Inter Press Service » Featured http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:26:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Making Sustainability Part of the Corporate DNAhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:26:44 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145814 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/feed/ 0 Brexit and Ueexithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-ueexit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-and-ueexit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-ueexit/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:12:42 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145815 Roberto Savio, is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News. ]]>

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

The Europeans went to bed Thursday night, with exit polls giving a comfortable margin of victory for those who wanted to Remain. The following morning they awakened to find that the real result was the opposite.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Specialists in polling say that this happens when electors do not feel comfortable to say how they will rally voters because they are not comfortable, on a rational level, with what they will do. In other words, voters act because of their guts, not because of their brain.

Brexit was really based on gut feelings. It was a campaign of fear. The “Leave” campaign was about the Turks massively invading Great Britain, because of their admittance in the EU (totally false); that Great Britain was paying to the EU 50 million pounds a day (again, a false figure). But the central question raised, especially by Boris Johnson, was: we are not free any longer… Let us get our independence.

And he went to compare the EU to the Nazi Germany who wanted to take over Europe. Of course, his intention was simple: get prime minister David Cameron to resign and take his post. A good example of idealism.

This cry for independence stirred the nationalist nerve of the nostalgia of the imperial times… We are facing enormous tides of foreigners coming if we stay in the EU, and we have no control on our borders, etc. The fact that Great Britain in fact had got from the EU already the control of its frontiers, was totally lost.

But beside this specific trait of British identity, the reasons for Brexit were common to the xenophobic, nationalism and populism tide which is spreading all over Europe. The Brexit campaign did contain all three, plus an emerging fourth factor: the revolt of people against their elites.

The “Remain” campaign had all of them; from the leaders of the Tory and Labour party to all the industrial and financial sectors, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the European Central Bank, from Obama to Merkel, from the elite media (Financial Times, the Economist) to the Soccer League. Their campaign was also of fear: if we get out we will lose markets, our deficit will increase, and our welfare system is at risk.

What now finally analysts are beginning to grasp is that rational arguments are not important any longer. Fear is more important. And anything that smacks of elite and establishment creates an iconoclastic reaction, which is to throw away the icons of the elite. This call for a change is now a new factor of politics all over Europe.

A good example is the town of Turin, where a few days before the Brexit a honest, efficient and respected outgoing mayor Piero Fassino (who did a good job), lost to a young woman without any prior experience. People feel an urge to throw away all the old, because clearly it has failed to address their needs.

It is to soon to predict a dismembering of Great Britain, with Scotland calling this time for its independence. Brexit was decided by England, where a considerable number of citizens suddenly feel a reawakening of their identity.

It is the same call of Marie Le Pen in France (another lost empire), which has opened a debate about French identity, and the need to not get diluted by multiculturalism, immigrants, especially Muslim, and get again the control of the borders, out from the domination of the European Union.

Next year, we have French and German elections. Le Pen is now the leader of the largest party in France, And it will be difficult to keep her out of power. Then elections in Germany will see a rise of Alternative fur Deutschland (AFD), which makes re-appropriation of German identity and sovereignty the basis for leaving Europe.

All the xenophobic right wing parties have expressed their enthusiasm for the Brexit, which is going to give them more push. Brexit comes after the Austrian elections, where the right wing lost for few votes. If elections were held today in the Netherlands, its xenophobic party would be the largest. And in total symmetry, Donald Trump has expressed his enthusiasm for the Brexit.

One of the few positive elements of Brexit is that there is now a growing chorus on the fact that globalisation has not kept its promises.: wealth for everybody.

On the contrary, it has created a dramatic social inequality, with few people having the bulk of national wealth, and many left out. According to OECD statistics, Europe has lost 18 millions of middle class citizens, in the last 10 years.

The fact that bankers were unanimously voicing for “Remain”, had quite the opposite effect on those 27% of British citizens who have difficulty to reach the end of the month, while they see over 1.000 bankers, and 1.500 CEO make more than 1 million pounds a year.

Now even the IMF is publishing studies on how social inequality is a draw to growth, and the importance of investing in welfare policies of inclusion and equal opportunities.

This is happening, some could say, because reaction to globalisation does not create only right-wing waves. With the feeling that all those in the system are ignoring their problems, new mass movements are coming from the left, like Podemos in Spain or Bernie Sanders in the US.

In the coming elections in Spain, the traditional social democrat party, PSOE, risks to be after Podemos. In Italy few days ago, after winning the provincial elections, the 5 Star movement now looks to take over the national government, held by a social democrat party, the PD. After two years in power, the young Matteo Renzi looks already an old establishment figure.

The EU suffers the same problem. Everybody talks of its marginal role in the world, of the fact that the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels live detached from reality and dedicate themselves to discuss rules on how to pack tomatoes, indifferent to the problems of the common European citizen.

We should pause to reflect that this is the same kind of criticism we hear about the United Nations. International organisations can only do what their members allow them to do. The EU is a supranational organisation (the only in existence), yet all the political power is in the hands of the Council of Ministers, where governments sits and take decision.

The Commission is left to implement these and the bureaucrats (the same number of those who run the town of Rome), have autonomy to decide the size of tomato packaging. Then the same national government that has taken the decisions, finds it convenient to denounce the EU inefficiency, and complain that there is an European external policy. This irresponsible game is now seeing the concrete result in Brexit, and governments should think now carefully about continuing on this double standard path.

Anyhow, the king now is finally without clothes. Europe is disintegrating, and a very large responsibility falls on German shoulders.

Germany has been blocking any attempt to create European economic and welfare measures, because they do not want to pay for the mistakes of the debtors countries, Greece, Italy, and the south of Europe. The Economy minister of Germany, Wolfgang Schauble, even went to attribute to Mario Draghi, the BCE governor, 50% of the success of the xenophobe Alternative fur Deutschland in the last elections. Draghi , was doing a policy in the interest of Europe, and not of the German voters. Germany is by far the most powerful country in the EU.

It is ironic to know that all the important posts in the EU bureaucracy have been taken by the British and Germans. In fact, those who control the bureaucracy and the debate on tomato packaging come from those two countries. And chancellor Angela Merkel is considered the one who runs the EU. In fact, the fateful agreement with Turkey on refugees, was decided by the German chancellor, without even consulting France

Now Germany has to decide: or continue on its path to germanize Europe, or to become again a European Germany, as it was when it’s capital was Bonn. Germany has consistently ignored all European and international calls for playing a different policy in the EU. She has refused to increase spending, to share funding of any initiative on European bonds or any measure of socialisation of the crisis.

But it would be a mistake to think that this is due to the peculiar personality traits of Schauble. The large majority of German citizens share the belief that they should not pay for the mistake of others. To be fair, the German government has never tried to educate them on European needs. And now, may be it is too late….

Therefore, the coming elections will be difficult for the government. An ever more insular party, the AfD is expected to have a large increase, and the two traditional parties are very worried. Merkel will try to take away some of the AfD banners further reducing her European policy. What is she Going to do now after the Brexit?

Attempt to start a Europe on two speeds, with Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary and all other Eurosceptics left out? Or she is ready to change her self-centred policy and play a real European role, in spite of AfD rise? Europe now depends clearly on Germany. Here we will see if Merkel is a states-person or just a successful national politician.

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Least Developed Countries’ Vulnerabilities Make Graduation Difficulthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:25:40 +0000 Ahmed Sareer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145797 An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

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

By Ahmed Sareer
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Last month, over two thousand high-level participants from across the world met in Antalya, Turkey for the Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action, an action plan used to guide sustainable economic development efforts for Least Developed Countries for the 2011 to 2020 period. The main goal was to understand the lessons learnt by the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) over the past five years and apply the knowledge moving forward.

For my country, the Maldives, the past five years have been a chance to experience first-hand the realities of life after graduation from LDC status. In January 2011, the Maldives was officially removed from the list of LDCs, the culmination of decades of hard work and determined efforts of developing the country. The Fourth UN Conference on LDCs, held in May 2011, was the last for the Maldives as an LDC, but last month in Antalya, we went back because we believed it was important to share the lessons we had learnt since 2011.

While our graduation was naturally a moment of pride and cause for celebration for a country only 50 years old, it was accompanied by a sense of uncertainty about the challenges we would face following the withdrawal of the protections and special preferences afforded to LDCs.

