Inter Press ServiceFeatured – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:36:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Investors Turn Kenya’s Troublesome Invasive Water Hyacinth into Cheap Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:34:12 +0000 Benson Rioba http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159315 Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area. But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it. The presence […]

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Water hyacinth is a weed and if not controlled on Lake Victoria, experts are concerned that the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent. Courtesy: CC by 2.0/Madeira Botanic Garden

By Benson Rioba
KISUMU, Kenya, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area.

But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it.

The presence of water hyacinth on the lake is concerning. Late last year, Margaret Kidany, one of the people involved in conserving Lake Victoria’s beaches, said the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent if the weed is not controlled. If it is not eliminated, it will kill the livelihoods of thousands of households that rely on the lake for an income.

However, the Centre for Innovation Science and Technology in Africa, founded by former chemistry teacher Richard Arwa, is making the best out of the invasive water hyacinth.

Funded in its start-up stages by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the innovation company, which employs six people and serves 560 households, manufactures ethanol from the weed. This is proving a cheaper source of clean fuel for many of the locals while at the same time preserving the lake.

The process they use is a simple one.

The centre hires locals to harvest the hyacinth from Lake Victoria before transporting it to their workshop for processing. Once at the workshop, the hyacinth is pretreated to remove microorganisms that might compete with the enzymes during processing.

The hyacinth is then dried and chopped into smaller pieces to reduce the surface area for efficient processing. The dried hyacinth is then mixed with water, acids and enzymes in tight closed tanks for fermentation.

After fermentation the mixture is subjected to high temperatures (80 degrees Celsius), producing ethanol and carbon dioxide and methane as final products.

“This was part of a science congress project for secondary schools and it won accolades throughout the country and we, together with my students, decided to actualise the project,” says Arwa.

Arwa is still a chemistry teacher even though he started the institution in 2016.

He adds that they initially tried to produce beverage alcohol from the hyacinth but the project was not viable. According to Arwa, alcohol requires numerous purification processes to make it consumable. In addition the taxes on the product are high.

So it is less costly to make ethanol. Arwa says the company produces 100 litres daily.

The amount is considerable for their factory, and it is sold to 560 households in Yala in Kisumu city. Arwa tells IPS that they always run out of stock.

Lyne Ondula, a mother from Yala, in Kisumu county, is a happy customer.

“Hyacinth fuel burns slower than the usual kerosene I use and doesn’t produce smoke and soot while cooking like firewood or kerosene. To me it’s much cheaper and cleaner to use, no more coughing in my kitchen when preparing food,” she tells IPS.

Ondula says a litre of ethanol retails at 70 Kenyan shillings and lasts four days. That is in marked contrast to the higher cost of kerosene, which currently retails at a national average of 100 Kenyan shillings, and lasts only two days. She says she also used to buy charcoal which was quite expensive, retailing at 100 Kenyan shilling per a 15-kilogram tin, which only lasted hours. So now she only uses ethanol, which she pre-orders.

It is a cleaner option for this East African nation that is still heavily reliant on charcoal, kerosene and firewood as a source of energy. According to a market and policy analysis by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, while “LPG has penetrated Nairobi and higher-income households; bio-ethanol can be an attractive clean fuel for lower income households.”

Ondula’s sentiments were echoed by Sylvester Oduor, another resident from Yala in Kisumu County. He adds that ethanol fuel also produces more heat compared to charcoal when cooking.

Philip Odhiambo, energy and climate change coordinator at the WWF, says such innovations are key in harnessing the untapped opportunities of water bodies.

“There is a need to turn environmental challenges to create wealth and opportunities especially in creating jobs for our many unemployed youth,” says Odhiambo. He adds that the ethanol processing project is a viable way of managing green waste that has been a challenge in the country for a long time.

Odhiambo adds that the world is shifting towards clean, cheap energy and says there is a need to embrace creativity and tap into the energy potential of water bodies, besides the traditional sources of energy.

In addition, unlike other clean fuels, bio-ethanol can be produced domestically over time and could spur industrial growth in the sector “while delivering positive social and economic benefits,” says the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety report.

However, Arwa says accessing the initial capital of 50,000 dollars was a challenge as many financial institutions turned him away for lack of collateral. In the end he had to rely on donors like WWF to finance the project. The chemistry teacher adds that financial institutions did not have faith in the venture and were not ready to invest in the idea.

The immediate goal for the company is to expand production to 600 litres per day.

But Arwa has a five-year expansion plan that includes moving the small factory, which is about 40 kilometres away from Lake Victoria, closer to the lake to reduce costs. He hopes that once relocated, and with the support of partners, they will eventually be able to produce 10,000- 25,000 litres per day.

Arwa adds that he is looking for strategic investment partners to help in scaling up the ethanol project, reiterating that there is a huge untapped market for the product. “I usually feel bad when customers come to purchase ethanol but we turn them away. At the moment we cannot satisfy the demand,” he says.

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The Arduous Search for Dignity Through Integration and a Pay Checkhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/arduous-search-dignity-integration-pay-check/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arduous-search-dignity-integration-pay-check http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/arduous-search-dignity-integration-pay-check/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 21:20:19 +0000 Sejjari Mehdi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159326 One of the most common words used by speakers during the Global Compact on Migration was “dignity”—granting migrants the dignity they deserve. As with any advocacy, there is a danger a word can lose meaning through overuse. But on the streets of Morocco the same word means a lot to migrants looking for work. And […]

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Migrants on a street in Casablanca, Morocco. Courtesy: Alié Dior Ndour

By Sejjari Mehdi
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

One of the most common words used by speakers during the Global Compact on Migration was “dignity”—granting migrants the dignity they deserve. As with any advocacy, there is a danger a word can lose meaning through overuse. But on the streets of Morocco the same word means a lot to migrants looking for work. And when they find it—both work and dignity—it can alter the entire migration equation. 

“Despite the difficulties I encountered at first, being in an irregular situation, I am working today in a private communications company after an operation launched by the Moroccan authorities to give residency permits to tens of thousands of immigrants living in the country illegally,” says Ahmadou, a Nigerian migrant, who has been living in Morocco for five years.

