarcane factory in Salima district has been completed…the government has an ongoing Land Management Contract with Malawi Mangoes Limited where land has been provided for the production of bananas and mangoes,” he said.

In addition, the president said the government plans to increase rice production for both consumption and export, as well as make the tobacco industry vibrant again. Malawi mainly relies on tobacco for its foreign exchange earnings.

In February, President Mutharika made an international appeal for assistance, following which development partners including Britain and Japan provided over 35 million dollars. The government also obtained 80 million dollars from the World Bank for the Emergency Floods Recovery Project.

The U.S. government has been the first to respond to the latest crisis, providing the Malawian government with 55 million dollars.

Meanwhile, the struggle for survival continues for poor Malawian families such as Esnart Nthawa’s. Her children are still eating one meal a day, as those in power continue to meet to strategize on the crisis over fancy dinners in expensive hotels.

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Traditional Mexican Recipes Fight the Good Fighthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/traditional-mexican-recipes-fight-the-good-fight/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 11:54:49 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145330 AraceliMárquez prepares dishes based on Mexico’s rich, nutritional traditional cuisine, at a fair in the southeast of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

AraceliMárquez prepares dishes based on Mexico’s rich, nutritional traditional cuisine, at a fair in the southeast of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, May 27 2016 (IPS)

In a clay pot, Araceli Márquez mixes tiny Mexican freshwater fish known as charales with herbs and a sauce made of chili peppers, green tomatoes and prickly pear cactus fruit, preparing a dish called mixmole.

“I learned how to cook by asking people and experimenting,” the 55-year-old divorced mother of two told IPS. “The ingredients are natural, from this area. It’s a way to eat natural food, and to fight obesity and disease.”

Mixmole, which is greenish in color and has a distinctive flavour and a strong aroma that fills the air, is one of the traditional dishes of the town of San Andrés Mixquic, in Tlahuac, one of the 16 boroughs into which Mexico City, whose metropolitan region is home to 21 million people, is divided.

Márquez belongs to a cooperative named “Life and death in Tlahuac- heritage and tourist route”dedicated to gastronomy and ecotourism. The ingredients of their products and dishes, which are based on recipes handed down over the generations, come from local farmers.

Another dish on her menu is tlapique – a tamale (seasoned meat wrapped in cornmeal dough) filled with fish, chili peppers, prickly pear cactus fruit, epazote (Dysphaniaambrosioides) – a common spice in Mexican cooking – and xoconostles (Opuntiajoconostle), another kind of cactus pear native to Mexico’s deserts.

“We are trying to show people thelocal culture and cuisine.The response has been good, people like what we offer,” said Márquez, who lives in the town of San Bartolo Ameyalco, in Tlahuac, which is on the southeast side of Mexico City.

Márquez’s meals reflect the wealth of Mexican cuisine and the growing efforts to defend and promote it, in this Latin American country of 122 million people, which is one of the world’s fattest countries, meaning diabetes, hypertension, cardiac and stomach ailments are major problems.

Traditional Mexican cuisine, on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2010, revolves around corn, beans and chili peppers, staples used by native peoples long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

The local diet was enriched by the contributions of the invaders, and is now rich in vegetables, herbs and fruit – a multicultural mix of aromas, flavours, nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Activists offer beans on downtown Reforma Avenue in Mexico City to promote consumption of this staple of the Mexican diet, produced with non-genetically-modified native seeds, and to boost food security. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Activists offer beans on downtown Reforma Avenue in Mexico City to promote consumption of this staple of the Mexican diet, produced with non-genetically-modified native seeds, and to boost food security. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Liza Covantes is also dedicated to reviving traditional cuisine based on local products. With that aim she helped found a bartering and products cooperative in Zacahuitzco, in the south of the capital, in 2015.

“We are a group of people working for the right to a healthy, affordable diet who got together to foment healthy eating. We’re exercising the right to food, health and a clean environment,” she told IPS.

The cooperative brings together 45 families who produce food like bread, cheese and vegetables. To sell their products, in November they opened a store, Mawi, which means “to feed” in the Totonaca indigenous language.

“We don’t accept anything with artificial ingredients,” said Covantes. The cooperative sells six-kg packages of food, which always include vegetables.

Mexico’s world-renowned cuisine is a significant part of this country’s attraction for tourists.

To cite a few examples of the rich culinary heritage, there are 200 varieties of native chili peppers in Mexico, 600 recipes that use corn, and 71 different kinds of mole sauce.

But this culinary wealth exists alongside the epidemic of obesity caused by the proliferation of sodas and other processed food high in added fats and sweeteners.

The 2012 National Survey on Health and Nutrition found that 26 million adults are overweight, 22 million are obese, and some five million children are overweight orobese. This generates growing costs for the state.

The survey also found that over 20 million households were in some category of food insecurity.

Referring to the country’s traditional cuisine, expert Delhi Trejo told IPS that “its importance lies in the diversity of the food.”

“We have a great variety of fruits, vegetables and grains; they’re important sources of fiber, vitamins, protein and minerals. Their costs are low and they have benefits to the environment,” said Trejo, the senior consultant on nutrition in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Mexico office.

María Solís, who grows different varieties and colours of native corn, removes the kernels from a cob in San Juan Ixtenco, Tlaxcala state, during a traditional fair dedicated to corn, the country’s main crop, which originated in Mexico and forms the base of the national diet. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

María Solís, who grows different varieties and colours of native corn, removes the kernels from a cob in San Juan Ixtenco, Tlaxcala state, during a traditional fair dedicated to corn, the country’s main crop, which originated in Mexico and forms the base of the national diet. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

FAO declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses – one of the key elements in the Mexican diet.

But traditional cuisine not only has nutritional value; the preparation of foods employs more than five million people and the country’s 500,000 formal restaurants generate two percent of GDP in Latin America’s second-largest economy.

To improve nutrition and defend an important segment of the economy, in August 2015 the government launched a Policy to Foment National Gastronomy, aimed at fostering and strengthening the country’s gastronomic offerings, fomenting tourism and boosting local and regional development through restaurants and the value chain.

But its measures have not yet yielded clear dividends.

“The traditional diet would be a solution for diabetes or obesity,” independent researcher Cristina Barros told IPS. “It is indispensable to return to our roots…We are what we eat.”

The Dietary Guidelines launched by the United States in 2010 state that people with traditional plant-based diets are less prone to cancer, coronary disease and obesity than people with diets based on processed foods.

Márquez is calling for more support and promotion. “There is assistance, but it is not enough. I hope the federal programme brings results,” said the cook, whose goal this year is to make a Tláhuac recipe book.

For Trejo, the FAO consultant, part of the problem is that a segment of the population erroneously associates traditional food with what is sold by street vendors or food stalls.

“The country has to foster its gastronomy and do away with false ideas of combinations of fats, sugar and industrialised food that increasingly reach every corner of the country and put traditional cuisine at risk,” she said.

Initiatives in different parts of Mexico have pointed in that direction, like in the southern state of Chiapas, one of the country’s poorest, where several organizations launched in April 2015 the campaign “Pozol project: eating healthier as Mexicans”, aimed at fomenting the consumption of pozol, a nutritious fermented corn drink.