Ultimately, we were able to forge ahead in spite of these difficulties and adapted to the new realities. We ensured that our economy, driven by a world-class tourism sector, and a robust fisheries industry, would continue to be competitive and dynamic. We focused on fostering a business-friendly climate, while making prudent investments for future growth.

However, we remain conscious of the degree to which the gains we have made are vulnerable to exogenous shocks. On 20 December 2004, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to graduate the Maldives effective 1 January 2008. But just four days before the UNGA decision, a catastrophic tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean, claiming the lives of over 275,000 people in fourteen countries.

The 2004 tsunami was especially devastating in the Maldives. With the highest point in our country being just 2.5 metres high, virtually all of it was, for a few harrowing minutes, underwater.

Several islands were rendered uninhabitable; nearly one in ten people were left homeless.

Farms were destroyed, the fresh water lens corrupted, with large-scale loss to infrastructure. The economic cost of the destruction was equivalent to close to 70 percent of GDP, a blow from which it took us over a decade to recover.

The Maldives is not alone in facing such vulnerabilities. For many countries, particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as our own, an end to LDC status does not necessarily herald the disappearance of structural barriers to growth—such as limited access to markets, geographical isolation, environmental pressures, or difficulty achieving economies of scale.

By 1997, the Maldives had already exceeded two of the three thresholds that determine LDC status—GNI per capita, and the Human Capital Index, measured in terms of undernourishment, child mortality rates, secondary school enrolment rates, and adult literacy.

But we did not exceed the threshold for the third criterion, the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), which measures the structural vulnerability of countries to exogenous economic and environmental shocks – we did not meet this threshold to date. It is not necessary to meet all three thresholds to in order to graduate—meaning we were considered ready for graduation.

As the tragedy of 2004 taught us, persistent vulnerabilities have the potential to undermine, if not reverse, gains made towards development. Despite meeting the formal requirements, we were not yet ready. The lessons of our own experiences have meant that the Maldives has been consistent in calling for a smoother and more holistic approach to the graduation process.

Firstly, the criteria for graduation must account for the structural vulnerabilities of developing countries. The fact that economic vulnerability can be disregarded in determining whether a country is ready to graduate from LDC status represents a critical oversight.

Second, the Economic Vulnerability Index itself must also be redesigned to better account for vulnerability. At present, the index fails to account for key considerations such as geographic and environmental vulnerability, import dependency, and demographic pressures.

With greater attention being paid to the effects of climate change on developing countries, most notably in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), evaluating vulnerabilities more comprehensively is a task that has acquired even greater importance.

Lastly, the extension of support and assistance to countries must be determined on the basis of their individual capabilities and challenges, rather than their mere place on a list. We would be remiss to overlook the role that development assistance, including that provided by the UN, has played in helping the Maldives progress—as it has for many others—particularly in regards to our work in disaster preparedness and climate change mitigation.

The withdrawal of such assistance—including preferential trade access and concessionary financing—following our graduation from the ranks of the LDCs has meant increased fiscal challenges. This disregards the unique challenges faced by countries like the Maldives due to their specific structural constraints—constraints ignored under the present graduation regime.

While efforts have been made to smooth the graduation process for LDCs—in 2004, and most recently in 2012—the process remains deeply flawed and in need of comprehensive reform. To this end, the Maldives has called for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend the application of TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) for all LDCs, in addition to the exploration of a “small and vulnerable economy” category at the United Nations, which would recognize the particular needs of such countries.

Similarly, we must move towards devising measures of development that do more than just record national income, and instead provide a more meaningful assessment of national capability and capacity, for which GDP can often be a poor proxy.

No country wishes to be called “least developed”, much less remain in that classification indefinitely, but the factors driving underdevelopment must be meaningfully dealt with if we wish to attain genuinely sustainable development. It is for this reason that we believe that the desire by countries to eradicate poverty and achieve economic development must be met with commitment on part of the United Nations and other organizations to chart a realistic and holistic path towards that end.

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Women’s Health Takes Center Stage at UN Population Awards   http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:38:18 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145796 By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

Social Scientist, Carmen Barroso and Polish Organisation, Childbirth in Dignity received the United Nations Population Awards here Thursday for their outstanding work in population, improving individuals’ health and welfare, and specifically for their decades-long leadership in women’s rights.

“I dedicate this award to anonymous health providers everywhere, who day in and day out help women to exercise their rights and preserve their health,” said Barroso on accepting the award.

Barroso has been actively involved in reproductive health and population issues for more than forty years. She was selected for her leadership in developing programmes, funding and policies related to sexual and reproductive health and rights and for mobilising the voices of people in the South around those issues.

In 1966, Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country rising under the weight of a military dictatorship, Barroso was a 22 year old college student living off of her husband’s meagre salary. Committed to achieving social justice, they did not plan to start a family for many years, and had a very important vision of their future.

On birth control for a long time, she was becoming uncomfortable with the hormones she was putting into her body. A doctor offered her an alternative: IUDs. When she started, she began having copious periods of painful cramps, but she decided to wait in hope they would go away. But they didn’t. One day, she missed her period.

She froze with horror: “All of a sudden, the castle of my future came crashing down.”

At the time, abortion was a taboo subject. She never thought it was something that would happen to her, but now she knew that was what she wanted, and went to the doctor.

He performed the abortion, telling her to keep it secret and cover it up as a miscarriage.

“I would not be here today if it weren’t for the courage of a doctor operating under restrictive laws. Because of him, we were able to live the future we dreamed of.”

Later Barroso became a senior researcher with the Chagas Foundation, where she pioneered innovative evaluation methods and later created Brazil’s first and foremost women’s studies center, despite protest from colleagues who saw it as an “imperialistic import of feminist ideology.”

Dr. Barroso became the first non-American to be appointed as director in the US MacArthur Foundation, and she recently resigned from her tenure as Director of Planned Parenthood International, Western Hemisphere.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation

Twenty years ago in Poland, pregnant women had little freedom to choose the environment in which they gave birth. Lack of privacy, loneliness and inadequate support were the rule, with women having to go through mandatory episiotomies, and other arcane procedures such as not having time with their newborn child immediately, or having their significant other in the room during childbirth, made the experience far from joyful, in fact, humiliating in many cases.

A nationwide campaign, “Childbirth with Dignity” which empowered women to share their stories, caught international attention, causing government legislative action like Perinatal and Postnatal Care Standards in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Partners are now allowed in the delivery room, mothers can have visitors, and newborns are able to breastfeed, being placed in the mother’s arms to bond right after being born making childbirth an easier experience for mothers.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation was awarded for their strong advocacy and support of the rights of women and newborns for over 20 years, and for empowering women, as patients, to demand their rights in relation to childbirth.

Both laureates were chosen from among several international nominees, by the Committee for the United Nations Population Award chaired by Paraguay, and including Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Haiti, Iran, Israel and Poland. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) serves as secretariat for the award.

Past laureates selected by the Committee included individuals and organizations, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Dr. Allan Rosenfield, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Population Council.

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Disagreement Continues Over Global Drug Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/disagreement-continues-over-global-drug-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disagreement-continues-over-global-drug-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/disagreement-continues-over-global-drug-policy/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 14:44:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145793 A Libyan drug and alcohol trafficking police squad. Credit: Maryline Dumas/IPS

A Libyan drug and alcohol trafficking police squad. Credit: Maryline Dumas/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

A new report has found that global drug use largely remains the same, but perspectives on how to address the issue still vary drastically.

The new World Drug Report, released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), provides a review on drug production and use and its impact on communities around the world.

UNODC has estimated that 1 in 20 adults, or quarter of a billion people between the ages of 15 and 64 years, used at least one drug in 2014. Though the figure has not changed over the past four years, the number of people classified as suffering from drug use disorders has increased for the first time in six years to over 29 million people.

Of those, 12 million are people who inject drugs and 14 percent of this population lives with HIV.

UNODC’s Executive Director Yury Fedotov noted the significance of such a comprehensive review, stating: “The 2016 World Drug Report highlights support for the comprehensive, balanced and integrated rights-based approaches.”

However, Kasia Malinowska, Director of Open Society Foundation’s (OSF) Global Drug Policy Program, expressed her disappointment in the document.

“It is really important that we stop thinking of it as a drug problem but that we look at it as a problem of severe underdevelopment in some regions." -- Kasia Malinowska.

“It’s a little bit of business as usual,” she told IPS.

She particularly pointed to the lack of recognition of drug prohibition policies.

