Inter Press Service » Featured http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 13 Feb 2016 08:49:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 ACP countries unite on empowerment of rural women and youthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/acp-countries-unite-on-empowerment-of-rural-women-and-youth-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acp-countries-unite-on-empowerment-of-rural-women-and-youth-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/acp-countries-unite-on-empowerment-of-rural-women-and-youth-2/#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 08:49:07 +0000 Laurent Thomas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143877 Laurent Thomas is the Assistant Director-General, for Technical Cooperation and Programme Management at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome. ]]>

Laurent Thomas is the Assistant Director-General, for Technical Cooperation and Programme Management at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.

By Laurent Thomas
ROME, Feb 13 2016 (IPS)

Women make up, on average, over 40 percent of the agricultural labour force in the developing world and yet typically they do not have sufficient access to critical resources and services to become as productive as their male counterparts. In fact, across all regions, rural women and girls continue to face significant discrimination compared with men and boys, with women being more likely than men to hold poor quality jobs and benefit less from agricultural value chains.

Young people today constitute a staggering 1.8 billion of the world’s population and the vast majority of them live in rural areas of less developed countries. They also face enormous challenges in accessing knowledge and skills; technology and land; market and business services.

To tackle the root causes of poverty and hunger we must address the inadequacy of employment conditions and generate opportunities for young people, in particular, for young women in rural areas.

What we have learned and is now well documented is that when women and youth are empowered to earn more and have equal access to resources and opportunities, they can invest more in the health and nutrition of their families, which in turn makes for healthier rural communities, and a virtuous cycle of economic growth and development in rural areas.

Climate change, environmental threats, population growth and migration are putting additional pressures on livelihoods in rural areas where poverty is already widespread and resilience stretched to its limits. Creating more and better employment opportunities for women and youth is therefore crucial for achieving food security and driving forward economic and social progress for all, leaving no one behind.

That is why delegates from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), together with experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and the European Union (E.U.) as well as a wide range of development partners gathered this week in Brussels to discuss Integrated Rural Development solutions to Empower Women and Youth through Jobs and Entrepreneurship.
South-South Cooperation, as a cost effective means to accelerate progress through the replication of good practices is at the centre of the debates. South-South Cooperation as a complement to the much needed official development assistance (ODA) provided by more wealthy countries, is a cost effective instrument for delivering on the 2030 Agenda and its ambitious sustainable development goals. In a growing number of countries, South-South Cooperation is already demonstrating its efficiency in improving food and nutrition security, and bringing concrete and effective solutions to the challenges of youth unemployment and economic empowerment of women in rural areas.

Recent developments in South-South Cooperation indicate that countries such as Brazil, China, Mexico, Indonesia, or Morocco – among the most outstanding southern providers of expertise in food and agriculture, are already widely sharing their experience, knowledge and capacities with other developing countries. Developed countries such as Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom or Spain have also provided support, complementary resources and expertise to South-South Cooperation programs, in what is now commonly defined as “Triangular Cooperation”.

In Uganda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and many other developing countries, the South-South Cooperation programme supported by China and facilitated by FAO, is driving change. The presence of experts and the introduction of new, low cost but very appropriate technologies in areas such as aquaculture, irrigation, crop production, livestock, aquaculture or agribusiness resulted in a large number of poor rural women and young people equipped with the skills and technologies they needed to increase their income and make a decent living from agriculture.

Over the past decade, Brazil has lifted millions of its citizens out of extreme poverty and hunger through a judicious mix of legislation, policies, social protection programmmes, the promotion of school feeding, as well as the targeted support to family farmers including through institutional procurement. The programme named “Fome Zero” (“Zero Hunger”) received widespread national acclaim . It remains an international model of achievement in the fight against hunger. Today Brazil, in partnership with FAO, is sharing its experience with many countries of Latin America, Carribean, Asia and Africa to help governments meet their commitment for a world free of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.

Another ongoing example of successful South-South Cooperation facilitated by the United Nations through a joint program aims to accelerate progress towards the economic empowerment of rural women with knowledge and good practices being shared between Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, the Niger and Rwanda. The programme’s top targets are to improve food and nutrition security, increase incomes to sustain livelihoods and create wealth, in addition to generating gender-responsive policy environments, through catalysing policy and legislative reforms.

The ACP represent a unique community with a huge potential for sharing development solutions amongst its members, with the potential to leverage European Development Funds (EDF) for this purpose in what could become one of the most innovative triangular partnerships for implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the spirit of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for development financing.

All countries and organizations gathered at the symposium are committed to developing an expanded South-South Cooperation vision for the ACP, to explore how it can mobilize its constituency and partners and to harness the potential of tried and tested solutions for women and youth available amongst its membership. FAO is a longstanding facilitator of South-South and Triangular Cooperation and stands ready to help to turn this vision into concrete actions and results to serve the ACP community and the European Union’s development objectives.

You can contact Laurent Thomas at: TC-ADG@fao.org

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/acp-countries-unite-on-empowerment-of-rural-women-and-youth-2/feed/ 0
Radio rage in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/radio-rage-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=radio-rage-in-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/radio-rage-in-india/#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 07:45:59 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143875 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/radio-rage-in-india/feed/ 0 Costa Rica, UAE Cement Relations with Energy and Tourismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/costa-rica-uae-cement-relations-with-energy-and-tourism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-rica-uae-cement-relations-with-energy-and-tourism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/costa-rica-uae-cement-relations-with-energy-and-tourism/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 23:23:10 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143870 Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís (centre-right) received United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (centre-left) in the presidential palace in San José on Friday Feb. 12. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís (centre-right) received United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (centre-left) in the presidential palace in San José on Friday Feb. 12. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Feb 12 2016 (IPS)

A visit by United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Costa Rica paved the way for closer trade ties between the two countries, especially in the areas of tourism and sustainable energy.

During the first official visit ever to this Central American nation by a UAE foreign minister, Al Nahyan and his Costa Rican counterpart and host, Manuel González, signed two agreements.

One of them refers to air services, and will boost visits by Emirati tourists to Costa Rica.

They also agreed to immediately begin the process of negotiating and promoting investment in tourism.

“This agreement opens up opportunities to take better advantage of air services between the two countries,” Al Nahyan said in Costa Rica’s presidential palace, after an official meeting with this country’s president, Luis Guillermo Solis, at the start of his one-day visit to San José on Friday Feb. 12.

“I think you have a wonderful, beautiful country,” the minister said in a press conference at the end of his meeting with the president. “Of course, there is the problem of the distance between us, but I believe that after opening the air route between Dubai and Panama City, it will be easier to get back and forth between our countries.”

He was referring to the new Emirates airlines route that will begin to operate on Mar. 31 as the world’s longest flight – nearly 18 hours – according to the company.

Al Nahyan also announced that mechanisms would be sought to facilitate visas between the two countries, in order to expedite trade.

“We have a lot of work to do with my colleague, Costa Rica’s foreign minister, to talk to the airlines and make sure things work out,” he said.

A flight between Panama City and San José takes less than one hour, and more and more airlines are connecting the two cities.

United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (left) and his host, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González, in the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry after signing the agreements reached during the Emirati minister’s visit. Credit: Foreign Ministry of Costa Rica

United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (left) and his host, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González, in the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry after signing the agreements reached during the Emirati minister’s visit. Credit: Foreign Ministry of Costa Rica

“Emirates will fly from Dubai to Panama; this strengthens potential ties, not only between the UAE and Panama but with the entire Central American region, and particularly Costa Rica,” Foreign Minister González told IPS in an exclusive conversation about the visit.

The other agreement signed on Friday afternoon in Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry provides a framework for cooperation, accompanied by a mechanism for formalising bilateral political consultations, which will facilitate diplomatic relations between the federation of seven emirates and this Central American nation.

Costa Rica was the fourth and last country on Al Nahyan’s official Latin America tour, which began Feb. 4 in Argentina before taking him to Colombia and Panama.

The Emirati minister said a key area of cooperation between the two countries would be energy, where both countries are pioneers in complementary niches.

“I know Costa Rica wants and plans to use more renewable energy, and I know they have done a great deal in terms of legislating to strengthen that sector,” he said.

This country does not depend on fossil fuels for electricity, because 97 percent of its electric power comes from renewable sources. But the use of fossil fuels in transportation means they still represent around 80 percent of the total energy mix.

The UAE has committed nearly 840 million dollars to help other countries of the developing South produce clean energy.

“That’s why we’re in Costa Rica: to see what has been done in this area, and to create a legal foundation with respect to how we can cooperate,” Al Nahyan said in the news briefing.

Solís, of the centre-left Citizen Action Party, said the UAE invited this country to take part in an annual energy conference held early in the year in the Gulf nation.

“Costa Rica will be represented there with the highest-level technical teams, precisely to seek opportunities for cooperation in energy,” the president said.

In an opinion piece published by the La Nación newspaper, Al Nahyan explained that his country is “an important investor in a series of international commercial clean energy projects. And we are proud to be the host country for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).”

The Emirati minister also stressed that “like Costa Rica, we recognise that turning to clean energies is the most promising solution. The United Arab Emirates has been a major investor in clean energy sources for many years, both within the country and abroad.

“Costa Rica has been one of the most ambitious and progressive-thinking countries in the issues of climate change and sustainable development at the international level,” the minister concluded in his article.

Minister González explained in his dialogue with IPS that there are three major areas where his country and the UAE find points in common: human rights, the fight against climate change, and the struggle against people trafficking and in favour of associated labour rights.

With respect to ties in the field of energy, he explained that the Emirates have “an economy very focused on oil and gas, and with the drop in prices of fossil fuels, they have seen the need to focus on other sectors of the economy.”

This new openness and their traditional leadership in renewable energy “opens up opportunities for Costa Rica, which does not depend on oil and gas,” González said.

The Costa Rican minister sees the UAE as a key actor in the Middle East, a region “with which we are seeking closer ties.”

González said his guest “has expressed interest in Latin America, as demonstrated by this tour,” and noted that he was one of the promoters of the Global Forum on the Relationships between the Arab World, Latin America and the Caribbean Region.

“I met with him in the context of the United Nations General Assembly, in September of last year, and suggested that he consider making a visit to the region, and specifically to Costa Rica,” González added.

Costa Rica has consulates in Lebanon and Jordan and an embassy in Qatar. But it does not yet have a consulate or embassy in the UAE.

“We hope to boost to their maximum expression our relations with the Arab world,” González said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/costa-rica-uae-cement-relations-with-energy-and-tourism/feed/ 0
Attacks on Medical Workers in War Zones under Firehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/attacks-on-medical-workers-in-war-zones-under-fire/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=attacks-on-medical-workers-in-war-zones-under-fire http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/attacks-on-medical-workers-in-war-zones-under-fire/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:35:24 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143867 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 12 2016 (IPS)

The growing number of indiscriminate bombings in three of the most devastating military conflicts currently underway -– in Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen – are taking a heavy toll on medical personnel serving with humanitarian organizations — along with thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire between government forces and rebel groups.

The U.S. bombing of a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, Afghanistan last October, and the Syrian government’s attacks on doctors and medical facilities, have been singled out as just two examples of the dangerous environments under which health care workers operate.

The attacks have also prevented medical care being provided to populations in need—and largely under siege.

When medical staff are killed in these attacks, the many lives that could be saved are also jeopardized, according to experts from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Doctors Without Borders, and the Open Society Foundation.

Speaking at a panel discussion this week, some of the experts said when combatants destroy a hospital, thousands of people who are sick and wounded, are left with nowhere to go.

Asked if these attacks are by design or by accident, Elise Baker, program associate at Physicians for Human Rights, told IPS the five-year-old conflict in Syria has been marked by government forces orchestrating a deliberate campaign to destroy the health care infrastructure and attack medical personnel in opposition-controlled areas.

“This is just one element of a campaign against civilians which is in direct violation of the key principle of distinction in the laws of war which makes it unlawful to ever target civilians or civilian objects such as hospitals and schools”.