On Apr. 28, the Mexican Senate approved the draft of a Federal Law to Foment Gastronomy, which outlines measures to strengthen the sector. The bill is now pending approval by the lower house of Congress.

“Collectively we can defend these principles and create a social trend that boosts the nutritional values of our gastronomy, to also benefit local producers,” said Covantes.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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UNFPA Funding Cuts Threaten Women’s Health in Poorer Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/unfpa-funding-cuts-threaten-womens-health-in-poorer-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unfpa-funding-cuts-threaten-womens-health-in-poorer-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/unfpa-funding-cuts-threaten-womens-health-in-poorer-nations/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 18:22:31 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145327 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/unfpa-funding-cuts-threaten-womens-health-in-poorer-nations/feed/ 1 Poorest Countries Have Progressed but Fragile Countries Lag Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/poorest-countries-have-progressed-but-fragile-countries-lag-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poorest-countries-have-progressed-but-fragile-countries-lag-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/poorest-countries-have-progressed-but-fragile-countries-lag-behind/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 15:13:53 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145318 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/poorest-countries-have-progressed-but-fragile-countries-lag-behind/feed/ 0 Conjuring Growth from the Trans-Pacific Partnership TPPhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/conjuring-growth-from-the-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conjuring-growth-from-the-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/conjuring-growth-from-the-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 14:58:50 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145317 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was an Assistant Secretary-General responsible for analysis of economic development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was an Assistant Secretary-General responsible for analysis of economic development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, May 26 2016 (IPS)

It is now generally agreed that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has served US foreign policy objectives well. For this purpose, the Peterson Institute of International Economics (PIIE) has provided the fig-leaf for the empire’s new clothes with exaggerated projections of supposed growth gains from the TPP.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

The only US government study, by the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, also uses a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model to find modest growth gains from TPP tariff reductions. Needless to say, the PIIE studies have nothing to say about the more pessimistic findings of US government analysis.

In a timely update of its 2012 study, the PIIE has conjured up even greater gains from the TPP by claiming more, albeit still modest growth gains. Both PIIE studies claim greater benefits by assuming that the TPP will catalyse much more growth from non-trade measures (NTMs) which will, in turn, trigger foreign direct investment (FDI). They have also resorted to other novel methods to inflate its ostensible benefits.

Modest trade gains

To make the case for the TPP, the PIIE underplays costs and risks, and exaggerates benefits. Very diverse TPP provisions are fed into its economic model as simple cost reductions, with little consideration of downside risks and costs. Although associated costs and risks are not seriously considered, such projections are nonetheless presented as cost-benefit evaluations.

The new PIIE study estimates real income growth due to the TPP over 2015-2030 to average 1.1% for all TPP members, i.e. about 0.06% annually over 15 years, instead of the earlier finding of 0.4% growth over a decade, which remains modest by any standards. While this represents an increase over their earlier projections by about half, it is more than ten times what the USDA-ERS exercise yielded.

Most gains would go to the TPP’s Southeast Asian four (Vietnam 8.1%, Malaysia 7.6%, Brunei 5.9% and Singapore 3.9%), followed by Peru (2.6%), Japan (2.5%) and New Zealand (2.2%). NAFTA members (US, Canada, Mexico, Chile) would only gain 0.6% on average.

The biggest loser is expected to be Thailand (-0.8%), ahead of the ASEAN trio of Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos (collectively -0.4%), with Indonesia and the Philippines only slightly worse off (both -0.1%). Thus, the TPP is likely to jeopardize the future of the ASEAN Economic Community as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Most of the additional growth attributed to the TPP in 2016 is due to revisions of data and assumptions where the devil is in the detail. For instance, despite reduced and delayed tariff and non-tariff liberalization, the new data supposedly yield greater growth gains.

As before, most of their purported gains from the TPP are not from goods trade liberalization, but due to non-tariff barrier reductions and measures promoting services trade. Only 15% of the GDP increase would be due to tariff cuts, whereas non-trade measures (NTMs) account for 85% of total growth attributed to the TPP.

The PIIE and, since January, the World Bank claim other gains, mainly from investment surges from abroad. Much of the benefits projected have been attributed to foreign direct investment (FDI) booms, justified by the assumption that the TPP will place all participating countries in the top 10% of the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking, despite ambiguous evidence of such effects. The studies arbitrarily assume that every dollar of FDI within the TPP bloc would generate additional annual income of 33 cents, divided equally between source and host countries, without any theory, modelling procedure or empirical evidence for this supposition.

Provisions allowing foreign investors to sue governments in private tribunals or undermining national bank regulation, become trade-promoting cost reductions, ignoring the costs and risks of bypassing national regulations and taxation. Again, the huge gains claimed have little, if any, analytical bases in economic theory, past evidence or experience.

By understating crucial costs, projected benefits have been exaggerated. For example, provisions to strengthen, broaden and extend intellectual property rights (IPRs) become simple cost reductions that will increase the trade in services, ignoring impacts on consumers or governments subsidizing the availability of medicines besides the reduced trade in medicines due to higher prices and the prohibitions on importing generics.

Paltry gains

Thus, the studies greatly overstate benefits from the TPP. While most of its claims lack justification, the only quantified benefits consistent with mainstream economic theory and evidence are tariff-related trade benefits that make up a seventh of the projected gains. Even these gains need to be compared against the costs ignored by the study as well as the actual details of the final deal.

Even unadjusted, the gains are small relative to the GDPs of TPP partner economies. Many benefits are mainly one-time gains, with no recurring annual benefit, i.e. they do not raise the economies’ annual growth rates. Also, while projected trade benefits are expected to take some time, the major risks and costs will be more immediate.

Not surprisingly, the TPP goes much further into redefining the role of government than is necessary to facilitate trade. TPP ‘disciplines’ will significantly constrain the policy space needed for governments to accelerate economic development and to protect the public interest.

The unjustified benefits projected by TPP advocates make it all the more critical to consider the nature and scale of costs currently ignored by available modelling exercises. After all, the TPP will impose direct costs, e.g. by extending patents and by blocking generic production and imports.

The TPP’s investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions will enable foreign investors to sue a government in an offshore tribunal if they claim that new regulations reduce their expected future profits, even when such regulations are in the public interest. As foreign investors are already well protected, ISDS provisions are completely unnecessary for the TPP.

Advocates as well as critics of free trade and trade liberalization have criticized inclusion of such non-trade provisions in free trade agreements. Instead of being the regional free trade agreement it is often portrayed as, the TPP seems to be “a managed trade regime that puts corporate interests first”.

Thus, the TPP, offering modest quantifiable benefits from trade liberalization at best, is really the thin edge of a wedge which will undermine the public interest in favour of powerful, often foreign, corporate interests. Net gains for all in TPP countries are a myth. Only a full, careful and proper accounting based on the full text can determine who benefits and who loses.

