Inter Press Service » Featured http://www.ipsnews.net Journalism and Communication for Global Change Wed, 23 Apr 2014 05:03:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Bringing the Bridges Home http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/bringing-bridges-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-bridges-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/bringing-bridges-home/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 05:02:35 +0000 Francesca Dziadek http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133759 As foreign forces withdraw slowly from Afghanistan, they leave behind a vulnerable band of people who were their ears and guides on the ground. These people who served as interpreters, face a life of threats and uncertainties. Many have been killed. Increasingly, linguists, media professionals, NGOs and advocacy groups are stepping up demands for international […]

The post Bringing the Bridges Home appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
A soldier and an Afghan interpreter in a scene from the German film Inbetween Worlds. Credit: Wolfgang Ennenbach/Majestic.

A soldier and an Afghan interpreter in a scene from the German film Inbetween Worlds. Credit: Wolfgang Ennenbach/Majestic.

By Francesca Dziadek
BERLIN, Apr 23 2014 (IPS)

As foreign forces withdraw slowly from Afghanistan, they leave behind a vulnerable band of people who were their ears and guides on the ground. These people who served as interpreters, face a life of threats and uncertainties. Many have been killed.

Increasingly, linguists, media professionals, NGOs and advocacy groups are stepping up demands for international recognition of interpreters’ human rights to safety and sanctuary.

“Leaving them behind is tantamount to a death sentence,” Maya Hess, forensic linguist and head of the advocacy group Red-T supporting translators and interpreters tells IPS. They must be granted protective asylum by the countries employing them, she says."Leaving them behind is tantamount to a death sentence."

Red-T published the first multilingual international Conflict Zone Field Guide in 2002, with a new translation out in March this year. The document, a reference source in the UK’s Ministry of Defence publication ‘Linguistic Support to Operations’ spells out good practice contractual obligations between host nations and language service providers.

Indeed, formalising the rights to safety and security provisions for civilian interpreters and translators in war zones is long overdue.

Between 2007 and 2009, says Hess, Military Essential Personnel, a U.S. defence contractor, confirmed a death toll of 30 interpreters in 30 months. In Iraq, British forces lost 21 interpreters over a 21-day period.

Many more have been injured and have suffered life threats and persecution. The Bundeswehr, the German military, has received more 700 such claims from local employees.

Noor Ahmad Noori (29), an Afghan interpreter who worked formerly for The New York Times in Afghanistan, is among the latest casualties in a long trail of bloodshed among interpreters.

He was abducted and later found beaten and stabbed to death near Lashkar Gah, a Taliban stronghold, in January.

Jawad Wafa (25) a Bundeswehr interpreter with the Kunduz Task Force within the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was found strangled in the boot of a parked vehicle on Nov. 24, 2013. His death came a month after the German armed forces’ withdrawal.

Despite repeated threats he faced, and an entitlement to protective asylum, his documents were not expedited in time.

“Red tapes costs lives,” Hess warns.

Wafa had been invited to the Bundeswehr headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif, and his name was on the list of the 182 permits announced in October 2013 by the Federal Minister for the Interior, Hans Peter Friedrich.

A grinding maze involving a paper shuffle between the Foreign Office in Berlin, the Federal office for Migration and Refugees – which expedites eligibility permits – and the German embassy in Kabul, did not help Wafa.

In 2008, Matt Zeller, a U.S. army captain was saved “in extremis” by Janis Shinwari, his interpreter who shot down Taliban snipers just before they could pull the trigger on Zeller. When his name ended on a Taliban death list, he was swiftly given a U.S. visa thanks to Zeller’s efforts.

A year later the U.S. Congress passed the 2009 Afghan Allies Protection Act, which made 7,500 visas available to Afghan employees – mainly translators and interpreters.

In Germany, after Wafa’s death, Red-T and other NGOs including the human rights organisation Pro Asyl based in Frankfurt sent an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel citing Section 22 of the German Residence Act which provides residency visas for “urgent humanitarian reasons”.

The German government acknowledged in October 2013 that translators and interpreters are a “high-risk category” because of their particular “visibility” in their role as communication brokers for the military and police. This was an important, yet insufficient step forward.

“While the intention of the German authorities to change their visa policy and grant permits to Afghan interpreters and ancillary staff may be laudable, the fact that only a few interpreters have made it to Germany since the announcement is appalling,” says Hess.

In February this year Bundeswehr interpreters Aliullah Nazary (26) and Qyamuddin Shukury (25) landed relieved and elated in Hamburg after facing months of life threats. Chilling messages were dropped on their doorsteps. “You German spy, you wait for your death now”, one read.

Approximately 500 translators and interpreters are believed to have been employed by German forces and government bodies. The latest Foreign Office figures obtained by IPS confirm that 296 eligibility permits, or Aufnahmezusagen, and 131 immigration visas have been issued, and that 107 Afghan claimants have arrived in Germany.

The low number of arrivals may be due to the transition in Afghanistan. In some cases applicants receive financial compensation after their contracts expire. Bernd Mesovic, spokesperson for Pro Asyl, says many may be holding on to their German permits in the hope that the security situation will improve in Afghanistan and Taliban threats subside. “We recommend that the process be further expedited,” says Mesovic.

“We urgently need a paradigm shift in how translators and interpreters are treated and perceived,” says Hess. “I do hope that the powers that be increasingly wake up to how dangerous this profession is, and that safe houses and security will be provided for linguists until they are able to leave.”

A recent German war drama, titled ‘Inbetween Worlds’, which centres on the story of an 18-year-old Afghan interpreter for a German squad, has brought home the plight of interpreters in the war zone to many Germans.

The post Bringing the Bridges Home appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/bringing-bridges-home/feed/ 0
U.S.-Russia Sabre Rattling May Undermine Nuke Meeting http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-s-russia-sabre-rattling-may-undermine-nuke-meeting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-russia-sabre-rattling-may-undermine-nuke-meeting http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-s-russia-sabre-rattling-may-undermine-nuke-meeting/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 20:55:42 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133828 The growing tension between the United States and Russia over Ukraine has threatened to unravel one of the primary peace initiatives of the United Nations: nuclear disarmament. As they trade charges against each other, the world’s two major nuclear powers have intensified their bickering – specifically on the eve of a key Preparatory Committee (PrepCoM) […]

The post U.S.-Russia Sabre Rattling May Undermine Nuke Meeting appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
U.S. Permanent Representative Samantha Power (left) speaks with Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov (right), and Vitaly Churkin (back to camera), Russia's Permanent Representative, in happier times, prior to a unanimous vote by the Security Council on Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

U.S. Permanent Representative Samantha Power (left) speaks with Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov (right), and Vitaly Churkin (back to camera), Russia's Permanent Representative, in happier times, prior to a unanimous vote by the Security Council on Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles. Credit: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 22 2014 (IPS)

The growing tension between the United States and Russia over Ukraine has threatened to unravel one of the primary peace initiatives of the United Nations: nuclear disarmament.

As they trade charges against each other, the world’s two major nuclear powers have intensified their bickering – specifically on the eve of a key Preparatory Committee (PrepCoM) meeting on a treaty to stop the proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction (WMD)."The spectre of war in Europe may give new impetus to efforts to ban the bomb." -- Alice Slater

The “Thirteen Steps” agreed upon at a review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2000 and the 64-point Action Programme, together with the agreement on the Middle East WMD Free Zone proposal at the 2010 Conference, had augured well for the strengthened review process, former U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala told IPS.

But he warned that, “However the actual achievements, the return to Cold War mindsets by the U.S. and Russia and the negative record of all the nuclear weapon states have converted the goal of a nuclear weapon free world into a mirage.

“Unless the Third Prepcom reverses these ominous trends, the 2015 Conference is doomed to fail, imperiling the future of the NPT,” warned Dhanapala, who is also president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.

The Third PrepCom for the upcoming 2015 Review Conference of the NPT is scheduled to take place at the United Nations Apr. 28 through May 9.

But a positive outcome will depend largely on the United States and Russia, along with the other declared nuclear powers, Britain, France and China, who are also the five permanent members (P5) of the Security Council.

Ray Acheson, director of Reaching Critical Will, a programme of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), told IPS next week’s PrepCom is being held at a time of high tensions between the two countries with the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

The United Nations describes the 1970 NPT as "a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament".

The treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states.

As of now, there are 190 parties to the treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon states, namely the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia.

But the other nuclear weapons states - India, Israel and Pakistan - have refused to join the NPT. North Korea joined and withdrew in 2003.

She said neither of these countries has fulfilled their obligation to negotiate the elimination of these weapons and in fact, both spend billions of dollars upgrading them and extending their lives into the indefinite future.

“Nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous and the risk of their use by accident or on purpose warrants urgent action on disarmament,” Acheson added.

During 2014, she pointed out, the NPT nuclear-armed states must report on their concrete activities to fulfill the disarmament-related actions of the 2010 NPT Action Plan.

The extent to which the nuclear-armed states can report the achievement of meaningful progress in implementing their commitments will be a strong indicator of their intention to serve as willing leaders and partners in this process, she noted.

But “none of the public releases issued thus far by the nuclear-armed states has given any reason to expect they have given serious consideration to the implementation of most of those commitments.”

Alice Slater, New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, told IPS there is “alarming sabre rattling on the eve of the NPT PrepCom.”

She said the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) builds up its military forces to “protect” Eastern Europe. The media reports only part of the story, justifying NATO war games based on events in Ukraine; former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compares Putin to Hitler; and the New York Times front page blares “Cold War Echo, Obama Strategy Writes Off Putin”.

“Yet there’s little reporting on Russia’s security fears as NATO expands up to its borders, inviting even Ukraine and Georgia to join,” said Slater, who also serves on the Coordinating Committee of Abolition 2000.

This, she said, despite President Ronald Reagan and President George W.Bush’s promises to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, that NATO would not expand beyond East Germany.

Nor is it reported how the U.S., in 1992, quit the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Treaty, planting missiles in Poland, Romania and Turkey, she added.

In his closing statement as president of the historic 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, which extended the treaty for an indefinite duration, Dhanapala said, “The permanence of the Treaty does not represent a permanence of unbalanced obligations, nor does it represent the permanence of nuclear apartheid between nuclear haves and have-nots.

“What it does represent is our collective dedication to the permanence of an international legal barrier against nuclear proliferation so that we can forge ahead in our tasks towards a nuclear weapons-free world.”

Slater told IPS that deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations bodes poorly for progress at the paralysed NPT process, which even before this latest eruption of enmity failed to implement the many promises for nuclear disarmament since 1970.

But this new crisis may motivate nations to press more vigorously for the process that began in Oslo (at the 2013 conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons), addressing the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and urging their legal ban.

With 16,000 nuclear bombs in Russia and the U.S., non-nuclear weapons states must step up their efforts for a ban treaty, she added.

The P-5 nuclear powers boycotted these meetings in Oslo (in 2013) and Mexico (February 2014) while Indian and Pakistan joined 127 nations in Oslo and 144 in Mexico. This year, Austria will host a follow-up.

This new process raises a contradiction highlighting the growing reality gap in the “nuclear umbrella” states, Slater said.

They ostensibly support nuclear disarmament and deplore the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war in this burgeoning new global conversation about its humanitarian effects, while continuing to rely on lethal nuclear deterrence, she noted.

Article VI of the NPT requires all treaty parties to be responsible for its fulfillment.

“The spectre of war in Europe may give new impetus to efforts to ban the bomb,” warned Slater.

Acheson told IPS that unlike the other weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological weapons – nuclear weapons are not yet subject to an explicit legal prohibition.

“Now is the time to address this anomaly, which has been allowed to persist for far too long. History shows that legal prohibitions of weapon systems, their possession as well as their use, facilitate their elimination.”

She said weapons that have been outlawed increasingly become seen as illegitimate.

They lose their political status and, along with it, the money and resources for their production, modernisation, proliferation, and perpetuation.

In the context of rising tensions between two countries with nuclear weapons it is more imperative than ever that non-nuclear weapon states take the lead to ban nuclear weapons, Acheson stressed.

The post U.S.-Russia Sabre Rattling May Undermine Nuke Meeting appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-s-russia-sabre-rattling-may-undermine-nuke-meeting/feed/ 0
Charting a Course for Survival, or Oblivion? http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/charting-course-survival-oblivion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=charting-course-survival-oblivion http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/charting-course-survival-oblivion/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 19:08:59 +0000 Stephen Leahy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133823 Hopefully, on Earth Day today, high-level ministers from all countries are thinking about what they can bring to the table at a key set of meetings on climate change in early May. This will be the first opportunity for governments to discuss their proposed climate action plans in light of the final Intergovernmental Panel on […]

The post Charting a Course for Survival, or Oblivion? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Flooding in Trinidad's capital of Port of Spain left residents little choice but to wade through the deluge. The Caribbean region is already seeing numerous impacts from climate change. Credit: Peter Richards/IPS

Flooding in Trinidad's capital of Port of Spain left residents little choice but to wade through the deluge. The Caribbean region is already seeing numerous impacts from climate change. Credit: Peter Richards/IPS

By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Apr 22 2014 (IPS)

Hopefully, on Earth Day today, high-level ministers from all countries are thinking about what they can bring to the table at a key set of meetings on climate change in early May.

This will be the first opportunity for governments to discuss their proposed climate action plans in light of the final Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released last week.“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.” -- Professor Ottmar Edenhofer

That report warned that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels are still rising far too fast, even with more than 650 billion dollars invested in renewable energy in the last three years. However, over the same time period even more money was invested in getting more fossil fuels out of the ground.

The latter investment is keeping humanity and the planet locked onto a devastating path of a global temperature increase of four to five degrees C, the IPCC’s Working Group III report warned.

Scientists and economists say that unlocking ourselves from disaster will require a massive reduction in emissions – between 40 percent and 70 percent – by midcentury. This is can be readily accomplished without inventing any new technology and at a reasonably low cost, reducing global economic growth by a comparatively tiny 0.06 percent.

“It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet,” economist Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, who led the IPCC team, said at a press conference.