She said additional evidence of attacks on health care facilities as being part of a campaign is that humanitarian aid, including medical supplies and medicines, have largely been distributed through Damascus.

Government forces have obstructed the delivery of these and other life-saving supplies to opposition-held areas or only let convoys through after stripping out medical supplies.

Baker said PHR’s map documenting the attacks on hospitals does not include strikes “that we believe were accidental or – to use the parlance of humanitarian law, a result of collateral damage.”

“PHR is deeply concerned about the reports of attacks on hospitals in Yemen.”

However, she said, it is unclear at this point whether the Saudi-led coalition is targeting hospitals or if hospitals are being hit as the coalition members carpet bomb areas in an indiscriminate manner, and in turn, hospitals, like civilians and civilian objects, are paying the price.

According to PHR’s data, 2015 marked the worst year on record for attacks on medical facilities in Syria, with government forces responsible for most of the more than 100 attacks.

Between March 2011 and November 2015, there were 336 attacks on 240 medical facilities in Syria, 90 percent of them committed by Syria and its allied forces.

In the same time period, 697 medical personnel were killed, with Syria and its allies responsible for 95 percent of the deaths.

PHR tracks these findings in an interactive map, which includes photographic and video documentation of these crimes. In November, PHR released a report detailing the Syrian government’s attacks on health care, “Aleppo Abandoned: A Case Study on Health Care in Syria.”

Asked about a letter from the Saudi government urging UN and international aid agencies to leave areas controlled by the Houthi rebel forces in Yemen to facilitate bombings, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric confirmed receipt of the letter.

“Yes, there’s been an exchange of letters between the Permanent Mission of Saudi Arabia and our colleagues at the Office of Humanitarian Affairs,” he said.

“What I can tell you is that the United Nations continues to call on all parties to allow access for humanitarian workers wherever they are needed to be, that access needs to be free and unfettered for humanitarian workers and, obviously, humanitarian goods.”

“And it is also important to note that all the parties involved in this conflict and any conflict need to make sure they do their utmost to protect those humanitarian workers,” Dujarric told reporters Thursday.

Asked whether the clearance sought was only around military installations, Dujarric said: “I think the only premise that we accept is that humanitarian workers need to have free and unfettered access to all the areas where they need to be, and it is incumbent on all the parties to ensure that they protect those humanitarian workers.”

Baker told IPS it is unlawful for warring parties to use indiscriminate weapons in civilian areas.

It violates the other key principle of the laws of war which is that any attacks must be proportionate, and to the extent that there are concerns about harm to civilians, the military benefit must outweigh the potential harm to civilians.

“Clearly, this principle is not being applied in Yemen,” she said.

Asked what action the UN should take, Baker told IPS: First, the UN Security Council should condemn all these violations in the strongest possible terms. Allowing them to continue undermines decades of work establishing these norms that were aimed at making war a little less hellish for civilians.

Second, the UN Security Council has the power to refer situations in which these crimes are occurring to the International Criminal Court – but as we have seen, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council effectively are content to live with a stalemate.

In the case of Syria, she pointed out, Russia and China are refusing to allow stronger action, and in the case of Yemen, the US, UK and France support the Saudi-led coalition.

“As a result, the UN Security Council, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, has failed miserably, and it is civilians in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere who are paying the price – often with their lives”, Baker added.

She said PHR has documented numerous incidents where Syrian government forces have attacked the same hospital repeatedly in a short period of time or have attacked numerous hospitals in a small geographic area within a short period of time.

These attacks clearly indicate the Syrian government’s intent to destroy health care systems inside opposition-controlled Syria. Two particularly compelling examples are included below.

PHR has documented seven attacks on M10 hospital, Aleppo city’s main trauma hospital. Four of these attacked happened within the 10-day period between June 23 and July 3, 2014.

The two most recent attacks occurred on April 28 and April 29, 2015. This hospital was established before the conflict started. It is not in a hidden location, she noted.

On August 7, 2015, between 10am and 1pm, Syrian government forces bombed five hospitals in Idlib governorate. The following day, they hit another hospital in Idlib.

Two days later on August 10, government forces hit three more hospitals in Idlib. All nine hospitals attacked in that four-day period were within 30 miles of each other.

All were at least six miles from the nearest frontline, and none were near military locations. All were attacked with discriminate weaponry. Five of the nine hospitals had been attacked previously by Syrian government forces.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/attacks-on-medical-workers-in-war-zones-under-fire/feed/ 0
Women’s Empowerment in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-empowerment-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-empowerment-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-empowerment-in-bangladesh/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 07:09:27 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143865 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-empowerment-in-bangladesh/feed/ 0 Novel Joint Committee Enhances Relations between the UAE and Panamahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/novel-joint-committee-enhances-relations-between-the-uae-and-panama/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=novel-joint-committee-enhances-relations-between-the-uae-and-panama http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/novel-joint-committee-enhances-relations-between-the-uae-and-panama/#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 23:55:53 +0000 Iralis Fragiel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143862 The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the vice president and foreign minister of Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo, smile as they sign an agreement for the creation of a Joint Cooperation Committee, at the end of their meeting in the Panamanian capital on Thursday Feb. 11. Credit: Guillermo Machado/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the vice president and foreign minister of Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo, smile as they sign an agreement for the creation of a Joint Cooperation Committee, at the end of their meeting in the Panamanian capital on Thursday Feb. 11. Credit: Guillermo Machado/IPS

By Iralís Fragiel
PANAMA CITY, Feb 11 2016 (IPS)

The visit by the United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to Panama ended Thursday Feb. 11 with the creation of a novel Joint Cooperation Committee on trade and investment.

The committee will serve as “the legal base for launching joint investment projects, including the participation of Emirati companies in the public tenders of this government’s five-year investment plan, especially in the areas of energy and shipping cooperation,” said the vice president and foreign minister of Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo.

Al Nahyan said the UAE is interested in getting involved in areas of common interest, such as banking, logistics, energy, airports and infrastructure.

In a joint press conference, the Emirati minister added that his country is not only interested in studying initiatives to carry out in Panama, but in pushing ahead with projects that would reach out to other markets from this Central American country.

As stated during the meeting, the new committee “will promote and coordinate programmes on the political, economic, trade, cultural, judicial, security, social, environment, tourism, technology and humanitarian aid fronts and in other areas of interest” to the two countries.

On Thursday Feb. 11, the Emirati minister visited Panama as part of a Latin America tour that took him to Argentina and Colombia and ends Friday Feb. 12 in Costa Rica.

Prior to the signing of the accord creating the committee, the two ministers held a private meeting in Panama’s foreign ministry, before presiding over a meeting with their delegations.

The UAE’s decision to open an embassy in Panama in 2017 was confirmed in the meetings, while this country will upgrade its consulate in the Gulf nation to embassy.

Al Nahyan’s visit was preceded, in November 2014, by a trip by Saint Malolto the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, where she was received by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and commander of the UAE armed forces, and where ties between the two countries were strengthened.

That same year, negotiations began on three bilateral agreements: the elimination of the visa requirement, investment protection and aviation.

In this last area, an agreement was reached to create a direct flight between the Panamanian capital and the Emirati city of Dubai.

The Emirates airline route will begin to operate on Mar. 31 and is the longest in the world – nearly 18 hours, the company reported. Panama will be the first Central American country with a flight to Dubai, where the Emirates is the largest airline hub in the Middle East, with connections to Africa, Asia and Europe.

According to a statement by Panama’s foreign ministry, the air link between the two countries is important because “it opens the doors to innumerable economic, trade and cultural opportunities…and lays the foundation for the possible establishment of the headquarters of multinational companies.”

Win-win alliance

Vice President Saint Malo said there are important similarities between Panama and the UAE, especially in logistics and the shipping business, in foreign direct investment, and as countries that promote peace and stability.

“With the opening of the two embassies, not only will these projects quickly take shape, but it makes us gateways to Latin America and the Middle East, respectively,” she said.

Lawyer and international consultant Rodrigo Noriega also welcomed the boosting of relations between this Central American country and the rich Gulf nation, although he noted that the benefits will not be seen in the short term.

“This visit is very productive and strengthens Panama’s reputation as an open country that is not xenophobic and is not anti-Muslim,” he told IPS.

The expert described it as a “win-win” relationship, but one that will begin to give fruit in five, 10 or 20 years.

“We are taking the first steps towards interregional diplomacy with a bloc of countries with which we have not normally had ties,” he said.

In his view, the fact that the UAE is looking to Panama “indicates that there are questions of common interest, such as the expansion of the canal and of the Tocumen international airport, the logistics hub, the dollarised economy and the Colon free zone.”

“They see possibilities for investment and see us as a platform for their products and services, as a strategic ally in the region,” Noriega said.

Saint Malo took advantage of the meeting to present to her guest the Regional Logistics Centre for Humanitarian Assistance in Panama, an initiative “that benefits all of Latin America and the Caribbean and is aimed at addressing the effects of climate change.”

As her office stated, the logistics centre brings together the emergency operations of different agencies in one single location, at the Panama Pacific International Airport, some 20 minutes from the capital.

Al Nahyan, meanwhile, stressed that the UAE’s hub offers aid to Southeast Asia and Africa, among other regions, and that its experience could support Panama’s hub. “Our experts will be exchanging ideas and will provide support for the third phase of this Panamanian initiative,” he said.

Noriega said Panama could take into account successful aspects of the UAE, such as its great experience as a logistics, financial and energy hub, as well as its heavy spending on education.

“They have sent their people to study at the best universities in the world. Universities like Massachusetts, Harvard and Cambridge have campuses in the Emirates, because they want to stop being a country that only produces raw materials, like oil, to become a producer of knowledge,” the analyst said.

Noriega said Panama must stop thinking only as an “exporter of water through the canal” and start thinking as “a country that produces knowledge,” a lesson in which it has a lot to learn from the UAE, which the world has stopped seeing as a mere oil exporter.

New energy mix

Another important issue discussed in the bilateral dialogue was energy.

In response to a question from IPS in the press conference, the vice president said that with respect to energy, the delegations discussed the shared aim of diversifying the energy mix and boosting the production of clean energy, to explore areas of cooperation in the future.

Al Nahyan, for his part, said there are international initiatives in which Panama and the UAE could participate, that move away from the traditional development of oil and gas.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/novel-joint-committee-enhances-relations-between-the-uae-and-panama/feed/ 0
Views Split on Nuclear Deal Implementation (Part Two)http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/views-split-on-nuclear-deal-implementation-part-two/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=views-split-on-nuclear-deal-implementation-part-two http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/views-split-on-nuclear-deal-implementation-part-two/#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 17:21:29 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143861 Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan. Prior to that he was a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. Currently he is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.]]>

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan. Prior to that he was a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. Currently he is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford.

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Feb 11 2016 (IPS)

The implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal with the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) on January 16, which resulted in the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Iran, has split the views of current and former US politicians.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

Two days later 53 U.S. national security leaders issued a statement welcoming the implementation of the nuclear agreement. The council included some leading foreign policy experts, including former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski; Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, and Defense Secretary William Perry; Ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Ryan Crocker and Daniel Kurtzer; military leaders Admiral William Fallon, Admiral Eric Olson and Lieutenant General Frank Kearney; and members of Congress Richard Lugar, Tom Daschle and Lee Hamilton.

In their statement, they pointed out that the success of the agreement “had reaffirmed the value of diplomacy as an invaluable tool for conflict resolution.” They added that “new mechanisms for cooperation should be established between the executive and legislative branches to monitor compliance and evaluate suspected violations.” The views of such eminent national security leaders cannot be easily ignored.

Coinciding with the Implementation Day, there was a successful prisoner exchange, involving five Americans and seven Iranians. A few days earlier, Iran had released ten US sailors who had “inadvertently drifted” into Iranian waters, in less than 24 hours.