For instance, in the report, UNODC notes that drug-associated violence is higher in Latin America than in Asia. Malinowska told IPS that this overlooks a history of militarised narcotics interventions in Latin America that did not exist in Asia.

In the 1990s, the United States funded anti-narcotics police operations in Colombia which contributed to a spike in drug-fuelled violence as well as the longest war in the Western hemisphere which killed over 220,000 civilians.

Although the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP signed a historic ceasefire agreement this week, Colombia continues to be a major coca and cocaine producing country.

“My question is how have external actors contributed to violence…and there is no recognition of that bigger context, and that’s the problem with the report,” Malinowska told IPS.

“It does not take responsibility of how much current prohibitionist policies have contributed to that problem,” she continued.

Malinowska highlighted the need to recognize that prohibition is not the only way to address drugs, and that policies must be contextualised according to the wellbeing of countries’ own citizens rather than international conventions.

UNODC’s Director of Policy Analysis and Public Affairs Jean-Luc Lemahieu echoed similar sentiments during a briefing, stating that “not one shoe fits all.”

He pointed to Netherlands and Sweden as two examples.

In the Netherlands, the government implemented a “separation of markets” approach, which separated cannabis from other hard drugs. Its aim was to limit exposure and access to harder drugs.

This proved to be a success for the country as cannabis use remained low. The Dutch government also invested in treatment, prevention and harm reduction approaches which helped it to maintain low rates of HIV among people who use drugs and low rate of problem drug use.

Sweden, on the other hand, implemented more restrictive drug policies that punish drug use and curb drug supply. UNODC noted that the country’s approach is a “success” as it has low rates of drug abuse and needle-associated HIV transmission.

Both Lemahieu and Malinowska also stressed the need to integrate sustainable development with global drug policy.

In the report, UNODC recognized the contribution of poverty and lack of sustainable livelihoods to the cultivation of crops such as coca leaves.

“Illicit drug cultivation and manufacturing can be eradicated only if policies aimed at the overall social, economic and environmental development communities,” the report states.

Malinowska, however, told IPS of the need to offer “proper” choices and opportunities to poor smallholder farmers engaged in the drug economy. Though not everyone may choose other economic activities, she remarked that no one has tried the approach.

“What we need is thoughtful, sustainable development…we are using the same matrix, the same paradigm, the same language and that really needs to dramatically change,” she said.

“It is really important that we stop thinking of it as a drug problem but that we look at it as a problem of severe underdevelopment in some regions,” Malinowska concluded.

The World Drug Report 2016 has been published following the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in April.

During the launch of the report, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson described it as an issue of “common global concern” that affects all nations and sectors of society.

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Ethiopia-Eritrea: The Cry of the Imburihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-eritrea-the-cry-of-the-imburi/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopia-eritrea-the-cry-of-the-imburi http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-eritrea-the-cry-of-the-imburi/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 13:48:45 +0000 Rene Wadlow http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145791 The author is member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and of its Task Force on the Middle East, is president and U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.]]> Map derived from a United Nations map. Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons.

Map derived from a United Nations map. Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons.

By Rene Wadlow
GENEVA, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

The 12 June 2016 exchange of artillery fire along the heavily militarized frontier between Ethiopia and Eritrea could be just one of the periodic skirmishes between the two States. However, it could be the first signs of a flare up of violence. There have been calls from the United Nations and African Union officials for “restraint” but as yet no steps for real conflict resolution.

The Imburi are spirits that are said to inhabit the forests of Gabon in Equatorial Africa and who cry out for those who can hear them at times of impending violence or danger.

The artillery exchange with several hundred killed may be a cry of the Imburi and the need for more creative attention to the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict – all the more so that the armed conflicts in Yemen and Somalia have implications for both Eritrea and Ethiopia.

There was a long and often violent run up to the 1993 independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. Eritrea was never a “colony” of Ethiopia but rather a loosely integrated Provence within a very decentralized state-system of Ethiopia.

Rene Wadlow

Rene Wadlow

Thus the frontiers of Eritrea had never been set by history. Rather the 1993 independence agreement set some frontiers, but these were not marked on the ground and were contested by some in both States.

The frontier issue plus, no doubt, resentments from the long years of independence struggles, led to a brief but violent war between 1998 and 2000, leaving an estimated 70,000 dead and many wounded.

The war led to a strong militarization of Eritrea n society with long, compulsory military service and a permanent war-footing for the society.

These militarized conditions of life with little socio-economic development and little possibility of freedom of speech or association have led many Eritreans, especially the young, trying to leave the country for Europe.

Ethiopia has had a powerful and politically important army since the end of the Second World War. The army was the one national institution in a decentralized State where many of the provinces were based on different ethnic groups. The Ethiopian army remains strong and has been often used by the African Union in its peacekeeping efforts.

The frontier issue between the two countries was taken for arbitration to the World Court, but the Court’s findings have not been put into practice. The lands contested are of no particular economic or social importance. They are contested just because each State attaches disproportionate importance to a frontier.

Intelligent leadership on both sides could make of the frontier lands a bridge rather than a wall, but intelligent leadership has been in short supply. As the African Union headquarters is in Ethiopia, the AU secretariat has been inactive on the Ethiopia-Eritrea issue for fear of displeasing Ethiopia.

The political and economic situation in the Horn of Africa is ever more complex. Domestic and external drivers of conflict are increasingly intermeshed.

The problem of the State-collapse in Somalia and the war in Yemen make matters ever more complicated.

The prolonged failure of the inter-State institutions – the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union – to deal creatively with the Ethiopia-Eritrea divides may open a door for creative non-governmental Track II efforts.

One must hope that the cries of the Imburi are heard.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 June 2016: TMS: Ethiopia-Eritrea: The Cry of the Imburi.

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Let 5-year-old Sherry Tell You How Handwashing with Soap Saves Liveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/let-5-year-old-sherry-tell-you-how-handwashing-with-soap-saves-lives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=let-5-year-old-sherry-tell-you-how-handwashing-with-soap-saves-lives http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/let-5-year-old-sherry-tell-you-how-handwashing-with-soap-saves-lives/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 12:59:11 +0000 Myriam Sidibe and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145787 Dr Myriam Sidibe is the Social Mission Director for Africa at Unilever. Siddharth Chatterjee is the UNFPA Representative to Kenya and the UN Resident Coordinator a.i.]]> Eunice, an expectant mother in Migori County in Kenya.  Photo Credit: Lifebuoy

Eunice, an expectant mother in Migori County in Kenya. Photo Credit: Lifebuoy

By Dr Myriam Sidibe and Siddharth Chatterjee
Migori County, Kenya, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

For twenty-six year old Eunice from Migori County,Kenya, celebrating her daughter Sherry’s fifth birthday is a milestone that few of her friends have enjoyed. As with many areas of Africa, a child born in Migori is seven times more likely to die before the age of five, compared to a child in Europe.

Despite recent gains in improving maternal and child survival rates in Africa, the continent still rates the lowest in the world. In Kenya, child mortality stands at 52 per 1000 live births and more than 6000 mothers die every year giving birth

For many mothers like Eunice, the survival of a baby is often a hit or miss , four in ten newborn babies die within the first 28 days of life. These first days are when newborns are highly susceptible to infections such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and septicaemia, which require hospital treatment or intensive care in severe cases.

With almost one third of women in Kenya giving birth away from health facilities, it is easy to see how the odds of survival are poor. Due to different factors such as infrastructure and culture, many mothers opt to deliver their babies in less than hygienic conditions.

The same factors that drive child deaths around the country are similarly keeping maternal mortality rates high in counties like Migori. A recent survey by The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and partners showed that Migori is one of only six counties responsible for about half of Kenya’s maternal mortality burden.

A remarkably sad fact is that many of these deaths could be prevented by the simple intervention of providing proper hygiene facilities. According to statistics, nearly 1,000 children die each day due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases.

Just getting a child to reach five years has been associated with overall improved child survival rates, and this is why corporates like Lifebuoy have moved to inspire the simple life-saving habit of handwashing with soap.

Lifebuoy has released their latest Help a Child Reach 5 film which will be broadcast in Migori as part of the campaign to raise awareness on the importance of handwashing with soap, a habit that experts have called ‘the world’s best vaccine’.

The data on this highly affordable habit cannot be more astounding. According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), only three in ten households in the country have a place for hand washing. In western Kenya where Migori County is located, this figure is even lower.