It does mean an end to investments in expanding fossil fuel infrastructure as the annual growth in CO2 emissions from burning oil, coal and gas must peak and decline in the next few years. The atmosphere already has 42 percent more CO2 than it did prior to 1800.

This extra CO2 is trapping more heat from the sun, which is heating up the oceans and land, creating the conditions that spawn super storms and extreme weather. And it will do so for the next 1,000 years since CO2 is a very durable molecule.

Current emissions are adding two percent more heat-trapping CO2 each year. That will push humanity’s ‘CO2 contribution’ to 50 percent four years from now.

“There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” Edenhofer said.

The IPCC’s first report released last September as part of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) clearly stated once again that the climate is changing rapidly as a result of human activity and urgent action is needed.

This was followed last month with a strong confirmation that climate impacts are already occurring on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans. This second report warned that one of the major impacts will be declines in food production unless emissions begin to decline.

The fossil fuel sector, the richest in human history, appears to be ignoring the IPCC warnings.

Earlier this month, oil giant ExxonMobil issued a report to its shareholders saying it does not believe the world will curb CO2 emissions and plans to extract and sell all of its 25.2 billion barrels worth of oil and gas in its current reserves. And it will continue investments hunting down more barrels.

“All of ExxonMobil’s current hydrocarbon reserves will be needed, along with substantial future industry investments, to address global energy needs,” said William Colton, ExxonMobil’s vice president in a statement.

The IPCC agrees oil, gas and coal will still be used in future but there is a CO2 maximum to have a reasonable chance of staying below two degrees C. That fossil energy cap won’t be enough to meet global energy needs so Working Group III recommends shifting to large-scale bioenergy and biofuels, waste incineration, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

These energy sources are controversial and risky. Large-scale bioenergy and biofuels needs huge areas of land and vast quantities of water and will compete with food production.

Studies show ethanol results in more emissions than burning gasoline. Even making ethanol from the leftovers of harvested corn plants released seven percent more CO2 than gasoline while depleting the soil, a new study revealed in Nature Climate Change this week.

The IPCC acknowledges bioenergy and biofuels can increase emissions, destroy livelihoods and damage the environment, says Rachel Smolker of Biofuelwatch, an environmental NGO.

“It is a shame they put so much stock in something that would make things worse rather than better,” Smolker told IPS.

Given all this, what climate action plans are governments going to propose when they meet in Abu Dhabi on May 4 and 5th? This is an informal ‘put your cards on the table’ regarding a new set of commitments on emission reduction targets and action plans to be made public at the U.N. Climate Summit in September.

Current reduction targets will not avoid four degrees C, most experts agree.

In hopes of getting countries to increase their reduction targets, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked governments to bring new proposals to New York City in September. With the current U.N. Climate Change Convention meetings deadlocked on key issues, the New York Summit is intended to kick-start political momentum for an ambitious, global, legal climate treaty in 2015.

The May get-together titled the “Abu Dhabi Ascent” is the only meeting before the Summit where governments, and invited members of the private sector and civil society will come together to explore how to get ambitious action to reduce emissions.

The Abu Dhabi meeting will be a window into the future of humanity: ascent or descent?

The post Charting a Course for Survival, or Oblivion? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/charting-course-survival-oblivion/feed/ 0
Nigeria – From Sticks and Machetes to Rocket-propelled Grenades http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/nigeria-sticks-machetes-rocket-propelled-grenades/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nigeria-sticks-machetes-rocket-propelled-grenades http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/nigeria-sticks-machetes-rocket-propelled-grenades/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:04:38 +0000 Sam Olukoya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133802 Nigerians are beginning to adjust to the sad reality that they live in a country where suicide bombers and terrorists could be lurking around the next corner thanks to a ready supply of advanced weapons smuggled through the country’s porous borders.  Last week, Ngupar Kemzy’s cousin, Andy Nepli, told him that he planned to spend […]

The post Nigeria – From Sticks and Machetes to Rocket-propelled Grenades appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Boko Haram's latest bomb attack in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Apr. 14, 2014, claimed 75 lives. Courtesy: Ayo Bello

Boko Haram's latest bomb attack in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Apr. 14, 2014, claimed 75 lives. Courtesy: Ayo Bello

By Sam Olukoya
LAGOS, Nigeria, Apr 22 2014 (IPS)

Nigerians are beginning to adjust to the sad reality that they live in a country where suicide bombers and terrorists could be lurking around the next corner thanks to a ready supply of advanced weapons smuggled through the country’s porous borders. 

Last week, Ngupar Kemzy’s cousin, Andy Nepli, told him that he planned to spend the Easter holidays with him.

But two days later, on Apr. 14, 32-year-old Nepli was one of the 75 people killed in two powerful explosions at a crowded bus station in Nyanya, a suburb in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.“Those using these modern weapons have attained a boldness they never would have had if they were handling crude weapons.” -- Steve Obodokwe, of the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development

Many of the victims were so badly wounded that it was difficult to identify them.

“We only knew it was him after checking his clothes and seeing his identity card,” Kemzy, who rushed to the scene, told IPS. “Human body parts were littered all over the place,” he said.

On the same night, Nigeria was forced to contend with yet another horror when 129 schoolgirls were abducted from their hostel in Chibok, Borno State in the country’s northeast.

Boko Haram, a group waging a violent campaign for the imposition of Islamic rule in this West African nation, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The group is suspected to also be responsible for the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok.

Bombings, abductions and a scorched earth policy of burning down entire villages and killing the inhabitants are some of the violent techniques used by the extremist group.

Boko Haram, which is believed to have links with Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, like Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Somali-based Al-Shabaab, is mainly active in northeastern Nigeria

Global human rights movement Amnesty International says 1,500 people were killed within the first three month of this year by Boko Haram and “uncontrolled reprisals by Nigeria’s security forces.”

A transformation to modern weaponry is said to have aided the escalation of the crisis in the country.

Besides Boko Haram, several other armed ethnic militia operate in Central Nigeria. And armed groups have moved from using crude weapons like sticks, machetes, cudgels, and dane guns to more lethal and advanced weapons like machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

“Those using these modern weapons have attained a boldness they never would have had if they were handling crude weapons,” Steve Obodokwe, of the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, told IPS.

“With their modern weapons, armed groups have been able to gather the courage to attack even military barracks,” said Obodokwe.

There is a ready supply of weapons smuggled into Nigeria through its porous borders. Some weapons are believed to have entered the country following armed conflicts in countries like Libya and Mali.

Former Nigerian defence minister Olusola Obada says some of the smuggled weapons were those looted from Libyan armouries during the 2011 crisis to oust the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi (1942 – 2011).

It is also believed that some of the weapons, especially those being used by Boko Haram, entered Nigeria through Al-Qaeda’s network.

“It is not out of place to suggest that some of the weapons in Nigeria were supplied by Islamist groups in Somalia and Mali,” says Obodokwe.

With its links to Al-Qaeda and a good supply of arms, Boko Haram has successfully carried out several high-profile terrorist attacks in Nigeria. These include attacks on military bases and the 2011 bombing of both the national police and United Nations headquarters in Abuja.

“The consequences of these successful attacks is that Boko Haram has demystified Nigeria’s security agencies,” Ifeanyi Okechukwu, national coordinator of the West Africa Network for Peace Building, which works with international organisations to prevent armed conflict, told IPS.

He says the success of Boko Haram has encouraged other groups here to pick up arms against their opponents, knowing that security agencies are incapable of stopping them.

The great cost to Nigeria

The conflicts in Nigeria have come at great cost. The International Crisis Group, an independent organisation working to prevent deadly conflicts, says the Boko Haram’s insurgency alone has “displaced close to half a million people, destroyed hundreds of schools and government buildings and devastated an already ravaged economy in the northeast, one of Nigeria’s poorest regions.”

The organisation fears that with no end in sight, the insurgency could spill over “to other parts of the north and risks reaching Niger and Cameroon, weak countries poorly equipped to combat a radical Islamist armed group.”

Some Nigerians are beginning to lose faith in the ability of security agents to stop Boko Haram and other militant groups in the country. But the government has continued to assure the populace that it will win the war against terror.

“Terror will not stop Nigeria from moving. The terrorists and those who are sponsoring them will never stop this country from moving, we will continue to move from strength to strength,” President Goodluck Jonathan said at a political rally a day after the Abuja bus station bombings.

Nigeria is scheduled to hold general elections next year.

Here, the buildup to elections is usually characterised by politicians arming their supporters in their quest for power. But with so many armed groups and with so many illegal firearms already in circulation, the build-up to next year’s elections might just stretch Nigeria beyond its limits.

The post Nigeria – From Sticks and Machetes to Rocket-propelled Grenades appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/nigeria-sticks-machetes-rocket-propelled-grenades/feed/ 0
Weak Laws and Capitalist Economy Deplete Kenya’s Natural Wealth http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/weak-laws-capitalist-economy-deplete-kenyas-natural-wealth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=weak-laws-capitalist-economy-deplete-kenyas-natural-wealth http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/weak-laws-capitalist-economy-deplete-kenyas-natural-wealth/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:48:27 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133796 Each season Peter Gichangi, a vegetable and arrowroot commercial farmer who owns four hectares of land in Nyeri County, Kenya’s Central Province, cultivates his crops near the Nduyi River. “Although every now and then the Nduyi River bank bursts, flooding the farm, the loss is small compared to the good harvest and financial gains during […]

The post Weak Laws and Capitalist Economy Deplete Kenya’s Natural Wealth appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Farmers trying to build a barrier to protect their crops from the Nduyi River in Nyeri County. The river usually bursts its banks after a heavy downpour. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Farmers trying to build a barrier to protect their crops from the Nduyi River in Nyeri County. The river usually bursts its banks after a heavy downpour. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Apr 22 2014 (IPS)

Each season Peter Gichangi, a vegetable and arrowroot commercial farmer who owns four hectares of land in Nyeri County, Kenya’s Central Province, cultivates his crops near the Nduyi River.

“Although every now and then the Nduyi River bank bursts, flooding the farm, the loss is small compared to the good harvest and financial gains during good weather patterns,” Gichangi tells IPS.

But he is just one of a significant number of small-scale farmers who have taken to commercial farming in water catchment areas, according to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.“The market forces and extreme hunger for a cash economy has been given dominance at the expense of our environmental and natural resource health.” -- Kevin Kinusu, Hivos

In this East African nation, smallholder farmers account for at least 75 percent of the total agricultural output, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

“Due to the scramble for scarce land and because agriculture here is rain-fed, we now have more and more farmers encroaching on water catchment areas,” Nancy Mumbi, a government agricultural researcher in Central Province, tells IPS.

She says this is especially prevalent in the Rift Valley, which is considered the country’s breadbasket, and Central Kenya.

Mumbi says the government is attempting to put a stop to the practice by imposing “fines of up to 600 dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both.”

However, Ken Muchai from the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources warns “the lack of a national policy on natural resource management is leading to the depletion of our natural wealth.”

“We may not have any lions in the next 20 years, we are losing 100 lions per year to human-animal conflict,” he tells IPS.

He says that the draft Natural Resources Development and Management Policy 2012 will address these issues.

“And many other sectoral policies are already under review to facilitate conservation and management of natural resources.”

But while Kenya may have in place at least 90 pieces of legislation on how to manage its natural resources, experts say the country’s excess of legislation is weak and inadequate to meet the challenge of sustainably managing this.

Kevin Kinusu, the climate and energy advocacy officer at Hivos, the Dutch organisation for development, tells IPS that the weak laws have proved ineffective in the face of the country’s capitalist economy.

“Market forces have overlooked the importance of sustainable management of natural resources. Due to the current craze to develop real estate, wetlands in areas in Nairobi County, parts of Kiambu County and indeed in many other parts of the country have been converted into settlements.”

Kinusu explains that although there are policies like the Wetlands Atlas and the Master Plan for the Conservation and Management of Water Catchment Areas in place “we do not have a comprehensive policy on conservation of wetlands and there are [wetlands] facing severe pressure despite their importance as a water resource for agricultural productivity and in sustaining livelihoods.”

He says the real value of such protected areas has been ignored and “the market forces and extreme hunger for a cash economy has been given dominance at the expense of our environmental and natural resource health.”

Kinusu says that there have been a few success stories in management of natural wealth. This includes the rehabilitation of the Mau Forest ecosystem — the largest of the country’s five water towers. He points out that the country’s forest cover also increased “from a decline of about two percent to nearly six percent.”

Duncan Okowa, programme officer at local NGO Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG), tells IPS that the Environment Management and Coordination Act 1999 “should have served as the overarching policy.”

The act provides a framework for environmental legislation and for establishing appropriate legal and institutional mechanisms for the management of the environment.

However, he points out that the act itself has been overtaken by other legislation and is now outdated.

“For instance, there are demands in the 2010 Constitution that are not covered by the act. Also, most sectoral laws were enacted after the act had been developed, for instance we have the Water Act 2002, Forest Act 2005 and the Land Act 2012.”

For example, while the 2010 constitution demands that communities be at the heart of natural resource management, many are still left out of the country’s multi-billion dollar mining industry.

“The production-sharing contracts signed between the government and oil companies are often in favour of the companies since they are signed under the archaic Petroleum Act of 1986,” Samuel Kimeu, executive director of Transparency International Kenya, tells IPS.

“Unclear means of awarding mining licences have been used to fleece the public, compromising the terms of the licence against the public interest, thus swindling the public of possible revenue,” he says.

Okowa says that going forward laws must be reviewed to reflect new realities.

“An enabling environment for these laws to be effective must be created where implementing institutions are given both technical and financial support,” Okowa says.

The post Weak Laws and Capitalist Economy Deplete Kenya’s Natural Wealth appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/weak-laws-capitalist-economy-deplete-kenyas-natural-wealth/feed/ 0
The Global Trading System Aims to Improve Children’s Lives http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/global-trading-system-aims-improve-childrens-lives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-trading-system-aims-improve-childrens-lives http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/global-trading-system-aims-improve-childrens-lives/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:21:30 +0000 Roberto Azevedo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133818 In this column, Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), writes that trade can help to create the conditions in which children can lead better lives.