A few years ago, these events could not be envisaged and the holding of American sailors could have resulted in intense hostility and even military clashes; with possible disastrous consequences of another war in the Middle East with a country much larger and stronger than Iraq to appreciate what has been achieved by diplomacy at a much smaller cost. Now having established a reliable channel of communication between the two countries, it will be much easier in the future to persuade Iran to help resolve some of the intractable crises in the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Libya; as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This landmark agreement has shown how diplomacy can succeed when sanctions and military action fail. This provides an example for resolving other major crises in the Middle East and in the rest of the world. If two adversaries that had threatened each other for over 37 years are able to resolve their differences and extend the hand of friendship to each other, there is reason to hope that other complicated issues and crises in the world can also be resolved through persistent efforts, talks in an atmosphere of goodwill. Maybe one can begin to hope that the time of wars is coming to an end; making way for a new chapter in international relations.

However, the implementation of the Iranian nuclear agreement has not satisfied the hawks on neither side. On the Iranian side, the hardliners that control the Guardian Council, which vets the credentials of the Majlis (the Iranian parliament) candidates, has disqualified a large number of reformist candidates. The Guardian Council has even rejected the qualifications of Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic revolution, as a candidate for the Assembly of Experts that is in charge of selecting the next Supreme Leader. Hassan Khomeini is regarded a reformist and in the controversial 2009 presidential election that resulted in a second term for President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Khomeini had supported the Green Movement and the reformist candidates.

Many reformists fear that the hardliners wish to prevent President Hassan Rouhani from winning a second term, and in any case they will try to make his job much more difficult by the creation of a confrontational Majlis. Many candidates have appealed those rulings and some of the disqualifications may be reversed.

In the United States and Israel, the opposition to the nuclear deal has been strong and continuous. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reverted to his refrain about the deal, saying: “This is a very dangerous deal and it threatens all of us.” He appealed to American Jews to oppose the accord. One group of Jewish activists in Pittsburgh even warned that the deal would hasten a “Second Holocaust in Israel”, neglecting to mention that the deal had in fact blocked all the paths to Iran’s acquisition of even a single nuclear weapon, while Israel possesses hundreds of such weapons.

Immediately after the Implementation Day, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that it was “akin to declaring war on Sunni Arabs and Israel by the P5+1.” A number of Republican presidential candidates have even stated that they would not honor the deal. Senator Marco Rubio has threatened to tear the Iran deal up on day one if he were elected president. Iran’s ultimate goal, Rubio said, was to be able to “hold America hostage.” Senator Ted Cruz also echoed Rubio’s comments. During the September 2015 GOP debate he said: “If I am elected president, on the very first day in office, I will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.”

Chris Christie strangely linked Iran’s nuclear deal with ISIS: “Well, I think we have to focus…on exactly what the priorities are. And to me, what I’ve always said is that the president has set up an awful situation through his deal with Iran, because what his deal with Iran has done is empower them and enrich them. And that’s the way ISIS has been created and formed here.” Another presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, is so scared of the implementation of the deal that he has said that it jeopardizes “the survival of Western civilization.” He continued, “this threatens Israel immediately, this threatens the entire Middle East, but it threatens the United States of America. And we can’t treat a nuclear Iranian government as if it is just some government that would like to have power.”

Despite all this hyperbole, all the experts who have studied the issue, the NIE, and above all the IAEA that has been closely monitoring Iran’s nuclear program agree that there has been no diversion of Iran’s nuclear program towards military uses. In his final assessment of the Iranian nuclear program, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano wrote: “The agency has found no credible indications of the diversion of nuclear material in connection with the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.”

It seems that some people prefer to resort to force in resolving international problems, rather than resolving them through talks and negotiations.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/views-split-on-nuclear-deal-implementation-part-two/feed/ 0
Rise of Middle Class Undermined in East Europe & Central Asiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rise-of-middle-class-undermined-in-east-europe-central-asia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rise-of-middle-class-undermined-in-east-europe-central-asia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rise-of-middle-class-undermined-in-east-europe-central-asia/#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 11:36:41 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143860 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 11 2016 (IPS)

The UN’s post-2015 development agenda, which was adopted by world leaders at a summit meeting last September, includes a highly ambitious goal: the eradication of extreme poverty by the year 2030.

The decline in poverty, as reflected in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which ended last December, had one positive fallout: the rise of a new middle class graduating largely from the ranks of the poor.

But a new study by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) points out that the decline in poverty and the rise of the middle class are being undermined by several factors, including falling commodity prices and shrinking remittances – specifically in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The middle class in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia swelled from about 33 million people in 2001 to 90 million in 2013, according to the latest available figures.

“In many ways, the story in this region is different from what is happening in other parts of the world. The share of people living on $10 and $50 dollars per day has actually increased in most of these countries”,(as against a poverty line of less than 1.25 dollar a day), said Cihan Sultanoğlu, the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Over that same period, the number of people in the region living in poverty fell from at least 46 million in 2001 to about 5.0 million in 2013.

“But the region’s advances are under threat and the focus needs to be on improving its prospects for sustainable development”, she added.

With collapsing commodity prices, shrinking remittances and slow economic growth in Europe, the Russian Federation and much of the rest of the region, income-and-employment generating opportunities are disappearing, she said.

Sultanoglu told IPS: “The question really is: what impact inequality can have in reducing poverty. In this region, low or falling inequalities are central to prospects for poverty reduction, inclusive growth, and sustainable development.”

Addressing the UN Commission for Social Development (CSD) early this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Experience has shown that thriving economy is not enough to eradicate poverty and promote shared prosperity. Economies must be put at the service of people, through effective integrated social policies.”

“The widening gap between the rich and poor is marginalizing and alienating the most vulnerable in society,” he warned.

Ben Slay, Chief Economist, UNDP Eastern Europe and Central Asia, told IPS: “The middle class is unlikely to grow much in 2016 or 2017 because of the difficult overall growth environment.”

The UNDP study points out that the share of workers in vulnerable employment in Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan is already estimated at close to 50 percent, while many different groups are excluded.

Vinicius Pinheiro, Director of the UN Office of the International Labour Organization (ILO) told the CSD Monday that the number of unemployed people had increased in 2015 by more than 0.7 million, reaching 197.1 million globally: a one million increase over 2014 and more than 27 million before the pre-crisis levels.

According to UNDP, inequalities and exclusion are at the heart of the newly-inaugurated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

And the UN’s 193 member states have committed themselves to eradicating poverty, fighting inequalities, building peaceful, inclusive, and resilient societies, and securing the future of the planet and the well-being of future generations.

Almost 1.5 billion people live in poverty according to UNDP’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, and almost 800 million are vulnerable to slipping back into poverty. Eighty per cent of the world’s elderly lack basic social protection, making them a particularly vulnerable group.

“The challenge is not just to lift people out of poverty – it is to ensure that their escape is permanent,” says UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.

That is difficult, if there is no social protection, and where societies are vulnerable to relapses into conflict and to huge setbacks from natural disasters, she added.

“As dynamic emerging economies and stable societies move ahead, increasingly we will see extreme poverty co-located with zones of conflict and high disaster risk exposure, and where there is poor governance and little rule of law.”

It will therefore be idle rhetoric to talk about poverty eradication, said Clark, if the context in which it exists isn’t addressed.

“At UNDP, we look forward to the post-2015 global agenda taking on this challenges. We equally look forward to playing our full part in building the more inclusive, peaceful, and resilient societies which can advance human development.”

The battle against poverty is also being thwarted by military conflicts and the growing humanitarian crises.

The secretary-general told the CSD: “We are living in a world of turmoil and trouble.” He said there may be fewer wars between countries, but there is more insecurity.

“Inequality remains too high, affecting poverty reduction efforts and social cohesion in both developed and developing countries.”

He said too many people continue to face exclusion and are unable to realize their full potential. Too few economies have attained inclusive and sustainable growth and are unable to promote true social progress.

“People are frustrated. They are working harder and falling behind. Too often, instead of decisions, they see deadlock. And they wonder: are leaders even listening?”, Ban asked.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rise-of-middle-class-undermined-in-east-europe-central-asia/feed/ 0
The New Normal in Fatahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/the-new-normal-in-fata/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-new-normal-in-fata http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/the-new-normal-in-fata/#comments Thu, 11 Feb 2016 07:16:26 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143858 Displaced people leave for their homes in Fata after a successful military operation. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Displaced people leave for their homes in Fata after a successful military operation. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb 11 2016 (IPS)

A military operation by Pakistan’s army has been proving fatal for Taliban militants who held sway over vast swathes of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) for over a decade. They crossed over the border from Afghanistan and took refuge in Fata after their government was toppled by US-led forces towards the end of 2001. After a few years, when they got a toe-hold in the region, they extended their wings to all seven districts of Fata. Not any more.

During those fateful years, schools were targetted as the militants are opposed to education. “Taliban destroyed more than 750 schools, mostly for girls, in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa between to 2005 to 2012,” Jaffar Ahmed, an official of Fata’s education department said. Fortunately, there was no incident of bombing of schools by the Taliban because the army campaign forced them to empty out of Fata. They have now lost the capability to operate freely due to the military offensive launched in early 2015.

Pakistan army launched operations against militants after the attack on the Army Public School in December 2014, killing 150 mostly pupils, This campaign was part of the National Action Plan approved by all political parties, which has now cleared 95 per cent of Fata of insurgents. Brigadier (retired) Mahmood Shah, former secretary security Fata, told IPS about the benefits of military action: “Taliban’s ruthlessness forced people to leave for safety. Now, the displaced have started returning to their ancestral areas.”

About 3 million had taken temporary refuge in adjacent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one of the Pakistan’s four provinces, out of which 500,000 people have returned as normalcy has returned to Fata. “We sighed with relief from the end of Taliban’s ruthlessness. We are overwhelmed by government’s announcement about our return,” said Muhammad Shabbir, a resident of Khyber Agency, one of Fata’s districts. “We left our native home when local Taliban destroyed schools and banned oral polio vaccine, he explained, adding that “Taliban are opposed to polio drops due to which they disallowed vaccinators in Fata. Likewise, they considered education against Islam and banned it.” He now hopes that children will get into schools very soon. Kids have also started receiving vaccination which was earlier completely banned by the Taliban.

On Feb. 5, shopkeepers resumed business activities in Bara Bazaar in Khyber Agency after seven long years. The bazaar was shut due to increasing militancy, which forced the people to stay away from businesses and take refuge somewhere else. “We have cleared the area of militants and have made elaborate arrangement for the security of the bazaar,” political agent Shahab Ali Shah informed IPS. Everyone entering the bazaar is thoroughly searched at the entry and exit points to ensure that militants don’t carry out acts of terrorism, he added. The bazaar would open at 8 am and close at 6pm. The government has installed closed-circuit television cameras at six points to monitor the people’s movements and ensure security, he added.

Shopkeepers are overwhelmed by the resumption of work. “We have suffered heavy economic losses due to terrorism and want complete peace. All the traders have given an undertaking to the government that the shopkeepers wouldn’t give donations to militants,” Abdul Jabbar, a trade leader said. We have also requested the government to give us soft loans to resume our businesses, he said. We desperately need financial assistance to be able to repair our damaged shops and start our businesses afresh, he said. “About 70 per cent of shops in the bazaar are in bad conditions for which we demand assistance to rebuild them,” he stated.

The government has also started repair work and reconstruction of the Taliban-damaged schools. “The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has rebuilt 200 of the total 250 schools destroyed by Taliban,” Education Minister Atif Khan told IPS. We have allocated $10m for rebuilding schools in the province, he said. “Committees at the community level have been set-up to safeguard the schools,” he said. About 15,000 watchmen have been trained in security-related matters to cope with the situation, he said.