Combining this practice with low cost interventions such as immunisation, family planning, delivery under skilled care, early initiation of and exclusive breastfeeding and umbilical cord care are promising solutions that can reduce up to 70 percent of newborn deaths.

A report by several partners including the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and UNFPA recently called for better coordination between those promoting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes and the maternal health sector. It is a message that must continue to be advocated not only to mothers, but also to those in health care who handle mothers and infants.

More than 150 years ago, a Swiss doctor Ignasz Semmelweiss found that poor hand hygiene of healthcare providers correlated with an increase in postpartum infections among mothers. Studies that are more recent have shown that simply handwashing with soap during critical occasions in new born care can reduce new born deaths by up to 44 percent.

Handwashing with soap offers protection against pandemic flu, SARS, trachoma and parasitic worm infections. It keeps children in school and reduces infections that mothers and babies may contract during delivery and postnatal care. AIDS patients who wash their hands with soap regularly report significantly less cases of diarrhoea.

Access to good hygiene, including handwashing with soap, is an important indicator in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fact is that there is a lot of ground to be covered, not only in households but also in our health facilities. A WHO report last year for instance found that 38% of healthcare facilities in 54 low-income countries are without a decent water source.

It is time to begin seeing the provision of clean water and sanitation not only as delivery of hygiene infrastructure, but also as an essential part of infection prevention and therefore a simple way to improve quality of care for mothers and newborns.

The First Lady of Kenya, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, launched the ‘Beyond Zero Campaign’ to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies in Kenya. UNFPA Kenya called on government officials, donors and civil society partners to commit resources towards improving maternal and newborn care in the country. However, the challenge remains: how do counties in Kenya implement measures on a large scale?

It therefore calls for effective partnerships between central governments, local governments NGOs and the private sector. Such strategic public-private partnerships will enable the governments to tap into the expertise and efficiencies offered by the private sector.

There are numerous collateral gains from improved maternal and child survival rates, not least being the confidence for parents that pregnancy and childbirth is not a gamble with the life of the mother or baby.

It will mean that girls like Sherry can be joined by many of their peers in celebrating their fifth birthdays, looking forward to joining school, to making many friends, and to growing up healthy and happy.

After all, this is what all parents would wish for their children.

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Bringing Back Our Girls Is Not The End of The Storyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:08:13 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145779 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/feed/ 0 Political Crisis Looms in Nicaragua in Run-Up to Electionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/political-crisis-looms-in-nicaragua-in-run-up-to-elections/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=political-crisis-looms-in-nicaragua-in-run-up-to-elections http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/political-crisis-looms-in-nicaragua-in-run-up-to-elections/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 17:17:40 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145780 President Daniel Ortega (standing a right) at the Sixth National Sandinista Congress, held June 4, which unanimously proclaimed him the Sandinista Party candidate for president of Nicaragua for the seventh time in a row. On the high rise building, Nicaraguan revolutionary hero Augusto César Sandino (1895-1934) is depicted in silhouette. Credit: La Voz del Sandinismo

President Daniel Ortega (standing a right) at the Sixth National Sandinista Congress, held June 4, which unanimously proclaimed him the Sandinista Party candidate for president of Nicaragua for the seventh time in a row. On the high rise building, Nicaraguan revolutionary hero Augusto César Sandino (1895-1934) is depicted in silhouette. Credit: La Voz del Sandinismo

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

The seventh consecutive nomination of Daniel Ortega as the governing party’s candidate to the presidency in Nicaragua, and the withdrawal from the race of a large part of the opposition, alleging lack of guarantees for genuine elections, has brought about the country’s worst political crisis since the end of the civil war in 1990.

President Ortega, a 72-year-old former guerrilla fighter, has been the elected head of this Central American since 2007, and is seeking reelection in the general elections scheduled for November 6. If he wins his term of office will be extended to 2021, by which time he will have served a record breaking 19 years, longer even than that of former dictator Anastasio Somoza García whoruled the country for over 16 years.

He is standing again this year in spite of already having served two consecutive terms as president, thanks to a ruling by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN)-controlled Supreme Court (CSJ).

The CSJ determined in 2011 that an article in the constitution banning indefinite reelection was a violation of Ortega’s right to be a candidate. Thus the highest court in the land struck down the constitutional ban against immediate reelection of serving presidents who have served out their term of office.The future situation “will depend on the opposition’s power to create instability in the electoral system, after announcing its official withdrawal from the contest.” - Humberto Meza

Ortega’s electoral hopes were further boosted on June 15, when the opposition National Coalition for Democracy (CND) was elbowed out of the race: their most promising leader, Luis Callejas, was dropped as a presidential candidate.

Earlier the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) cancelled the legal status of the leadership of the Independent Liberation Party (PLI), the largest member of the Coalition, and handed over PLI representation instead to a political faction supportive of the FSLN.

In the view of the opposition and other domestic movements, these measures have undermined the country’s democratic institutions and cast a shadow of doubt over the validity of the elections themselves.

Social scientist Nicolás López Maltez, a member of Nicaragua’s Academy of Geography and History, said that the way Ortega has pursued his presidential aspirations is unparalleled in Central America in the past 150 years.

“He has been a candidate in seven consecutive elections since 1984. He lost in 1990, 1996 and 2001; then he won the elections in 2006, 2011 and is now an official candidate for 2016,” López Maltez told IPS.

Ortega first came to power in 1979 when FSLN guerrillas ousted the last member of the Somoza dynasty of dictators who ruled the country with an iron fist for 43 years.

He was the coordinator of the Junta of National Reconstruction, the provisional government (1979-1984) installed by the Sandinista rebels following their victory against Anastasio Somoza Junior. Ortega stood for president for the first time in 1984 in the first elections called by the Sandinistas and was elected for the five-year term 1985-1990.

He lost the 1990 elections which marked the climax of a civil war in which armed opposition to the Sandinista revolution received political and military pressure from the United States.

According to López Maltez and other analysts, Ortega has taken control of all government branches, and is therefore practically assured of victory at the ballot boxes in November.

If this happens, then by 2018 Ortega will become the longest serving president of Nicaragua, outlasting the terms in office of liberal former general José Santos Zelaya (1893-1909) and Anastasio Somoza García (1937-1947 and 1950-1956) who each served for 16 years and a few months.

The Somoza dynasty wielded absolute power in Nicaragua from 1937 to 1979. Three members of two generations of this family – or their puppet allies – perpetuated their oppressive and corrupt dictatorship for 43 years.

Pollsters agree that President Ortega enjoys wide social support and the confidence of by groups such as private business and the police and military corps.

In May, M&R Consultores published survey results indicating that 77.6 percent of respondents backed Ortega, and 63.7 percent of voters said they would cast their ballots for his socialist FSLN party.

“Over the last 15 years several Latin American presidents have overturned the myth, previously regarded as incontrovertible by political scientists, that the region’s presidents enjoy high approval levels when they enter office, but high disapproval levels when they leave,” the head of the M&R consultancy, Raúl Obregon, told IPS.

In his view, there are several reasons why Ortega is one of the exceptions to the rule.

In the first place, he said, Ortega’s prospects are enhanced by the fading of popular fears that the FSLN would cause another war if they were returned to power, a fear much played upon by the opposition in the 1990, 1996 and 2001 election campaigns.

Secondly, he said, Ortega has followed sound macroeconomic policies and this is recognised by both domestic and international organisations.

The rolling out of social projects for poverty reduction has benefited the most vulnerable members of society.

Rightwing parties governed the country between 1990 and 2007, but they have now been torn apart owing to internal conflicts, and they have lost influence among the electorate.

“They are out of touch with the problems and needs of the people. They talk politics while the population wants to hear proposals to solve their main problems, namely unemployment and lack of access to basic necessities,” Obregón emphasised.

Thirty-eight percent of Nicaragua’s 6.2 million people live in poverty, according to international organisations. The 2012 electoral register identifies 4.5 million registered voters.

Despite the picture painted by the polls, opposition politicians accuse Ortega of manipulating the laws and institutions in his favour to ensure the outcome of the election and secure his continued grasp on power.

Opposition sectors claim the results of municipal elections in 2008 and of the 2011 general elections were fraudulent. Observers from the U.S. Carter Center and from the European Union observers/ said they lacked transparency.

This year a number of civil society organisations and other institutions, including the private sector and the Roman Catholic Church, have asked Ortega for greater political openness and for international observers to monitor the elections to guarantee fair play.

But in May Ortega decided not to invite international or local electoral observers, whom he referred to as “shameless scoundrels.”