The post The Global Trading System Aims to Improve Children’s Lives appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

In this column, Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), writes that trade can help to create the conditions in which children can lead better lives.

By Roberto Azevedo
GENEVA, Apr 22 2014 (IPS)

Although some people don’t see the connection, the global trading system is aimed at creating some of the essential conditions needed to improve children’s lives and their prospects in the future.

We can identify three flash points where trade and children’s interests intersect, and where perhaps we can do a bit more to maximise our impact. One relates to developed countries, and two to developing nations.

The first point is this: the crisis in recent years has hit many western economies hard — and one of the most worrying effects has been very high levels of youth unemployment.

WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo. Credit: WTO/CC BY SA-2.0

WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo. Credit: WTO/CC BY SA-2.0

Levels have topped 50 percent in some countries. The effects of this are very significant – and are much more damaging than simply the loss of productive capacity in the economy.

Surveys of young people highlight the corrosive effect that unemployment can have on their confidence, motivation, and view of the future – raising the spectre of a “lost generation”.

Trade can be part of the solution, because one of the key differences that trade makes is through job creation.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) reached a major multilateral trade deal in Bali last December which could make a big difference here, as economists predict that it could create 21 million jobs.

Of course the relationship of cause and effect is complex. The WTO conducted a major study on this issue with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and others in 2012. The evidence shows that trade can play a powerful role – but to be effective, trade reforms have to be embedded in supportive policies.

Countries where trade openness has failed to stimulate growth commonly have unstable macroeconomic policies, inadequate property rights, insufficient public investment in overcoming supply-side constraints, or other socio-political limitations.

So for the positive effects of trade to be realised in tackling youth unemployment, we need to recognise the inter-linkages to other areas of policy.

Export-orientated jobs typically pay higher wages to their workers. In Western Europe those working in export-focused companies collect a 10-20 percent premium over the average wage. And in sub-Saharan Africa that figure is even higher, at 34 percent.

Of course there are challenges here too in ensuring that low-skilled workers are not left behind.

My second point is about the persistent tragedy of child poverty.

By supporting economic growth and poverty alleviation, trade can be an important engine for change, and therefore can make a significant difference to children’s prospects.

The leaders of the Young Lives survey conducted by Oxford University over 15 years in India, Ethiopia, Peru and Vietnam found that growth provides financial space for governments and families to invest in children and create improved infrastructure and opportunity.

The fact that the Millennium Development Goal to halve the rate of extreme poverty by 2015 was met well ahead of time was illustrative of this.

Take China, where the pursuit of an export-led growth model has led it to become the world’s second largest economy and now the world’s biggest trading nation. At the same time it has reduced the poverty level from 60 to 12 percent between 1990 and 2010.

Other economies have followed a similar trajectory, using the trading system to rapidly expand economic growth and slash rates of extreme poverty.

Look at Vietnam or the recent graduates from least developed country status: Samoa, Cape Verde and the Maldives. They show again the difference that trade and increased investment can make in achieving more inclusive socio-economic development.

However the rate of poverty reduction as a whole is not always matched in the area of child poverty. Again, the Young Lives survey argues that while economic growth is important, what matters more for children is the nature or quality of that growth.

We have to harness growth more effectively and convert it into social change that benefits poor children and their families. This is an urgent challenge for policy-makers at the international level to provide the right frameworks and mechanisms to support quality growth, and at the domestic level to ensure that no-one falls behind, particularly children.

So the debate that is currently underway to design the successors to the Millennium Development Goals will be crucial here, not least as it will dictate the agenda until 2030.

My final point is that lifting children out of poverty is essential, but it is not enough.

We need to look at children’s lives in a more holistic way.

Robert F. Kennedy warned of the narrowness of economic measurements. He said: “The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play… It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

Of course this is what the Human Development Index is all about – the need to place people at the centre of policy-making.

Trade is not just about dollars and cents. We need to look at the wider environment.

I believe that trade can help to create the conditions in which children can lead better lives. And at the most fundamental level, we can do this through supporting the family – by reducing the potential for conflict, helping to create a stable environment and predictable conditions, and supporting higher income levels.

This, in turn, can support better education and healthcare, while improved connections through trade also support wider access to medicine.

Amartya Sen, one of the creators of the Human Development Index, argues that true development comes through freedom.

And I believe that by encouraging openness, cooperation and democracy, trade supports this as well.
(END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

The post The Global Trading System Aims to Improve Children’s Lives appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/global-trading-system-aims-improve-childrens-lives/feed/ 0
Imprisoning Themselves to Stay Safe http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/imprisoning-stay-safe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=imprisoning-stay-safe http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/imprisoning-stay-safe/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 07:51:09 +0000 Karlos Zurutuza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133813 “I don’t dare tell you who the murderers are but their target is just us, Turkmens,” says Ahmed Abdulla Muhtaroglu, sitting by the portrait of his brother who was killed last year. IPS met Muhtaroglu in Tuz Khormato, a predominantly Turkmen district 170 km north of Baghdad. Iraqi Turkmens are descendants of waves of Turkic […]

The post Imprisoning Themselves to Stay Safe appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
A policeman on guard at the entrance of the Turkmen district in Tuz Khormato. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS.

A policeman on guard at the entrance of the Turkmen district in Tuz Khormato. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS.

By Karlos Zurutuza
TUZ KHORMATO, Iraq, Apr 22 2014 (IPS)

“I don’t dare tell you who the murderers are but their target is just us, Turkmens,” says Ahmed Abdulla Muhtaroglu, sitting by the portrait of his brother who was killed last year.

IPS met Muhtaroglu in Tuz Khormato, a predominantly Turkmen district 170 km north of Baghdad. Iraqi Turkmens are descendants of waves of Turkic migration to the ancient Mesopotamia region where Iraq now lies."We have been forced to build our own prison for ourselves as a mean to survive." -- Hanna Muhamed, a candidate for the election

The population of Turkmens in Iraq, who include both Shia and Sunni Muslims, is estimated at 500,000 to 600,000 by international sources, and 2.5 to three million by local Turkmens.

“There is no worse place in the world for Turkmens than Tuz,” says Muhtaroglu, local leader of the Turkmen Front, their main political party. “We have turned into victims of a plot to wipe us out. Some 500 Turkmen families left the district only last year.”

Population displacements are common in this country torn by sectarian violence. But displacement has taken on a new dimension in this town of 60,000.

According to the Iraq Body Count database, Tuz witnessed the latest attack Apr. 8, when four residents were killed by a car bomb. There have been more brutal attacks; in January last year, 42 members of the community were killed in a suicide attack during a funeral.

Former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein took Tuz Khormato away from Kirkuk, 230 km north of Baghdad, in 1976, and attached it to Salahadin province as part of a process to change the demographics of oil-rich Kirkuk in favour of Arabs. Today, both Kirkuk and Tuz are among “disputed territories” whose status is to be defined in a referendum – which is being postponed since 2007.

The “disputed territories” are one of the main lines of fracture in Iraq. Both Arabs and Kurds, the government in Baghdad and the Kurdish government in Erbil, are vying to take control of these territories. Turkmens have been caught in the quagmire.

Hanna Muhamed, 40, a candidate for the election to the 328-seat parliament in Iraq due Apr. 30, tells IPS that an independent region for Turkmens would be the best solution. She says she is contesting from Tuz because “it may be easier for a woman to get elected.” She is counting on the fact that it is still rare for a woman to contest in Iraq.

“We have been forced to build our own prison for ourselves as a mean to survive,” she says while campaigning on the outskirts of the city.

Tuz is easy to get to – just look for the concrete walls erected opposite the central bazaar area.

The makeshift fortress is accessible only through checkpoints. Local policeman Samir – he didn’t want his full name disclosed – posted at one such checkpoint tells IPS that the community started building it two years ago to avoid attacks. But it’s still not protection enough.

A few metres away, Mohamed Hamid points to the spot where he lost his daughter in September last year. Ten-year-old Hanna Hamid was buried under the wall that surrounds the Hamids’ house.

The bomb was meant to destroy the opposite building belonging to a Turkmen family. Two of the members of this family were wounded in the bomb attack.

And, there are more everyday problems. The streets here are not paved, so it’s not difficult for Ahmed, a local resident, to dig a trench. Once he’s done he will lay a tube to channel the putrid waters outside the wall, as drainage problems add to the more severe security ones. He wants to prevent his two nephews from getting sick from the stench when they play outside. They are the sons of his brother killed in an explosion six months ago.

“We offered Ahmed to his widow to take of her and the kids but she didn’t accept,” says Ahmed’s mother Zohaila, still in mourning clothes. “I can hardly support them with the 150,000 dinars a month [about 90 euros] I get for searching women at the entrance to the mosque.”

Deep in the heart of the walled area, Shia icons are ubiquitous around the Imam Ahmed mosque – from the portraits of Imam Ali, a descendant of prophet Muhammad according to the Shias, to those of Moqtada al-Sadr, a political and religious Shia leader and a key player in post-Saddam Iraq. By the side of these portraits stands a billboard with names and pictures of those killed in the several attacks in Tuz.

“Terrorists have no religion or race,” says local policeman Massoud. That’s something local residents seem to make a point of saying.

In its May 2013 report, the Institute for International Law and Human Rights says Iraqi Turkmen have been “intimidated by Kurdish and central government authorities for their presence in the disputed territories.”

The organisation based in Baghdad, Washington and Brussels says Turkmen have been targeted on religious grounds “by both Shia and Sunni extrajudicial militant groups,” and that community women are “particularly vulnerable to violence.”

“We are sandwiched between Arabs and Kurds: reaching an agreement with one implies confronting the other,” Arsad Salihi, one of seven Turkmen MPs, tells IPS from his home in Kirkuk.

The Turkmen senior leader says he would not rule out eventual integration with the Kurdish Autonomous Region. But, he says, Kurds must cease their “continuous and arbitrary harassment” of his community.

Khalid Schwani, Kurdish MP in Baghdad for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a leading party headed by President Jalal Talabani, strongly refutes such allegations. He says the government in Baghdad has been deliberately delaying a settlement on the areas in dispute, and that his party will come to “direct agreements” with both Arabs and Turkmens. Both Tuz and Kirkuk are among the disputed territories.

“Tuz would come back to Kirkuk (from Salahadin province) and in return Salahadin could keep control over Hawija –a predominantly Arab majority city southwest of Kirkuk.”

Whatever the future may bring, bricklayer Ihmat Altun says he will not be there to see it. “I’m moving to Istanbul with my family. I won’t wait until we get killed in this slaughterhouse,” he says as the guard at the checkpoint lifts the barrier for him.

The post Imprisoning Themselves to Stay Safe appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/imprisoning-stay-safe/feed/ 0
Obama Seeks to Reassure Anxious Asians on “Rebalance” http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/obama-seeks-reassure-anxious-asians-rebalance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=obama-seeks-reassure-anxious-asians-rebalance http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/obama-seeks-reassure-anxious-asians-rebalance/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 00:29:07 +0000 Jim Lobe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133810 As he embarks Tuesday on a major trip through East Asia, U.S. President Barack Obama will be focused on reassuring anxious – albeit sometimes annoying – allies that Washington remains determined to deepen its commitment to the region. Just how annoying some allies can be was underlined on the eve of his departure as Japan’s […]

The post Obama Seeks to Reassure Anxious Asians on “Rebalance” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden before boarding Air Force One at Pittsburgh International Airport for a domestic trip, April 16, 2014. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden before boarding Air Force One at Pittsburgh International Airport for a domestic trip, April 16, 2014. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Apr 22 2014 (IPS)

As he embarks Tuesday on a major trip through East Asia, U.S. President Barack Obama will be focused on reassuring anxious – albeit sometimes annoying – allies that Washington remains determined to deepen its commitment to the region.

Just how annoying some allies can be was underlined on the eve of his departure as Japan’s premier, Shinzo Abe, provoked renewed protests from both China and South Korea over his sending a ceremonial offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, the temple which honours Tokyo’s war dead, including senior officers responsible for atrocities committed by Japan in both countries during World War II.There is little question that security concerns, particularly those aroused by China’s recent assertiveness, will loom large.

As for anxiety, Asian commentators have made little secret of their concern that Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continuing tensions with Ukraine could set a precedent for a resurgent China, whose increasingly assertive behaviour in pressing its territorial claims in the East and South China seas has provoked a number of its neighbours to upgrade military ties to the U.S., as well as increase their own military spending.

Moreover, Obama, whose extrication from the deep hole his predecessor dug for him in the Greater Middle East has gone more slowly than had been hoped, has necessarily been distracted by the ongoing Ukraine crisis which, in turn, has prompted the U.S.’s NATO allies – especially the alliance’s newest member along Russia’s western periphery – to seek reassurances of their own.

“Can Mr. Obama afford to invest more time in Asia when he is bogged down with crises in Ukraine and Syria?” asked the New York Times’ “editorial observer”, Carol Giacomo, Monday.

Obama was originally scheduled to make this trip last fall, but he opted instead to stay home to deal with the Republican shutdown of the government – the latest example of the kind of partisan-driven action that has also sown doubts among Asian allies, as well as others, about the ability of Washington to follow through on its foreign commitments.

This week’s tour will begin with a state visit to Japan, during which he will meet with the troublesome Abe, whose personal visit last year to the Yasukeni Shrine drew a harsh public rebuke from Washington.

The main substantive agenda item on that leg of the trip, according to administration officials, will be to try to narrow differences on agricultural and automobile provisions in the pending 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, the main pillar of the administration’s non-military “pivot” or “rebalancing” toward the Asia/Pacific launched in 2010.

From Tokyo, Obama will fly to Seoul where he will take up both trade and security issues, including a visit to the Combined Forces Command to address U.S. troops charged with helping defend South Korea against the nuclear-armed North.

Obama will then become the first U.S. president to visit Malaysia since Lyndon Johnson nearly 50 years ago, in part to launch a “Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative” and meet with Malaysia civil society activists.

His last stop will be the Philippines where, among other events, he will attend a state dinner hosted by President Benigno Aquino III and meet U.S. and Filipino soldiers and veterans to underline Washington’s longstanding military relationship.