According to Director Education Fata, Muhammad Nadeem, “about 40,000 students have missed their studies and efforts were being made to enable those who remained out of schools to get back. “There would be no summer vacation in schools opened after military action so students could catch up with studies,” he elaborated. Students aren’t only back in schools but they are also playing different kinds of sports. “We appeal to the army to continue the campaign till the Taliban militants are eliminated so that durable peace is established,” felt Jawad Shah, a student of grade 10 at a school in the North Waziristan Agency, which was hitherto the headquarters of the Taliban in Fata.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/the-new-normal-in-fata/feed/ 0
UN Chief Focuses on World’s First Humanitarian Summithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-chief-focuses-on-worlds-first-humanitarian-summit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-chief-focuses-on-worlds-first-humanitarian-summit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-chief-focuses-on-worlds-first-humanitarian-summit/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 20:01:50 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143855 By Valentina Ieri
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 10 2016 (IPS)

As the global humanitarian crisis continues to devastate civilian lives in conflict zones, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the international community to ensure “no-one in conflict, no-one in chronic poverty, and no-one living with the risk of natural hazards and rising sea levels, is left behind.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left) briefs the General Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit, which is to take place on 23-24 May in Istanbul, Turkey. Also pictured (from left, front row): Stephen O'Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly; and Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left) briefs the General Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit, which is to take place on 23-24 May in Istanbul, Turkey. Also pictured (from left, front row): Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly; and Catherine Pollard, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

Speaking to delegates during the launch of a new report, he said the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit is “the moment for us to come together to renew our commitment to humanity.”

The report, “One Humanity: Shared responsibility“, was released Tuesday three months ahead of the summit meeting of world leaders scheduled to take place in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 23-24.

The United Nations says it needs more than 20 billion dollars to feed and care for over 60 million people who are either displaced internally or who have fled their home countries becoming refugees virtually overnight.
And there are about 40 countries – out of the 193 UN member states – which are engulfed in “high-level, medium-level and low-level crises and violence,” according to Ban

“Given the current crises in our global political economy, along with climate change”, Ban warned, violent extremism, terrorism, transnational crime and persistent brutal conflicts are devastating the lives of millions of people and destabilizing entire regions.

“Today’s complex challenges cross borders and surpass the capacity of any single country or institution to cope,” the Secretary-General said.

“We need to restore trust in our global world order and in the capacities of our national and regional institutions to confront these challenges effectively.”

According to a senior U.N. official, who provided a background briefing last week, the report contains a personal plea from the Secretary-General to “restore humanity”, while guaranteeing dignity and safety to all people, in accordance with the U.N. Universal Declaration of Rights and the 2030 Agenda.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) with Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, at the meeting where the Secretary-General briefed the Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) with Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, at the meeting where the Secretary-General briefed the Assembly on his report for the World Humanitarian Summit. Credit: UN PHOTO/Rick Bajornas

As part of Ban’s five-year plan, the WHS will appeal to the international community to come together to re-discover “global unity and solidarity” and end human suffering and inequality, according to the official.

“Funding figures for humanitarians have totally mushroomed up to over 600 percent of what we required ten years ago… and almost 80 percent of humanitarian staff, but also peace-keepers, and staff of special political missions are now deployed in these protracted situations” the U.N. official remarked, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, along with civil society, showed their positive response to Ban’s initiative.

Oxfam’s Humanitarian Representative, Charlotte Stemmer, said: “The humanitarian system is overwhelmed with the amount of rising needs in a world racked by crises. […] (World leaders) should not pay lip service to this, as concrete action is urgently needed. The World Humanitarian Summit’s greatest legacy would be a real commitment to change this.”

According to the new report, “the international community is increasing its response to crises while struggling to find sustainable political and security solutions to end them.”

In 2014, the economic and financial cost of conflicts was estimated to be around 14.3 trillion dollars (13.4 percent of the global economy).

The five core shared responsibilities are: One, political leadership to prevent and end conflicts. Rather than investing in humanitarian assistance, the international community should prioritize political solutions, unity, and create peaceful societies.

Two, enforcing and abiding to international laws in order to protect civilians, respect human rights, restrict the use and transfer of certain arms and ammunition, halt bombings and strengthen the global justice system.

Three, “leaving no one behind” — which is also the central theme of the U.N.’s 2030 Development agenda – and reaching out to the poorest and the most vulnerable men, women and children in war-torn areas or in case of natural disasters. It also includes the protection of women and girls and focuses on the right to education for all.

Data from the report highlights that in 2014, conflicts and violence forced around 42.500 people to flee their homes daily. This resulted in 60 million internally displaced peoples, refugees and asylum-seekers by the first half of 2015.

About half of the world’s refugee children are missing out on primary education and three quarters do not have access to secondary education, according to a UN report.

Four, changing people’s lives. Currently, nearly 1.4 billion people live in fragile situations, and figures are estimated to grow up to 1.9 billion by 2030, says the report.

Therefore, it is fundamental to develop coordinated actions to anticipate crises, reinforce local institutions and governments, build community resilience, and invest in data and risk analysis.

Five, investing in humanity. Ban highlighted the concept of “grand bargain” urging donors and national authorities to change their mindset “from funding to financing” local actors and local institutions, while increasing cost-efficiency and transparency.

Organised by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Relief (OCHA) the WHS summit offers for the first time the opportunity to reflect on a new humanitarian aid framework – explained Ban.

The summit also aims at bringing together the international community –- civil society, world leaders, private sector, peace-builders representatives, peace-keepers, and NGOs — to design new policies and set new strategies for humanitarian assistance and relief in affected countries.

In a preface to the report, Ban wrote: “I ask global leaders to come to the World Humanitarian Summit prepared to assume their responsibilities for a new era of international relations; one in which safeguarding humanity and promoting human progress drives our decision-making and collective actions.”

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-chief-focuses-on-worlds-first-humanitarian-summit/feed/ 0
Eight Cooperation Accords Strengthen Ties between Colombia and UAEhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/eight-cooperation-accords-strengthen-ties-between-colombia-and-uae/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eight-cooperation-accords-strengthen-ties-between-colombia-and-uae http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/eight-cooperation-accords-strengthen-ties-between-colombia-and-uae/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:53:12 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143849 The foreign ministers of Colombia, María Ángela Holguín, and the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, signed eight cooperation accords late Tuesday Feb. 9 during the Emirati minister’s visit to the South American nation, during a ceremony in the San Carlos Palace, the foreign ministry in Bogotá. Credit: Gloria Ortega/IPS

The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyanolombia, and Colombia, María Ángela Holguín, signed eight cooperation accords late Tuesday Feb. 9 during the Emirati minister’s visit to the South American nation, during a ceremony in the San Carlos Palace, the foreign ministry in Bogotá. Credit: Gloria Ortega/IPS

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTÁ, Feb 10 2016 (IPS)

“I am honoured to be in Colombia at a time when important steps towards peace are being taken,” the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said after meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

In Havana, the Santos administration is holding peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, which have been fighting since 1964. Agreement has been reached on four of the six points on the agenda, including bringing in the United Nations Security Council to oversee any eventual ceasefire agreement.

“You have been caught up in a brutal civil war for a very long time,” said Al Nahyan. “Our region is also in the middle of a very difficult fight against terrorism.

“We would like to learn from your experience in dealing with terrorism and terrorists,” he added.

Late on Tuesday, Feb. 9, the first day of his two-day visit to Colombia, Al Nahyan and Colombia’s foreign minister María Ángela Holguín signed agreements in the areas of cooperation in infrastructure, tourism, trade and investment, renewable energies and culture.

“I’m convinced that through the United Arab Emirates we will be able to reach the Gulf countries, and get to know that region of the world better,” Holguin said during the ceremony held to announce the accords.

“We have all the tools needed to strengthen a very important relationship and continue along the road to generating more development for Colombia and greater opportunities for the UAE,” added Holguín, who described Al Nahyan’s visit as “very beneficial” for bilateral relations.

In the San Carlos Palace, Colombia’s foreign ministry, the two ministers signed four agreements, including a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), which offers investors legal security “and will give Emirati companies peace of mind,” said Holguín.

 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos greets the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, in the Casa de Nariño, the seat of the presidency, at the start of their Feb. 9 meeting in Bogotá during the Emirati minister’s visit to this South American country. Credit: Presidency of Colombia


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos greets the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, in the Casa de Nariño, the seat of the presidency, at the start of their Feb. 9 meeting in Bogotá during the Emirati minister’s visit to this South American country. Credit: Presidency of Colombia

They also signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA), which was negotiated in February 2014 during a visit to Colombia by a UAE Finance Ministry delegation, and was pending the ministers’ signatures. The first round of negotiations on the FIPA was also held at that time.

In addition, the foreign ministers signed a Framework Agreement in Cultural, Educational and Sports Cooperation and a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Environmental Protection, Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, an area in which the two countries have acted in a coordinated manner in global diplomatic forums.

Finally, they signed an agreement from a meeting held Monday Feb. 8 in Bogotá by the Colombia-UAE Joint Cooperation Committee, which is pushing for a strengthening of the growing trade relations between the two countries.

After a meeting in which 60 members of the business communities from both countries took part, the UAE Federation of Chambers of Commerce signed memorandums of understanding with Colombia’s National Industrial Association and Confederation of Chambers of Commerce.

Documents on bilateral cooperation in tourism and innovation in small and medium companies were also signed.

Holguín said the agreements would expedite progress on “more documents” in the near future.

Colombia and the UAE established diplomatic ties 40 years ago. But it was the opening of embassies, in Abu Dhabi in 2011 and in Bogotá in 2013, that basically launched bilateral relations.

Colombia, according to the Emirati minister, was among the first countries to support the UAE’s candidacy to host the World Expo 2020 in Dubai, the first that will be held in the Middle East.

Colombia was the second stop in Al Nahyan’s official Latin America tour, which took him first to Argentina. After visiting the colonial city of Cartagena on Wednesday Feb. 10, to see the port infrastructure, he will continue on to Panama and Costa Rica, before heading home.

An enthusiastic Holguín said her Emirati guest “wants to see the ports, and we hope he will get excited and bring hotel owners to Cartagena, which would also be very important for development in our country.”

“The news is that, first, closer bilateral ties were forged with this tour, which will of course translate into numbers,” Cecilia Porras, the president of the Colombian-Arab Chamber of Commerce (CCCA), told IPS.

“The Arab press is giving a great deal of coverage to this tour because relations with each one of the countries of Latin America are giving a major boost to two-way investment, technology transfer and trade,” she added.

According to the CCCA , Colombia’s exports to the UAE reached 97.6 million dollars in 2014 – the last year for which solid figures are available – nearly double the 50.6 million of the year before, and a far cry from the 11.6 million in exports in 2012.

The difference between 2012 and the following two years is explained by Colombia’s oil exports to the UAE. Although it might sound strange for one of the world’s leaders in oil production to be importing oil from Colombia, the viscosity of this country’s petroleum is useful for the UAE’s blends and for use in the petrochemical industry.

Besides oil, Colombia has exported a variety of goods to the UAE, amounting to between 12 and 14 million dollars, said Porras.

These exports include cut flowers, plants, coffee – although through intermediaries in other countries, such as the United States – gold, emeralds, leather goods such as saddles, designer clothing, knitted fabrics, furniture, sugar and confectionary products, while the UAE exports to Colombia construction materials, doors, windows, ceramics and tubing, as well as petroleum by-products.

Visits to the UAE by Colombian tourists grew 23 percent between December 2014 and December 2015, based on the number of visas arranged by the CCCA, which organises business trips.

In 2014, during a visit by Holguín to the UAE, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding for political consultation, aimed at facilitating dialogue on bilateral, regional or global issues.

The UAE and Colombia cooperated closely in the negotiations on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda. Colombia has also played an active role in the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), based in Abu Dhabi.

In January, the Gabriel Plazas public school in the Colombian town of Villavieja, in the Tatacoa desert in the central department or province of Huila, was one of the eight 2016 winners of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, created in 2008 by the UAE government to celebrate innovation and leadership in renewable energy and sustainability.

The 100,000 dollar prize will enable the school to build a “bioclimatic” lunchroom using sustainable construction techniques from the past that keep the school cool in a natural manner, in a desert climate where temperatures remain between 22 and 38 degrees Celsius year-round.

The school will be equipped with solar energy and water extracted from deep wells by means of wind power.