At first, he was all set on reaching that supposed El Dorado for so many migrants: Europe. But now the situation is different. Ahmadou says professional integration is the key. If you have no job, he says, then the ambition to reach Europe will never disappear.

“I am able to provide the necessities of life, especially housing,” Ahmadou says. “Of course, there are immigrants who suffer because they have inappropriate skills, or because of the fact some companies give priority to local citizens.”

Amid increasing international bickering—with a lengthening list of countries abstaining from the Compact—eventually 164 countries signed the non-binding Compact for “safe, orderly and regular migration.”

The Compact seeks to ensure migrants enjoy rights within a global vision based on joint management of migration between countries of origin, transit and hosting. Maintaining dignity underpins this effort—both for migrants and countries at large—by establishing a set of principles fostering integration of migrants within societies, while giving states full sovereignty in the enactment of national migration policies.

Indeed, the Compact is not binding, rather it invites countries to “develop national short, medium and long-term policy goals regarding the inclusion of migrants in societies, including on labor market integration, family reunification, education, non-discrimination and health, including by fostering partnerships with relevant stakeholders.”

The process of integration lately has proved arduous in many countries—Germany becoming a poster child for such frictions after welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees from strife-torn countries—especially when it comes to employment for migrants, resulting in high unemployment levels.

Even if jobs are found, migrants in European countries are more likely to work on temporary contracts. Over time, though, the employment gap between migrants and native born does narrow in most countries, and even vanishes in a third, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED).

Morocco is in a similar position to European countries having shifted from being a country of origins and transit to also one of destination for migrants.

Hence Morocco’s authorities have launched a program through its Agence nationale de promotion de l’emploi et des compétences (ANAPEC)—which translates as the national agency for employment and skills—to facilitate access to job search assistance, provide employment assistance and promote work equity within companies.

Its ultimate objective is to is to guarantee an honourable and dignified life for regularised migrants by ensuring equitable access to the labor market.

But despite such measures, the number of migrants and refugees inserted into Morocco’s labor market remains limited. On any given day, young men from various countries in West Africa endlessly pace the streets around Marrakech’s iconic Jemaa el-Fnaa square and market place in the Medina quarter, amiably trying to hawk the likes of iPhones, watches, sunglasses and bright decorative shirts to passers-by.

Hence calls to increase the ANAPEC services and benefits available to migrants, to mobilise and stimulate micro-credit institutions to finance income-generating activities and enterprises by migrants, and to improve communications to incentivise the private sector about the importance of recruiting migrants.

“Parlais vous Francais?” one migrant, sits by his trinkets laid out on the street, says hopefully to a potential foreign customer walking by, asking if he speaks English. But a shake of the head and a school-boy French apology are all that follow.

The migrant smiles and keeps waiting for another potential customer.

“Continuing to improve the conditions of migrants’ access to public services and rights, including the right to decent work, will push lots of migrants to realise their dreams here without the need to ride the waves of death across the Mediterranean,” Ahmadou says.

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Global Anti-Human Trafficking Coalitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 18:27:12 +0000 Vladimir Bozovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159316 Vladimir Bozovic is Advisor of Government of the Republic of Serbia

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Child labourers rescued in Delhi waiting to be sent back to their villages. Credit: Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

By Vladimir Bozovic
BELGRADE, Serbia, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Entire human history is one great struggle for freedom. To many, slavery is a synonym for something in the past, for transatlantic slave trade, but, unfortunately, slavery still exists in many different forms.

Records show that over twenty seven million men, women and children still live today in conditions that characterized social form of the slave ownership. They are trapped in forced labor and debt bondage, in domicile work and forced marriages, or they are being exploited by the human traffickers. We can easily speak of slavery as of great tragedy, and the fact that in this day and age still exists, is a downfall of human kind.

Modern slavery is a challenge for every democratic country. Suffering is the same as in the past, but methods are more sophisticated and perfidious, and most of those who suffer are the ones that should be protected the most – poor and socially excluded groups, who often live on the margins of our society, and young women and children. This is not an imaginary problem, it does not happen only to someone else and somewhere else; rather, it is a real threat and anyone can fall victim to.

The very first challenge in fight against slavery must be a cognizance: we must confess a bitter truth that slavery has been weakened, but still exists. Human trafficking is one of the growing forms of transnational crime, characterized by high profit and low risk, and it is followed by a grave statistics. It is crime of economic nature, and most efficiently organized, and we are currently fighting it on inconsistent and fragmented way. That is the dark side of globalization.

The issue of modern slavery is globally recognized by the UN in its millennium goals. Goal 8 is dedicated to increasing labor productivity, reducing the unemployment rate, especially for young people, improving access to financial services and benefits, fight against modern slavery and child labor. So many activities around this particular global goal prove that we don’t live anymore in a selfish world where we don’t consider other nations and their problems. No, the world of todays opens up to the misery of others, and everybody everywhere has to be good, for us to feel good. Employed, productive populations, sustainable economic growth, decent jobs with equal opportunities for fair salaries, safe working environments, social protection, these are all values that will ensure the progress of the entire world, and the whole world will benefit from the creativity, business and innovation of the free people.

Plenty has been done in delivering the Goal 8. UN reports that the average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita worldwide increased, the number of children from 5 to 17 years of age who are working has declined, access to financial services through automated teller machines increased… Plenty has been done, but also plenty has to be done. Child labor remains a serious concern with more than half of child laborers participate in dangerous work and 59% of them work in the agricultural sector; labor productivity has slowed down, the global unemployment rate hasn’t changed from 2016, with women more likely to be unemployed than men across all age groups. Youth were almost three times as likely as adults to be unemployed… It is clear that efforts provide results, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

There was a time we thought that the slavery is forever beaten, only to come back to us in new forms and shapes. That is why the solution must be fresh and brave. The only final answer to this problem is for every country, every government, every agency to work together, to unite and create an Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition that will engage entire society in fight against this crime, and combine all our efforts in protecting our citizens. It should be understood that eradicating the human trafficking is not solely a mission for the police or law enforcement agencies, this is a fight at all levels of society. We should campaign through media with the message that will define the problem, and develop the clear strategy that will unite countries and governments, churches and religious organizations, NGOs, youth, academic communities, media and all other important representatives of the society in one efficient and effective action with clear mechanisms of measuring the results. Everything should be designed in the way that those results are realistic and visible to the present victims, and to provide prevention and protection for potential victims. Time has clearly shown us, that this is one thing we can’t beat alone, nationally, rather, it’s a nick of time to do it globally.