After that came the move against the PLI leadership, followed in June by the engineering of the disqualification of the candidate nominated by the CND coalition, an umbrella group for the main opposition forces.

CND leaders said they were abandoning the contest in order to avoid being involved in an “electoral farce.”

These events rang alarm bells at international organisations as well as for the secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, a native of Uruguay.

Humberto Meza, who holds a doctorate in social sciences, said that Ortega’s stratagems to perpetuate himself in power “will drastically affect the legitimacy of the elections,” no matter how high his popularity rating.

The Supreme Court “is condemning a vast number of voters to non participation in the electoral process,” he told IPS.

The aftermath, in Meza’s view, “will depend on the opposition’s power to create instability in the electoral system, after announcing its official withdrawal from the contest.”

“Nicaragua is polarised. Many people are critical of but remain silence for fear of official reprisals,” he said.

Democratic institutions are fragile now to an extent not seen since 1990, Meza said.

However, “democracy has plenty of other options for self-nurture apart from the voting mechanism,” he said. “Apparently a large sector of the opposition is placing its hopes in these alternatives.”

Meza said the concern expressed by the OAS secretary general and any pressure exerted by the international community, led by the United States, were unlikely to have “much impact” on Nicaragua’s  domestic crisis.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez. Translated by Valerie Dee

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UN Staff Unions Demand Stronger Action on Sexual Abusehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:04:35 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145767 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/feed/ 0 Worldwide Displacement At Levels Never Seen Beforehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:35:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145762 A family living in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: Annabell Van den Berghe/IPS

A family living in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: Annabell Van den Berghe/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

Displacement has increased to unprecedented levels due to war and persecution, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has found.

In a new report, entitled Global Trends which tracks forced displacement globally, UNHCR found that 65.3 million were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59 million just 12 months earlier. This is the first time in the organisation’s history that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.

Globally, 1 in every 113 people is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee. This represents a population greater than the United Kingdom and would be the 21st largest country in the world.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi during the launch of the report.

Though the Syrian conflict continues to generate a large proportion of refugees in the world and garners significant international attention, other reignited conflicts have been contributing to the unprecedented rise in displacement including Iraq.

Iraq currently has the third-largest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and alongside Yemen and Syria, the Middle Eastern nation accounts for more than half of all new internal displacements.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too.” -- Filippo Grandi.

By the end of 2015, there were 4.4 million Iraqi IDPs, compared to 3.6 million at the end of 2014. At least one million of these IDPs have been displaced since conflicts in the mid-2000s.

Displacement has increased even further following a government military offensive against the Islamic State in May with more than 85,000 Iraqis fleeing from the Iraqi city of Falluja and its surrounding areas. Approximately 60,000 of these fled over a period of just three days between 15 to 18 June.

Despite the figures, UNHCR continues to struggle to secure funding to meet the needs of Iraqis.

Halfway through the year, the agency has so far only received 21 percent of funds needed for Iraq and the surrounding region.

“Funds are desperately needed to expand the number of camps and to provide urgently needed relief supplies for displaced people who have already endured months of deprivation and hardship without enough food or medicine,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery.

Though six camps have already been built and the construction of three more are underway, UNHCR estimates that 20 additional camps will be needed in the coming weeks.

In the Debaga camp in northern Iraq, newly displaced civilians are staying in a severely overcrowded reception centre which is currently seven times above its capacity.

Along with the lack of shelter, insufficient hygiene facilities and clean drinking water is creating a “desperate situation,” Rummery said.

And displacement may only get worse, she added.

“It is estimated that more than a million people still live in Mosul and any large offensive against the city could result in the displacement of up to 600,000 more people,” Rummery stated.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Iraq is classified as a level-three emergency, which signifies the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crisis.

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Xenophobic Rhetoric, Now Socially and Politically ‘Acceptable’ ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:09:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145759 Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

“Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to be becoming more socially and politically acceptable.”

The warning has been heralded by the authoritative voice of Mogens Lykketoft, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, who on World Refugee Day on June 20, reacted to the just announced new record number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution.

In fact, while last year their number exceeded 60 million for the first time in United Nations history, a tally greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, the Global Trends 2015 report now notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier.

The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries, says the new report, which has been compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, 1 in every 113 people globally is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced, putting them at a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent, the report adds.

On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.

And Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million, according to the new Global Trends report.

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck


Distressingly, children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or travelling alone, the UN reported.

Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Is So Loud…

On this, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon stressed that meanwhile, “divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, rising xenophobia, and restrictions on access to asylum have become increasingly visible in certain regions, and the spirit of shared responsibility has been replaced by a hate-filled narrative of intolerance.”

With anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, he said, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome.

For his part, Mogens Lykketoft, UN General Assembly President, alerted that “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are of grave concern… Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to becoming more socially and politically acceptable…”

The UN General Assembly’s president warning against the rising wave of extremism and hatred, came just a week after a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’ strong statement before the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016).

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers,” the High Commissioner on June 13 warned.

De-Radicalisation

Against this backdrop and the need to find ways how to halt and even prevent the growing waves of extremism of all kinds, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on June 23 organised a panel themed Deradicalisation or the Roll-Back of Extremism.

IPS asked Algerian diplomat Idriss Jazairy, Board Member of the Geneva Centre, about the concept of this panel he moderated.

“Violent extremism, which sprang up in what might be perceived here as remoter parts of the world during the last part of the XXth century, has spread its dark shadow worldwide and is henceforth sparing no region… And with it, wanton deaths and desolation.”

He then explained that unregulated access to lethal weapons in some countries make matters worse. Violent extremism fuels indiscriminate xenophobic responses. “These in turn feed the recruitment propaganda of terrorist groups competing for world attention.”

According to the panel moderator, it seems at first sight that conflict is intensifying. “In fact what is happening is that it has changed its nature from more or less predictable classical inter-State or civil conflict to a generalisation of unpredictable ad hoc violence by terrorist groups randomising victims and outbidding one another in criminal horror.”

Thus casualties are not more numerous than was the case in the past, with some important exceptions such as Algeria during the Dark Decade of the ‘nineties, said Jazairy.

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab


“Yet their impact is greater because attacks spread more fear among ordinary people and reporting on these crimes is echoed instantly across the world. The danger of polarisation of societies is thereby enhanced and peace is jeopardised.”

This meets the ultimate goal of terrorist violence, he added, while stressing that such violence has ceased to be simply a national or regional challenge. “It is now of worldwide concern. A concern that calls for immediate security responses with due respect for human rights of course.”

Jazairy explained that the panel has been intended to contribute to the maturing of such strategies and to rolling back violent extremism, xenophobic populism fuelled by it and that the latter in turn further exacerbates.

Understanding the Genesis of Violent Extremism

According to the panel moderator, understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not tantamount to excusing it despite what some politicians claim. It is a precondition to providing a smart and durable policy response, rather than a dumb crowd-pleasing short-term knee-jerk reaction, he added.

“True there is no single explanation to the emergence of violent extremism… Street crime in overpopulated cities may be its incubator.”

On this, Jazairy explained that in the South, high rates of youth unemployment and shortfalls in the respect of basic freedoms together with inadequate governance may be relevant considerations. In the North, he added, glass ceilings and marginalisation of minority groups and the desire of youths feeling powerless to develop an alternative identity and to become all-powerful, may also be at issue.

The former head of a UN agency then warned that understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not a philosophical debate as it ties in with the issue of how to “de-radicalise”.

In Belgium, he said, it has been claimed that condemnations in absentia of home grown terrorists that have joined Daesh (Islamic State) has pushed some to not return home with a group of others for fear of the penalty, thus radicalising them further.

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African Fisheries Plundered by Foreign Fleetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 12:24:12 +0000 Christopher Pala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145753 Artisanal fisheries are being hit by subsidised, foreign vessels. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

Artisanal fisheries are being hit by subsidised, foreign vessels. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

By Christopher Pala
WASHINGTON, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

In 2011, Dyhia Belhabib was a volunteer in the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver when she was asked to participate in the Sea Around Us’s project to determine how much fish had been taken out of the world’s oceans since 1950 in order to better avoid depleting the remaining populations of fish.

Belhabib had studied fisheries science in her native Algeria, so she was initially asked to oversee the Algeria component. She ended up leading the research in 24 countries. And though she was an expert and an African, over the next five years, the world of African fisheries took her from surprise to surprise, many of them disquieting, just like Voltaire’s Candide. And echoing Pangloss, who repeats “All is for the best in the best of possible worlds” to a Candide dismayed at the state of the world, the Food and Agriculture Organization insisted the world catch was “practically stable.”