While Obama and his entourage will emphasise the growing economic links that tie the U.S. to the region – if, for no other reason than to counter the widespread impression that Washington’s “pivot” is primarily aimed at increasing its military presence to “contain” China – there is little question that security concerns, particularly those aroused by China’s recent assertiveness, will loom large.

Indeed, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea conflict with those of both Malaysia and the Philippines with which the U.S. has a 63-year-old mutual defence treaty and which has not been shy about contesting Beijing claims – both through Law of the Sea Convention and most recently by successfully resupplying a long-stranded Filipino naval vessel blockaded by Chinese naval forces.

Nor has Aquino been shy about tightening military links with Washington, inviting it to enhance its military presence in the archipelago and negotiating an “access agreement” that could eventually return U.S. forces to Subic Bay naval base from which they were essentially evicted in 1991 at the end of the Cold War.

Security concerns are likely to play at least as strong a role in the early part of Obama’s tour.

While North Korea’s nuclear arms programme and missile launches remain a major preoccupation for both South Korea and Japan, China’s claims in the East China Sea – and most recently its declaration last fall of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) – increased tensions with both countries, especially Japan which has scrambled warplanes in response to Chinese aircraft that entered the zone near the disputed Senkaku Islands, which China claims as the Diaoyu Islands.

Although Washington responded to Beijing’s declaration with its show of force – an overflight by B-52 bombers – it disappointed Tokyo, with which it signed a mutual-security treaty in 1952, by instructing U.S. commercial airliners to comply with China’s identification requirements.

Some Japanese officials and analysts have publicly criticised what they regard as an insufficiently assertive U.S. response to Russia’s absorption of Crimea despite a 1994 agreement between Washington, Kiev, London, and Moscow guaranteeing Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

They worry that Beijing may now be tempted to make a similar move on the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, just as some in Southeast Asia have expressed similar concerns about China’s intentions in the South China Sea.

But most U.S. analysts, including the administration, reject the analogy.

“We have longstanding alliances in Asia with most of the countries where the maritime territorial disputes with China are most severe, and we have stated time and again that we will meet our alliance commitments,” said Kenneth Lieberthal, a Brookings Institution expert who served as President Bill Clinton’s senior Asia adviser, last week.

“We don’t have any such commitments to Ukraine. We don’t have an alliance. We have never assured Ukraine’s territorial integrity by threatening the use of force…It’s a different situation, and I think the Chinese are very clear about those differences.”

Alan Romberg, a former top State Department expert who now directs the East Asia programme at the Stimson Centre here, agreed. “It’s a totally different situation,” he told IPS.

Besides the lack of any defence agreement, “if you look at the overall importance of East Asia to the U.S. and global peace and security,” he added, “there’s also no comparison.”

Obama, who will travel to China in the fall, has made clear that he nonetheless wants to avoid unnecessarily antagonising Beijing and has tried to tamp down tensions between it and Tokyo, in part by trying to dissuade leaders in both countries from stoking growing nationalist sentiments among their citizens.

Washington has also tried hard in recent months to reconcile Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye – to the extent of personally convening a summit with the two nationalist leaders on the sidelines of a nuclear security conference at The Hague last month.

But Abe’s latest bequest to the notorious shrine, particularly coming on the eve of Obama’s trip, is unlikely to help matters.

“The U.S. can be a leader, a catalyst, and a stabiliser in the region, but it can’t do it all by itself,” noted Romberg. “It’s important that other countries, particularly allies, coordinate and cooperate, and not spend their time nattering at each other all the time.”

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at Lobelog.com.

The post Obama Seeks to Reassure Anxious Asians on “Rebalance” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/obama-seeks-reassure-anxious-asians-rebalance/feed/ 0
Mexico’s Climate Change Law – More Than Just Empty Words? http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/mexicos-climate-change-law-just-empty-words/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-climate-change-law-just-empty-words http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/mexicos-climate-change-law-just-empty-words/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 13:58:50 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133804 When Mexico’s climate change law went into effect in October 2012, it drew international praise. But what has happened since then? The best illustration of the lack of action so far is the Climate Change Fund, created under the law to finance adaptation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives, with national and international funds. In […]

The post Mexico’s Climate Change Law – More Than Just Empty Words? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Firewood is still the main fuel used by Mexico’s poor, like this woman cooking in the southern state of Chiapas. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

Firewood is still the main fuel used by Mexico’s poor, like this woman cooking in the southern state of Chiapas. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Apr 21 2014 (IPS)

When Mexico’s climate change law went into effect in October 2012, it drew international praise. But what has happened since then?

The best illustration of the lack of action so far is the Climate Change Fund, created under the law to finance adaptation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives, with national and international funds.

In 2012 it was assigned just 78,000 dollars for administrative operations, but was given no funds to finance projects. And this year there is not even a specific budget allocation for the Fund. Its operating rules are ready, but they have not been published.

Other problems in the implementation of the law have to do with the creation of a national climate change system, the effective reduction of greenhouse gases, and an assessment of adaptation and mitigation measures, according to public policy analyst Carlos Tornel with the non-governmental Mexican Environmental Law Centre (CEMDA).

These aspects are essential “in order to know what is being done at the three levels of government [federal, state and local], which would give us more concrete information on priorities for adaptation and mitigation,” Tornel told Tierramérica.

“Moreover, no mechanisms were established to evaluate the impact of the measures and to know where the money goes and how efficiently it is used,” he added.

Mexico was one of the first countries in the world to pass a specific law on climate change.

The law made the target of reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 obligatory, subject to the availability of funding and technology transfer, said the most comprehensive study on climate legislation, published in February by the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE International), which analysed the laws of 66 countries.

Mexico is the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Latin America, after Brazil, emitting 748 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year.

In June, the government published its National Climate Change Strategy, which is to guide policy-making over the next 40 years.

It also created the Intersecretarial Commission, made up of 13 secretariats or ministries, and the Council, which includes scientific researchers.

A more concrete measure was the updating of the methodology used to measure contaminants released by motor vehicles.

But of Mexico’s 32 states, only 14 have drawn up a state plan on climate change, just seven have passed their own laws, and only 11 have measured their CO2 emissions.

“The government has failed to align all policy-making instruments behind the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Greenpeace Mexico’s communications director, Raúl Estrada, told Tierramérica.

Mexico, which is highly vulnerable to climate change, is already suffering the manifestations of global warming, such as more frequent and devastating storms, severe drought, a rising sea level, and a loss of biological diversity.

Mexico’s climate change law establishes measures to guarantee the optimal use of gas in industrial and oil installations, to promote the harnessing of the energy potential of waste products, and to create economic and financial incentives for the development of environmentally responsible businesses and industries.

But none of these actions has been carried out.

A new tax of three dollars per tonne of CO2 generated by the mining industry, the burning of gasoil and other fossil fuels, and the production of steel and cement was put into effect in January. Natural gas, considered less polluting than other hydrocarbons, is exempt.

But the energy reform that entered into force in December 2013, which opened up the oil industry to foreign investment, threatens compliance with the emissions reduction goals.

The reform is aimed at exploiting more “oil and shale gas, which would increase greenhouse gases…something that contradicts the climate change law, which seeks to minimise them,” Estrada said.

“The reform is a risk…if we start to exploit unconventional hydrocarbons like shale gas,” Tornel said.

“But it creates a window of opportunity, because it opens up competition in the generation and distribution of electricity so renewable energy sources can start to compete,” he added.

However, this “is possible only if the government generates incentives for those sources to become more competitive,” he said.

Mexico’s target is for 35 percent of the electricity generated in 2024 to come from clean sources. Nuclear energy and hydropower dams currently account for 17 percent of the total.

To comply with the climate change law, the government must present an evaluation of adaptation and mitigation policies in October.

But the process for selecting the non-governmental members of the team charged with that task, who will come from the scientific, academic, technical and industrial communities, did not get underway until Apr. 4.

* This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

The post Mexico’s Climate Change Law – More Than Just Empty Words? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/mexicos-climate-change-law-just-empty-words/feed/ 0
Informal Carpentry Hammers Away Zimbabwe’s State Revenue http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/informal-carpenters-hammer-away-zimbabwes-state-revenue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=informal-carpenters-hammer-away-zimbabwes-state-revenue http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/informal-carpenters-hammer-away-zimbabwes-state-revenue/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 13:01:47 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133782 Tracy Chikwari, a 36-year-old single mother of two and informal furniture dealer in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, is all smiles as she talks about her flourishing business. “I bought two houses here in Harare by trading in furniture that I buy from the informal market and I have no doubt this feat is taking me to […]

The post Informal Carpentry Hammers Away Zimbabwe’s State Revenue appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
There has been a boom in Zimbabwe’s informal carpentry sector. An unidentified carpenter is pictured at work in Glenview, a high-density suburb in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

There has been a boom in Zimbabwe’s informal carpentry sector. An unidentified carpenter is pictured at work in Glenview, a high-density suburb in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Jeffrey Moyo
HARARE, Apr 21 2014 (IPS)

Tracy Chikwari, a 36-year-old single mother of two and informal furniture dealer in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, is all smiles as she talks about her flourishing business.

“I bought two houses here in Harare by trading in furniture that I buy from the informal market and I have no doubt this feat is taking me to greater heights,” Chikwari tells IPS.“Yes, informal businesses like carpentry are doing very well considering the ready market for their products. But the government is not earning revenue from them.” -- Independent economist Kingston Nyakurukwa

Informal carpentry is becoming a fast-growing industry in this southern African nation.

Fainos Dziva, a carpenter in Zimbabwe’s Chitungwiza town, 25 kilometres southeast of Harare, manufactures furniture that he says caters for all people — the rich, the poor and the middle class.

“Many people, including business people, owing to the exorbitant prices of furniture in department stores here, prefer to come here where prices are negotiable,” he tells IPS.

In places like Harare’s high-density suburbs of Glenview, Machipisa, Budiriro and Kuwadzana, busy carpenters make and sell furniture to individuals and big businesses.

According to the Informal Woodworkers’ Association, a Harare-based organisation, 18,500 people are currently engaged in informal carpentry in the capital.

“Most carpenters here shun practicing formally, evading operational costs from local and government authorities for the land and resources they use, resulting in close to 20,000 people turning to informal carpentry. Indeed it is a sharp rise from about 7,000 back in 2009,” the association’s chairperson, Dickson Mapuranga, tells IPS.

He explains that the association guides carpenters on how to grow their business and links them to ready markets for their products.

The informal sector is absorbing jobless Zimbabweans. Here, 60 percent of this country’s 13 million people are unemployed, according to figures from the United Nations World Food Programme.

And a number of industries here have closed down over the years. According to the 2013 National Social Security Authority Harare Regional Employer Closures and Registrations Report, 711 companies closed shop between July 2011 and July 2013.

Many people who had previously been formally employed, some 3.7 million, are now working in the informal sector, according to the Poverty Income Consumption and Expenditure Survey, which was released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency in January.

The formal carpentry industry has been declining steadily as well. According to statistics by the Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprises, 13,400 people are said to be currently working in the formal carpentry sector countrywide. This is a fall from the 22,132 who worked in the same sector three years ago.

Carpenters like 39-year-old Ignatius Mhara from Chitungwiza town have turned their homes into mini furniture factories, sometimes earning thousands of dollars each month.

“Every day I have new furniture orders from my customers, which keeps me busy. Often I take home 400 to 600 dollars from daily sales as most of my customers can’t afford to make once-off payments for the furniture they purchase from me,” Mhara tells IPS.

But more often than not these informal industries are unregistered and unregulated and their owners often evade registration and taxation.

Economists here say these informal businesses have failed the government.

“Yes, informal businesses like carpentry are doing very well considering the ready market for their products. But the government is not earning revenue from them,” independent economist Kingston Nyakurukwa tells IPS.

A top government economist speaking to IPS on the condition of anonymity says the government is losing close to 32 million dollars a month in tax revenue from the informal carpentry sector.

Zimbabwe’s Small and Medium Enterprise Minister Sithembiso Nyoni tells IPS: “About 7.4 billion dollars is circulating in the informal sector; imagine if millions of people in informal sectors were to pay one dollar each per month to government fiscus.”

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced this year that the government is set to formalise the unofficial job sector through registering and licensing informal businesses and their economic activities.

But for many informal traders like Mhara, it remains to be seen whether or not they will embrace surrendering portions of their profits to the government as tax.

“Paying the government tax for our activities depends on what we also get from them. But we are getting nothing. We are harassed daily by so-called plain clothes officials from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, who accuse us of not benefiting the government,” Mhara says.

The post Informal Carpentry Hammers Away Zimbabwe’s State Revenue appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/informal-carpenters-hammer-away-zimbabwes-state-revenue/feed/ 0
India’s Women Lose the Election http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/indias-women-lose-election/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indias-women-lose-election http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/indias-women-lose-election/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 07:54:54 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133789 “Men just do not want to give up their seats, it’s as simple as that,” says 67-year-old candidate in the Indian election Subhhasini Ali, voicing a gloomy view across women’s groups in India. Ali, a two-time member of Parliament and key functionary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), an arm of the Communist […]

The post India’s Women Lose the Election appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
A protest against a proposed nuclear plant in the Indian state Gujarat. Women are asking for stronger representation in Parliament to voice their views. Credit: Krishnakant/IPS.

A protest against a proposed nuclear plant in the Indian state Gujarat. Women are asking for stronger representation in Parliament to voice their views. Credit: Krishnakant/IPS.

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Apr 21 2014 (IPS)

“Men just do not want to give up their seats, it’s as simple as that,” says 67-year-old candidate in the Indian election Subhhasini Ali, voicing a gloomy view across women’s groups in India.

Ali, a two-time member of Parliament and key functionary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), an arm of the Communist Party of India-Marxists (CPI-M), is contesting from Barrackpore, a constituency in the eastern Indian state West Bengal.“This election, we get the feeling that we have lost. Women are getting more and more sidelined." -- Jyotsna Chatterji, the Joint Women’s Programme

She is among a few women contesting. Political parties, even those vociferously supporting reservation for women in Parliament, have failed to put up on average even one woman for every 10 males contesting India’s 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament.