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Excerpt:

Vladimir Bozovic is Advisor of Government of the Republic of Serbia

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Taking Away the Ladderhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/taking-away-ladder/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=taking-away-ladder http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/taking-away-ladder/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 13:18:36 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159312 The notion of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and later, South Africa) was concocted by Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill. His 2001 acronym was initially seen as a timely, if not belated acknowledgement of the rise of the South. But if one takes China out of the BRICS, one is left with little more than […]

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By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR & SYDNEY, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

The notion of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and later, South Africa) was concocted by Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill. His 2001 acronym was initially seen as a timely, if not belated acknowledgement of the rise of the South.

But if one takes China out of the BRICS, one is left with little more than RIBS. While the RIBS have undoubtedly grown in recent decades, their expansion has been quite uneven and much more modest than China’s, while the post-Soviet Russian economy contracted by half during Boris Yeltsin’s first three years of ‘shock therapy’ during 1992-1994.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Unsurprisingly, Goldman Sachs quietly shut down its BRICS investment fund in October 2015 after years of losses, marking “the end of an era”, according to Bloomberg.

Growth spurts in South America’s southern cone and sub-Saharan Africa lasted over a decade until the Saudi-induced commodity price collapse from 2014. But the recently celebrated rise of the South and developing country convergence with the OECD has largely remained an East Asian story.

Preventing emulation
Increasingly, that has involved China’s and South Korea’s continued ascendance after Japan’s financial ‘big bang’ and ensuing stagnation three decades ago. They have progressed and grown rapidly for extended periods precisely because they have not followed rules set by the advanced economies.

Industrial policy — involving state owned enterprises (SOEs), technology transfer agreements, government procurement, strict terms for foreign direct investment and other developmental interventions — was condemned by the Washington Consensus, promoting liberalization, privatization and deregulation favouring large transnational corporations.

Anis Chowdhury

Well-managed SOEs, government procurement practices and effective protection conditional on export promotion accelerated structural transformation. When foreign corporations were allowed to invest, they were typically required to transfer technology to the host economy.

Countries have only progressed by using industrial policy judiciously when sufficient policy space was available, as was the norm in most developed countries. But such successful development practices have been denied to most developing countries in recent decades. Instead, the North now emphasizes the dangers of industrial policy, subsidies, SOEs and technology transfer agreements, to justify precluding their use by others.

Blocking the alternative
Instead, corporate-led globalization continues to be sold as the way to develop and progress.
Some advocates insist that global value chain participation will provide handsome opportunities for sustained economic development despite the evidence to the contrary.

Major OECD economies appear intent on tightening international rules to further reduce developing countries’ policy space under the pretext of reforming the multilateral trading system in order to save it.

Trump and other challenges to this neoliberal narrative do not offer any better options for the South. Nevertheless, their nationalist and chauvinist rhetoric has undermined the pious claims and very legitimacy of their neoliberal ‘globalist’ rivals on the Right.

Infrastructure finance
UNCTAD’s 2018 Trade and Development Report emphasizes the link between infrastructure and industrialization. It argues that successful industrialization since 19th century England has crucially depended on public infrastructure. Infrastructure investment is thus considered crucial for economic growth and structural transformation.

The ascendance of the neoliberal Washington Consensus agenda has not only undermined public interventions generally, but also state revenue and spending in particular, especially in the developing world. But even the World Bank now admits that it had wrongly discouraged infrastructure financing, which it now advocates.

Most Western controlled international financial institutions have recently advocated public-private partnerships to finance, manage and implement infrastructure projects. The presumption is that only the private sector has the expertise and capacity to be efficient and profitable. In practice, states borrowed and bore most of the risk, e.g., of contingent liabilities, while private partners reaped much profit, often with state guaranteed revenues.

Unexpected policy space
Infrastructure, including both its construction and financing, has been central, not only to China’s own progress, but also to its international development cooperation. China’s financial redeployment of its massive current account surplus has created an alternative to traditional sources of investment finance, both private and public.

The availability of Chinese infrastructure finance on preferential or concessionary terms has been enthusiastically taken up, not least by countries long starved of investible resources. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in over-investments in some infrastructure, resulting in underutilization and poor returns to investment.

The resulting debt burdens and related problems have been well publicized, if not exaggerated by critics with different motivations. Now threatened by China’s rise, Western governments and Japan have suddenly found additional resources to offer similar concessionary financing for their own infrastructure firms.

Thus, not unlike the US-Soviet Cold War, the perceived new threat from China has created a new bipolar rivalry. That has inadvertently created policy space and concessions reminiscent of the post-Second World War ‘Golden Age’ for Keynesian and development economics.

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Q&A: For Vietnam, the Quality of Economic Growth is Starting to Matterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/vietnam-quality-economic-growth-starting-matter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=vietnam-quality-economic-growth-starting-matter http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/vietnam-quality-economic-growth-starting-matter/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 13:02:25 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159305 Vietnam’s shift from a centrally planned to a market economy has transformed the country. And while it is now is one of the most dynamic emerging countries in Southeast Asia, this has sometimes been at the expense of the environment. But the country has begun to prioritise green growth. Vietnam’s economic growth has been accompanied […]

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City view of Hanoi, Vietnam. Vietnam is prioritising green growth. Credit: Adam Bray/IPS

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Vietnam’s shift from a centrally planned to a market economy has transformed the country. And while it is now is one of the most dynamic emerging countries in Southeast Asia, this has sometimes been at the expense of the environment. But the country has begun to prioritise green growth.