“The most depressing thing for me was the realization that African countries got no benefit at all from all the foreign fleets,” she said. “In fact, the fishing communities suffered a lot, and in most places, the only people who made money were the government officials who sold the fishing licenses.”

The study found that the global catch was 40 percent higher than the FAO reported and is falling at three times the agency’s rate. But under this picture of decline, Belhabib uncovered a dazzling array of cheating methods that highlighted the low priority most governments place on fisheries management – and implicitly on the health of the people who depend on the sea for most of their animal protein.

When Belhabib started with Algeria, she was puzzled to see that the government reported to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) that between 2001 and 2006, it had fished 2,000 tons of bluefin tuna on average, and yet reported to the FAO that it had caught almost none. Belhabib discovered that for once, the FAO’s zero catch was not a metaphor for “We have no data,” as the study found in many countries. In fact, undeterred by the fact the Algerian fishermen didn’t know how to fish tuna with long-line vessels, the government had simply bought some boats and sold their quotas to countries that did, notably Japan and Italy.

The next country she tackled was Morocco, which took over the Western Sahara in 1975 over the objections of its nomadic people and the international community. The territory has unusually rich waters and two-thirds of Morocco’s catch comes from there. The study estimated the local value of the catch since 1950 at 100 billion dollars, but since it was almost entirely sold in Europe at twice the price, the real value of the catch was 200 billion dollars.

Had the Moroccan government insisted that foreign fleets pay 20 percent of that value, as the EU claims it does today in Morocco (in fact, the study found it pays 5 percent), it could have received a revenue stream of one billion dollars a year, which, had it gone entirely to the Western Sahara, would have doubled the GDP per capita of 2,500 dollars a year for its 500,000 people. Under the current agreement, the EU pays 180 million dollars for access to all of Morocco’s waters, or 120 million dollars for access to the Western Sahara’s waters. How much actually goes to the territory is unclear. Other nations pay far less.

Mauritania has a fleet of locally flagged Russian and Chinese large trawlers that haul in whole schools of small blue-water fish called sardinella. The coast is studded with idle processing plants built to turn them into fish meal, which is used as animal feed. Belhabib discovered that the ships were reporting to the government only a tiny fraction of their actual haul – some of it illegally taken from neighboring countries and selling the rest for higher prices in Europe. “The authorities had no idea,” she said. “They thought their fleet were landing and reporting their whole catch.”

In Senegal, which unlike Mauritania has a strong tradition of fishing, President Macky Sall expelled the Russians in 2012 because their ships had depleted the populations of sardinella, infuriating many Senegalese. “The Russians just got licenses in Guinea Bissau and went back to Senegal and continued to fish, though not as much,” Belhabib said.

The Senegal reconstruction also documented how the European bottom-trawlers severely depleted the country’s near-shore. As population pressure increased demand for cheap fish, the number of artisanal fishermen soared, and many went to work up the coast in Mauritania, where few people fish. But a conflict in 1989 with Mauritania resulted in the expulsion of thousands of Senegalese fishermen, even as the industrial fleets were increasing their catch off both countries, most of it stolen.

Out of desperation, hundreds of Senegalese fishermen and dozens of canoes over the past decade have been boarding Korean and Portuguese converted trawlers that drop them off near the coasts of other countries. There, they illegally drop baited hooks into underwater canyons out of the reach of bottom trawlers where large, high-value fish can still be taken. These spots, marine biologists say, have served as marine reserves, places where coveted, overfished species could reproduce unhindered – and are now being depleted too, pushing the stocks closer to collapse.

Belhabib’s team also discovered to her horror that subsidized European Union fleets had flocked to the waters of countries weakened by civil war, notably Sierra Leone and Liberia, increasing their stolen catch when the people needed cheap protein most.

They found that South Africa made no attempt to control or even report the extensive fishery in the rich waters off its Namibian colony; in 1969, for example, 4.8 million tons of fish worth 6.2 million dollars were caught, but only 13 tons were reported to the FAO. Today, Namibia has the best-managed fishery in Africa after effectively banning foreign-flagged fleets

Finally, examinations of illegal fishing determined that Spain, whose seafood consumption is double the European average, steals more fish than any other nation, followed by China and Japan.

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Fearing Violence, LGBT Refugees Rarely Seek Helphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 04:28:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145751 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/feed/ 0 Latin America and the Caribbean: What does it take to prevent people from falling back into povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 18:06:56 +0000 Jessica Faieta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145748 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty/feed/ 0 Aquaculture Meets Agriculture on Bangladesh’s Low-Lying Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 12:25:31 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145746 Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
BHOLA, Bangladesh, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

A continuous influx of sea water is threatening agriculture and food security in vast coastal areas of Bangladesh, but farmers are finding ways to adapt, like cultivating fish and crops at the same time.

The coastal and offshore areas of this low-lying, densely populated country include tidal estuaries and river floodplains in the south along the Bay of Bengal. Here the arable land is about 30 percent of the total available in the country.

In a recent study, experts observed that salinity intrusion due to reduction of freshwater flow from upstream, salinization of groundwater and fluctuation of soil salinity are major concerns and could seriously hamper country’s food production.

According to salinity survey findings, salinity monitoring information, and interpretation of Land and Soil Resource Utilization Guides, about one million hectares, or about 70 percent of cultivated lands of the southern coastal areas of Bangladesh, are affected by various degrees of soil salinity.

It is already predicted that if the current trend of climate change continues, rice production could fall by 10 percent and wheat by 30 percent.

Dr. Mohiuddin Chowdhury, principal scientific officer of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute or BARI, told IPS, “We are indeed greatly concerned by the loss of arable land in the coastal areas that is already happening and the future from the past trends looks bleak.”

Dr. Chowdhury explained that salinity in the coastal regions has a direct relation with temperature. If the temperature rises, the soil loses moisture and the salt from tidal or storm surges becomes concentrated, which results in crops wilting or dying – a phenomenon that is is already widely evident.

Dr. Chowdhury stressed adaptation measures and crop management, since at this point, climate change “cannot be avoided, but we have to live with it.”

Salinity in Bangladesh, one of the countries worst affected by decades of sea level rise, causes an unfavorable environment that restricts normal crop production throughout the year. The freshly deposited alluviums from upstream in the coastal areas of Bangladesh become saline as it comes in contact with the sea water and continues to be inundated during high tides and ingress of sea water through creeks.

A study found that the affected area increased from 8,330 square km in 1973 to 10,560 square km in 2009, according to the Soil Resource Development Institute in 2010.

Despite efforts to increase resilience, climate challenges continue to result in large economic losses, retarding economic growth and slowing progress in reducing poverty.

To confront the challenges, farming communities in the coastal areas that always relied on traditional agricultural practices are now shifting to research-based farming technology that promises better and safer food production.

The chief of BARI, Dr. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam Mondal, who describes climate change as a tragedy, told IPS, “At BARI, we are concentrating on developing agriculture practices towards adaptation to the extreme weathers, particularly in the coastal regions.”

Recognizing the adaptation strategies, BARI, blessed with years of research, has successfully introduced best farming practices in coastal regions. One is called the Sarjan model and is now very popular.

A leading NGO in Bangladesh, the Coastal Association for Social Transformation Trust (COAST), which has over 35 years of experience working mostly in coastal areas, has played a key role in supporting farmers with adaptive measures.

During a recent visit to an island district of Bhola, this correspondent witnessed how COAST in collaboration with the local agriculture department has introduced the farming model that is making huge positive impacts.

Mohammad Jahirul Islam, a senior COAST official in Char Fasson, a remote coastal region barely 30 cms above sea level, told IPS, “The traditional agricultural practices are threatened, largely due to salt water intrusion. High salt concentration is toxic to plants and we are now forced to seek alternative ways of growing crops.”

The Coastal Integrated Technology Extension Programme (CITEP) being implemented by COAST in Char Fasson has been helping farmers since 2003 with alternative farming practices to improve crop production in the face of climate change.

As part of its capacity-building programmes, CITEP encourages farmers to use the Sarjan model of long raised rows of soil about one metre wide and 90 cm high for cultivating varieties of vegetables. The trenches between the rows are filled with water into which various types of fish are released for maturing. The water for irrigating the plants comes from nearby lakes filled with freshwater drawn from the Meghna River.