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The Humanitarian Clock Is Ticking, The Powerful Feign Deafnesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 13:07:50 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145314 Among the issues discussed was how the humanitarian sector could improve protection of civilians from violence. Jan Egelend, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council and is also the Special Advisor to Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said that the international community needs to “blacklist” any group or Government that bombs civilians and civilian targets. Pictured, Baharka IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: OCHA/Brandon Bateman

Among the issues discussed was how the humanitarian sector could improve protection of civilians from violence. Jan Egelend, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council and is also the Special Advisor to Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said that the international community needs to “blacklist” any group or Government that bombs civilians and civilian targets. Pictured, Baharka IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: OCHA/Brandon Bateman

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 26 2016 (IPS)

The humanitarian clock is now ticking away faster than ever, with over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people in dire need of assistance. But the most powerful, richest countries—those who have largely contributed to manufacturing it and can therefore stop it, continue to pretend not hearing nor seeing the signals.

The World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul, May 23-24) represented an unprecedented effort by all United Nations bodies who, along with member countries, hundreds of non-governmental aid organisations, and the most concerned stakeholders, conducted a three-year long consultation process involving over 23,000 stakeholders, that converged in Istanbul to portray the real½ current human drama.

Led by the UN, they put on the table a “Grand Bargain” that aims to get more resources into the hands of people who most need them, those who are victims of crises that they have not caused. The WHS also managed to gather unanimous support to Five Core Responsibilities that will help alleviate human suffering and contribute to preventing and even ending it.

Around 9,000 participants from 173 countries, including 55 heads of state or government, and hundreds of key stakeholders attending the Summit, have unanimously cautioned against the current growing human-made crises, while launching strong appeals for action to prevent such a “humanitarian bomb” from detonating anytime soon.

In spite of all that, the top leaders of the Group of the seven most industrialised countries (G 7), and of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, have all stayed away from this first-ever Humanitarian Summit, limiting their presence to delegations with lower ranking officials.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the Summit as a “turning point” that has “set a new course” in humanitarian aid. “We have the wealth, knowledge and awareness to take better care of one another,” Ban said. Photo: UNOCHA

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the Summit as a “turning point” that has “set a new course” in humanitarian aid. “We have the wealth, knowledge and awareness to take better care of one another,” Ban said. Photo: UNOCHA

Although several UN officials reiterated that it was not about a pledging conference but the fact is that massive funds are badly needed to start alleviating the present human suffering which, if allowed to grow exponentially as feared, would cause a human drama of incalculable consequences.

The notable absence of the top decision-makers of the most powerful and richest countries sent a strong negative signal with a frustrating impact on the humongous efforts the UN has displayed to prepare for the Istanbul Summit and mobilise the world’s human conscious– let alone the millions of the most vulnerable who are prey to human dramas they are not responsible for creating.

In fact, most of world’s refugee flows are direct results of wars not only in Afghanistan and Iraq—both subject to vast military operations by coalitions led by the biggest Western powers (G 7), but also a result of on-going armed conflicts in Yemen (also with the support of the US and Europe), and Syria where the Security Council permanent member states, except China, have been proving weapons to the parties involved in this long six-year war.

Other victims of the current humanitarian drama are “climate refugees”, those who flee death caused by unprecedented droughts, floods and other disasters resulting from climate change, which is largely caused by the most industrialised countries.

The sole exception was German chancellor Angela Merkel who addressed the Summit, though she reportedly went to Istanbul to meet Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan to try to alleviate the growing tensions between Ankara and the European Union, who accuse each other of not fulfilling the refugee deportation deal they sealed in March.

In fact, the EU-Ankara deal is about deporting to Turkey all asylum seekers and also migrants arriving in Europe mainly through Turkish borders, once the European Union announced last year its readiness to host them but decided later½ to flinch. In simple words, the deal simply transforms Turkey into a huge “deposit” of millions fleeing wars and other human-made disasters.

In exchange, Ankara should receive from the EU 3 billion euro a year to help shelter and feed the 3 million refugees who are already there. The EU also promised to authorise the entry of Turkish citizens to its member countries without visa.

At a press briefing at the end of the Summit, Erdogan launched veiled warnings to the EU that if this bloc does not implement its part of the refugees deal, the Turkish Parliament may not ratify it.

In other words, Turkey would not only stop admitting “returnees”, i.e. refugees repatriated by Europe, but would even open its borders for them—and other millions to come and go to EU countries. The “human bomb” is therefore ticking at the very doors of Europe.

That said, the Istanbul Summit has set us on a new course. “It is not an end point, but a turning point,” said the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the closing session.

Governments, people affected by crisis, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, UN agencies and other partners came together and expressed their support for the Agenda for Humanity, and its five Core Responsibilities, Ban added.

“Implementing this agenda is a necessity, if we are to enable people to live in dignity and prosperity, and fulfil the promise of last year’s landmark agreements on the Sustainable Development Agenda and Climate Change.”

Ban stressed that humanitarian and development partners agreed on a new way of working aimed at reducing the need for humanitarian action by investing in resilient communities and stable societies.

Aid agencies and donor governments committed to a ‘Grand Bargain’ that will get more resources into the hands of people who need them, at the local and national level, said Ban.

Unfortunately, when funding is sparse, the UN and partners have to reprioritize preventive and resilience-building actions to aid emergencies. In Sudan, women line up to receive food at the Tawilla site for newly arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Jebel Marra in Darfur. Assisting those urgent needs meant less funding for a nutrition project in Khartoum. Photo: OCHA

Unfortunately, when funding is sparse, the UN and partners have to reprioritize preventive and resilience-building actions to aid emergencies. In Sudan, women line up to receive food at the Tawilla site for newly arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Jebel Marra in Darfur. Assisting those urgent needs meant less funding for a nutrition project in Khartoum. Photo: OCHA

“And Governments committed to do more to prevent conflict and build peace, to uphold international humanitarian law, and live up to the promise of the Charter of the UN, he added. “I hope all member states will work at the highest level to find the political solutions that are so vital to reduce humanitarian needs around the world.”

According to Ban, ”Together, we launched a ground-breaking charter that places people with disabilities at the heart of humanitarian decision-making; a platform on young people in crises; and commitments to uphold the rights of women and girls in emergencies and protect them from gender-based violence.”

Ban also announced that in September this year he will report to the UN General Assembly on the Summit’s achievements, and will propose “ways to take our commitments forward through intergovernmental processes, inter-agency forums and other mechanisms.”

The WHS Chair’s Summary: Standing up for Humanity: Committing to Action issued at the end of the Summit states that “civil strife and conflicts are driving suffering and humanitarian need to unprecedented levels and serious violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of international human rights law continue on an alarming scale with entire populations left without essential supplies they desperately need.”

It adds that natural disasters, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, are affecting greater numbers of women, men and children than ever before, eroding development gains and jeopardising the stability of entire countries.

“At the same time we have been unable to generate the resources to cope with these alarming trends, and there is a need for more direct predictable humanitarian financing,” the statement warns.

“The Summit has brought to the forefront of global attention the scale of the changes required if we are to address the magnitude of challenges before us. The participants have made it emphatically clear that humanitarian assistance alone can neither adequately address nor sustainably reduce the needs of over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

A new and coherent approach is required based on addressing root causes, increasing political diplomacy for prevention and conflict resolution, and bringing humanitarian, development and
peace-building efforts together, it adds.