Vietnam’s economic growth has been accompanied by significant rural to urban migration, which has led to increased social and environmental challenges. Over the past decade, 700 square kilometres of land has been converted into urban areas. Vietnam’s emissions per unit of GDP are surpassing all other Asia-Pacific developing countries, except for China. This is fuelled by domestic coal consumption, which currently accounts for 36 percent of electricity supply and is projected to increase 56 percent by 2030.

But recently the concept of an inclusive green economy has emerged as a strategic priority in the country. A green growth economy is one that improves human well-being and builds social equity while reducing environmental risks.

The intergovernmental organisation, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), is trying to promote just that. GGGI is working to increase green energy production and reduce greenhouse gases emissions and has been assisting with the development of green master plans, strategies for renewable energy and bankable projects for Vietnam’s cities.

IPS spoke to Adam Ward, the Country Representative of GGGI for Vietnam. Excerpts of the interview follow.

Adam Ward, the Country Representative of Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) for Vietnam says that his organisation is working on policies for the growth of green cities. Courtesy: Adam Ward

Inter Press Service (IPS): GGGI does not donate funds. So how can you develop green growth?

Adam Ward (AW): We support planning for projects like solar power and electric buses. We also seek finance for the government and the private sector at accessible rates so these projects can get implemented.

We have worked with the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) to develop guidelines for prioritisation and allocation of funding to public infrastructure. We have also worked on a process to solicit projects from small and medium enterprises and appraise them. We helped them to understand how to submit projects and access financing.

The government sees the value in our work. With MPI, we developed a handbook for the appraisal of public investment projects, [which is] becoming government policy. Projects worth over four billion dollars have been appraised under this inclusive framework. Like components of the airport, metro lines in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It is really great to see that our guidelines are being used for sustainable growth.

IPS: Economic growth needs energy. How do you keep it sustainable?

AW: For example, we advised the government on generating energy from bagasse (the dry pulpy residue that remains after sugarcane is crushed to extract the juice). And how much can they potentially generate, how much investment is required and how to sell it to the grid. This makes sense, both economically and environmentally. It is clean energy that can be sold. Then we presented our advice to the government on better tariffs to stimulate the production of this green energy.

IPS: Does GGGI advise on national policies. How does it affect local decision making?

AW: We are also working on policies for the growth of green cities. The Ministry of Construction has already approved one of our suggestions, which has been incorporated into an Urban Green Growth Development Plan. Another one is the set-up of green growth indicators. Cities are now legally required to report the implementation of green growth. We also worked on waste water treatment and city planning. And we are kicking off a project on generating energy with municipal waste.

IPS: Vietnam has only recently risen out of poverty. Is green growth a real concern?

AW: There is definitely openness for green growth. Vietnam wants their development to be inclusive, sustainable and as green as possible. However, what we have seen is that growth has taken an upper hand on the environment. What we really want to tell the government is that the quality of growth matters for the future. [Especially] in Vietnam, a country that is very vulnerable to climate change.

Emissions are increasing rapidly. There are challenges with air quality in cities. Growth is important, we recognise that Vietnam wants to develop. But our message is that the quality of growth matters too. By embracing green growth there will be no downsides in terms of economic development.

IPS: What are the challenges facing GGGI?

AW: Vietnam has a high energy demand. And given the GDP growth, it will increase dramatically. They want to meet a large part of that via coal, which will have a serious impact on carbon emissions. But it will also pollute the surrounding cities and the agricultural lands surrounding coal plants. That’s going to be a massive challenge.

The second challenge facing Vietnam is climate change. The Mekong Delta is one of the most vulnerable places in the world to climate change. Sea level rise and droughts are more common. Typhoons are more extreme.

The third area is the cities. Around 30 percent of the population lives in or around cities. This is set to increase to over 50 percent by 2050.
This brings a lot of benefits in terms of economic development, however, this mass influx of people brings challenges in terms of infrastructure in a way to support transport, housing, etc. This is exactly why GGGI is working on renewable energy, sustainable waste management, providing guidance on increasing investment into green projects and also specifically working with cities to make them cleaner.

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Digital Crusaders: Technology Offers Weapons for the Battle Against Corruptionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/digital-crusaders-technology-offers-weapons-battle-corruption/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digital-crusaders-technology-offers-weapons-battle-corruption http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/digital-crusaders-technology-offers-weapons-battle-corruption/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 09:34:32 +0000 Chris Wellisz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159307 Chris Wellisz is on the staff of Finance and Development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) *

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Chris Wellisz is on the staff of Finance and Development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) *

By Chris Wellisz
WASHINGTON DC, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Oleksii Sobolev was a fund manager by day and a pro-democracy protester by night. After work, he would leave his office at Dragon Asset Management in Kiev to join the crowds camped out in Independence Square demanding the resignation of a president they viewed as corrupt.

Sobolev handed out food and helped clean up the square. When police started firing at the so-called Maidan protesters, he brought tires that were burned to create a protective curtain of smoke.

“The saying was, ‘Fires save lives,’” Sobolev recalls.

Ukraine’s president ended up in exile, and Sobolev gave up managing money to take an unpaid advisory post helping to restructure state-owned enterprises. Four years later, he has put his business skills to work fighting corruption, a problem that continues to bedevil the eastern European country of 44 million people.

Ukraine ranked 131st among 176 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2016.

Sobolev’s team of activists created an electronic auction system that brought transparency to notoriously murky sales of public assets ranging from bank loans to scrap metal.

In its first 13 months, the system, ProZorro.Sale, handled $210 million, almost as much as the money raised from conventional privatization sales in the past five years, says Max Nefyodov, Ukraine’s first deputy economy minister. That’s a significant boost for the cash-strapped Ukrainian government.

Sobolev belongs to a new breed of idealistic young people who are using digital technologies to promote transparency and integrity. Just as smartphones and social media helped empower popular uprisings from Ukraine to Tunisia, 21st century technologies such as blockchain and big data offer powerful new weapons against corruption, a phenomenon that dates back at least as far as the first century BC, when Julius Caesar secured the office of Pontifex Maximus by greasing voters’ palms.