The advantage of using Sarjan model is that it protects cropland from inundation during storm surges, tidal waves and flash flooding and avoids high salinity.

CITEP project coordinator in Char Fasson, Mizanur Rahman, told IPS, “These lowlands, hardly 25 kms from the sea at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, are prone to tidal waves and storm surges during the seasons. So the recent farming models introduced here have been designed to protect the crops.”

According to Sadek Hossain, a veteran farmer who is already benefitting from the Sarjan model, said it “is safer and gives risk-free crops as the spaces between the crops allow more sunlight exposure and also has far less pest attacks.”

The new farming practice has turned out to be very popular in Char Fasson, where over 9,000 farmers are now using the model. Many farmers have also formed self-help groups where members benefit from sharing each others’ experiences.

Manzurul Islam, a local official of the government’s agriculture department in Char Fasson, told IPS, “At the beginning, the challenges were huge because farmers refused to adapt to the new model. Realising the benefits farmers are now convinced.”

Losses of crops on flat lands are disastrous. Mohammad Joynal recalls how tidal waves three years ago destroyed huge crops. “We were helpless when the crops were inundated on about 5,500 hectares of flat land. The sea water inundation for four months caused all crops to wilt and eventually rot,” said a dishearten face of Joynal.

Hundreds of farmers have been trained using demonstration crop fields on the adaptation techniques. “We have many different models developed to grow crops at different levels of salinity which are already proven successes,” said BARI Director General Dr. Mondol.

Sea level rise is already evident in coastal Bangladesh. Projections show that 97 percent of coastal areas and over 40 million people living in coastal Bangladesh are vulnerable to multiple climate change hazards.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) for 2014, which evaluated the sensitivity of populations, the physical exposure of countries, and governmental capacity to adapt to climate change over the following 30 years, ranks Bangladesh as the number one economy in the world at risk to climate change.

Globally, emissions of carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere are growing at a rate of 5 percent annually, according to a joint publication by COAST and the Equity and Justice Working Group (EJWG) on ‘Climate Change Impact and Disaster Vulnerabilities in the Coastal Areas of Bangladesh’.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of COAST Trust and one of the authors of the joint publication, told IPS, “The impacts of climate change with time would become more acute hitting right at the core of our economy – agriculture on which over 70 percent of our rural population rely on.”

Rezaul, well known for his contributions to development in the coastal regions, added, “We acted early considering the harsh realities of extreme weathers. Introducing the Sarjan model is one of many which we have successfully implemented, building capacities of the local farmers.”

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The Environment: Latin America’s Battleground for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:12:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145737 Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

2015 was the deadliest year on record for the killings of environmental activists around the world, according to a new Global Witness report.

The report, On Dangerous Ground, found that in 2015, 185 people were killed defending the environment across 16 countries, a 59 percent increase from 2014.

“The environment is becoming a new battleground for human rights,” Global Witness’ Campaign Leader for Environmental and Land Defenders Billy Kyte told IPS.

“Many of these activists are being treated as enemies of the state when they should be treated as heroes,” he continued.

The rise in attacks is partially due to the increased demand for natural resources which have sparked conflicts between residents in remote, resource-rich areas and industries such as mining, logging and agribusinesses.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world." -- Billy Kyte.

Among the most dangerous regions for environmental activists is Latin America, where over 60 percent of killings in 2015 occurred. In Brazil, 50 environmental defenders were killed, the world’s highest death toll.

A majority of the murders in Brazil took place in the biodiverse Amazon states where the encroachment of ranches, agricultural plantations and illegal loggers has led to a surge in violence.

The report stated that criminal gangs often “terrorise” local communities at the behest of “timber companies and the officials they have corrupted.”

The most recent murder was of Antônio Isídio Pereira da Silva, the leader of a small farming community in the Amazonian Maranhão state. Isídio suffered years of assassination attempts and death threats for defending his land from illegal loggers and other land grabbers. Despite appeals, he never received protection and police have never investigated his murder.

Indigenous communities, who depend on the forests for their livelihood, particularly bear the brunt of the violence. Almost 40 percent of environmental activists killed were from indigenous groups.

Eusebio Ka’apor, member of the Ka’apor indigenous tribe living in Maranhão state, was shot and killed by two hooded men on a motorbike. He led patrols to monitor and shutdown illegal logging on the Ka’apor ancestral lands.

One Ka’apor leader told Survival International, an indigenous human rights organisation, that loggers have said to them that it is better to surrender the wood than let “more people die.”

“We don’t know what to do, because we have no protection. The state does nothing,” the leader said.

Thousands of illegal logging camps have been set up across the Amazon to cut down valuable timber such as mahogany, ebony and teak. It is estimated that 80 percent of timber from Brazil is illegal and accounts for 25 percent of illegal wood on global markets, most of which is sold to buyers in the United States, United Kingdom and China.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world,” Kyte stated.

Kyte also pointed to a “growing collusion” between corporate and state interests and high levels of corruption as reasons for the attacks on environmental defenders.

This is reflected through the ongoing corruption case involving the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam which continued despite concerns over the project’s environmental and community impact and was used to generate over $40 million for political parties.

Even in the face of a public scandal, Kyte noted that environmental legislation has continued to weaken in the country.

The new interim Brazilian government, led by former Vice President Michel Temer, has proposed an amendment that would diminish its environmental licensing process for infrastructure and development mega-projects in order to revive Brazil’s faltering economy.

Currently, Brazil has a three-phase procedure where at each step, a project can be halted due to environmental concerns.

Known as PEC 65, the amendment proposes that industries only submit a preliminary environmental impact statement. Once that requirement is met, projects cannot be delayed or cancelled for environmental reasons.

The weakening of key human rights institutions also poses a threat to the environment and its defenders.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), whose goal is to address and investigate human rights issues in Latin America, is currently facing a severe funding deficit that could lead to the loss of 40 percent of its personnel by the end of July, impacting the ability to continue its work. It has already suspended its country visits and may be forced to halt its investigations.

Many countries in Latin America have halted financial support to the commission due to disputes over investigations and findings.

In 2011, IACHR requested that Brazil “immediately suspend the licensing” for the Belo Monte project in order to consult with and protect indigenous groups. In response, the Brazilian government broke off ties with IACHR by withdrawing its funding and recalling its ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), which implements IACHR.

“It’s a huge crisis,” Kyte told IPS.

While speaking to the Human Rights Council in May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed concern over budget cuts to IACHR, stating: “When the Inter-American Commission announces it has to cut its personnel by forty percent – and when States have already withdrawn from it and the Inter-American Court…then do we really still have an international community? When the threads forming it are being tugged away and the tapestry, our world, is unravelling? Or are there only fragmented communities of competing interests – strategic and commercial – operating behind a screen of feigned allegiance to laws and institutions?”

He called on member states to defend and financially support the commission, which he noted was an “important strategic partner and inspiration for the UN system.”

In its report, Global Witness urged Brazil and other Latin American governments to protect environmental activists, investigate crimes against activists, expose corporate and political interests that lie behind the persecution of land defenders, and formally recognize land and indigenous rights.

Kyte particularly highlighted the need for international investigations to expose the killings of environmental activists and those responsible for them.

He pointed to the murder of Berta Cáceres, an environmental and indigenous leader in Honduras, which gained international attention and outrage.

“It’s a positive step that because of international outrage, the Honduran government was compelled to arrest these killers,” he said.

“If we can push for an international investigation into her death, which I think is the only way that the real criminal masterminds behind her death will be held to account, then that could act as an example for future cases,” Kyte concluded.

In March, Cáceres, who campaigned against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, was shot in her home by two armed men from the Honduras’ military.

A whistleblower alleges that Cáceres was on a hit list given to U.S.-trained units of the Honduran military.

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Yoga Unites the UN for Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 23:03:39 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145731 'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev leads yoga at the UN on International Yoga Day. Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS.

'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev leads yoga at the UN on International Yoga Day. Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS.

By Valentina Ieri
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

The word yoga means “unite” in Sanskrit, and the Indian government hopes that the ancient practice will help United Nations member states to work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The International Day of Yoga was celebrated here Tuesday with an outdoor yoga session led by Indian yoga master ‘Sadhguru’ Jaggi Vasudev.

“How can (we) transform the world without transforming human beings?” asked Vasudev, who is also founder of the Isha Foundation, an international non-profit organisation. “It is only by transforming individuals that a change in the world can be achieved.”