According to data provided by local journalist Luisa Fernanda Dávila, from the Huila newspaper Opanoticias, the cafeteria will be used to serve a healthy lunch to the 539 students, who are the sons and daughters of poor farmers and families displaced by the armed conflict.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/eight-cooperation-accords-strengthen-ties-between-colombia-and-uae/feed/ 0
Kidneys Going Cheap in Poor Estate Communityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/kidneys-going-cheap-in-poor-estate-community/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kidneys-going-cheap-in-poor-estate-community http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/kidneys-going-cheap-in-poor-estate-community/#comments Wed, 10 Feb 2016 07:27:27 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143845 By Amantha Perera
TALAWAKELE, Sri Lanka, Feb 10 2016 (IPS)

One and half years ago, Johnson, a 20- something youth, hailing from Sri Lanka’s tea plantations, received an unusual request. The caller, someone Johnson knew casually, made an offer for his kidney. “It was for a half a million rupees (around US $3,500),” he said.

Rajendaran, a 24 year-old beggar at the Talawakele railway station who gets regular requests for his kidney but has so far refused. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Rajendaran, a 24 year-old beggar at the Talawakele railway station who gets regular requests for his kidney but has so far refused. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Johnson thought for a while and agreed. Mired in poverty and without a permanent job, half million was something he could only dream about till then. Soon he admitted himself into a private hospital in the capital city, Colombo, about 170 km from his native Talawakele. Neither did Johnson know anyone there nor was he familiar with the sprawling urban maze.

After several tests, his kidney was deemed compatible with a 41 year-old man from the north of Sri Lanka, the only detail Johnson knew of the man who now has his kidney. From the time he got admitted, Johnson was well taken care of by his initial caller, a middle man. To those who were curious, he was advised to tell them that he was a relative of the kidney patient. No one asked, Johnson said later.

Johnson stayed in the hospital for several days after the operation. When he returned home, he was provided a vehicle. But the benevolence ended there. For days Johnson went to the bank and checked his account. No monies had been credited. Nervous, he called the middle man; the number returned a message that said it had been disconnected.

He visited the man’s residence, only to be told that he had moved out and was now overseas. “I did not receive a cent for my kidney,” a desperate Johnson told IPS. He suspects that the middle man did in fact get the cash, but decamped with it.

Johnson’s story may be unusual in other segments of Sri Lanka society that are richer and savvier. But among the estate community in the central hills, selling a kidney has now become a frequent tale of woe.

Mahendran, a 53 year-old father of four, is also a victim of the same racket. He received a request for his organ while working as a helper at a rich household. It was the same modus operandi: a middle man, known a little but not that much, approached Mahendran, made the play for the kidney and got his consent.

Both thereafter travelled to Colombo, where Mahendran like Johnson was a fish out of water. At the hospital he was asked to pretend to be a relative of the patient. Mahendran also got played out after he had parted with his kidney. “I was promised Rs 150,000 ($1,050) and paid Rs 10,000 ($70).”

Mahendran told IPS that he initially balked at selling his organs, but finally gave way because of abject poverty. “I have four children to look after, that was why I did it,” he said.

Now with one kidney, he can’t work hard and earn as much as he used to. Two of his eldest kids, two boys have now dropped out of school.

Both men said that poverty was the main factor behind their decision. Sri Lanka’s plantations, where the island’s popular tea is grown, has been mired in poverty. According to the Government’s Census and Statistics Department, over 15 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, in some areas the rate is close to 30 per cent.

However, there are no statistics on the large-scale trafficking racket. Officers at the Talawakele Police station say that they have heard about the sale of the kidneys but no complaints have been lodged.

There could be several reasons for the lack of police complaints. Both Mahendran and Johnson told IPS that they have now become the butt-end of village jokes. Another is that according to Sri Lanka’s Penal Code anyone who sells an organ faces a jail term of seven years.

Clearly, this issue warrants closer investigation. Prabash Karunanayake, a doctor at the Lindula hospital in Talawakele has had to regularly admonish villagers who have sought advice on parting with a kidney. “In recent days I have had to warn at least three persons on the dangers they court by doing this,” he added.

Another one who has had to deal with such offers is Rajendaran, a 24 year-old beggar, who lives and begs at the Talawakele railway station. He said that several people have made offers for his kidney which he says have now become routine. “I have refused all of them so far. I don’t want to make a complaint because these are dangerous people.”

Kanapathi Kanagaraja, a member of the Central Provincial Council, feels that before the sale of kidneys acquires larger proportions, the government should take decisive action to stem it. “We will take this up at provincial level, but it warrants national level attention.”

Prathiba Mahanama, the former head of the national Human Rights Commission said that till national level programmes are launched, the most effective deterrent is public awareness. That is a view that Karunanayake, the area doctor, also agrees on. “Right now because people don’t know the medical dangers, the sale of kidneys is purely a financial transaction. People are unscrupulously making such offers because they know that at the right price, a kidney can be bought.”

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/kidneys-going-cheap-in-poor-estate-community/feed/ 1
CTBTO’s Verification System Thwarts Nuclear Testshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ctbtos-verification-system-thwarts-nuclear-tests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ctbtos-verification-system-thwarts-nuclear-tests http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ctbtos-verification-system-thwarts-nuclear-tests/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 21:52:23 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143839 Dr. Lassina Zerbo is Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO). Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Dr. Lassina Zerbo is Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO). Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) – a 24-hour international watchdog body – is known never to miss a beat.

The Organization’s international monitoring and verification system has been tracking all nuclear explosions -– in the atmosphere, underwater and underground –- including all four nuclear tests by the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) – the only country in the world to test nuclear weapons in the 21st century.

“The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System has found a wider mission than its creators ever foresaw: monitoring an active and evolving Earth,” says Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of CTBTO, an Organization which also monitors earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, large storms and drifting icebergs.

He said some compare the system to a combined giant Earth stethoscope and sniffer that looks, listens, feels and sniffs for planetary irregularities.

It’s the only global network which detects atmospheric radioactivity and sound waves which humans cannot hear, said Dr. Zerbo.

Asked how effective the CTBTO’s verification system is, Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association told IPS since the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature 20 years ago, national and international test ban monitoring and verification capabilities have improved immensely and they now far exceeds original expectations.

He said there have been significant advances in the U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System capabilities across all of the key verification technologies deployed worldwide to detect and deter nuclear test explosions, including seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, radionuclide, and satellite monitoring, as well as on-site inspections — “as demonstrated in the November 2014 integrated field exercise in Jordan, which I observed directly.”

With the combined capabilities of the International Monitoring System (IMS), national technical means (NTM), and civilian seismic networks, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of any military utility would escape detection.

By detecting and deterring clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, the CTBT and its monitoring systems effectively inhibit the development of new types of nuclear weapons, Kimball said.

“With the option of short-notice, on-site inspections, as allowed under the treaty once it enters into force, we would have even greater confidence in detecting evidence of a nuclear explosion,” he added.

According to CTBTO, the verification regime is designed to detect any nuclear explosion conducted on Earth – underground, underwater or in the atmosphere, and the purpose of the verification regime is to monitor countries’ compliance with the CTBT which bans all nuclear explosions on the planet.

Michael Schoeppner, Programme on Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, told IPS the verification system of the CTBT relies on diplomatic and technical means.

The technical verification aims at the physical proof whether a nuclear explosion has occurred or not, he said.

“The CTBTO has built an efficient and effective system to monitor the Earth around the clock for underground, underwater and atmospheric nuclear explosions. It delivers data to all member states and thus enables a sound decision-making of the international community,” he added.

The CTBT and its verification regime establish an international norm for countries to refrain from developing and testing new nuclear weapon types, Schoeppner said.

Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, told IPS the effectiveness of the verification system provided by the CTBTO demonstrates that similar real-time global verification required for nuclear disarmament is indeed possible.

He said the CTBTO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors nuclear reactors to ensure there is no diversion of fissile materials into nuclear weapons programmes, could meet some of the verification tasks for nuclear disarmament.

However, there would also need to be verification of the destruction of existing stockpiles and the destruction or conversion of delivery vehicles, he noted.

The United States has launched an International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification which is exploring the technologies and systems required, Ware said.

“The experience of the CTBTO shows that such verification systems can begin operating even before disarmament agreements are fully ratified and operational.”

In addition, Ware pointed out, the CTBTO provides additional benefits beyond the verification of nuclear tests.

Real-time information from the CTBTO network of seismic and hydro-acoustic monitoring stations is now available for the tsunami warning centres – providing warning time for tsunamis when there are earthquakes in ocean regions.

“The CTBTO network of radionuclide monitoring stations provides information which can be useful in time of a nuclear accident, such as the Fukushima disaster. It is likely that additional verification systems developed to monitor nuclear disarmament agreements could also provide spin-off benefits,” he pointed out.

According to CTBTO, the verification regime consists of the following elements: International Monitoring System International Data Centre; Global Communications Infrastructure Consultation and clarification; On-Site Inspection and Confidence-building measures.

The International Monitoring System (IMS) consists of 321 monitoring stations and 16 laboratories world wide. These 337 facilities monitor the planet for any sign of a nuclear explosion.

Asked whether there was even a remote possibility of a nuclear test circumventing the verification system, Kimball told IPS: “No monitoring system is one-hundred percent foolproof, but only a foolish leader would try to conduct a clandestine nuclear weapon test explosion because the likelihood of detection today is extremely high and the cost would be particularly severe.”

Unfortunately, he said, Pyongyang’s Jan. 6 blast is an uncomfortable reminder that 20 years after the conclusion of the CTBT, the door to further nuclear testing remains ajar.

Kimball said formal entry into force has been delayed by the failure of seven other states—China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States—to ratify the treaty.

Some states, including Egypt and Iran, have not completed the monitoring stations in their territory or are not allow data from stations to be sent to the CTBTO.

Responsible states can do more to reinforce it pending CTBT entry into force this year, he noted.

“We are calling for a new, high-level diplomatic effort to encourage key states such as Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan to condemn North Korea’s test, reaffirm their support for the global testing moratorium, and promptly consider the CTBT.”

In addition, Kimball said, they could pursue the adoption of a new UN Security Council resolution and a parallel UN General Assembly measure calling on all states to refrain from testing, declaring that nuclear testing would trigger proliferation and undermine international peace and security, and recommending that the treaty’s Provisional Technical Secretariat and Preparatory Commission, including the International Monitoring System, be considered essential institutions because of their critical role in detecting and deterring nuclear testing.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ctbtos-verification-system-thwarts-nuclear-tests/feed/ 0
Violence Is a Preventable Diseasehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/violence-is-a-preventable-disease/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=violence-is-a-preventable-disease http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/violence-is-a-preventable-disease/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 15:55:00 +0000 mairead-maguire http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143837 Mairead Maguire, a peace activist from Northern Ireland is a 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate ]]>

Mairead Maguire, a peace activist from Northern Ireland is a 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate

By Mairead Maguire
BELFAST, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The World Health Organization has said that ‘Violence is a preventable disease’ and people are not born violent, rather we all live in cultures of violence. This can be changed through nonviolent peacemaking and the persuit of ‘just peace’ and nurturing of cultures of peace.

Mairead Maguire

Mairead Maguire

In Northern Ireland for over thirty years we faced violence from all sides, as we lived in a deep ethnic/political conflict. This violence only ended when everyone acknowledged that militarism and paramilitarism could not solve our human problems, and only through unconditional, all inclusive dialogue and negotiations could we reach a political agreement based on nonviolence, forgiveness, compromise and cooperation. We spoke ‘to our enemies’ and made peace with them, because we recognized that without peace nothing is possible, and with peace, everything is possible. We also began to tackle the root causes of our violence, by painstakingly making policy changes. Today in Belfast, while it is good for all its citizens to live in a city at peace, we all acknowledge that our peace process is a work in progress and we must continue to work on justice, forgiveness and reconciliation.

This is a time when, I believe, Europe is at cross-roads and hard choices regarding policies and priorities have to be made. Today’s refugees and migration challenge has shown the best and the worst of European values, often beamed via television onto our screens. The best have been the compassionates response of some spiritual leaders such as Pope Francis and the people of Italy, government and political leaders, such as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, and millions of ordinary citizens across Europe, moving to help in any way they can the refugees, and migrants who have arrived from war torn countries.