Corruption’s toll
Worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to cost as much as $2 trillion a year, about equal to the GDP of Italy and many times the $142 billion in global development aid. But corruption takes a much bigger toll, according to a 2016 IMF study “Corruption: Costs and Mitigating Strategies.” It discourages private investment, curbing economic growth.

Corrupt officials channel public funds to wasteful projects that generate bribes, depleting funds that could be spent on health, education, and other services that benefit the poor. And young people have little incentive to acquire new skills in societies where who they know is more important than what they know.

“Countries that are less corrupt have higher growth rates, have higher levels of GDP, and have higher levels on the Human Development Index of the United Nations,” which measures things like life expectancy and years of schooling, says Susan Rose-Ackerman, a Yale University law professor who studies the political economy of corruption.

That explains why international financial institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank, are helping governments fight corruption through improved transparency, accountability, and institution building.

The anti-corruption drive is providing opportunities for private technology companies like the Bitfury Group, which signed a contract with the Republic of Georgia to register land titles using blockchain technology. Blockchain serves simultaneously as a means of exchange—of money or information—and a database that automatically registers transactions.

Records are encrypted and stored across a network of computers, rather than in a central location, so they cannot be altered or stolen.

Some start-ups are offering their services to charitable organizations as well as governments. Among them is Dublin-based AID:Tech, which created a platform that ensures the integrity of charitable contributions and social welfare payments.

“I know a lot of people who would love to give money but don’t because they don’t know where it goes,” says AID:Tech’s CEO and cofounder, Joseph Thompson.

AID:Tech was inspired by a charity event in 2009. Thompson ran 152 miles across the Sahara Desert to raise money for children who needed reconstructive surgery. When he asked for evidence that the aid had been delivered to the intended recipients, the charity couldn’t provide it.

Thompson, who has master’s degrees in business, digital currencies, and computer science, set out to find a way to make sure that charitable donations don’t go astray. He found it in blockchain, also known as distributed ledger technology.

Originally developed to store and exchange Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, it has since been adapted for a variety of uses.

“If you can get an end-beneficiary on the blockchain, that’s their bank account,” Thompson says. Donations go straight to the beneficiary, without intermediaries; the company provides the technology but doesn’t handle any money.

“There’s no more fraud, no more people claiming benefits for dead parents or brothers and sisters who have emigrated.”

The Irish Red Cross agreed to test Thompson’s solution with a program to distribute aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Each recipient was given a small plastic card stamped with a QR code—a type of machine-readable optical label.

Money was deducted when the cards were scanned at supermarket checkout counters. Five hundred electronic vouchers worth $20 apiece were redeemed in Lebanon, and not a penny went astray.

“The results were fantastic,’’ says Daniel Curran, head of fundraising for the Irish Red Cross. Using a dashboard Thompson set up, he tracked spending by recipients in real time, gleaning valuable insights into their needs. (He was surprised to learn that refugees bound for resettlement in Ireland bought dental products rather than winter clothes.)

The technology also allows charities to appeal to a younger class of smartphone-wielding donors, and it reduces their reliance on expensive direct-marketing campaigns. That means more money will flow to the people who need it.

“This is a cheaper, more transparent, faster, and efficient way of not just obtaining the donation, but actually getting the donation to the beneficiary in the end,” Curran says.

Doing well by doing good
AID:Tech is expanding rapidly, with contracts to provide software for the delivery of remittances to Serbia, social welfare payments in Jordan, and aid to homeless women in Ireland. It is raising between $3 million and $5 million from investors and plans to open offices in Singapore and Dubai. The goal is to have at least 100,000 people on the platform by June.

Thompson doesn’t hesitate to say he aims to do well by doing good. “We are a for-profit, but we’re using technology to solve some of the world’s biggest problems,’’ he says. The platform, he says, can be used by governments and social welfare agencies around the globe, with a potential customer base in the billions.

Another promising use for blockchain: secure digital storage of documents.

“Blockchain is so powerful because it gives us something we didn’t have in the digital world,” says Gonzalo Blousson, cofounder and CEO of Signatura, a platform that can be used to sign and notarize documents among multiple people. “Digital information is easy to modify. Blockchain gives us immutability.”

Blousson is working with Argentina’s second-largest city, Córdoba, which recently passed a law requiring public officials to file financial disclosure forms. Blockchain ensures that the forms are both visible to the public and cannot be altered.

Blousson and his team also used the technology to build a procurement platform, called Teneris, which companies and governments can use to solicit bids from suppliers of goods and services, a process that is often rife with opportunities for bribery and bid rigging.

Still, blockchain has its limitations, says Beth Noveck, a New York University (NYU) professor who specializes in the use of technology to bring transparency to government. Corruption also occurs after bids are awarded—when a building contractor uses shoddy materials to cut corners, for example.

That’s where big data offers a promising investigatory tool, Noveck says. The technology makes it possible to aggregate data on government spending and contracting and to analyze it for signs of waste, fraud, and corruption. As Noveck puts it, “You can spot the patterns of whose brother-in-law got too many contracts.”

Mobilizing citizen involvement also makes a difference, says Noveck, a lawyer by training who heads NYU’s Governance Lab. People like Diego Mendiburu are doing just that. A former journalist and technology buff, he put together a team of programmers to develop a mobile app that allows Mexicans to report substandard public services.

Users with smartphones can capture and share short videos of potholes that go unfilled or trees that are cut down illegally as a way of shaming public officials and pressuring them to act.

The app, Supercivicos, uses GPS technology to pinpoint the date and location of the videos, then builds a database of reports that can be used by civic groups and government agencies to identify problem services and find solutions.

Mendiburu wants users to become engaged citizen-journalists. “It’s not only about pointing out what’s wrong, it’s about telling stories,” he says. “We believe that this project can be exported to other countries in Latin America.”

In Ukraine, there are similar ambitions for ProZorro.Sale (the name combines the Ukrainian word for transparency with Zorro, the fictional Mexican who defended the poor against corrupt officials). As of December, Transparency International Ukraine was in talks with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to adapt the system for use elsewhere in Europe.