“Global leaders recognized the centrality of political will to effectively prevent and end conflicts, to address root causes and to reduce fragility and strengthen good governance. Preventing and resolving conflicts would be the biggest difference leaders could make to reduce overwhelming humanitarian needs. Humanitarian action cannot be a substitute for political action.”

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New and Old Vaccines Still Out of Reach for Manyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-and-old-vaccines-still-out-of-reach-for-many/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-and-old-vaccines-still-out-of-reach-for-many http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-and-old-vaccines-still-out-of-reach-for-many/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 04:18:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145308 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-and-old-vaccines-still-out-of-reach-for-many/feed/ 1 Least Developed Countries Still Face Significant Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 20:28:29 +0000 Gyan Chandra Acharya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145304 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges/feed/ 0 OPINION: Central America, Still Caught Up in the Arms Racehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 14:29:10 +0000 Lina Barrantes Castegnaro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145301

In this column, Lina Barrantes Castegnaro, executive director of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, denounces the arms race in Central America and calls for the implementation of the Costa Rica Consensus, which urges rich countries to increase development aid to countries that cut military spending.

By Lina Barrantes Castegnaro
SAN JOSE, May 25 2016 (IPS)

The recent announcement of the Nicaraguan government’s 80-million-dollar purchase of 50 Russian tanks caught the attention of the press in Latin America and caused alarm in the international community.

The purchase, not an isolated acquisition, is part of an arms race seen in Latin America in recent years.

The rise in military spending stands in contrast to the realities in a poor region like Central America, where the levels of defence spending are as shocking as the poverty rates.

Lina Barrantes Castegnaro

Lina Barrantes Castegnaro

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that in 2015, in Belize 1.1 percent of the annual budget (19.6 million dollars) went toward military expenditure, in El Salvador 0.9 percent (223 million), in Guatemala 0.4 percent (274 million), in Honduras 1.6 percent (324 million) and in Nicaragua 0.6 percent (71.6 million).

(Costa Rica and Panama, which don’t have armies, do not declare military expenditure.)

While these funds are being spent on weapons, the specter of hunger and underdevelopment hangs over the region. In the 2015 United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index , Guatemala ranked 128th, Honduras 131st, El Salvador 116th, Nicaragua 125th and Belize 101st, out of 188 countries.

Costa Rica was in 69th place and Panama 60th.

The worst performers in the region, in the HDI, are Honduras and Guatemala, the two countries with the lowest level of human development in Central America.

That is, the poorer the country, the more the government spends on war toys. But the question is: Who will these toys be used to wage war against?

One possible answer is that the upgrading of weaponry is aimed to give countries the capacity to respond in case of war or invasion. But it’s not clear which war or invasion that might be.

Another hypothesis that could be set forth is that they could be used against the countries’ own citizens deported from the United States, who return after graduating from intensive courses in violence and crime in Latino neighbourhoods.

The UNDP Human Development Report 1994 formally introduced a new concept that had been debated for years in the international arena: if the world spent money on development instead of military expenditure, poverty could be eradicated in just a few years.

From that standpoint, poverty doesn’t just have to do with war, but with military spending itself.

In the period 1987-1994 global military expenditure declined by an estimated 935 billion dollars. Unfortunately, this money did not go towards social spending or development; actually the way these funds were used is not clear.

Spending on armament is deplorable, but it is even more so in the case of poor countries like those of Central America.

For that reason the concept of peace dividends, presented to the world by then Costa Rican president Oscar Arias in 2006 as the “Costa Rica consensus”, is so important.

According to this idea, countries that spend more on development than on death would be given priority when it comes to international financial resources.

Just as the Arms Trade Treaty proposes linking human rights and ethics with military spending, the Costa Rica consensus is aimed at creating mechanisms to condone debt and support, with financial resources, developing countries that spend more on health, education and housing for their people, and less on arms and soldiers.

In other words, the international financial community would reward not only those countries that spend in an orderly fashion, as it does now, but those that spend ethically.

When the Nobel Peace Laureates for Food Security and Peace Alliance was created earlier this month, at U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Arias proposed taking up the Costa Rica consensus again as an alternative for fighting hunger in the world, to support countries that use their budget funds for the lives of their citizens rather than their deaths.

We hope the day this will happen is not too far off.

Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Water Woes Put a Damper on Myanmar’s Surging Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-woes-put-a-damper-on-myanmars-surging-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-woes-put-a-damper-on-myanmars-surging-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-woes-put-a-damper-on-myanmars-surging-economy/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 14:10:46 +0000 Sara Perria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145291 People fetch water from the new well in the village of Htita, Myanmar. It is 600 feet deep and was built thanks to private donations. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

People fetch water from the new well in the village of Htita, Myanmar. It is 600 feet deep and was built thanks to private donations. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

By Sara Perria
HTITA, Myanmar, May 25 2016 (IPS)

The central plains of Myanmar, bordered by mountains on the west and east, include the only semi-arid region in South East Asia – the Dry Zone, home to some 10 million people. This 13 percent of Myanmar’s territory sums up the challenges that the country faces with respect to water security: an uneven geographical and seasonal distribution of this natural resource, the increasing unpredictability of rain patterns due to climate change, and a lack of water management strategies to cope with extreme weather conditions.

Using water resources more wisely is critical, according to NGOs and institutional actors like the Global Water Partnership, which organized a high-level roundtable on water security issues in Yangon on May 24. UN data shows that only about five percent of the country’s potential water resources are being utilised, mostly by the agricultural sector. At the same time, growing urbanisation and the integration of Myanmar into the global economy after five decades of military dictatorship are enhancing demand.

The new government of the de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi now faces the major challenge of delivering solutions to support the country’s rapid economic growth.

 

A hydroponic greenhouse allows farmers in Myanmar’s Dry Zone to grow vegetable saving up to 90 percent of water. The project is promoted by NGO Terres Des Hommes using technology developed by the University of Bologna and involves over 40 villages. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

A hydroponic greenhouse allows farmers in Myanmar’s Dry Zone to grow vegetable saving up to 90 percent of water. The project is promoted by NGO Terres Des Hommes using technology developed by the University of Bologna and involves over 40 villages. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

A water carrier in Myanmar's Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

A water carrier in Myanmar’s Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

The arid village of Htita, in Bago region, Myanmar. The artificial ponds traditionally used to collect water are empty at the end of the dry season. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

The arid village of Htita, in Bago region, Myanmar. The artificial ponds traditionally used to collect water are empty at the end of the dry season. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Members of Myanmar's Htee Tan village community. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Members of Myanmar’s Htee Tan village community. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

A temporary water tank in Myanmar's Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

A temporary water tank in Myanmar’s Dry Zone. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Water tanks and pots are used to store water all over Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

 

Speakers at the high level roundtable on Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals held at Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar on May 24, 2016. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Speakers at the high level roundtable on Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals held at Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar on May 24, 2016. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

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Humanitarian Summit, The Big Fiascohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 18:44:42 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145286 UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: United Nations

UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: United Nations

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 24 2016 (IPS)

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) held in Istanbul on May 23-24, managed to send a strong wake-up call to the world about the unprecedented human suffering now in course, but failed to achieve the objective of attracting the massive funds needed to alleviate the humanitarian drama, as none of the leaders of the Group 7 of the richest countries nor of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council attended, with the exception of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At the summit’s closing session, while recalling that the WHS achieved its main objective of addressing the conscious of the world towards the growing human drama, both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed strong “disappointment” on the absence of leaders of the most powerful countries.