“How can you have a peaceful world if you do not know what inner peace is?” he added. “Yoga is the search for human wellbeing. When you address human wellbeing in a scientific way, that is yoga.”

Syed Akbaruddin, India's Permanent Representative to the UN. "At its core, yoga is as much about mindful thought as it is about mindful action."

Sadhguru’s approach of combining scientific yoga with human wellbeing is part of a long history of yoga being used to promote large-scale socially, sustainably, and culturally appropriate health, education, and environment projects.

One of them is the Project Green Hands, an initiative set up in 2004 with the target of planting over 25 million tree saplings.

“Yoga means that you can transcend the limitations of physical nature and go beyond the form that we are. Once this becomes a living experience, sharing and living together will become a common experience everywhere.”

The Indian yogi continued – “Our common idea of profit is very short term […] But no matter what kind of business we are running, we should turn the customer into our partner, the employee into our partner. Essentially business should be about human well-being.”

The annual celebrations were organised by India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS

Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS

“Yoga, is much more than a physical regimen.” said Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN. “At its core, yoga is as much about mindful thought as it is about mindful action.”

These two yoga pillars – continued Akbaruddin – have a direct bearing on our collective responses to global problems and raising a global consciousness about the 17 SDGs.

Highlighting the potential for yoga to contribute to sustainable development and peace UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said:

“Practicing yoga can also help raise awareness of our role as consumers of the planet’s resources and as individuals with a duty to respect and live in peace with our neighbours.”

“All these elements are essential to building a sustainable future of dignity and opportunity for all.”

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to proclaim June 21 as the International day of Yoga co-sponsored by a 170 member-states. That decision showed the importance of yoga’s social, health and educational aspects.

Not only has yoga gained increasing popularity among youth and adults in different parts of the world, it is also linked to a healthier lifestyle and choice of living.

“Yoga means union between body and mind, between us and other human beings, and between human beings and nature, and it is because of this interdependence and interconnection that we are able to save problems,” said Germán A Bravo-Casas, President of the UN Yoga Club.

“If we are optimistic and change within ourselves”, said Bravo “than we will be able to solve catastrophes such as the contamination of the oceans, climate change, over-population, hunger and poverty”.

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What is Missing on the Global Health Front?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-is-missing-on-the-global-health-front/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 13:54:49 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145722 Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.]]>

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

The last World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva (23-28 May) discussed the manifold global health crises that require urgent attention, and adopted resolutions to act on many issues. We are currently facing many global health related challenges, and as such multiple actions must be taken urgently to prevent these crises from boiling over.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

The WHA is the world’s prime public health event and this year 3,500 delegates from 194 countries took part, including Health Ministers of most countries. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan gave an overview of some of the successes and further work needed on the global health front.

The good news includes 19,000 fewer children dying every day, 44% drop in maternal mortality, 85% of tuberculosis cases that are successfully cured, and the fastest scale-up of a life-saving treatment in history, with over 15 million people living with HIV now receiving therapy, up from just 690,000 in 2000. As a result, aid for health is now far more effective, and the issue of health has become an investment for stable and equitable societies, not just a drain on resources.

The recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks showed how global health emergencies can develop very quickly. There is a dramatic resurgence of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, which the world is currently not prepared to cope with. Dr. Chan gave three examples of the emerging global health emergencies: climate change, antimicrobial resistance, and the rise of chronic-communicable diseases as the leading causes of death worldwide.

Many of the issues addressed are largely anthropogenic, created by policies that place economic interests above health and environmental concerns. Fossil fuels power economies, medicines for treating chronic conditions are more profitable than a short course of antibiotics, and highly processed foods provide longer term profit than fresh fruits and vegetables.

Unchecked, these emergencies will eventually reach a tipping point and become irreversible and as regards antimicrobial resistance, “we are on the verge of a post-antibiotic era in which common infectious diseases will once again kill.” On moving ahead, Dr. Chan highlighted universal health coverage as an essential aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is the ultimate expression of fairness that ensures no one is left behind, and to provide comprehensive care for all.

A question however, was not covered by Dr Chan in her speech; how can some governments- especially in underdeveloped countries, obtain enough funds to finance the idealistic goal of providing healthcare for their citizens?

The Assembly agreed that WHO set up a new Health Emergencies Programme, enabling it to provide rapid, consistent, and comprehensive support to countries and communities facing or recovering from various emergencies, disease outbreaks, disasters or conflicts.

The WHO has produced a new paper to set up a global stewardship framework to support the development, control and appropriate use of new antimicrobial medicines and diagnostic tools to counter the threat of a global increase in antimicrobial resistance. The Secretariat has made quite a lot of progress, but action on the ground is still slow, in the Asia-Pacific region so far, only six countries have completed their national plans and another five have plans that are being developed.

WHO assistant Director-General, Keiji Fukuda said that focus in the upcoming year will include: making progress on the Global Action Plan (established in 2015), further developing the global stewardship framework, and involving political leaders by meeting in the United Nations headquarters in New York in September.

There were two issues on childhood nutrition that highlighted the need to put health concerns above corporate interests. The first of these issues was childhood and adolescent obesity. In 2014, an estimated 41 million children under 5 years were affected by being overweight or obese, and 48% of them lived in Asia and 25% in Africa.

The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity recommended the promotion of healthier foods, reducing the consumption of highly processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages by children and adolescents. It proposed more effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods.

On the second issue, the Assembly welcomed WHO guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children. According to the guidelines, to support breastfeeding, the marketing of “follow-up formula” and “growing-up milks” targeted for babies aged 6 months to 3 years should be regulated in the same manner as infant formula for babies below 6 months.

On access to medicines and vaccines, the WHA agreed on measures to address the global shortage of medicines and vaccines, including monitoring supply and demand, improving procurement systems and improving affordability through voluntary or compulsory licensing of high-priced medicines.

An interesting and well-attended side event was organised by India on behalf of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on the effects of free trade agreements on access to medicines. After remarks from the health ministers of these, the main speaker, American law professor Frederick Abbott, spoke about why the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could make it very difficult for the TPPA members to have access to affordable medicines.

His warning was complemented by the head of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé who estimated that the annual cost of treating 15 million AIDS patients could increase from US$2 to US$150 billion without the availability of generic drugs, costing about US$10,000 per patient annually.

Air pollution and the use of chemicals were other important environmental issues highlighted by the Assembly. Every year, 8 million deaths are attributed to air pollution – 4.3 million indoor and 3.7 million due to outdoor air pollution. The Assembly has also welcomed a new WHO roadmap to respond to the adverse health effects of increasing air pollution.

Since 1.3 million deaths worldwide are caused by exposure to extremely harmful chemicals, among them lead and various pesticides. WHA would like to ensure that the use and production of chemicals is regulated to minimize adverse health and environmental effects by 2020. Some agreed actions include the transfer of expertise, technologies and scientific data, and exchanging good practices to manage chemicals and waste between cooperating countries. WHO will develop a roadmap to meet the 2020 goals and the associated SDG targets.

A controversial issue that has taken two years of negotiations was how WHO should cooperate with non-state actors. The WHA finally adopted the WHO Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA), which provides WHO with policies and procedures to engage with NGOs, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions.

On the one hand, there is the aim to strengthen WHO’s engagement with non-state stakeholders. On the other hand, there is the need for WHO to avoid conflicts of interest that may arise when corporations and their foundations, associations and lobbies wield large and undue influence if they are allowed to get too close to WHO. Many NGOs and several developing countries are concerned about how this corporate influence is undermining WHO’s public health responsibilities, and that FENSA will worsen rather than reverse this trend.

On the health-related Sustainable Development Goals, the Assembly agreed to prioritize universal health coverage; to work with actors outside the health sector to address the social, economic and environmental causes of health problems, including antimicrobial resistance; to expand efforts to address poor maternal and child health, infectious diseases in developing countries; and to put a greater focus on equity within and between countries.

The WHA also adopted many other resolutions on international health regulations including; tobacco control, road traffic deaths and injuries, HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, Mycetoma, integrated health services, the health workforce, the Global Plan of Action on Violence, Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, and healthy ageing.

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Mixed Progress at UN on Rights of Persons with Disabilitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mixed-progress-at-un-on-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mixed-progress-at-un-on-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mixed-progress-at-un-on-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 04:25:25 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145715 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/mixed-progress-at-un-on-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/feed/ 0