Of course, digital technology, while effective, can be stymied by governments, whose support is needed in the fight against official corruption. Late last year, the IMF and World Bank criticized Ukraine for undermining its recently established National Anti-Corruption Bureau and for failing to make good on promises to create an independent anti-corruption court.

“E-tools are important, but institutions are far more important,” says Viktor Nestulia, director of the Innovation Projects Program at Transparency International Ukraine.

*https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/03/pdf/wellisz.pdf

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Excerpt:

Chris Wellisz is on the staff of Finance and Development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) *

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United Towards Achieving Health For All in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/united-towards-achieving-health-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-towards-achieving-health-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/united-towards-achieving-health-kenya/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 08:45:34 +0000 Sicily Kariuki3 and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159303 Sicily Kariuki is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health in Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta signs the Universal Health Coverage charter during the launch of the UHC pilot programme in Kisumu on 13 December 2018. Photo courtesy: PSCU

By Sicily Kariuki and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

According to Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the implementation of UHC is “more a political than an economic challenge”.

Of all the Sustainable Development Goals, few would rival good health as the definition of a country that has a sustainable, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous future, and the launch this week of the pilot phase of Kenya’s journey towards Universal Health Coverage heralds a major step towards that future.

It was a fitting statement of national intent and unity to make UHC a success in Kenya to see President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto preside over the launch of the pilot programme in Kisumu county. They were joined by erstwhile political contenders, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, united by a shared vision to improve health coverage in Kenya.

Ensuring that the pursuit of good health leaves no one in financial dire straits is a task that requires much more than good intentions. WHO estimates that to achieve SDG target 3.8 requires one billion more people to have universal health coverage by 2023.

In Kenya, health-related expenses are driving about one million into poverty every year, and health care is second only to food in family budgets. These are families that wake up every day to the reality that they could be within just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy and penury.

In demonstration of his commitment to keep health front and centre of the development agenda, President Kenyatta has identified health as one of the key pillars of his legacy.

The promise of UHC is based on real-life experiences of countries with whom we have much in common. The transformation of countries now known as Asian Tigers was largely driven by investments in the health of the citizens, with special focus on sexual and reproductive health.

When the health of the mother is provided for, the cyclical benefits in terms of physical and cognitive development of the subsequent generations is assured.

The Ministry of Health has been working with the United Nations (UN) in Kenya & various stakeholders to identify what interventions represent the most effective pathways for attaining UHC in Kenya. These partners include civil society and the private sector.

Our vision is for approaches that are not just affordable, but those that promote equity and effectiveness, ensuring that the rights of the most vulnerable are not forgotten, as the central tenet of universality.

Kenya also announced that UHC will involve scaling up immunization, prevention of water borne, vector borne, TB, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, improving maternal and child health as well as nutrition of women who conceive. Kenya will also focus on prevention of non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

Our mission is to deliver a robust system that will reach out to those who have been left behind. Through community health workers and volunteers, we know that a few more vaccines will be delivered to children in a remote village; there might be new case of an infectious outbreak detected, reported and averted.

It is because of the primacy of these community volunteers as frontline workers and their role in the achievement of UHC that the Government has established a fund to provide a stipend as an incentive for the workers.

The partnership between the Ministry and the UN system in Kenya is steadily building the foundations for a responsive health system for communities, for whom health was inaccessible, unaffordable or altogether unavailable.

In the frontier counties of North-eastern Kenya, flagship programmes such as the Area-based joint programme with the county of Turkana are steadily delivering results. We are targeting not just dramatic, overnight success, but the incremental changes that for instance involve building the capacity of community health workers to deliver primary health care.

Investing in making progress towards universal health coverage, they lay the foundation for making progress towards all the other health targets and other goals – like ending poverty, improving gender equality, decent work and economic growth, and more.

With Kenya’s Vision 2030 ambition of providing a high quality of life to all its citizens, the most urgent need is to ensure that everyone stays healthy to participate in economic development.

The Government of Kenya and UN partnership is committed to make Kenya the blueprint for the rest of Africa on how Universal Health Coverage can be attained.

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Excerpt:

Sicily Kariuki is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health in Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Local Communities in Mexico Question Benefits of Mayan Trainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/local-communities-question-benefits-mayan-train-southern-mexico/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 22:43:47 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159298 “If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I’m afraid of that growth,” Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico. Euán, a Mayan indigenous woman living in […]

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The Mayan Train megaproject in southern Mexico will affect key ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to 25 protected natural areas, such as this lake in the SíijilNohá community reserve, next to the Sian Ka'an protected area. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Mayan Train megaproject in southern Mexico will affect key ecosystems of the Yucatan Peninsula, which is home to 25 protected natural areas, such as this lake in the SíijilNohá community reserve, next to the Sian Ka'an protected area. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO, Mexico, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

“If thousands of people flock to this town, how will we be able to service them? I’m afraid of that growth,” Zendy Euán, spokeswoman for a community organisation,said in reference to the Mayan Train (TM) project, a railway network that will run through five states in southern Mexico.

Euán, a Mayan indigenous woman living in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (FCP), told IPS that they lack detailed information about the megaproject, one of the high-profile initiatives promised during his campaign by the new leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by his acronym AMLO.

“It’s not clear to us. We don’t know about the project,” said Euán, who also questioned the benefits promised by the president, who was sworn in on Dec. 1, for the local population, as well as the mechanisms for participation in the project and the threats it poses to the environment."They are violating our indigenous rights. We don't agree with how the consultation was carried out, and we don't see the benefits for the local communities. This is aimed at tourist spots. Those who will benefit are the big businesses." -- Miguel Ku

“What will be the benefit for the local community members, for the craftswomen? As ecotourism communities, will we be able to promote our businesses and goods?” said the spokeswoman for the Community Tourism Network of the Maya Zone of Quintana Roo, one of the states in southeastern Mexico that share the Yucatan Peninsula, on the Atlantic coast, with 1.5 million inhabitants.

The network, launched in 2014, brings together 11 community organisations from three municipalities of Quintana Roo and offers ecotourism and cultural tours in the area, its main economic activity.