Though they reiterated their appeal for solidarity to rescue the most vulnerable people on Earth–130 million victims of conflicts and natural disasters and growing, none of them could hold out or offer any hope soon.

“Their absence (G-7 and Security Council leaders) is not an excuse for inaction,” Ban said. The resources required to rescue the lives of tens of millions of human beings represent only 1 per cent of the total world military expenditure, he added.

Ban showed no signs of optimism regarding an end soon of conflicts in Syrian, Yemen, South Sudan, among others, while recalling that every year the United Nations organised a pledging conference and “countries are tired of that.” He also stressed that currently 80 per cent of the UN humanitarian resources are spent on made-made crises.

For his part, Erdogan reiterated veiled threats to the European Union (EU), saying that if this bloc does not fulfil its agreements with Ankara, the “law of returnees” (refugees deported from EU countries to Turkey) may not be passed at the Turkish Parliament.

The EU promised Turkey 3.000 billions in 2017, to add to an equal sum promised last year, in its refugees deportation deal with Ankara, sealed in March.

The EU also is to authorise the entry to its member countries without visa. Nevertheless, thus authorisation will not be implemented soon as promised, as the EU now demands that Turkey fulfils a long list of requirements.

A Foretold Political Failure
During the two-day summit, leaders of 173 countries, including 55 heads of state or government, promised to do more for the 130 million civilians who are victims of conflicts and natural disasters.
Nevertheless, the community of humanitarian organisations have shown scepticism about½ such announcements that would end up in effective commitments and if the expected funds will be employed in the right way.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of Norwegian Refugee Council. Credit: United Nations

Jan Egeland, secretary general of Norwegian Refugee Council. Credit: United Nations

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a leading humanitarian organisation with over 5000 humanitarian workers across more than 25 countries, was one of the strongest voices in this regard.

The humanitarian sector is failing to protect civilians from violence, Egeland said, while commenting how humanitarian aid has to be more efficient and cost-effective not to fail those most in need.

According to Egeland, humanitarian assistance does not reach thousands of victims who are among the most vulnerable of all. “In Fallujah, Iraq, there are now over 50,000 civilians who are besieged, prey to the Islamic State (IS), Engeland cited as an example.

“Nobody is helping them, nobody is reaching them, he warned. The Iraqi government is not helping them, the humanitarian organisations cannot reach them.”

There are thousands of victims like them who are in dire need but are not reached. In Yemen, Engeland said, there are 20 million civilians among the most vulnerable, while stressing that coalitions supported by Western countries are attacking civilians.

Egeland expressed hope that leaders can ask themselves if they can at least stop giving arms, giving money to those armed groups that are systematically violating the humanitarian law, and bombing hospitals and schools, abusing women and children.

Nigerian refugee children at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon. Photo: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

Nigerian refugee children at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon. Photo: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

Fighting parties, be they governmental or militias or opposition or rebels, still get weapons that they use to blow up hospitals and kill civilians, he warned. “Let’s blacklist that armed group and that army and that government.”

“We lack governments saying they will also uphold humanitarian law and the UN refugee convention, keeping borders open and keeping the right of asylum sacrosanct,” Egeland added.

The NSC Secretary General emphasised that “all borders should be open… in Europe, in the Gulf states… in the United States. “As Europeans, when we initiated the refugee convention we really felt that asylum was important when we were the asylum seekers. Why don’t we think it’s equally important now, when we are those to whom people come for asylum?”

From 2011 to 2013, he was the Europe Director of Human Rights Watch, prior to joining NRC where he took up his post as Secretary General in August 2013. In 2006, Time magazine named Jan Egeland one of the 100 “people who shape our world.”

“More resources are sorely needed… but more resources will not solve the problem,” said for his part Francesco Rocca, Vice-President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Speaking on behalf of 190 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Rocca demanded more support to strengthening national and local actors, who are key to the solution.

“Strengthening local and national capacity would have an impact,” he said “Yet, scant resources have been channelled though those key local actors or invested in their long-term capacities.”

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, warned, “the less we help in conflict zones, the more people will move,” and that “sticking people in camps is not the solution.”

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Water: An Entry Point for SDG Implementation in Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-an-entry-point-for-sdg-implementation-in-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-an-entry-point-for-sdg-implementation-in-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/water-an-entry-point-for-sdg-implementation-in-myanmar/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 10:13:59 +0000 Alice Bouman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145275 Dr. Alice Bouman-Dentener, is Chair, interim, Global Water Partnership ]]>

Dr. Alice Bouman-Dentener, is Chair, interim, Global Water Partnership

By Dr. Alice Bouman-Dentener
YANGON, Myanmar, May 24 2016 (IPS)

All people, economies, and ecosystems depend on water. Yet water is often taken for granted, overused, abused, and poorly managed. The way we use and manage water leaves a considerable part of the global population without access, and threatens the integrity of ecosystems that are vital for a healthy planet and people.

Dr. Alice Bouman-Dentener

Dr. Alice Bouman-Dentener

Water insecurity keeps millions of people in poverty; it hampers human development and is a drag on economic growth. Water insecurity is worsened by population growth, economic growth, urbanisation, conflicts, and climate change. Such trends increase competition over water and put water resources at risk, just as water presents risks to growth and society if not managed sustainably.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development agreed by countries at the UN General Assembly in September 2015 recognises these trends and calls for an “all-of-society engagement and partnership” to address development challenges in a transformative and inclusive way, with the intention of “leaving no one behind.” At the core of the 2030 Agenda are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are ambitious, aspirational, and interconnected: to have any chance of success they demand tailor-made approaches and collaborative action.

Poverty reduction and growth are not possible without good water governance and management. Sustainable Development Goal No. 6 – “to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” – is inextricably linked to and mutually dependent on most other goals, including poverty reduction, gender equality, climate, food, energy, health, cities, and ecosystems. SDG 6 provides a high level political commitment to an integrated approach to water security.

That high level political commitment will be on display in Yangon, Myanmar, on May 24, 2016. Convened by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) together with a range of partners, the “High Level Round Table on Water Security and the SDGs” in Myanmar will attract Ministers, parliamentarians, national and regional leaders and organisations, civil society, among many other actors.

Myanmar is undergoing an important water sector reform, making it an ideal country in transition to link water reform to the SDGs. The main objective of the High Level Round Table is to contribute to the well-being of the people of Myanmar and South East Asia through setting the scene for improved governance and management of water resources and therefore sustainable and equitable development in the region. The outcomes of the meeting will be presented to the High Level Panel on Water to be held in June 2016.