The worst has been the fearology fuelled by negative forces which has resulted in an increase in racism, islamophobia, hate crimes and speech, and fascism in some European cities, hitherto known as cities of cultural diversity and tolerance. The stream of refugees andmigrants from Africa, Middle East and Asia, will continue pouring in to Europe, and the question is: what is the role of Europe and its citizens? I hope that Europe will continue to demonstrate compassion and offer to host those who are so desperate they had to flee all they loved in order to save their lives, or for a better life elsewhere.

The consequences of NATO/US policies of invasions and occupation is the destruction of Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen, to name but a few. A real question now to be asked by Europeans is: Do you want to continue being part of the perpetual wars of US and its most belligerent states of UK and Israel, and the militarization and nuclearization of Europe to continue?

All across the European Union (UE) young Europeans are travelling to other EU countries and further afield, trying to find jobs, and many continue to immigrate overseas. Austerity cuts, imposed by many European Union (UE) governments, are driving people deeper into poverty. In spite of this lack of jobs and falling In to poverty for many families, political leaders insist on governments policies, supporting foreign wars instead of human security of EU citizens, health care, education and the environment.

The British government has implemented austerity cuts which have devastated social services for many poor families and it is currently promising the renewal of the UK nuclear trident missile (these nuclear weapons, although on European soil, are in the control of the US government). This is all done in the face of millions of citizens protesting nuclear weapons and calling for a nuclear weapons free Britain and World.

Many governments in Europe are in denial that they are in a crisis but unless courageous policy reversals are implemented and more funding put into human security by dealing with unemployment and poverty, things will not change for the better for our societies in the forseeable futre. But we do not need austerity cuts, we live in a very rich world it’s just that we have got our priorities wrong!

Billions of Euros spent by NATO and Europe hosting war exercises, increases fearology, prepares people mentally for enmity and war, and lines the pockets of the rich, of arms manufacturers and war profiteers. In November 2015, while the worlds political leaders, and media, focused on the refugee crisis and the violence of illegal groups of Daesh (Islamic state) and other fundamental Islamic extremists, almost unknown to the civil community, as it was little reported, one of the great threats to the survival of humanity was taking place in Northern Europe, across three European states. Some 36,000 military troops, 200 fighter aircrafts and more than 60 warships carried out NATO’s biggest war games in 13 years.The military troops were from over 30 states.

They were carrying out war exercises preparing to fight together in battle groups if necessary in a war, which should it come to pass, would be a horror of horrors and one of the greatest crimes against humanity, a nuclear/conventional war on European soil, and spreading quickly across the world. The NATO (led by the US) has fought many illegal wars. They argue that it is necessary to fight terrorism and that it must defend its members from threats from the Middle East and North Africa.

The cold war propaganda against Russia continues and NATO by its expansionist and aggressive strategy has brought Europe to a situation similar to that of the Cold War causing a new dangerous confrontation with Russia.

I believe Europe (and indeed the world) must now ask the tough questions and make hard, brave and courageous choices: ‘Do we continue down the road of re-arming Europe and the World, and building a culture of militarism and war, creating enemy images and demonizing other countries and their leaders, implementing ‘regime change’ through bogus ‘right to protect’ military intervention, or do we choose to start disarming our conscience, hearts and minds, dismantling our weapons, ending militarism and war and implementing International law?’

Europe and the world needs a New Vision of Unity and Demilitarization of Regions, with power devolved to communities where people feel empowered and true democracy can be established. A demilitarized world is something we can all work together to build.

It is not an impossible dream, but begins with each one of us, choosing to live lives of nonkilling and nonviolence and building friendships between peoples and regions in order to cooperate as the human family on the problems we all need to deal with such as environment and poverty. We have imagination and genius and with confidence and trust in ourselves and each other, we can move away from nationalism and war, towards regional solutions built on demilitarized societies of peaceful co-existence ¬ we can and we must learn to live together in all our diversity. Peace Demilitarized and Devolved Democracy is possible and is a human right for all.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/violence-is-a-preventable-disease/feed/ 0
UN Seeks Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-seeks-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-seeks-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-seeks-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:07:26 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143836 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The United Nations says it is determined to end female genital mutilation (FGM) – a ritual practiced mostly in Africa, the Middle East, parts of Asia and even among some migrant communities in Europe.

And the world body’s determination is being backed with facts, figures — and a global campaign by a Joint Programme against FGM initiated by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

As the world body commemorated International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “I am proud to be among so many champions in the cause of eliminating female genital mutilation.”

Since 2007, more than a dozen countries have enacted measures to tackle FGM and more than 950 legal cases have been prosecuted.

“And today, nearly all countries where it is prevalent outlaw the practice. We are working to extend that legal protection everywhere,” he said.

As of now, more than 110,000 doctors, nurses and midwives have received training on the need to eliminate the practice.

The number of women benefiting from valuable services supported by the UN’s Joint Programme more than doubled over the past year — to over 820,000.

And over the last ten years, budgeting to fight FGM has increased by 600 percent, according to the United Nations.

By 2011, the African Union led the way calling for a General Assembly resolution to eliminate FGM. By 2012, UN established an International Day (Feb 6) for Zero Tolerance for FGM.

The New York Times said last week that FGM – also described as female circumcision of mostly young girls — is not just an African problem but also a growing practice in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population.

Virtually all countries that practice FGM say it is either a cultural or a religious ritual handed down over many generations.

But Rena Herdiyani, vice chair of Kalyanamitra, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Indonesia, thinks it’s a myth.

She is not only lobbying against FGM but also wants the government to punish those who perform female circumcision.

“They think it’s a family or a cultural tradition, and an Islamic obligation, yet they can’t name any verses in the Quran about female circumcision,” she was quoted as saying.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. “But the procedure has no health benefits for girls and women”.

Ban said that in his 9-year tenure as Secretary-General, he has helped achieve impressive results.

“In my first year, 2007, we held a first-of-its-kind global consultation on FGM. Experts took a hard look at the problem – and came up with effective solutions.”

The next year, 2008, 10 UN agencies signed a statement on eliminating FGM. The Commission on the Status of Women and the World Health Assembly also took action.

At the same time, the UNFPA and UNICEF launched the Joint Programme to help communities quickly abandon this practice.

In 2009, Ban’s report to the General Assembly on the Girl Child called for social change to drive FGM abandonment.

The next year, the UN established a global strategy against harmful medicalization. “I also launched my ‘Every Woman Every Child’ movement which has mobilized partners who are getting concrete results,” Ban said.

And more than 15,000 communities where some 12 million people live are committed to ending FGM.

According to UNICEF’s new statistical report, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries.

The report says half of the girls and women, who have been cut, live in three countries — Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Moreover, girls aged 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut. In most of the countries the majority of girls were cut before reaching their fifth birthdays
Ban thanked the many religious leaders joining this cause. More and more men and boys are speaking out. Somali Men Against FGM has its own Facebook page. One wrote: “We say collectively: Don’t Do it FOR US”.

Let us make a world where FGM stands for Focus on Girls’ Minds, he said and posted the question: “How about this: FGM stands for Focus on Girls Minds.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-seeks-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation/feed/ 10
Rural Youth Can Be Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rural-youth-can-be-tomorrows-entrepreneurs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-youth-can-be-tomorrows-entrepreneurs http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rural-youth-can-be-tomorrows-entrepreneurs/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 10:36:27 +0000 Nteranya Sanginga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143835 Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture ]]>

Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

By Nteranya Sanginga
Ibadan, Nigeria, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

Bolstering widespread prosperity in Africa is a key necessity if the world is to achieve its commitments to eradicate poverty and hunger by 2030.

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

The sheer numbers indicate the scale of the challenge, and also strong hints as to the path to pursue.

The continent’s population has doubled in three decades, and while urbanization has moved at a blistering pace, it has not offset the number of people living in rural areas. Agricultural productivity has in fact increased faster than the global average, but not fast enough to resolve the paradox of the continent with a majority of the world’s unfarmed arable land remaining a net importer of food.

Those are the facts. And they highlight some basic principles: Africa has huge potential, but progress must include the rural and agricultural sectors. Smallholders contribute around 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s food supply, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and these are the critical enterprises that must be tapped to produce incomes, jobs and opportunities.

Much work is being done by governments and international organizations to shore up food security, through social protection and targeted agricultural development programs.

What we at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture think is essential is that people themselves have to be enabled to truly leverage their own and their continent’s potential.

While there is absolutely a role for public policies and large private-sector initiatives to make this happen, individual empowerment is also essential.

On the surface, that is obvious. While our core mandate is to be the lead research partner facilitating agricultural solutions for hunger and poverty in the tropics, our core vision is based on the idea that the connecting links for the broad array of initiatives around the land, not always perfectly coordinated, are entrepreneurs.

Family farmers are far and away the world’s largest investors in agriculture. Likewise, bottom-up business activity is the most efficient way to maximize efficiency.

That is why IITA is investing heavily in spreading our Business Incubation Platform, a model closely linked to our Youth Agripreneurs programs and aimed at accelerating the rollout of a series of useful services to be offered along the value chain. Our approach is particularly geared to fostering productive and profitable opportunities for youth, especially rural youth.

Not all youth, after all, can permanently migrate to cities; and if they were to do so, the countryside would suffer from an ageing work force.

Let me emphasize that the goal here is to make money, not just spend it! I jest, but only to hammer home the point that real sustainability requires viable networks that can carry research ideas to positive fruition.

Consider NoduMax, one of our Business Incubation Platform’s star developments. This is a legume inoculant for soybeans that allows them to access more nitrogen from the air – which ultimately also improves soil fertility – and thus lead to up to 450 kilograms of additional yield per hectare. It’s easy to use and affordable.

The technology was developed in our Business Incubation Platform in Ibadan. Now the time is ripe to produce it in larger quantities and for sales networks to spread the word. All of this is a form of sustainably intensifying agricultural production and creating greater food security, and its driving force does not involve touching a till or needing to own new land.

We’re also developing aflasafe strains to combat the aflatoxins that are such a scourge to major staple crops across Africa. Aflasafe is a natural biological control product developed by IITA and partners to fight aflatoxin contamination. Again, we incubate its development, but it can easily be transferred to the private sector and scaled up in multiple sites, meaning more jobs in construction, manufacturing and as laboratory analysts.

Both products also of course increase the food supply – through yields or reduction of losses – and thus catalyze further commercial opportunities.

Projects in the works include an innovative fish-pond system and food-processing activities for our mandate crops: cassava, soybean, cowpea, yam, plantain and banana.

Operating our business incubation platform also means individuals naturally network, meeting partners, potential funders and others useful to an array of enterprises, which may range from innovative risk-sharing or credit-supply services to the discovery and establishment of new markets for both inputs and specialty crops. These “externalities” are intrinsic to the whole idea that agriculture is not an ancestral destiny for the poor but an exciting frontier that can be conquered by Africa’s burgeoning demographic group: Youth.

While policy makers have a lot of work to do to create enabling environments for smallholder farmer families to prosper, those environments must also be populated, and that is what we are trying to do.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rural-youth-can-be-tomorrows-entrepreneurs/feed/ 0
Family Planning in India is Still Deeply Sexisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:11:24 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143833 Rural Indian women are under enormous pressure from family to not go in for any oral contraceptive method or injections but opt for surgery instead. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Rural Indian women are under enormous pressure from family to not go in for any oral contraceptive method or injections but opt for surgery instead. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The tragic death of 12 women after a state-run mass sterilisation campaign in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh went horribly wrong in 2014 made global headlines. The episode saw about 80 women “herded like cattle” into makeshift camps without being properly examined before the laparoscopic tubectomies that snuffed out their lives. In another incident in 2013, police in the eastern Indian state of Bihar arrested three men after they performed a botched sterilisation surgery without anaesthesia on 53 women over two hours in a field.