In the municipality of FCP, home to just over 81,000 people, there are 84 ejidos,areas of communal land used for agriculture, where community members own and farm their own plots, which can also be sold.

One of them, of the same name as the municipality, FCP, covering 47,000 hectares and belonging to 250 “ejidatarios” or members, manages the ejidal reserves Síijil Noh Há (“where the water flows,” in the Mayan language) and Much’KananK’aax (“let’s take care of the forest together”).

Euán’s doubts are shared by thousands of inhabitants of the peninsula, which receives almost seven million tourists every year.

IPS travelled a stretch of the preliminary TM route through Quintana Roo and the neighboring state of Campeche and noted the general lack of detailed information about the project and its possible ecological, social and cultural consequences in a region with high levels of poverty and social marginalisation.

The government’s National Tourism Fund (Fonatur) is promoting the project, at a cost of between 6.2 and 7.8 billion dollars. The plan is for it to start operating in 2022, with 15 stations along 1,525 kilometers in 41 municipalities in the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatán.

The locomotives will run on biodiesel -possibly made from palm oil- and the trains are projected to move about three million passengers annually, in addition to cargo.

Zendy Euán, spokesperson for a community tourism network, explains in the Mayan Museum of the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the state of Quintana Roo, that the Mayan Train will run through key environmental areas of southern Mexico. Social and indigenous organisations question the benefits of the megaproject, one of the star projects of the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Zendy Euán, spokesperson for a community tourism network, explains in the Mayan Museum of the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the state of Quintana Roo, that the Mayan Train will run through key environmental areas of southern Mexico. Social and indigenous organisations question the benefits of the megaproject, one of the star projects of the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The new government argues that the project will boost the region’s socioeconomic development, foster social inclusion and job creation, safeguard indigenous cultures, protect the peninsula’s Protected Natural Areas (PNA), and strengthen the tourism industry.

Ancient ecosystems

The railway will cut through the heart of the Mayan jungle, an ecosystem that formed the base of the Mayan empire that dominated the entire Mesoamerican region – southern Mexico and Central America – from the 8th century until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

This is the most important rainforest in Latin America after the Amazon region and a key area in the conservation of natural wealth in Mexico, which ranks 12th among the most megadiverse countries on the planet.

The region belongs to the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor consisting of habitats running from southern Mexico to Panama, the southernmost of the seven Central American countries, and is home to about 10 percent of the world’s known species.

In the Yucatan Peninsula, shared by the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan, there are 25 PNAs, with a total area of 8.5 million hectares.

In fact, two TM stations will be contiguous to the 725,000-hectare Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and the 650,000-hectare Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

“What’s going to happen? We don’t know the route, we don’t have information. We have to study this closely,” Luís Tamay, the indigenous president of the Commissariat of Common Assets of the Nuevo Becal ejido in the municipality of Calakmul, in Campeche, told IPS.

Like Euán, Tamay fears the arrival of crowds of tourists, for which Calakmul “is not prepared; this is a high-impact project” for a municipality of just over 28,000 people.

Nuevo Becal has 84 landowners, covers 52,800 hectares and carries out six projects of timber exploitation, agroforestry, seeds and environmental conservation.

Although the TM will not pass through the immediate vicinity of Nuevo Becal, the megaproject will have impacts on the area.

In Calakmul, the government will carry out technical and environmental impact studies in 2019, with the idea of starting construction the following year in the locality.

To build the railway network, the government must negotiate with the ejidatarios, who own most of the land in the five states along the planned railway, as there are 385 in Campeche, 279 in Quintana Roo and 737 in Yucatán.

The government has already asked for 30 hectares in the Felipe Carrillo Puerto ejido to build a station, as a contribution to the project, which was first proposed in 2007 by the then governor of Yucatan, Yvonne Ortega, who projected the Transpeninsular Rapid Train in 2007.
Shortly after taking office in December 2012, AMLO’s predecessor, conservative Enrique Peña Nieto, adopted it as a national plan to connect the region. But public spending cutbacks in 2015 put the project on hold.

To the original project which will be added more than 300 kilometers of rundown railroads that functioned between 1905 and 1957, first for military transport and then also for passenger traffic.

On Nov. 24-25, before AMLO took office, his team obtained support for the railway network, along with a new refinery in the state of Tabasco and the execution of other projects, during a National Consultation on 10 Priority Social Programmes.

But this support, in a consultation that was only carried out in certain localities through a process that was not very representative, did not appease the criticism of the TM in the region.

On Nov. 15, a group of academics asked López Obrador to stop the works because of their ecological, social, cultural and archaeological impacts.

Three days later, a collective of indigenous organisations rejected the project, demanded respect for their forests and jungles, and called for free, prior, informed and culturally appropriate consultation.

“They are violating our indigenous rights. We don’t agree with how the consultation was carried out, and we don’t see the benefits for the local communities. This is aimed at tourist spots. Those who will benefit are the big businesses” in the sector, Miguel Ku, representative of the Network of Environmental Service Producers, told IPS.

This organization brings together 3,756 ejidatarios from 33 agrarian communities in the municipality of José María Morelos, and three more in the municipality of FCP, all of which are in Quintana Roo. Together, they own 257,000 hectares that are used for forestry, agriculture, beekeeping and livestock.

Local organisations are seeking another socioeconomic model. “We have shown that conservation allows for good development. We have natural resources, let us take advantage of them, that’s how we can support ourselves,” said Tamay.

Ku protested what he called a repeat of what has happened with previous projects. “We are sick and tired of others taking the benefits even though we own the land. The government could do something else. We want the ejidos to develop their own projects,” he said.

But López Obrador appears to be in a hurry to move forward with the Mayan Train, and on Dec. 16 he laid the first stone in the city of Palenque, Chiapas, without waiting for Fonatur to present the environmental impact assessment to the environment ministry.