Women candidates are only seven percent among 3,355 candidates in the first five phases of the nine-stage election, says the Delhi-based public interest organisation, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), that is campaigning for greater transparency and more inclusive representation in Indian elections.

Women activists looking at state-wise trends expect no improvement by way of inclusion of women in the final phases of the election.

Women constitute 388 million, or 47.6 percent of the 814.5 million voters eligible to vote in the election running from Apr. 7 to May 12.

“When our presence is not considered important in the Parliament, when decisions about our future are taken without consulting us, why should we cast our votes to elect another group of politicians who do not believe in the cause of women empowerment in this country,” says Ranjana Kumari from the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research.

“This election, we get the feeling that we have lost. Women are getting more and more sidelined,” Jyotsna Chatterji from the non-profit Joint Women’s Programme (JWP) tells IPS.

In the 15th general election in 2009, 556 women out of 8,070 contestants from 363 political parties  were given tickets to contest, according to data from the Election Commission. That was just 6.9 percent of the candidates, making representation in this election hardly better. Fifty-nine women – 10.9 percent – won. This was the highest number of women contestants and winners since 1957.

A 1996 Women Reservation Bill (WRB) proposing reservation of a third of the seats to women in the lower house of Parliament and in state legislatures has been stymied by various political parties for more than 18 years now. Women groups pushing for greater representation, for whom the failure to pass the WRB has remained a political raw nerve since, blame this on the entrenched patriarchal mindset of male politicians.

If enacted, 180 berths in the Lok Sabha would be reserved for women. Political parties opposing the WRB say a quota within the quota should be given to women from backward communities. Dalits and tribal communities already have 120 seats reserved in the Lok Sabha. In 2009, 17 women got elected under this quota.

“Many political parties had agreed to the WRB’s stipulation about voluntarily giving 33 percent tickets to women members, legal quota aside,” says Chatterji, who spearheaded the reservation movement in the late1990s with a group of other activists. Political parties have fallen far short of this.

Given women’s visibly increased participation in professional spheres, public debates, and also increased voting in elections, women groups say they had hoped political parties would walk the gender talk and give at least 15 to 20 percent tickets to women, recognising the major socio-political changes under way.

“Nothing is going to change in women’s representation unless the [Women’s Reservation] Bill is passed,” says Ali.

The three main political parties – the ruling Congress party, the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) widely expected to form the new government, and the few months old Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party) have all promised in their manifestos to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill if voted to power.

“Unless certain attitudes are overcome it is useless to expect individual parties to put up more women candidates, and moreover where no party is obliged to do it,” Malini Bhattacharya, 70, twice member of Parliament and former member of the National Commission for Women, tells IPS.

Ruth Manorama, 62, Dalit women’s rights activist, who heads the National Alliance of Women, and is contesting from the Bangalore South constituency on a Janata Dal (Secular) party ticket, is more optimistic. “To give a bigger role to women in political decision making, we need to go step by step,” Manorama tells IPS.

Others argue for bolder change. “Political party structures and the election process itself need drastic change if women are to participate in large numbers,” says Tapashi Praharaj of AIDWA. “Women’s winning ability is consistently under question, without however attempting to build them up.”

“The huge funds required to fight an election today is another obstacle for women to contest elections,” says Chatterji. The government raised spending limits for a candidate in this election to seven million rupees (116,000 dollars).

Chatterji says while male leaders argue they cannot find suitable women candidates, there are many eligible women who have not caught the eye of political parties.

More than two million women have served in decision-making bodies in India’s local governments, or panchayat raj, under the 33 percent seat reservation since 1993. In some states that quota has been raised to 50 percent. Urban local bodies too have reserved seats for women. These quotas have created a significant mass of grassroots women leaders.

India, the world’s largest democracy, has a mere 11.4 percent women in both houses of Parliament, compared to the world average of 21.8 percent. Afghanistan has 27.6 percent women in Parliament and Pakistan 18.5 percent, according to 2014 data from the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

The post India’s Women Lose the Election appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/indias-women-lose-election/feed/ 0
Poland Uses Ukraine to Push Coal http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/poland-uses-ukraine-push-coal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poland-uses-ukraine-push-coal http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/poland-uses-ukraine-push-coal/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 08:05:16 +0000 Claudia Ciobanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133785 A European ‘energy union’ plan proposed by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as an EU response to the crisis in Ukraine could be a Trojan horse for fossil fuels. On account of Poland’s proximity and deep historical ties to Ukraine, the country’s centre-right government led by Donald Tusk has assumed a prominent position in attempts […]

The post Poland Uses Ukraine to Push Coal appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Environmentalists protesting against coal outside the Polish Ministry of Economy. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS.

Environmentalists protesting against coal outside the Polish Ministry of Economy. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS.

By Claudia Ciobanu
WARSAW, Apr 20 2014 (IPS)

A European ‘energy union’ plan proposed by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as an EU response to the crisis in Ukraine could be a Trojan horse for fossil fuels.

On account of Poland’s proximity and deep historical ties to Ukraine, the country’s centre-right government led by Donald Tusk has assumed a prominent position in attempts to ease the crisis in Ukraine. Notoriously, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski helped negotiate a February deal between then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders of Euromaidan, the name given to the pro-EU protests in Kiev.Asking for a prominent role for coal and shale gas is mostly a Polish game.

The Polish government’s assertiveness came with quick electoral gains. According to a poll conducted in early April by polling agency TNS Polska, Tusk’s Civic Platform for the first time in years took a lead in voters’ preferences over the conservative Peace and Justice Party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

“Not only is Civic Platform back in the lead, but also more Poles are ready to vote and vote for the government,” Lukasz Lipinski, an analyst at think tank Polityka Insight in Warsaw, told IPS. “All opposition parties now want to move the debate [ahead of the May 25 European elections] to domestic issues because on those it is much easier to criticise the Civic Platform after six years of government.”

Yet Tusk’s executive insists on Ukraine because of the benefits the topic can still bring. In the last weekend of March, the prime minister announced a Polish proposal for a European energy union that would make Europe resilient to crises like the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

“The experience of the last few weeks [Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] shows that Europe must strive towards solidarity when it comes to energy,” said Tusk speaking in Tychy, a city in the southern coal-producing Silesia region.

He went on to outline the six dimensions of the ‘energy union’: the creation of an effective gas solidarity mechanism in case of supply crises; financing from the European Union’s funds for infrastructure ensuring energy solidarity in particular in the east of the EU; collective energy purchasing; rehabilitation of coal as a source of energy; shale gas extraction; and radical diversification of gas supply to the EU.

“It is very disappointing to note the total absence of energy efficiency measures from this vision, even though it featured centrally in the March European Council on Crimea conclusions,” Julia Michalak, EU climate policy officer at the NGO coalition Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, told IPS. “If the Crimea crisis did not make the government realise that energy efficiency is the easiest and cheapest way to achieve real energy security for Europe, I’m not sure what would.”

While some of the measures proposed by Tusk would indeed lead (assuming they could be implemented) to increased European solidarity in the energy sector, asking for a prominent role for coal and shale gas is mostly a Polish game.

At the moment, the EU has no common binding EU policies on shale gas – various EU countries such as France and Bulgaria even have moratoriums on exploration. And the EU’s long-term climate objectives, primarily the 2050 decarbonisation goal, make a true coal resurrection unlikely.

According to Michalak, the coal and shale gas elements of the Polish six-point plan must be understood, on the one hand, as aimed at domestic audiences who want to see their government play hard ball and, on the other, as a negotiating tool meant to draw some specific gains out of Brussels.

The Tusk government has made herculean efforts to persuade foreign companies interested in shale gas to stick to the country, including firing environment minister Marcin Korolec during the climate change talks COP19 last year for reportedly not being shale gas friendly enough. Nevertheless, in April this year, France’s TOTAL became the fourth company to announce dropping exploratory works in Poland, as shale gas here is proving more scarce than initially thought.

The Polish national consensus on coal too is starting to show minor cracks.

Nearly 90 percent of electricity used in Poland comes from coal, and the government’s long-term energy strategy envisages a core role for coal up to 2060. Tusk’s executive has been unsuccessfully trying to torpedo the EU’s adoption of decarbonisation targets, so at the moment it is unclear how authorities will reconcile EU commitments with a coal-dependent economy.

Last year, the chief executive of state energy company PGE resigned, arguing that an expansion by 1,800 MW of Opole coal plant in south-western Poland is unprofitable. The government chose to go ahead with expansion plans anyway.

Despite the generalised perception in Poland that coal is a cheap form of energy, this month saw leading newspapers (including the conservative Rzeczpospolita) discussing externalities of coal following a study by think tank Warsaw Institute for Economic Studies showing that, between 1990-2012, Polish subsidies for coal amounted to 170 bn PLN (40 billion euros).

In 2013, a series of international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, announced significant restrictions to their financing of coal – lending to Polish coal, for instance, would be impossible for these institutions under the new guidelines.

Poland also has to implement the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive which calls for stricter pollution standards at energy producing units as of 2016 or closure of plants which do not comply. And it is potentially in this space that some of the benefits of Poland’s tough game on coal in Brussels could be seen.

In February, the European Commission allowed Poland to exempt 73 of its energy producing units from the requirements of the Directive, including two outdated units at Belchatow coal plant in central Poland, Europe’s largest thermal coal plant (5,298 MW) and biggest CO2 emitter.

Additionally, it has emerged this month that Poland intends to use regional funds meant for tackling urban air pollution from the next EU budget (2014-2020) to finance modernisation measures at the country’s biggest coal and gas producers, both private and state-owned.

The post Poland Uses Ukraine to Push Coal appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/poland-uses-ukraine-push-coal/feed/ 0
In U.S., Black Preschool Students “Punished More Severely” http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-s-black-preschool-students-punished-severely/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-black-preschool-students-punished-severely http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-s-black-preschool-students-punished-severely/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 13:41:12 +0000 Michelle Tullo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133777 In the United States, African American children continue to face more barriers to success than any other race, new research suggests. A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation lists 12 categories that can contribute to a child’s success, including enrolment in preschool, living with two parents and distance from the poverty line. Under these metrics, […]

The post In U.S., Black Preschool Students “Punished More Severely” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Michelle Tullo
WASHINGTON, Apr 19 2014 (IPS)

In the United States, African American children continue to face more barriers to success than any other race, new research suggests.

A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation lists 12 categories that can contribute to a child’s success, including enrolment in preschool, living with two parents and distance from the poverty line. Under these metrics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders scored highest (with a total score of 776 out of 1000), followed by whites (704).“It’s not just poverty, not just that black kids are worse behaved. It is important to see that there is something going on that is pervasive, chronic and systematic.” -- David Osher

African American children not only scored the lowest under this ranking, but with a score of just 345 they were found to have less than half of the indicators for potential success as other races in the United States.

“We know that the current status of poor kids is bad, the current status of black kids is bad, and the combination of poverty and racial discrimination is particularly toxic,” David Osher, vice-president of the American Institute for Research, told IPS. “But we also know enough to make a difference, like the emerging understanding that kicking kids out of schools is not a good solution.”

Osher refers to new civil rights-related data released by the U.S. Department of Education last month. These findings suggest that African American students are being suspended from school at inordinate levels, even at the very earliest grades.

While a fifth of public preschool students in the United States are African American, nearly half of all preschool students who received more than one out-of-school preschool suspension are African American. White students, on the other hand, represent 43 percent of public preschool enrolment but make up just 23 percent of preschoolers given out-of-school suspension.

“This data collection shines a clear, unbiased light on places that are delivering on the promise of an equal education for every child and places where the largest gaps remain,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said on releasing the new data. “In all, it is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed.”

The study marked the first time that a federal initiative known as the Civil Rights Data Collection included preschool, but the numbers reflect similar trends at all levels of lower and secondary school.

“Black children are not behaving worse,” Jim Eichner, the managing director of programmes at the Advancement Project, an advocacy group, told IPS. “But they are being punished and punished more severely.”

Zero tolerance

While the reasons children are suspended in preschool are not reported, anecdotally such actions appear to be being taken for relatively minor infractions, such as like “not paying attention, being late or talking back,” Eichner says.

Out-of-school suspension has multiple and varied negative impacts on the student and school community. Not only do students miss class time, but they tend to receive the message they are not welcome in school.

Such actions also tend to create new mistrust between the student and teachers that can challenge future learning.

In addition, out-of-school suspension can jeopardise a family’s income if a parent needs to leave work. Or, if a parent cannot leave work, the child may not be sent to a well-supervised home.

Finally, some advocates worry that excluding a child fails to teach him or her how to manage the behaviour that originally caused the problem.

Suspending children at such a young age comes from a “zero tolerance” discipline policy. Such an approach stems from anti-drugs policy adopted by the U.S. criminal justice system during the 1980s, and brought into schools as an attempt to combat increased violence and school shootings.

Yet the broader approach has been seen as something of a failure by the U.S. criminal justice system, a view increasingly being adopted by those working in the school system, as well.

Both Osher and Eichner, for instance, are involved in studying and promoting alternatives to zero-tolerance policies. Eichner particularly points to restorative justice techniques that have students work together to mend any problems, adding that punitive atmospheres have been found to harm all students.

Implicit bias

Although the Civil Rights Data Collection does not investigate why these disparities occur, Osher and Eichner both explain that this is one effect of overarching social, economic and political structures.

“There are disparities in all aspects of youth life: education, juvenile justice and corrections, health. When you control for any of the explanations people come up with, they don’t work,” Osher says.

“It’s not just poverty, not just that black kids are worse behaved. It is important to see that there is something going on that is pervasive, chronic and systematic.”

He notes that here are several characteristics related to classrooms from which more kids are suspended. These include class size, the ratio between teachers and students, teacher stress levels, and the availability of mental health consultation.

Both Osher and Eichner also note the role of implicit bias in teachers.

“People can be very well-intended, but in moments of stress they can make a subtle set of calculations that are probably intuitive on whether to get more help or whether to tell the kid to get out,” said Osher.

This implicit bias appears to be particularly notable when dealing with young black preschool students. Researchers have found, for instance, that people tend to overestimate the age of black students, adding as much as three years, thus perceiving the student as less childlike and less innocent.