Myanmar has frequently suffered from destructive earthquakes, water-related extreme weather events such as cyclones, flooding, as well as droughts, which resulted in losses and damages from landslides, with major challenges in terms water quality control and wastewater management – quite similar to challenges that other countries in South East Asia face.

With the decline of rainfall across the country and climate change impacts, underground aquifers are also declining, whereas water use continues to rise. Underground water supply will drop dramatically in the coming 30 years, according to the Myanmar Water Think Tank. Water is the basis of all economic development activities so the water-energy-food nexus must be understood. Integrated water resources management principles should be applied in order to alleviate poverty, which can happen if the Myanmar National Water Policy is implemented, according to the Water Think Tank.

Water, of course, is not the only issue facing a country in which about a third of the population still live in extreme poverty. Almost three quarters of children in rural Myanmar grow up in homes without electricity. Only 29 percent of children graduate from secondary school. Agriculture employs 65 percent of the country’s labour force, but suffers from low productivity. This is why the round table will address the links among five of the SDGs: SDG 5 (Gender), SDG 6 (Water and Sanitation), SDG 11 (Cities), SDG 13 (Climate Change), and SDG 17 (Partnerships).

Inclusive growth means greater investment in Myanmar’s greatest resource – its people – by ensuring education for all, health care for all, and energy for all. This will require policies to ensure public financing through tax collection, sound public spending, and investments that favour infrastructure and human development. Infrastructure investments can spur private sector job growth and support more productive and labour-intensive economic activities, such as manufacturing and textile production.

Myanmar has shown strides towards integrated and sustainable water resources management. The event in Yangon could become a milestone in Myanmar’s new democracy, accelerating the consolidated Integrated Water Resources Management, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene activities that are ongoing under the guidance of the Government.

Each country needs to decide on its own national processes of integrating the SDGs into national plans and strategies, and its own entry points. Maybe Myanmar is a model for other countries on how to start.

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Economic Interests Harming Global Health: WHO Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/economic-interests-harming-global-health-who-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-interests-harming-global-health-who-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/economic-interests-harming-global-health-who-chief/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 03:50:53 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145270 Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), during the WHO Executive Board's special session on the Ebola emergency. Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin.

Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), during the WHO Executive Board's special session on the Ebola emergency. Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, May 24 2016 (IPS)

Putting economic interests over public health is leading the world towards three slow-motion health disasters, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization’s warned the world’s health ministers on Monday.

Changes in the world’s climate, the failure of more and more antibiotic drugs and the increase in so-called lifestyle diseases caused by poor diet and exercise, are all growing health disasters related to the prioritisation of the economy over public health.

“These are not natural disasters. They are man-made disasters created by policies that place economic interests above concerns about the well-being of human lives and the planet that sustains them,” she said.

Chan’s warnings were part of her speech at the opening of the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva. Some 3500 delegates from the WHO’s 194 member states will participate in meetings at the assembly about some of the world’s most pressing health issues from May 23 to 27.

During her speech Chan also acknowledged the world’s many recent public health successes, however overall she argued that advances in health services and systems could not keep up with the global changes which mean health threats are increasingly traversing borders.

“We are on the verge of a post-antibiotic era in which common infectious diseases will once again kill." -- Margaret Chan, WHO.

“The burning of fossil fuels powers economies,” said Chan, contributing to changes in climate, which have led to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, as well as to air pollution which the WHO says kills millions of people every year.

“Highly processed foods that are cheap, convenient, and tasty gain a bigger market share than fresh fruits and vegetables,” she added, noting that the resulting non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease are now the “leading killers worldwide.”

However antibiotic resistance may be the problem that has the global health community most concerned, threatening to throw the world back into the dark ages of health care said Chan.

The over-prescription and incorrect use of antibiotics has led to the once wonder drug failing with increasing frequency.

Chan noted that infectious diseases are also becoming more volatile, and that the global health system was not as prepared as it should be for a true global health emergency.

She pointed to examples of recent surges in infectious diseases such as Ebola, Zika, Dengue, Yellow Fever and Chikungunya.

She described the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue as “the price being paid for a massive policy failure that dropped the ball on mosquito control in the 1970s.”

She noted the connection between Zika virus and microcephaly had taken the medical community by surprise.

“The possibility that a mosquito bite during pregnancy could be linked to severe brain abnormalities in newborns alarmed the public and astonished scientists.”

“Confirmation of a causal link between infection and microcephaly has transformed the profile of Zika from a mild disease to a devastating diagnosis for pregnant women and a significant threat to global health.”

However she said that the re-emergence of Zika have decades of slumber in part reflected “changes in the way humanity inhabits the planet (that) have given the volatile microbial world multiple new opportunities to exploit.”

Chan reserved some of her harshest criticisms for the world’s failure to prevent the current re-emergence of yellow fever in Africa, an outbreak the WHO is currently monitoring closely.

She described the conditions in urban environments fueling the current outbreak as a powder-keg.

“For more than a decade, WHO has been warning that changes in demography and land use patterns in Africa have created ideal conditions for explosive outbreaks of urban yellow fever,” she said.

Chan noted that beyond the failure to control mosquitos, the re-emergence of yellow fever also reflected a failure to adequately vaccinate against the disease.

“The lesson from yellow fever is especially brutal. The world failed to use an excellent preventive tool to its full strategic advantage,” she said, noting that there has been a safe low-cost yellow fever vaccine available since 1937.

Chan’s speech is not the only recent stand taken by the medical community showing increasing frustration with the current state of global politics.

Chan also alluded to the medical community’s increasing frustration with the deteriorating conditions of warfare which have seen hospitals bombed, in violation of humanitarian law.

“It also falls to the health sector to show some principled ethical backbone in a world that, for all practical appearances, has lost its moral compass,” she said.

However the successes that Chan highlighted, proving the potential of the world’s health system to address global challenges. also showed that another reality is possible.

“We can celebrate the 19,000 fewer children dying every day, the 44 percent drop in maternal mortality, and the 85 percent of tuberculosis cases that are successfully cured,” said Chan.

She also highlighted the 60 percent decline in malaria mortality in Africa, showing that the fight against mosquito-borne diseases is having success, in at least one area.

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Natural Capital Investment Key to Africa’s Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 17:49:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145267 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/feed/ 0 Prickly Pears Drive Local Development in Northern Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:51:45 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145260 Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
CORZUELA, Argentina , May 23 2016 (IPS)

Family farmers in the northern Argentine province of Chaco are gaining a new appreciation of the common prickly pear cactus, which is now driving a new kind of local development.

Hundreds of jars of homemade jam are stacked in the civil society association “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” (smallholders of Corzuela united), ready to be sold.

Until recently, the small farmers taking part in this new local development initiative did not know that the prickly pear, also known as cactus pear, tuna or nopal, originated in Mexico, or that its scientific name was Opuntia ficus-indica.

But now this cactus that has always just been a normal part of their semi-arid landscape is bringing local subsistence farmers a new source of income.

“The women who took the course are now making a living from this,” Marta Maldonado, the secretary of the association, which was formally registered in 2011, told IPS. “They also have their vegetable gardens, chickens, pigs and goats.”