Deaths due to sterilisation are hardly new in India. According to records, over four million such operations were performed in 2013-14 resulting in a total of 1,434 deaths between 2003 and 2012. Between 2009 and 2012 the government paid compensation for 568 deaths resulting from sterilisation according to health ministry data.

Health activists point out that the primary reason for this mess is an overt focus on female
sterilisation in the government’s family planning programme and a woeful lack of birth-control choices for women. Other forms of contraception are not available on an adequate basis because of the lack of health-care facilities. Injectable and Progestin-only pills are on offer only in private hospitals which severely inhibits their usage by poor women.

Worse, male sterilisation is still frowned upon socially. This places the onus of birth control on women with limited participation from men. According to latest research by the global partnership, Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), female sterilisation accounts for 74.4 per cent of the modern contraceptive methods used in India.

As against this, male sterilisation is merely 2.3 per cent, while use of condoms is 11.4 per cent. The use of pills constitutes just 7.5 per cent of modern methods, whereas injectables and implants are almost absent. In the southern state of Karnataka, for instance, women account for 95 per cent of sterilisations conducted at family welfare centres.

Family planning experts attribute this sharp gender disparity to an entrenched patriarchal mindset and ingrained societal attitudes. This is the main reason, say activists, why despite vasectomy being a far less invasive and less complicated procedure as compared to tubectomy, more women are forced to undergo sterilisation. Doctors reckon that tubectomies are about 10 times more common in India.

“In male sterilisation, surgeons cut and seal the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the penis. This is far less painful than female sterilisation that involves cutting, sealing or blocking the fallopian tubes which requires the entire abdomen of a woman to be cut open,” explains Dr. Pratibha Mittal, senior gynaecologist and obstetrician, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi.

The Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), Bengaluru chapter says it receives requests from 70 to 80 women for tubectomy every month. “Rarely, if ever, does a man enquire about vasectomy,” stated a doctor.

According to health activists, rural women are under enormous pressure from husbands and in-laws to not go in for any oral contraceptive method or injections. Hence, they’re left with no option but to opt for surgery. The women are also offered all kinds of petty inducements to undergo sterilisation surgery highlighting the risks women face in reproductive health in a country battling high rates of poverty. Everything from washing machines to blenders to cash incentives are used to lure women to opt for sterilisation.

Health workers say sterilisation targets set by the government also push women into surgery. It is due to regressive societal attitudes that even the government’s marketing and advertising campaigns for family planning programme emphasise promotion of contraceptive pills that are used by women, instead of condoms used by men to tackle the issue of population control. “The government’s overemphasis on female sterilisation is following the easy way out thereby avoiding the difficult task of educating a vast population about other options. Teaching poorly educated women in remote communities how to use pills or contraceptives is more expensive than mass sterilisation campaigns,” says Neha Kakkar, a volunteer for non-profit Family Planning Association of India that promotes sexual health and family planning in India.

What is worrisome, say experts, is that the number of men seeking sterilisation has plummeted in the last five years. Statistics released by Delhi government show that in 2009-10 men accounted for 20 per cent of all sterilisations. It reduced to 14 per cent in 2010-11, 13 per cent in 2011-12, 8 per cent in 2012-13, 7 per cent in 2013-14 and
5 per cent in 2014-15.

Sterilisation camps were started in 1970 under the family planning programme in India with the help of the UN Population Fund and the World Bank. However, they acquired infamy during the 22-month-old Emergency in the mid-1970s when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended democratic rule and state-funded organisations unleashed a draconian campaign to sterilise poor men through coercive means. Hundreds of men — some as young as 16 or 17, some even unmarried — were herded into trucks and taken to operating theatres in makeshift camps. Those who refused had to face police atrocities.

Health activists say such coercion never works. “There needs to be a concerted campaign to educate men about sterilisation. Most men believe that they become sexually weak after getting sterilised which isn’t true. Wives, under pressure, then take on the onus of family planning on themselves forgetting the fact that their husbands are equally responsible for this,” explains Dr. Mittal.

Experts emphasise that a paradigm shift in attitudes is what’s needed to change sterilisation trends in the country. More so as India is all set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030 with numbers approaching 1.5 billion. Worse, 11 per cent more male children are born every year as compared to
females, as against a benchmark of 5 per cent shows UN data deepening an already skewed sex ratio.

A 2012 report by Human Rights Watch urged the government to set up an independent grievance redress system to allow people to report coercion and poor quality services at sterilisation centres. It also said the government should prioritise training for male government workers to provide men with information and counselling about contraceptive choices. But there is little evidence that this has been implemented.

Be that as it may, there’s succour to be derived from the fact India’s population growth rate has declined significantly from 21.54 per cent in 1991-2000 to 17.64 per cent in 2001-11. According to government data, India’s total fertility rate has also plunged from 2.6 in 2008 to 2.3 in 2013.

With constant media pressure, besides sterilisation, the government is also trying to increase the basket of contraceptives and making them available under the national family planning programme. India has recently introduced injectable contraceptive as part of national family planning programme.

“Providing greater choice and improved access to modern contraceptives should become an inextricable part of India’s health and gender-equality programme,” advises Kakkar. “Public sensitisation campaigns about the benefits of family planning, and replacing coercive surgeries with access to a range of modern reproductive health choices, should form the bedrock of our health strategy.”

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/family-planning-in-india-is-still-deeply-sexist/feed/ 0
Microcephaly Revives Battle for Legal Abortion in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/microcephaly-revives-battle-for-legal-abortion-in-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=microcephaly-revives-battle-for-legal-abortion-in-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/microcephaly-revives-battle-for-legal-abortion-in-brazil/#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 23:16:47 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143829 “Abortion shouldn’t be a crime” reads a sign held in one of the numerous demonstrations held in Brazil to demand the legalisation of abortion. Credit: Courtesy of Distintas Latitudes

“Abortion shouldn’t be a crime” reads a sign held in one of the numerous demonstrations held in Brazil to demand the legalisation of abortion. Credit: Courtesy of Distintas Latitudes

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 8 2016 (IPS)

The Zika virus epidemic and a rise in the number of cases of microcephaly in newborns have revived the debate on legalising abortion in Brazil. However, the timing is difficult as conservative and religious groups are growing in strength, especially in parliament.

“We are issuing a call to society to hold a rational, generous debate towards a review of the law that criminalises abortion,” lawyer Silvia Pimentel told IPS.

Pimentel, one of the 23 independent experts who oversee compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), defends the right to abortion in cases of “severe and irreversible birth defects”.

In Brazil, a 1940 law makes abortion illegal with two exceptions: when it is necessary to save the mother’s life or if the pregnancy is the result of rape.

A third exception, in cases of anencephalic fetuses -which have no brain – was legalised in 2012 as the result of a Supreme Court ruling based on the fact that they cannot survive outside the womb.

“This is different – microcephaly is not like anencephaly, in terms of surviving outside the womb; for the anencephalic fetus, the uterus serves as an intensive care unit; many even die before they are born,” said Clair Castilhos, executive secretary of the National Feminist Network for Health and Sexual and Reproductive Rights.

Microcephalic children, who are born with abnormally small heads, often have some degree of mental retardation, but they can survive.

“In these cases, we should discuss a woman’s right to decide whether to continue with the pregnancy, once she and her partner have been informed that their child could be born with serious difficulties,” said Castilhos, a pharmacist and biochemist who specialises in public health.

If the Supreme Court rules in favour of the right to abortion in cases of microcephaly, as women’s rights activists are seeking, “it would be a fourth exception,” she said.

“Although it wouldn’t be what we’re working for, which is the right for all women to decide whether to continue with a pregnancy, in any circumstances, rather than have an abortion as a ‘permissible crime’ in some cases,” she said in an interview with IPS.

But the approval of this “fourth exception” is unlikely.

Those opposed to making abortion legal, led by religious groups, argue that it violates the most basic of human rights, the right to life. They even protested the decriminalisation of abortion in cases of anencephalic fetuses, arguing that life begins at conception.

In their campaign over the social networks, they are now arguing that abortion of microcephalic fetuses amounts to “eugenics” or selective breeding, and compare those who defend the right to abortion in these cases to Nazis.

But Débora Diniz, a researcher at the Anis Bioethics Institute and the University of Brasilia, has argued in interviews and opinion pieces that eugenics occurs when the state intervenes in decision-making in an authoritarian manner, exercising control over women’s pregnancies, and not when the idea is for women to be free to make their own family planning decisions.

The Bom Jardim neighbourhood in Fortaleza, one of the big cities in Northeast Brazil, the region hit hardest by the Zika virus. The lack of sanitation and huge garbage dumps on the banks of rivers and stagnant water in containers everywhere offer ideal breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits Zika virus, dengue fever and the chikungunya virus. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Bom Jardim neighbourhood in Fortaleza, one of the big cities in Northeast Brazil, the region hit hardest by the Zika virus. The lack of sanitation and huge garbage dumps on the banks of rivers and stagnant water in containers everywhere offer ideal breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits Zika virus, dengue fever and the chikungunya virus. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Diniz forms part of a group of legal experts, feminists and other activists who plan to turn to the Supreme Court for a ruling on abortion in the case of microcephaly, in a repeat of the process they followed in the case of anencephaly, which began in 2004 and finally led to a verdict in 2012.

On Feb. 5, U.N. high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged Latin American governments to boost access to “reproductive health services,” including emergency contraception and abortion, given the spread of Zika virus in several countries of the region.

Between October – when the outbreak of microcephaly was identified as possibly linked to the Zika virus – and Jan. 30, there were 404 proven cases of microcephaly in newborns in Brazil. Another 3,670 cases are still being studied.

There have also been 76 infant deaths due to small brain size or central nervous system problems since October, but only five cases were confirmed as Zika-related while 56 are still under investigation.

Seventeen children were born with brain malformations proven to be linked to a mother’s infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy.

Zika virus, like dengue fever and the chikungunya virus, are spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The main symptoms of Zika virus disease are a low fever, an itchy skin rash, joint pain, and red, inflamed eyes. The symptoms, which are generally mild, last from three to seven days, and most people don’t even know they have had the disease, which makes it difficult to assess the actual number of cases.

The government does not even have estimates of the number of victims of the epidemic, and only recently gave instructions for mandatory reporting of the disease.

There were 1,649,008 cases of dengue registered by the Health Ministry in 2015, with 863 deaths, 82.5 percent more than in 2014. This virus is more widespread and more lethal, but it does not seem to have caused such alarm among Brazilians as Zika virus.

Microcephaly, which is only a threat in the case of pregnant women, has had a much bigger public impact.

Its link to Zika was established by Brazilian researchers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said a causal relationship between the virus and microcephaly has not yet been fully established.

Nevertheless, on Feb. 1 it declared the Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects an international public health emergency.

In Brazil, only when unborn babies began to be affected was a decision reached to combat the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. In late January, the government launched a campaign that mobilised 220,000 military troops and thousands of health ministry and other public employees, as well as the public at large.

Brazil will have “a generation of people who have been impaired” if the mosquito is not eliminated, said Health Minister Marcelo Castro, who has been criticised for making contradictory statements about the epidemic.

But a leading national voice on bioethics, Volnei Garrafa, complained to IPS that the government wants to hold society responsible for fighing the Aedes aegypti mosquito, without assuming its own responsibility for the lack of adequate sanitation and the “garbage and stagnant water everywhere,” which generate perfect breeding grounds for the mosquito.

He said that in the renewed debate on the right to abortion, it would be important to have a bioethics council, such as the ones that operate in Europe and in a few countries of Latin America, where abortion remains illegal except in Cuba, Uruguay and Mexico City, or under extremely limited circumstances (fetal malformation, rape, risk to the mother’s life) in most other countries.

Garrafa said that with the current composition of the national Congress, where evangelical and Catholic groups have a strong influence, the approval of measures moving – even gradually – in the direction of the legalisation of abortion is nearly impossible.

“Congress is no longer ‘national’, it is an inquisition tribunal, where religious beliefs prevail,” said Castilhos.