The first step in ending implicit bias is to name it and talk about it, scholars say.

Some are working on “peer coaching” models, for instance, in which teachers film themselves teaching. Peers can then point out ways a teacher might be acting with bias – and recommend ways to overcome it.

New approaches like this make Osher optimistic that ongoing today’s racial disparity can be decreased.

“These indicators don’t have to be predictors of the future,” he says. “Rather, they’re indicators for what public policy should do.”

The post In U.S., Black Preschool Students “Punished More Severely” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-s-black-preschool-students-punished-severely/feed/ 0
When Not To Go To School http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/go-school/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=go-school http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/go-school/#comments Sat, 19 Apr 2014 06:24:01 +0000 Ranjita Biswas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133774 In large parts of rural India, the absence of separate toilets for growing girls is taking a toll on their education. Many are unable to attend school during their menstrual cycle. According to the country’s Annual Status of Education Report in 2011, lack of access to toilets causes girls between 12 and 18 years of […]

The post When Not To Go To School appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
A new toilet for girl students at a school in Murshidabad district in the eastern Indian state West Bengal. Credit: Sulabh International/IPS.

A new toilet for girl students at a school in Murshidabad district in the eastern Indian state West Bengal. Credit: Sulabh International/IPS.

By Ranjita Biswas
KOLKATA, Apr 19 2014 (IPS)

In large parts of rural India, the absence of separate toilets for growing girls is taking a toll on their education. Many are unable to attend school during their menstrual cycle.

According to the country’s Annual Status of Education Report in 2011, lack of access to toilets causes girls between 12 and 18 years of age to miss around five days of school every month, or around 50 school days every year.“There is a sharp increase in the dropout rate, mainly among girls, as they move from primary to upper primary, because we cannot till date provide them proper toilets."

The country’s Supreme Court had ruled in 2011 that every public school has to have toilets. But a pan-India study, ‘The Learning Blocks’, conducted by the NGO CRY in 2013, shows that 11 percent of schools do not have toilets and only 18 percent have separate ones for girls. In 34 percent of schools, toilets are in bad condition or simply unusable.

Atindra Nath Das, regional director of CRY East, told IPS, “Children do not have safe drinking water, schools still do not have their own building and toilets are missing. No wonder 8.1 million children in India are still out of school.

“There is a sharp increase in the dropout rate, mainly among girls, as they move from primary to upper primary, because we cannot till date provide them proper toilets,” he said.

A 2010 report by the U.N. University Institute for Water, Environment and Health noted, “Once girls reach puberty, lack of access to sanitation becomes a central cultural and human health issue, contributing to female illiteracy and low levels of education, in turn contributing to a cycle of poor health for pregnant women and their children.”

According to India’s 2011 census data, national sanitation coverage is 49 percent but the rural figure is worse, at 31 percent.  It is even lower for Dalits or socially marginalised communities (23 percent) and tribal people (16 percent).

Lack of sanitation facilities is still a stumbling block for the effective spread of health and education programmes in many parts of rural India.

Mahila Jagriti Samiti (MJS), an NGO working in Jharkhand, an economically backward state in eastern India with a large tribal population, has been conducting awareness programmes on the use of sanitation, but is not very happy with the results.

Mahi Ram Mahto, director of MJS, told IPS: “We have done 300 sanitation programmes, even helping to build toilets in homes with funding from government agencies, but only 15 to 20 percent of the beneficiaries use them.”

Without a cistern for flushing, the toilets pose a problem, he says. “People have to carry water in buckets from a common water source like a hand pump or a pond; most households do not have taps. They say they might as well go to the open field.”

In 1999, India launched the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan or Total Sanitation Campaign, a community-based programme, under which it gives an equivalent of about 80 dollars to a household to set up a toilet. But many poor people say that is not enough and still defecate in the fields or by railway lines.

The campaign has “provisions for toilet facility and hygiene education in all types of government rural schools (up to higher secondary or class 12) with emphasis on toilets for girls.”

But provisions alone do not help, activists say.

Access to water for toilets is a major problem in many rural schools in the eastern state of West Bengal, says Vijay K. Jha, honorary controller at the state branch of Sulabh International. The NGO leads one of the world’s biggest and most successful sanitation programmes.

“We have worked in 50 schools in Murshidabad district of India’s eastern state West Bengal, providing infrastructure and running awareness programmes on hygiene. Plans are afoot to extend the work to 100 more in the near future,” Jha told IPS.

Despite separate toilets for girls, the results are not satisfactory. As in the case of Jharkhand, non-availability of water hinders toilet use. Most schools do not have water pipes running up to the compounds.

Diara Hazi Nasrat Mallick High School in Murshidabad district, where Sulabh has constructed a separate toilet, is a typical example.

Alaul Haque, the school headmaster, told IPS, “We are happy that this facility has been built. But girls still have to bring water from the tubewell because there’s no water pipe connection in the school yet.” Half of about 300 students at the school are girls.

Another institution in the same district, Gayeshpur High School, has the same complaint. “With around 300 girl students in our co-ed school, we need at least two toilets. We were happy that the toilet has been built, but it still lacks flowing water,” headmaster Prasanta Chatterjee told IPS.

The government scheme under which NGOs take up the work of building toilets does not include providing water pipes – a task that depends on local agencies.

Girl students during the menstrual cycle are advised not to carry heavy objects like buckets filled with water; so they avoid school altogether during those days if there is no easy access to water in the toilets.

Under India’s Right to Education Act of 2009, which recognises the right of children to free and compulsory education till the completion of elementary school, provision of proper toilets as part of school infrastructure is mandatory, says S.N. Dave, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) specialist at Unicef Kolkata.

Dave told IPS: “West Bengal being in a riverine area, water is not much of a problem. But there is scope for improvement in terms of better coordination between agencies.”

Some states like Kerala in the south and Sikkim in the northeast fare better.

According to a Planning Commission study in 2013, Sikkim had the best performing gram panchayats (village councils) and maintenance of sanitation facilities, having achieved 100 percent sanitation.

The post When Not To Go To School appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/go-school/feed/ 0
U.N. Denies Dragging Its Feet on U.S.-Iran Visa Dispute http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-n-denies-dragging-feet-u-s-iran-visa-dispute/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-n-denies-dragging-feet-u-s-iran-visa-dispute http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-n-denies-dragging-feet-u-s-iran-visa-dispute/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:46:30 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133771 After two long weeks of raging controversy over Washington’s refusal to grant a U.S. visa to the Iranian envoy to the United Nations, the U.N.’s office of legal affairs is being accused of moving at the pace of a paralytic snail – only to seek more time while remaining non-committal on the dispute. But U.N. […]

The post U.N. Denies Dragging Its Feet on U.S.-Iran Visa Dispute appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
GA am

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 18 2014 (IPS)

After two long weeks of raging controversy over Washington’s refusal to grant a U.S. visa to the Iranian envoy to the United Nations, the U.N.’s office of legal affairs is being accused of moving at the pace of a paralytic snail – only to seek more time while remaining non-committal on the dispute.

But U.N. Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric challenged the timeline, pointing out that the United Nations would see events quite differently."The most basic logic of diplomacy is that it is not only your friends that you must talk with, you must also talk with those with whom you disagree." -- Dr. James E. Jennings

“The suggestion of allowing this matter to linger for two weeks is hardly accurate,” he told IPS Friday.

After a meeting Tuesday with Iran’s charge d’affaires Ambassador Gholamhossein Dehghani, U.N. Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares was holding back his ruling on the ground he was “still studying the issue and would very carefully consider precedents and past practice.”

“Still studying after two long weeks? That response was like a mountain labouring to produce a mouse,” said an Asian diplomat, conversant with the intricacies of U.N. politics and the nuances of English idiom and Aesop’s Fables.

Dr. James E. Jennings, president of Conscience International and executive director of U.S. Academics for Peace, told IPS, “Secretary General Ban Ki-moon now has the opportunity to stop dawdling and make a principled statement on the issue.”

But so far he has not.

Dujarric told IPS the U.N. legal counsel met with representatives of Iran on Tuesday immediately after they asked to see him.

He then followed up straightaway with a meeting with U.S. representatives on Wednesday.

As soon as the legal counsel was officially notified of developments, said Dujarric, he met with the representatives involved.

As events unfold, the United Nations stands accused of refusing to make a ruling – either supportive of the United States or Iran – by repeatedly dismissing the dispute as essentially a bilateral problem.

Dr. Jennings said it is a violation of the spirit of the U.N. Charter to use the pretense of national security or any other contrived smokescreen to prevent a country’s rightful representation in the world body.

As a sovereign nation, Iran has the right to name its own ambassadors, and does not need to ask permission of the U.S. or the U.N. to do so, said Dr. Jennings, who early this year, led a delegation of U.S. professors to Tehran for meetings with Iran’s foreign ministry and with the leader of Iran’s team of nuclear negotiators.

The U.S. decision last week to deny a visa to the Iranian envoy-in- waiting, Hamid Aboutalebi, has been challenged as a violation of the 1947 U.S.-U.N. Headquarters Agreement which was aimed at facilitating, not hindering, the work of the world body.

A former representative of a U.N.-based non-governmental organisation told IPS the United Nations in its dithering inaction is behaving like most governments behave when dealt a blow by the hegemon – “shut up and keep your head down”.

“We have to remember that when [former Secretary-General] Kofi Annan sent a private letter to former President George W Bush warning politely against a massive U.S. military attack on Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, Washington countered with a fierce attack on Annan himself, forcing out most of his senior staff.

“Ban Ki-moon doubtless has this terrible precedent in mind as he reflects on his reaction to the latest U.S. breach of the Headquarters Agreement.”

Dujarric said a meeting of the U.N. Committee on Relations with the Host Country has also been quickly arranged and will take place next Tuesday.

Representatives of the Office of the Legal Counsel will be present as the issue is discussed. If the Committee requests a legal opinion, the Legal Counsel will prepare one.

“All this should convey that we take the Headquarters Agreement and its implementation very seriously,” Dujarric said.

“In the past days I have repeatedly said that this is a serious issue and that we hoped it would be settled bilaterally,” he added.

He also argued that comparisons to unrelated events in the past are neither helpful nor relevant.

Dr. Jennings told IPS the hubris of the U.S. Congress over approving a visa, combined with the timidity of President Barack Obama, has greatly escalated the danger of a flare-up over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“That short-sighted, knee-jerk posture has the potential to ignite a conflict that could dwarf the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he warned.

The U.N. is, diplomatically speaking, “a corpus separatum [with special legal and political status] designed to be independent of the United States,” noted Dr Jennings.

“Of course, the U.S. has the right to refuse visas to anyone deemed a security threat, but Ambassador Hamid Aboutalebi is not such a person. He has a sterling record and a long career as a diplomat.

“The most basic logic of diplomacy is that it is not only your friends that you must talk with, you must also talk with those with whom you disagree in order resolve problems,” he added.

“If there ever was a need for peace through far-sighted diplomacy, this is such a time,” Dr Jennings declared.

The U.S. has accused Aboutalebi of being involved in the 1979 forcible takeover of the U.S. embassy and its diplomatic personnel in Teheran.

But the Iranian says he was only a translator and negotiator between the hostages and the hostage takers – and that he was not even in Tehran when the embassy was physically taken over by a group called the Muslim Students.

The post U.N. Denies Dragging Its Feet on U.S.-Iran Visa Dispute appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-n-denies-dragging-feet-u-s-iran-visa-dispute/feed/ 0
Q&A: The Case for Cutting African Poverty in Half http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/qa-case-cutting-african-poverty-half/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-case-cutting-african-poverty-half http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/qa-case-cutting-african-poverty-half/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 18:58:08 +0000 Bryant Harris http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133768 Bryant Harris interviews MTHULI NCUBE, Chief Economist for the African Development Bank

The post Q&A: The Case for Cutting African Poverty in Half appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Informal traders at Malanga market on the outskirts of Maputo, Mozambique. Most of the products on offer are purchased in Zimbabwe or South Africa. Credit: Nastasya Tay/IPS

Informal traders at Malanga market on the outskirts of Maputo, Mozambique. Most of the products on offer are purchased in Zimbabwe or South Africa. Credit: Nastasya Tay/IPS

By Bryant Harris
WASHINGTON, Apr 18 2014 (IPS)

As the World Bank wrapped up its semi-annual joint meetings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) here last weekend, it reaffirmed its commitment to bringing extreme poverty below three percent of the global population by 2030 while increasing the income of the poorest 40 percent of the population of each country.

However, some suggest that in sub-Saharan Africa, this may be impossible.It’s not easy to fix a country, rebuild institutions and get growth going while making sure it’s consistent, shared and inclusive. Poverty pockets exist in the large, vital countries.

“Even under our ‘best case’ scenario of accelerated consumption growth and income redistribution from the 10 percent richest to the 40 percent poorest segment of population, the 2030 poverty rate would be around 10 percent,” says a new report from the African Development Bank (AfDB). “A more realistic goal for the region seems to be reducing poverty by a range from half to two thirds.”

Although extreme poverty will likely remain high in Africa by 2030, AfDB’s chief economist, Mthuli Ncube, the new report’s chief author, painted a cautiously optimistic picture as to the prospects for poverty reduction in Africa during an interview with IPS.

Q: Even though the World Bank goal is to reduce extreme poverty by less than three percent globally by 2030, Africa won’t be able to meet that goal. Can you give us more background as to why that is?

A: Our view is that it’s a good goal to have … but it differs from region to region. The region that is likely to achieve this ambitious goal is Asia, not Africa. Although Africa has made tremendous progress, there’s still a lot of work to do. Under our baseline scenario, Africa will achieve something like 25 to 27 percent poverty levels in the year 2030. Currently it’s about 48 percent. So in this case we’re talking about something like a 50 percent reduction, maybe.

It’s a monumental task. Why? We’ve some challenges in Africa. One is fragility. If you look at some of the large countries with a lot of poverty – like the [Democratic Republic of Congo], it is a fragile country. It’s not easy to fix a country, rebuild institutions and get growth going while making sure it’s consistent, shared and inclusive. Poverty pockets exist in the large, vital countries.