“The prickly pear is the most common plant around here. In the project we set up 20 prickly pear plantations,” she said.

Local farmers work one to four hectares in this settlement in the rural municipality of Corzuela in west-central Chaco, whose 10,000 inhabitants are spread around small settlements and villages.

The initiative, which has benefited 20 families, made up of 39 women, 35 men and four children, has been implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the U.N. Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Small Grants Programme (SGP).

The SGP, which is active in 125 countries, is based on the sustainable development concept of “thinking globally, acting locally”, and seeks to demonstrate that small-scale community initiatives can have a positive impact on global environmental problems.

The aim of these small grants, which in the case of the local association here amounted to 20,000 dollars, is to bolster food sovereignty while at the same time strengthening biodiversity.

The SGP has carried out 13 projects so far in Chaco, the poorest province in this South American country of 43 million people.

In the region where Corzuela is located, “there are periods of severe drought and fruit orchards require a lot of water. The prickly pear is a cactus that does not need water,” said Gabriela Faggi with the National Agricultural Technology Institute (INTA).

The large-scale deforestation and clear-cutting of land began in 1990, when soy began to expand in this area, and many local crops were driven out.

“The prickly pear, which is actually originally from Mexico but was naturalised here throughout northern Argentina centuries ago, had started to disappear. So this project is also important in terms of rescuing this local fruit,” said Faggi.

“Sabores de Corzuela” (Flavours of Corzuela) reads the label on the jars of prickly pear fruit jam produced by an association of local families in this rural municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: UNDP Argentina

“Sabores de Corzuela” (Flavours of Corzuela) reads the label on the jars of prickly pear fruit jam produced by an association of local families in this rural municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: UNDP Argentina

This area depends on agriculture – cotton, soy, sunflowers, sorghum and maize – and timber, as well as livestock – cattle, hogs, and poultry.

However, it is now impossible for local smallholders to grow crops like cotton.

“In the past, a lot of cotton was grown, but not anymore,” the association’s treasurer, Mirtha Mores, told IPS. “It’s not planted now because of an outbreak of boll weevils (Anthonomus grandis), an insect that stunts growth of the plant, and we can’t afford to fight it, poor people like us who have just a little piece of land to farm.”

Before launching the project, the local branch of INTA trained the small farmers in agroecological techniques for growing cotton, and helped them put up fences to protect their crops from the animals.

They also taught them how to build and use a machine known as a “desjanadora” to remove the spines, or “janas”, from the prickly pear fruits, to make them easier to handle.

“It’s going well for us. Last year we even sold 1,500 jars of prickly pear fruit jam to the Education Ministry,” for use in school lunchrooms, Maldonado said proudly.

The association, whose work is mainly done by women, also sells its products at local and provincial markets. And although prickly pear fruit is their star product, when it is not in season, they also make jam and other preserves using papaya or pumpkin.

“It has improved our incomes and now we have the possibility to sell our merchandise and to be able to buy the things that are really needed to help our kids who are studying,” Mores said.

The project, which began in 2013, also trained them to use the leaves as a supplementary feed for livestock, especially in the winter when there is less fodder and many animals actually die of hunger.

“We make use of everything. We use the leaves to feed the animals – cows, horses, goats, pigs. The fruit is used to make jam, removing the seeds,” said Mores.

The nutrition and health of the families have improved because of the properties of the fruit and of the plant, said Maldonado and Mores. And now they need less fodder for their animals, fewer of which die in the winter due to a lack of forage.

At the same time, the families belonging to the association were also trained to make sustainable use of firewood from native trees, and learned to make special stoves that enable them to cook and heat their modest homes.

In addition, because women assumed an active, leading role in the activities of the association, the project got them out of their homes and away from their routine grind of household tasks and gave them new protagonism in the community.

“Living in the countryside, women used to be more isolated, they didn’t get out, but now they have a place to come here. They get together from Monday through Friday, chat and are more involved in decision-making. In the association they can express their opinions,” said Maldonado.

“When women get together, what don’t we talk about?” Mores joked.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Is it in Europe’s Interest to Push Russia into China’s Arms?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:59:31 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145256 Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 23 2016 (IPS)

No mention in the media of the dangerous increase in the tension between Europe and Russia and yet Nato has just made operational in Romania a missile system, the ABM, which the United States has declared will protect it from “rogue” states, like Iran.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Russia, especially after the agreement reached with Iran on the control of its atomic industry, is convinced that the system is intended against its military force. The US has announced it will build another second site in Poland in 2018.The intention is to move from “reassurance” of eastern Nato allies to “deterrence” of the Kremlin. That means more troops and equipment, longer deployments, bigger exercises, and a “persistent” presence of Nato and American troops in countries like Poland and the Baltics.

In June, as many as 12 000 American troops will join servicemen from a number of European allies in Poland for an exercise called Anakonda, which will be the largest military exercise carried out in Europe for years. Altogether, 25 000 troops from 24 Nato and partner countries will be involved. US Deputy Secretary of Defence, Robert Work, has announced that 4 000 Nato troops, involving two US battalions, will be moved to the Russian border, permanently:” The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right against the border, with a lot of troops, in extraordinarily provocative behaviour”, he said. Germany is to provide one battalion.

For a long time, the official line of US military is to see in Russia a regime intent on aggression, after the annexation of Crimea, and the country’s intervention in Ukraine. When General Ray Odierno retired as Chairman of Staff, he declared,“Russia is the greatest threat to the United States. His predecessor, General Joseph Dunford, was more specific. He thought Rusia was a bigger threat than ISIS. Odierno said that he saw threats to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

It would be useful to remember that Putin started his tenure by continuing Boris Yeltsin’s line of total cooperation with the United States. As George W. Bush famously said: I have seen inside Vladimir Putin’s eyes, and finally we have a strong ally for US interests”. That was before Bush proceeded to take a number of actions without consultation, which convinced the Russian that he was only considered a marginal player.

While it is obvious that Putin suffers from paranoia, and uses confrontation to obtain popular support, it would be wise to see matters also from the Russian viewpoint. To start with, it has been established beyond doubt that Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to not intervene militarily in the European countries that were under USSR dominance, provided NATO kept the existing borders.

The fact that this engagement was not kept has always been present in the Russian psyche. When Reagan met Gorbachev in Reykavik in 1986, Putin was in his mid-30s. the USSR was a superpower, present in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America, with important allies in Asia.

When Putin become 40, his country had been splintered into 15 nations. And when he come to power, in 1999, the USSR had lost one-third of his territory, and half of its population. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan, ihe Baltic States, Ukraine, Bielorussia, Moldova and Armenia were gone. At the same time, Nato continued its endless trend of encirclement with Russia. Putin saw the Ukrainian pro-Russian government overthrown in a US-backed coup. And the encirclement continues, asking even militarily insignificant countries, like Montenegro (some 3 000 soldiers in total), to join Nato.