Proposals in parliament, rather than being aimed at easing abortion law, seek to restrict the right to legal abortion in cases of rape, creating humiliating requirements for the victims that make it practically impossible for them to obtain an abortion.

“The Supreme Court has been forced to fill the legislative vacuum, at the risk of eroding democracy through the mixing up of the branches of the state, with the judiciary legislating instead of parliament,” said Garrafa.

In the past few decades, the Supreme Court has handed down rulings on complex issues such as biosafety and stem cell research, where experts in jointly evaluating biological and ethical questions would help overcome or mitigate controversies, said Garrafa, the founder of several Brazilian and Latin American bioethics institutions.

In the current political context, the Supreme Court represents the hope for progress on sexual and reproductive rights, Pimentel, Castilhos and Garrafa all told IPS.

Against this backdrop, the outbreak of microcephaly is traumatic, but it also represents an opportunity for debate on abortion and the need for universal access to sanitation, they added.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/microcephaly-revives-battle-for-legal-abortion-in-brazil/feed/ 0
The Nuclear Deal Implementation Day: A Win-Win Agreement (part one)http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/the-nuclear-deal-implementation-day-a-win-win-agreement-part-one-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-nuclear-deal-implementation-day-a-win-win-agreement-part-one-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/the-nuclear-deal-implementation-day-a-win-win-agreement-part-one-2/#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 15:27:39 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143828 Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford]]>

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University. He is a tutor in the Department of Continuing Education and a member of Kellogg College, University of Oxford

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Feb 8 2016 (IPS)

After many years of unprecedented, crippling Western sanctions that stopped Iran’s oil exports and even banking transactions, the long and arduous negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany) culminated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed on 14 July 2015. That agreement finally reached the Implementation Day on 16th January 2016, coincidentally 37 years to the day when the late Mohammad Reza Shah left Iran for good and paved the way for the victory of the Islamic revolution.

Farhang Jahanpour

Farhang Jahanpour

In a Joint statement, the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, speaking for the European Union, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated:

“Today, we have reached Implementation Day of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Ever since Adoption Day, we worked hard and showed mutual commitment and collective will to finally bring the JCPOA to implementation. Today, six months after finalization of the historic deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified that Iran has implemented its nuclear related commitments under the JCPOA.”

On the same day, United Nations sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program were lifted, and the Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the JCPOA, terminated the provisions of resolutions 1696 (2006), 1737 (2007), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), 1835 (2008), 1929 (2010) and 2224 (2015).

In order to reach Implementation Day, Iran had to carry out its part of the deal, which it did meticulously and ahead of the deadline. According to the JCPOA, Iran halted its production of uranium enriched to 20 per cent, removed the core of the heavy water reactor in Arak and filled the channels with cement, rendering it inoperable. Iran dismantled over 13,000 centrifuges, leaving the country with 6,104 first-generation IR-1 machines, of which 5,104 are enriching uranium to 3.67 percent, and 1,044 machines at the Fordow site will remain inoperative. Meanwhile, all of this has been carried out under strict IAEA supervision, which will also continue to closely monitor Iran’s future nuclear activities.

The Implementation Day coincided with the successful prisoner exchange, involving five Americans (including four dual citizens) held in Iran, in return for seven Iranians (including six dual citizens) who had been charged with violating US sanctions against Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry called it “one of the days that I enjoyed the most as secretary of state.”

A few days earlier, Iran had released ten US sailors who had “inadvertently drifted” into Iranian waters. Initially, it was said that the two boats travelling between Kuwait and Bahrain, equipped with three 50-caliber machine guns, had developed mechanical problems, or their GPS equipment had failed, or that they had run out of fuel, but later all those excuses were proven to have been incorrect. So far, US authorities have provided no satisfactory explanation as to how two US Navy ships had lost their way together and had ended up miles away in Iranian waters next to Farsi Island, a very sensitive Iranian naval base. Some Iranian hardliners saw it as a provocation and an attempt to spy on Iranian military installations.

It should be noted that Saudi Arabia executed the prominent Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr on the eve of Implementation Day. Al-Mimr’s execution led to attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, leading to Saudi Arabia cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran and forming a mainly Sunni coalition against that country. Some conspiracy theorists have wondered whether al-Nimr’s beheading and the US Navy ship that “drifted” into Iranian waters might have been a last-ditch effort by some of the opponents of the deal to derail the agreement.

Be that as it may, some hawks in Washington immediately accused Iran of aggressive behavior and called for harsh punishments. Sen. John McCain criticized what he called Iran’s “provocative behavior”. Sen. Cory Gardner even suggested that President Barack Obama had to postpone his State of the Union address until the sailors had been released. The columnist Charles Krauthammer seized on the incident to discredit the nuclear deal. He wrote: “The premise of the nuclear deal was that it would constrain Iranian actions. It’s had precisely the opposite effect.” However, the speedy release of American sailors disappointed the hawks on both sides and paved the way for closer cooperation between the United States and Iran.

President Obama rightly celebrated the combination of those events as the vindication of his efforts over the previous years. In a Sunday 17 January 2016 statement at the White House, the President said: “This is a good day, because once again we’re seeing what’s possible with strong American diplomacy.” The President touted his administration’s efforts at diplomacy and advancing relations between the two adversaries, “rather than resorting to another war in the Middle East”.

Obama also pointed to the speedy release of the U.S. sailors as more evidence of the benefits of diplomacy. “Some here in Washington said this was the start of another hostage crisis,” Obama said, referring to some Republicans in Congress. “Instead we secured their release in less than 24 hours.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, speaking almost simultaneously with President Obama, said that the official implementation of the landmark deal had satisfied all parties except radical extremists. He said the deal had “opened new windows for engagement with the world.”

He described the deal as a win-win agreement for all negotiating parties and all factions inside Iran and in the West: “Nobody has been defeated in the deal, neither inside the country nor the countries that were negotiating with us.”

The agreement has provided the best example of the resolution of one of the most difficult international issues through negotiations and without resorting to war, which would have had a devastating outcome for the region and beyond. Indeed, it can serve as a model for the resolution of other difficult conflicts such as the civil wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/the-nuclear-deal-implementation-day-a-win-win-agreement-part-one-2/feed/ 0
Women and Girls Imperative to Science & Technology Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-and-girls-imperative-to-science-technology-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-and-girls-imperative-to-science-technology-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-and-girls-imperative-to-science-technology-agenda/#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 12:14:12 +0000 Lakshmi Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143822 Lakshmi Puri is UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director UN Women]]> Lakshmi Puri

By Lakshmi Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 8 2016 (IPS)

Can you imagine an entire day without access to your mobile phone, laptop, or even to the internet? In our rapidly changing world, could you function without having technology at your fingertips?

Unfathomable for most of us, but across the world—especially for many in developing countries–using and accessing technology is not readily available, and certainly not a privileged choice. This is particularly true for women and girls.

In low- to middle-income countries, a woman is 21 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man, and the divide is similar for Internet access. The possibilities of scientific and technological progress is almost limitless, yet women and girls are sorely missing in these fields, particularly as a creators and decision-makers in spheres that are transforming our everyday world.

In September 2015 the UN General Assembly declared 11 February the International Day for Women in Science. Coinciding with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, or Agenda 2030, which are underpinned by science, technology and innovation (STI) and call for gender equality throughout, including under the standalone goal on gender equality, Goal 5, this Day has the potential to reverberate across the world.

Science and technology is not inherently elite, or about gadgets or toys. It is about our everyday. STI has the power to disrupt and shift trajectories as it increasingly influences all aspects of life today – from economic opportunity in STI sectors and the application of STI solutions within other productive sectors, including to help women grow business and social enterprise, to opportunity for greatly improving health outcomes (including sexual and reproductive health), energy, environment and natural resource management, and infrastructure development.

We see opportunity, particularly through information and communication technology, to enhance education, learning opportunities and skill development, for engagement with youth, for political participation and for women and girls to advocate for their interests, rights and social transformation.

Economic opportunities are abundant. The economic forecast in just a few STI sectors reveal staggering numbers. Estimates have shown that the value of climate change and clean technology sectors in the next decade amount to 6.4 trillion dollars, while the value of the digital economy in the G20 alone is 4.2 trillion dollars.

There is a huge opportunity gap in digitally skilled workers, amounting to 200 million workers, with estimates showing that up to 90% of formal sector jobs will require ICT skills. In energy and agriculture, 2.5 million engineers and technicians will be needed in sub-Saharan Africa alone to achieve improved access to clean water and sanitation.

Science and technology squarely underlie the enjoyment of human – and women’s – rights and are intrinsic to sustainable development, citizenship and personal empowerment. The SDG Gender Goal recognizes this reality by including a means of implementation indicator which directs the global community to “Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.” (5b).

The ability of women to access, benefit from, develop and influence these sectors will directly impact whether we achieve our goals of Planet 50:50 by 2030. If women are left out of these 21st century revolutions, we will not achieve substantive gender equality.

The Financing for Development framework makes additional linkages between gender equality, women’s empowerment and science and technology. In establishing the Technology Mechanism – which will be guided by a High Level Panel, half of which are women – we have the opportunity to operationalize and promote learning and investment around these critical intersections.

The Commission on the Status of Women (2011, 2014) and the 20-year Review of the Beijing Platform for Action (2015) addressed this complex issue of girls and women in science and technology, and resulted in a series of recommendations on a path forward and needed investments. New, as well as established good practices were identified, but we face the urgent need to scale these success stories from all stakeholders and to connect ad hoc good approaches to each other to build more comprehensive pathways and solutions.

The 10 year review of the World Summit on the Information Society also resulted in increased commitments around gender equality and a role for UN Women. An Action Plan that synthesized priority gender and ICT commitments across a multitude of normative frameworks, including WSIS, was also presented to catalyze engagement of stakeholders. The urgent need for accelerated implementation of all of these commitments and recommendations cannot be understated.

Evidence shows, including in the recent World Bank Report on Digital Dividends, gains are not automatic. The number of women in STEM falls continuously from secondary school to university, laboratories, teaching, policy making and decision-making. There are great divides in women’s access to, participation and leadership within STI sectors, despite being on the frontlines of energy use, climate change adaptation, economic production, and holders of extensive traditional knowledge. In the formal sector of STI, women globally make up under 10 percent of those in innovation hubs and those receiving funding by venture capitalists, and only 5 percent of membership in national academies in science and technology disciplines.

There are similar low figures around women in research and development, publication, leadership in government and the private sector, and so on. The disconnect between women’s practical and regular interface with STI and their formal ability to take advantage of these sectors and in having their knowledge, perspectives and leadership valued is stark indeed.

The reasons for this disconnect are many, ranging from access to technology, to education and investment gaps, to unsupportive work environments, to cultural beliefs and stereotypes. Globally, girls start to self-select out of STEM courses in early secondary school. Societal attitudes and bias hinder girls’ participation, with science and technology often considered male domains.

But change is coming, slowly but steadily. On the ground, UN Women is working to further women and girl’s engagement in the field, with many programmes focused on leveraging the power of ICTs. We are running digital literacy and ICT skill development initiatives in countries including Jordan, Guatemala and Afghanistan, and we are supporting mobile payment and information systems for farmers and women in small business in Papua New Guinea and East Africa.

UN Women has also been supporting the development of mobile apps and games to raise awareness of violence against women and to support survivors in Brazil and South Africa. We have partnered with the International Telecommunications Union to launch a new global technology award that recognizes outstanding contributions from women and men in leveraging the potential of information technology to promote gender equality. At the policy level, we are engaged globally and nationally to promote girls and women in STEM.

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science we must not only celebrate women’s incredible achievements in science, technology and innovation, but also galvanize the global community to do more to ensure that women’s participation in the formal sector is not the exception but becomes the rule, while in the informal sector where women’s ingenuity is the rule, that they are given recognition and support.

The International Day for Women in Science serves as an annual reminder and hold us to account on how we are advancing women in science, technology and innovation more broadly and critically for achieving gender equality and ultimately, all other development goals.

(End)

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/women-and-girls-imperative-to-science-technology-agenda/feed/ 0