Even if you have growth, growth is just simply not shared. If you use a more inclusive definition of growth and poverty reduction … service delivery around health care and education is very difficult. These are large countries where governments are decentralised.

Q: Nigeria is one of the more populous countries, and it’s now surpassed South Africa as Africa’s largest economy. Yet it still seems like there’s a large degree of extreme poverty there. How does income inequality play into extreme poverty?

A: In Nigeria, the new figure says that the size of the economy is 510 billion dollars, larger than South Africa. Income per capita has gone up to about 2,400 dollars, so it looks much better than before. But after this announcement, it doesn’t change people’s lives. They’re still poor. So it becomes an overall aggregate figure and that speaks to inequality.

Inequality is high and it also has a way of slowing a country down in its poverty-reduction drive. The more poverty you have, the less productive you become, which impacts your ability to grow.

Our analysts show that the long-term [obstacle] in dealing with extreme poverty is to get the children of the poor into school, to have them stay in school and finish school. That is the only way. Education is the biggest driver of getting people out of extreme poverty … and into the middle class. And then, because they all have decent incomes and jobs, they will keep their children out of poverty.

Let’s not forget, in the interim, the role of short-term social protection programmes. Brazil had an incredible track record under [President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva], with a programme called Bolsa Familia that got 30 to 40 million people out of poverty through social protection programmes.

There are countries in Africa trying to do that – Rwanda, South Africa and Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the one country that I think is going to rotate out of extreme poverty by 2030, so it’s going to be the most successful in dealing with poverty out of the large-population countries.

Ultimately there need to be some short-term measures, but the long-term measure is education.

Q: Which sub-Saharan African countries are doing particularly well at reducing extreme poverty?

A: Ethiopia is the one that we can really highlight because it’s a large population, nearly 85 million, and they’re dealing with the reduction of extreme poverty as a problem. First, the big story about poverty reduction is sustaining growth, and Ethiopia’s had a wonderful growth rate for the past 10 years.

Second is making sure that it’s inclusive, shared and creates opportunity. It should create jobs and finance services for access to education, health, housing and so forth. All those are strategies for sharing wealth.

It’s also about social protection programmes that keep the people out of poverty and then allow them to make progress. Let me tell you this story about the Grinka Programme in Rwanda. You leave one pregnant cow to a poor household, and that cow will have a calf and another one and so forth. And if it’s a female calf, you pass that calf on to the next poor family and then the next poor family.

In the next few years, that programme is going to take about 300,000 families in Rwanda out of poverty. Why? These families can harvest the milk and consume it. Secondly, they can sell the milk and the manure, but also use [the manure] to grow vegetables, which they can then sell and make money. So you create a whole economic ecosystem around the cow.

I even suggested this for Somalia. Maybe there’s an asset-replacement programme that could cause similar results elsewhere. This is a case of what I would call productive social protection, because you’re giving someone an asset that produces something and it actually works.

The post Q&A: The Case for Cutting African Poverty in Half appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/qa-case-cutting-african-poverty-half/feed/ 0
U.S. Foreign Aid Approach Is Outdated, Experts Say http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-s-foreign-aid-approach-outdated-experts-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-foreign-aid-approach-outdated-experts-say http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-s-foreign-aid-approach-outdated-experts-say/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 18:29:28 +0000 Farangis Abdurazokzoda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133766 U.S. foreign aid is becoming increasingly outdated, analysts here are suggesting. Rather, reforms to U.S. assistance need to focus on issues of accountability and country ownership, according to a policy paper released this week by Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a prominent coalition of international development advocates and foreign policy experts. “Aid is a strong expression of […]

The post U.S. Foreign Aid Approach Is Outdated, Experts Say appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Farangis Abdurazokzoda
WASHINGTON, Apr 18 2014 (IPS)

U.S. foreign aid is becoming increasingly outdated, analysts here are suggesting.

Rather, reforms to U.S. assistance need to focus on issues of accountability and country ownership, according to a policy paper released this week by Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a prominent coalition of international development advocates and foreign policy experts.“Aid should be structured in a way that citizens and NGOs can monitor how the government implements development projects." -- Casey Dunning

“Aid is a strong expression of U.S. moral, economic, and national security imperatives, and in many contexts the U.S. is still the most significant donor,” the paper states. But according to many metrics, U.S. aid is both non-transparent and inefficient.

“The United States needs to frame and deliver aid in a structured way that would support the effectiveness of aid in partnership countries and generate sustainable results,” Sylvain Browa, director of aid effectiveness at Save the Children, an independent charity, told IPS.

“In such dynamic environments, where all aid remains critical to savings lives, curing diseases and putting children in school, new players come to stage, and these include local leaders and citizens who know first-hand what their priorities are.”

In terms of aid quality, the United States ranked just 17th out of 22 major donors according to the Commitment to Development Index in 2013. Each year, the index ranks wealthy countries on how efficiently they help poor ones in areas of aid, trade, finance, migration, environment, security, and technology.

According to that ranking, just one U.S. agency was rated “very good” in terms of transparency. The agency responsible for the bulk of U.S. foreign assistance, USAID, was rated just “fair”, while the State Department and PEPFAR, the landmark anti-AIDS programme, were rated “poor” and “very poor” respectively.

MFAN suggests that a newly streamlined policy agenda, structured around two “mutually reinforcing pillars of reform” – accountability and country ownership – could significantly improve the effectiveness of U.S foreign aid.

“The donor-recipient paradigm of foreign aid is outdated,” the report states, and without priority on these two pillars, “we revert to old, tired, and stagnant paradigms of aid – paradigms that unnecessarily perpetuate aid dependency.”

The new program is designed to empower communities, which in turn should carry out country ownership, says George Ingram, MFAN’s co-chair and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, a think tank here.

“The two pillars are prerequisites to build the kind of capacity that will help enable leaders and citizens in the aid-recipient countries to take responsibility for their own development,” Ingram told IPS, “such as spending priorities, as well as making evidence-based conclusions about what works and what doesn’t.”

The report emphasises that such changes are also somewhat time-sensitive. Given looming domestic and international deadlines, MFAN’s analysts say the next two years constitute “an important window of opportunity for U.S. aid reform”.

“The midterm elections in 2014 are certain to shake up the membership of Congress,” they write. “In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals will expire and a new global development agenda will take its place. And 2016 will bring a new administration and further changes on Capitol Hill.”

Local destiny

The recommendations have received quick support from other development groups.

“The paper is of universal importance to all aid agencies, implementers and thinkers,” Casey Dunning, a senior policy analyst for the Centre for Global Development, a think tank here, told IPS.

But she warned that there were inherent difficulties in the recommendations, as well.

“There is a lot of rhetoric on what country ownership means or what accountability encompasses,” she says. “Ambiguities in definitions and measurements of accountability and country ownership make it difficult to make aid more effective. However, the MFAN report helps to find metrics for capacity-building and to see what it actually means.”

Save the Children’s Browa, too, notes that the concepts outlined in the report are not necessarily new.

“But when put together, these pillars are vital to building local capacity and creating local ownership of resources and tools for development,” he says, “so that country leaders and citizens can take leadership in their destiny.”

To achieve better transparency, the report’s authors are calling on the U.S. government to fully implement new global standards called the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) by the end of 2015. In addition, the ratings of the Aid Transparency Index should be extended to all U.S. government agencies, which currently doesn’t happen.

Further, all U.S. agencies should begin contributing comprehensive financial information to a landmark new online government information clearinghouse, known as the Foreign Assistance Dashboard.

Finally, aid and development decisions need to be guided by rigorous evaluation, MFAN says. Together, transparency and evaluation will help these agencies to achieve stronger results for both U.S. taxpayers and communities receiving U.S. assistance.

In all of this, Ingram notes, learning is one of the most important aspects in the policy proposal. “Data and evaluations are useless unless we learn from them and use them to make better decisions and achieve better results,” he says.

Defining partners

The aid paradigm has already shifted, MFAN’s report suggests. “Today, countries that give support through bilateral assistance and countries that receive such support are partners,” it states.

Yet how exactly to define those partnerships remains a work in progress.

“Aid should be structured in a way that citizens and NGOs can monitor how the government implements development projects,” CGD’s Dunning says, “and how the resources are utilised.”

Would such an approach run the risk of strengthening corruption at lower levels? Dunning says this isn’t necessarily the right question.

“We can’t shy away from the corruption issue, since it’s such an integral issue for debate,” she says. “And transparency is the key. It is vital to every programme, every sector. Together with other tools, such as evaluation and learning, transparency contributes to sustainable country ownership, which militates against corruption.”

MFAN’s Ingram, meanwhile, sees the empowerment of local communities as an anti-corruption tool in itself.

“Engaging smart and trusting people who know the culture and know how to manoeuvre through the dynamics of that country is very important,” he says.

“Informed and empowered citizens who demand good governance and sound priorities act as a check against corruption.”

The post U.S. Foreign Aid Approach Is Outdated, Experts Say appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/u-s-foreign-aid-approach-outdated-experts-say/feed/ 0
Ostracised and Isolated: Muslim Prisoners in the U.S. http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/ostracised-isolated-muslim-prisoners-u-s/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ostracised-isolated-muslim-prisoners-u-s http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/ostracised-isolated-muslim-prisoners-u-s/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 15:30:20 +0000 Kanya DAlmeida http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133763 This is the second installment of a two-part series examining the use of ‘lawfare’ on Muslim citizens accused of terror-related activity.

The post Ostracised and Isolated: Muslim Prisoners in the U.S. appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Tarek Mehanna (right) poses for a photograph with his mother and brother at his PhD ceremony. Photo courtesy the Mehanne family.

Tarek Mehanna (right) poses for a photograph with his mother and brother at his PhD ceremony. Photo courtesy the Mehanne family.

By Kanya D'Almeida
NEW YORK, Apr 18 2014 (IPS)

Such stigma now surrounds the word ‘terrorist’ that most recoil from it, or anyone associated with it, as though from a thing contagious; as though, by simple association, one could land in that black hole where civil liberties are suspended in the name of national security.

For many Muslim citizens of the United States, such ostracism has become a matter of routine, forcing family members of terror suspects to double up as legal advocates and political supporters for their brothers, husbands and sons.“We are a very tight-knit family, and this has been hell for us." -- Tamer Mehanna

A budding nationwide movement to shed light on rights abuses in domestic terror cases is straining to turn that tide. One of its primary sites of congregation is the patch of concrete outside the New York Metropolitan Correction Center (MCC), where suspects deemed violent are held incommunicado.

But the families that gather at the monthly vigils held there, sponsored by a growing coalition known as the No Separate Justice Campaign, speak of a different side to the story: one that involves the government abusing post-9/11 laws to round up non-violent, law-abiding Muslims for exercising their rights to free speech and religion.

At a Mar. 10 vigil outside the MCC, IPS spoke with Tamer Mehanna, brother of Tarek Mehanna, a Pittsburgh-born pharmacist who is serving out a 17-year sentence in Terra Haute, Indiana.

Prior to his conviction on several counts including material support for terrorism, Tarek spent two years in 23-hour isolation, the MCC in New York being just one of the locations where he was all but prevented from communicating with the outside world.

Advocates say Mehanna’s case represents the ‘separate justice system’ for Muslims, in microcosm.

Tamer recounted how, between 2004 and 2008, the FBI courted his brother, using everything from polite requests to psychological intimidation to convince him to become an informant. When all failed, Tarek was arrested at an airport in New York City on his way to Saudi Arabia.

"Thought Crimes": The Case of Tarek Mehanna

Experts say the case against Tarek Mehanna represents one of the most salient examples of prosecution for thought crimes in U.S. legal history.

Initially arrested for having allegedly given false testimony to an FBI official, Tarek was released on bail, then arrested a second time on charges of conspiring to shoot up a shopping mall, though no evidence for this allegation was ever offered in court.

Over the course of 35 days, the prosecution proceeded to build a case against Tarek based on records of online chats, his translation of an ancient Arabic text entitled ’39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad’ and his plans to take up a pharmaceutical position at a prestigious hospital in Saudi Arabia.

Tarek’s brother Tamer Mehnna told IPS that the prosecution never once referred to a specific action that could be construed as providing material support to terrorism. It appeared he was on the stand for nothing more than reading and knowledge sharing among the Muslim community of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Andrew March, a Yale professor who was summoned as an expert witness for the defense, summed up the trial succinctly when he said: “As a political scientist specializing in Islamic law and war, I frequently read, store, share and translate texts and videos by jihadi groups. As a political philosopher, I debate the ethics of killing. As a citizen, I express views, thoughts and emotions about killing to other citizens...At Mr. Mehanna’s trial, I saw how those same actions can constitute federal crimes.”

In addition to shelling out 1.3 million dollars in bail, Tarek’s family was shunned by their community in Massachusetts, spent endless hours in court and even gave up their jobs in order to advocate on his behalf.

“We are a very tight-knit family, and this has been hell for us,” Tamer told IPS. “When my brother was arrested, my mother had to watch her son, a respectable guy, being thrown on the ground and handcuffed like an animal in front of crowds of spectators – it was deeply traumatic.

“The second time he was arrested she was stronger, but it was my father’s turn to break down. Before this happened, I never even saw my father shed a tear,” he added. “But this just crushed him. He fell into a depression, into hopelessness, even lashed out at us for advocating on Tarek’s behalf.”

In their firm belief in Tarek’s innocence, the Mehanna family is not alone. An upcoming study co-authored by members of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) and Project SALAM (Support And Legal Advocacy for Muslims) documents hundreds of cases of Muslims imprisoned on terror-related charges despite a lack of evidence linking them with any tangible crime.

Former NCPCF Executive Director Stephen Downs told IPS that family members of what he calls ‘political prisoners’ – Muslim citizens tried and sentenced for nothing more than political views or religious beliefs – are deeply traumatised and often isolated.

“They share commonalities,” he said, “of being made to feel unwelcome at their mosques, losing their jobs, having people slip into depression. These outcomes are entirely predictable, but to have them deliberately inflicted on you by your own government is kind of shocking.”