“Russia has not accepted the hand of partnership “says Nato Commander, General Philip Bredlove, “ but has chosen a path of belligerence”. Well, it is significant that an impressive 80% of the Russian population shares Putin’s paranoia, and also does not see the “hand of partnership”. When Putin annexed Crimea and supported separatists in Ukraine, his popularity increased at home dramatically., especially because Crimea had always been part of Russia, until Nikita Khrushchev donated it to Ukraine, as a symbolic move in 1954. The 90% of Crimeans were Russian speakers, like those living in the Eastern part of Ukraine, a country that was created by joining Western Ukraine, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with Eastern Ukraine, which was part of the Russian empire. Putin very adroitly said that his task was to protect “Russian citizens, wherever they live”, and this struck a chord with the Russian people.

It should be made clear that there are no excuses in legal terms for Putin’s action. But in real life it is always useful to consider events by taking into account both sides of any story. The fact is that Putin reached the conclusion that Russia was considered, in Barack Obama’s words, “just a regional power”, and that to be admitted into the G7 and other Western fora was not giving him the chance to have Russia and himself considered an important player, and thus he decided to take a confrontational path in order to be taken seriously. He put a knife in the side of the West, by dividing again the two halves of Ukraine, obliging the West to sink hundreds of billions of dollars to sustain a deeply corrupt government in Kiev, and its ability to turn the knife when he wanted.

This move led to the establishment of sanctions by the West in 2014, with the declared goal of having Putin capitulate and abandon his intervention in Ukraine. However, Putin again interceded outside its borders, by intervening in Syria, where Russia has a naval base. The arrival of Russia has completely changed the situation in Syria, and now everybody agrees that there cannot be any military solution without Russia’s agreement.

Of course, one key principle behind US foreign policy is that nobody should challenge its power. Yet it is a principle, which is becoming increasingly unrealistic, as the emergence of China is showing. However, in the American psyche, the USSR is gone, and any attempt to recreate it, under any guise, is just a provocation. And while China has not had a direct clash yet with the US, Crimea and Ukraine were indeed a slap on the hand…

Now, seen from outside the western world, as many analysts have pointed out from Latin America and Asia, this situation does not make much sense. Let us take the sanctions. They have cost over $100 billion in lost exports to Russia. But this figure hides a difference: US exports to Russia dropped by 3.5%, while for Europe by as much as 13%, especially from the fragile European agricultural sector (which fell by 43%). Imports from Russia into Europe fell by 13.5%. According to the European Commission, the European Union’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is going to drop by 0.3% in 2014 and 0.4% in 2015 due to the sanctions. That is quite a considerable drawback, considering that Europe’s expected growth rate is expected to be just 1.5% on average, with countries, like Italy, barely making it over 1%.

Meanwhile a new trend is emerging that is largely being ignored by the media. Since 2104, Russia has been deepening its partnership with China, with which it had traditionally had difficult relations. The Chinese economic slowdown, due to its change of economic model based on exports to this latest shift towards internal market expansion, does not make this the best moment for economic cooperation. Yet, Russia and China have just signed a $25 billion deal, to boost Chinese lending to Russian firms, and a host of other accords. Russia has agreed a $400 billion deal, to supply China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually, from 2018 over the coming 30 years.

Russia’s Sberbank has received a $966 million credit line from the China Development Bank. China is launching a $2 billion-investment fund, targetig agricultural projects. And $19.7 billion will be used to open a rail link between Moscow and the Russian city of Kazan. At the same time, Russia agreed to increase its weapon’s sales to China, and a deal was done for the sale of the S-400 air defence system to China (to the great chagrin of the United States and Japan), for $3 billion, with another $2 billion for the sale of 24 Su-35 fighter planes. The two countries declared that they would increase their bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2020.

What is totally new and important is that both countries also decided to strengthen their military cooperation. This year they will take part in a joint Sea-2016 naval drill, hosted by China. The Deputy minister of Defence, Anatoly Antonov has declared: “Military cooperation between the two countries is highly diverse, and has improved significantly over the last three years .A more tight interaction between military departments corresponds to the national interest, and we expect this interaction to increase”.

This should lead Europeans to start reflecting seriously on events. Is it in the interest of Europe to keep pushing Russia into the hands of China? Is it not time to search for a settlement with Russia, that would include Ukraine, Syria, and an engagement to end “deterrence”, for an agreed status quo, which would reopen trade and cooperation, and satisfy the frustrated egos of Russian citizens? It should be recognized that even between allies, like the EU and US, sometimes there are different priorities…Maybe the American elections will change the rules of the game…

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Humanitarian Summit: Too Big to Fail?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:14:27 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145254 A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

With a line up of heads of state or government telling all what they did to alleviate human suffering and promising to do more, along with leaders of civil society and humanitarian
organisations denouncing lack of honest political will to act while governments continue spending trillions of dollars in weapons, the two-day World Humanitarian Summit kicked off today May 23 in Istanbul.

In fact, while the United Nations reports that the international community spends today around 25 billion dollars to provide live-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). estimates world’s military expenditure in 2015 was over 1.6 trillion dollars.

“Never mind–this Summit is too important to fail,” a high-ranking Asian diplomat on condition of anonymity said to IPS. “The leaders of the richest countries, especially in Europe and the Gulf Arab states, are perfectly aware of the magnitude of the humanitarian challenges facing them,” the diplomat added.

“Some of them will be sincerely sensitive to human suffering; others will be more concerned with their ‘political’ peace of mind… Most industrialised countries, in particular in Europe, are eager that the humanitarian crises are dealt with and solved out of and beyond their borders.”

It is about the fear that this unprecedented crisis, if it grows exponentially as predicted, would inevitably lead to more conflicts and more instability affecting their [those leaders] political and economic welfare, according to the diplomat.

In this regard, the facts before the 5,500 participants in this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit are that over the last years conflicts and natural disasters have led to fast-growing numbers of people in need and a funding gap for humanitarian action of an estimated 15 billion dollars, according to UN estimates.

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

“This is a lot of money, but not out of reach for a world producing 78 trillion dollars of annual Gross Domestic Product,” says the report of a UN promoted high-level panel on humanitarian financing. “Closing the humanitarian financing gap would mean no one having to die or live without dignity for the lack of money,” it adds.

The report addressing the humanitarian financing gap, says that this “would be a victory for humanity at a time when it is much needed.

As part of the preparations for the WHS, the UN Secretary-General had appointed a nine-person panel of experts to work on finding solutions about this widening financial gap.

The panel identified–and examined three important and inter-dependent aspects of the humanitarian financing challenge: reducing the needs, mobilising additional funds through either traditional or innovative mechanisms, and improving the efficiency of humanitarian assistance.

The report is also relevant in the context of adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It states that only by focusing the world’s attention on the rapidly growing numbers of people in desperate need will we be able to achieve the SDGs.

The panel recognises that the best way to deal with growing humanitarian needs is to address their root causes. “This requires a strong determination at the highest level of global political leadership to prevent and resolve conflicts and to increase investment in disaster risk reduction.”

“Because development is the best resilience-builder of all, the panel believes that the world’s scarce resources of official development assistance (ODA) should be used where it matters most—in situations of fragility,” the report concludes.

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