Bi-annual conferences hosted by NCPCF attract 30 or 40 family members, who Downs says cherish the opportunity to come together and be heard, as respectable citizens with genuine grievances.

“They get to talk to the few people in the world who understand what they’re going through,” he said, “because if you haven’t experienced it, you just don’t get it.”

Extreme isolation

Family members speaking to IPS on condition of anonymity said their isolation from the community is nothing compared to the extreme forms of solitary confinement imposed on their loved ones, most of whom are housed in what the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BoP) calls Communication Management Units (CMUs).

According to Alexis Agathocleous, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), CMUs came quietly into existence during the George W. Bush administration, the first in Terre Haute, Indiana in 2006 and the second in Marion, Illinois in 2008.

“These units are quite unparalleled within the federal prison system,” Agathocleous told IPS. “They segregate prisoners from the rest of the population and impose very strict restrictions on prisoners’ ability to communicate with the outside world – this translates to drastically reduced access to social telephone calls and visits, and when visits do occur they are strictly non-contact.”

Of the roughly 80 prisoners held in CMUs, Agathocleous estimates that between 66 and 72 percent are Muslims, despite the fact that Muslims make up just six percent of the federal prison population.

He referred to this significant over-representation as “troubling”, adding, “There seems to be the use of religious profiling to select prisoners for CMU designation.”

Speaking at a rain-soaked vigil outside the MCC in early April, Andy Stepanian – an animal rights activist who spent six months in the CMU at Marion – said the Muslim men he met there were “exceptionally generous and caring.”

“There has not been a single night in the four and a half years since I’ve gotten out that I’ve not either had a nightmare or stayed up for hours wondering, ‘Why was I the lucky one who got out? Is it just because of the pigment of my skin?’” Stepanian said.

In 2010 CCR filed litigation representing several inmates housed in CMUs, challenging both the arbitrary and seemingly retaliatory nature of the designation, which is made worse by the fact that the BoP offers “no meaningful process through which [prisoners] can earn their way out – no hearing, no discernible limit on the amount of time someone can spend in a CMU and no meaningful criteria that a prisoner can work at in order to [gain] their release,” Agathocleous said.

Those fortunate enough to afford the monthly trips out to Indiana and Illinois have recorded their testimony of these tightly controlled visits, painful on both sides of the Plexiglas screens that separate loved ones.

At a recent NCPCF conference, Majida Salem, wife of Ghassan Elashi, recounted how her 12-year-old Down’s syndrome child refused to enter the visitation room at Marion.

“He cried and said, ‘It’s an ugly visit. Baba no touch… it’s bad,’” Salem said. “To me this is so merciless, keeping a man who did nothing but feed widows and orphans locked up in a CMU… for 65 years.”

The post Ostracised and Isolated: Muslim Prisoners in the U.S. appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/ostracised-isolated-muslim-prisoners-u-s/feed/ 3
South Sudan Dictates Media Coverage of Conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/south-sudan-dictates-media-coverage-conflict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-dictates-media-coverage-conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/south-sudan-dictates-media-coverage-conflict/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:14:28 +0000 Sadik Wani http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133723 As rebel forces loyal to South Sudan’s former vice president Riek Machar declared on Tuesday Apr. 15 that they had captured the key oil town of Bentiu, the government has been accused of clamping down on local media in an attempt to influence the reporting on the conflict. Though journalists here say that the government […]

The post South Sudan Dictates Media Coverage of Conflict appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Traditional dancers during celebrations to mark South Sudan's first anniversary of independence on Jul. 9, 2012 in Juba. However, journalists say the government has stifled freedom of the media. Credit: Charlton Doki/IPS

Traditional dancers during celebrations to mark South Sudan's first anniversary of independence on Jul. 9, 2012 in Juba. However, journalists say the government has stifled freedom of the media. Credit: Charlton Doki/IPS

By Sadik Wani
JUBA, Apr 18 2014 (IPS)

As rebel forces loyal to South Sudan’s former vice president Riek Machar declared on Tuesday Apr. 15 that they had captured the key oil town of Bentiu, the government has been accused of clamping down on local media in an attempt to influence the reporting on the conflict.

Though journalists here say that the government clampdown first began after independence in 2011, the situation has worsened since December when fighting broke out between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and Machar at military barracks in Juba, the country’s capital. 

Other cases of South Sudan’s media clampdown

  • Dec. 7, 2013: South Sudan’s National Security Service (NSS) officials confiscated copies of the Arabic daily Al Masir and the English daily Juba Monitor because they both carried a stories were senior members of the ruling party, including Riek Machar, criticised President Salva Kiir’s leadership and accused him of having dictatorial tendencies.

  • Dec. 11, 2013: NSS forces raided the printing press of the privately-owned English newspaper, The Citizen, and confiscated all copies. The paper had published a story detailing how security operatives arrested and detained the paper’s Editor–in-Chief, Nhial Bol, a few days earlier.

  • Jan. 16, 2014: NSS confiscated the entire print run of the English language daily, the Juba Monitor, because two articles were considered unfit for the public to read. One was an opinion piece by veteran journalist and the paper’s editor-in-chief, Alfred Taban, in which he proposed an interim government be formed to lead the country until elections in 2015. The second was an opinion piece giving a historical retrospective about past tribal tensions within South Sudan’s army.

  • Mar. 13, 2014: Voice of America South Sudan stated that an employee was picked up from the Juba office for questioning by national security officers of the South Sudan government.

  • Mar. 31, 2014: NSS operatives arrested Moses Legge, a reporter with Eye Radio. They interrogated him for several hours, confiscated his audio recorder and camera and only returned the equipment the following day.

The conflict spread to other parts of South Sudan and resulted in the death of thousands and the displacement of some 863,000 people.

“We have recorded more than five cases of journalists being summoned for interrogation or being arrested and detained in Juba alone and more than 10 other cases in other parts of the country since the start of the conflict in December,” said Oliver Modi Philip, chairperson of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS).

“These people [in government] are telling our journalists to report in a certain way that favours the government. They don’t want voices of people in the opposition to be heard. But as a union we are telling journalists that they should stick to their ethics and ensure they have balanced stories,” Philip told IPS.

On Apr. 10, National Security Service (NSS) operatives confiscated copies of the Juba Monitor because the newspaper published an opinion piece profiling the life of former Minister of Environment Alfred Ladu Gore, who is allied to Machar.

And last month, on Mar. 18 NSS operatives confiscated copies of the same newspaper because the Juba Monitor published a story saying that rebels were planning to advance on the Jonglei state capital, Bor.

On that same day, the NSS confiscated the registration certificate of Eye Media, the proprietors of Eye Radio, a Juba-based radio station. The station is still on air but the clampdown began when one of their reporters, Nichola Mandil, who was reporting on the peace process in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, was summoned by the NSS upon his return to Juba. Mandil and two of his colleagues were interrogated for two days because they station ran an interview with Gore who criticised Kiir, calling for him to step down.

The station’s chief executive Stephen Omiri was also summoned for questioning.

Beatrice Murail, Eye Radio’s editor who approved the interview for broadcast, was forced to resign and leave South Sudan. She has since returned to her home country of France.

“The media environment has become really difficult. It is difficult to report anything fairly and in a balanced manner in this kind of environment,” Omiri told IPS.

“We are being forced to report only what pleases the government. I don’t know how we are going to work,” he added.

South Sudanese officials have insisted that journalists refer to last year’s outbreak of violence in Juba as a coup attempt.

Up to now a majority of reporters working for private media houses have referred to the incident as an “alleged coup” attempt as Machar denied allegations that he was trying to overthrow Kiir. Machar went into hiding in December and in February announced that he had formed a resistance group against the government.

“You should clearly say that it was a coup attempt led by Riek Machar,” South Sudan’s Information Minister Micheal Makuei Lueth told reporters last month during a press conference in Juba where local and a few international journalists were present.

Lueth, who is also the government’s spokesperson, warned local journalists not to interview rebels fighting his government or they would risk imprisonment.

“If you interview rebels and play such interviews here in South Sudan you are agitating [the population]. You are making hostile propaganda and for that matter we will take you where we take people who are in conflict with the law,” he had said.

“Go and do whatever you want to do outside South Sudan but we will not allow any journalist who is hostile to the government to continue to disseminate this poison to the people,” Lueth said.

Last November Lueth directed all journalists to register with the government. However, most media outlets refused to do so and the deadline expired in December.

In Wau, the capital of Western Bahr al Ghazal state, security officials have demanded that reporters ask for permission to cover stories.

Michael Atit a journalist with Voice of Hope radio, which is funded by the Catholic Diocese of Wau, was harassed by security officials last month.

“They told me that every time I want to work on a story I should first get permission from the national security. They also said after gathering audio I should bring it to them so they can decide if I can use it on the radio or not,” Atit told IPS.

Atit refused to abide by the police demands.

The intimidation of journalists is in contrast to South Sudan’s February 2013 agreement to become the first country to adopt a new United Nations-backed initiative aimed at creating a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers.

Edmond Yakani of local civil society organisation, Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, criticised the government’s clampdown saying it would stifle the free growth of democracy in the country.

“People rely on the media for balanced information so they can make informed decisions. But this move by the government to stifle freedom of expression and speech, and freedom of the media is an attempt to feed us with rumours and one-sided information,” Yakani told IPS.

“At this critical time in our country it would be good for the government to allow the media to operate freely so that people can debate the issues affecting our country. It is only when you allow free speech that democracy can grow,” he added.

Meanwhile, Atit said that he and other journalists in Wau felt insecure because their movements were being monitored.

“I feel it’s not worth working as  journalist in Wau anymore,” Atit said, explaining that he was considering quitting.

The post South Sudan Dictates Media Coverage of Conflict appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/south-sudan-dictates-media-coverage-conflict/feed/ 0
COLUMN: Gabriel García Márquez, the Story-Teller of the Country of the War Without End http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/column-gabriel-garcia-marquez-story-teller-country-war-without-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=column-gabriel-garcia-marquez-story-teller-country-war-without-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/column-gabriel-garcia-marquez-story-teller-country-war-without-end/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 01:42:49 +0000 Diana Cariboni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133757 The first time I read Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) was when I was proofreading the galleys of “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor”, which the Editorial Sudamericana was getting ready to reprint in Argentina. I was working in the offices of the Sudamericana publishing house, in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of San Telmo, where I […]

The post COLUMN: Gabriel García Márquez, the Story-Teller of the Country of the War Without End appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
García Márquez in 1984. Credit: F3rn4nd0, edited by Mangostar C BY-SA 3.0

García Márquez in 1984. Credit: F3rn4nd0, edited by Mangostar C BY-SA 3.0

By Diana Cariboni
MONTEVIDEO, Apr 18 2014 (IPS)

The first time I read Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) was when I was proofreading the galleys of “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor”, which the Editorial Sudamericana was getting ready to reprint in Argentina.

I was working in the offices of the Sudamericana publishing house, in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of San Telmo, where I could find myself editing a gothic novel or a literary classic or a work by the Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik, due to the varied menu.

I was 17 years old and I was mesmerised by that short tale, a journalistic report by García Márquez published in a number of instalments in the El Espectador newspaper in Bogotá, in 1955, which came out as a book in 1970.

The complete title was “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor: Who Drifted on a Liferaft for Ten Days Without Food or Water, Was Proclaimed a National Hero, Kissed by Beauty Queens, Made Rich Through Publicity, and Then Spurned by the Government and Forgotten for All Time”.

Through the first-person account of the exploits of the survivor, García Márquez denounced that the shipwreck of the sailor and his seven companions, who drowned, was due to overweight contraband on the Colombian Navy’s destroyer Caldas.

Colombia at the time was under a military dictatorship, so the report led to the closure of the newspaper and the first of García Márquez’s various periods of exile. The last one began in 1997. He never returned to live in Colombia.

From there, of course, I jumped to “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, the masterpiece that the same publishing house, the Editorial Sudamericana, published in 1967, which was going to revolutionise Spanish language literature and influence the rest of the world’s image and cultural impression of Latin America.

We Latin Americans fell in love, and were shocked, by the Colombia that García Márquez described in this novel and in his other great works of fiction.

The cruelty of Colombia’s wars, the solitude of its heroes, the pathetic flip-flops of its politicians and military leaders, the eternal rule of its dictators, the ominous foreign presence, the state of abandon of its rural villages – all of it contained the realistic feel of first-hand experience. And, while unique, it was also similar to what was happening in so many other corners of the region.

But in the voice of García Márquez it took on another dimension, dreamlike, exuberant and humorous, which transported us as readers and allowed us to reflect on our own woes even with a kind of joy.

Like other great writers, García Márquez built a universe of his own, made up of real and invented places, unlikely characters, and lineages and genealogies.

Their names, like Macondo or Aureliano Buendía, now form part of the collective memory of Latin America, just like what happened centuries earlier with El Quijote.

I devoured all of his short stories and novels, from “La Hojarasca” (Leaf Storm – 1955) to “Memoria de mis putas tristes” (Memories of My Melancholy Whores – 2004), through the formidable and very dissimilar “El otoño del patriarca” (The Autumn of the Patriarch – 1975) and “El amor en los tiempos del cólera” (Love in the Time of Cholera – 1985).

When I was proofreading the galleys of “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor”, I didn’t yet know that I was going to become a journalist.

Many years later I travelled to Colombia as a reporter, and had the chance to see the land that I had caught a glimpse of through the books of García Márquez, who in 1982 was awarded the Nobel Literature prize.

I saw for myself how the war continued, undaunted, with shifting protagonists and nerve centres, but with the same trail of blood and the same grinding dispossession and neglect.

Since 2012, the Colombian authorities and the main leftist guerrilla group have been discussing in Havana how to put an end to the last half century of war.

García Márquez, who died of cancer on Thursday Apr. 17 in Mexico, did not live to see his country at peace. Hopefully his fellow Colombians won’t have to wait another 50 years.

Diana Cariboni is Co-Editor in Chief of IPS.

The post COLUMN: Gabriel García Márquez, the Story-Teller of the Country of the War Without End appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/column-gabriel-garcia-marquez-story-teller-country-war-without-end/feed/ 0