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Global Migration Compact May Help Combat the Myth that Migrants are Liabilitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-migration-compact-may-help-combat-myth-migrants-liabilities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-migration-compact-may-help-combat-myth-migrants-liabilities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-migration-compact-may-help-combat-myth-migrants-liabilities/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 15:23:32 +0000 Kingsley Ighobor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159280 Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Rescue operations of African migrants carried out in the Channel of Sicily, Italy. Credit: IOM / Malavolta

By Kingsley Ighobor
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

In August 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May visited countries in Africa, sparking hope of increased foreign direct investments (FDI) in the continent.

Mr. Macron was in Nigeria, Ms. Merkel visited Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, and Ms. May made stops in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Apart from the question of FDI, these influential leaders were looking at how to stem the flow of African migrants traveling to Europe in search of jobs and better lives.

“I believe in a win-win game. Let’s help Africa to succeed. Let’s provide new hope for African youth in Africa,” President Macron said in Nigeria, explaining that it was in Europe’s interest to tackle migration from Africa at its roots.

New York Times writers Eduardo Porter and Karl Russell echoed the French president’s sentiments: “If rich countries want fewer immigrants, their best shot might be to help poor countries become rich, so that fewer people feel the urge to leave.”

Africans on the road
Every day hundreds of Africans, including women and children, strike out in search of real or imagined riches in Europe or America. About a million migrants from sub-Saharan Africa moved to Europe between 2010 and 2017, according to the Pew Research Center, a Washington, D.C.–based nonpartisan fact tank.

While Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and South Africa are the top way stations for sub-Saharan migrants moving to Europe and the US, Pew lists South Sudan, Central African Republic, São Tomé and Príncipe, Eritrea and Namibia as having some of the fastest-growing international migrant populations living outside their country of birth.

Africans are on the move because of “conflict, persecution, environmental degradation and change, and a profound lack of human security and opportunity,” states the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in its World Migration Report 2018.

Migration corridors mostly used by Africans are Algeria to France, Burkina Faso to Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt to the United Arab Emirates, Morocco to Spain, and Somalia to Kenya.

Of the 258 million international migrants globally, 36 million live in Africa, with 19 million living in another African country and 17 million in Europe, North America and other regions, Ashraf El Nour, Director of IOM, New York, informed Africa Renewal.

When unregulated and unmanaged, migration can create “false and negative perceptions of migrants that feed into a narrative of xenophobia, intolerance and racism,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted at an event in New York last September.

“The narrative of migrants as a threat, as a source of fear, which has colored international media coverage on migration, is false,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a UN body that deals with trade, investment and development issues, in an interview with Africa Renewal.

Orderly migration
The Global Compact for Migration, the first-ever inter-governmentally negotiated agreement on international migration, which was adopted in Marrakesh last week, could counter negative perceptions of migrants, experts say.

The IOM states the compact will help achieve “safe, orderly and regular migration,” referring to it as an opportunity to “improve the governance on migration, to address the challenges associated with today’s migration, and to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.”

The compact consists of 23 objectives, among them mitigating the adverse drivers and structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin; reducing the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration by respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights and providing them with care and assistance; and creating conditions that enable all migrants to enrich societies through their human, economic and social capacities, and thus facilitating their contributions to sustainable development at the local, national, regional and global levels.

The compact also refers to enabling faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and fostering the financial inclusion of migrants; ensuring that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation; and providing migrants with access to basic services.

The Global Compact for Migration is not legally binding, but its provisions can be a powerful reference point for those formulating immigration policies as well as for human rights advocates in the face of mistreatment of migrants.

Negative attitudes or even violence against migrants typically stem from fears that they take jobs away from native-born citizens or that they engage in criminal activities, according to a study by the South Africa–based Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), a statutory research agency.

In the HSRC study, which focused on South Africans’ attitudes toward immigrants, 30% of the public blamed foreigners for “stealing jobs from hardworking South Africans,” while another 30% pointed to immigrants’ criminal activities.

But IOM South Africa countered that “immigration does not harm the long-term employment prospects or wages of native-born workers,” adding that “migrants are twice as likely to be entrepreneurs [as] South African nationals.” The South African government regularly condemns xenophobic attacks.

Economic perspective of migration
Mr. Kituyi said that most migration studies focus on “the plight of migrants, the crisis of international solidarity or humanitarian challenges.” He wished that more attention were paid to migration from the perspective of economic development.

Ms. Lúcia Kula, an Angolan migrant who is a researcher in the UK, concurred, adding that conversations about migration should shift to the migrants’ contributions to their new society.

“One of the main things they [immigrants] do in the economies they get into is create value. They enter niches where they are more competitive…and it can boost the local economy,” Mr. Kituyi elaborated.

Many migrants are talented professionals and offer expert services in their new countries. Iso Paelay, for example, left Liberia in the heat of the war in the 90s and resettled in Ghana, where he became a star presenter for TV3, a leading media house in the country. Apparently, Liberia’s loss was Ghana’s gain.

Mr. Kituyi points to a phenomenon of migrants going to other countries to engage in the ethnic food business. “They start creating routes to get food from their home country,” he said. Ethiopian restaurants in Nairobi, Kenya, including Abyssinia, Habesha and Yejoka Garden, serve Ethiopian dishes such as injera.

Abuja International Restaurant in Union, New Jersey, sells Nigerian food such as eba, amala and fufu and the popular beer Gulder. In New York, Africans and others throng “Little Senegal,” a single street in Harlem, to shop for anything African—foodstuffs, music CDs, hair products, religious items and finely tailored clothes.

While working hard, earning money and making contributions to their new countries, African migrants also “remit small monies back home to support their families,” explained Mr. Kituyi. “Eighty-five percent [of immigrants’ earnings] goes to the host country and 15% to the country of origin through remittances.”

“A good chunk of the money I make here [in the US] I spend here; I pay my bills and get things for myself. I remit some to upkeep my parents,” concurs Ms. Christy Emeagi, a lawyer who left Nigeria “because I wanted a better life for my unborn children.”

The inclusion in the Global Compact for Migration of ways to make remittances faster and safer will be sweet music to African migrants.

In 2017, remittance flows from migrants to sub-Saharan Africa were $38 billion, reports the World Bank. That is more than the $25 billion official development aid (ODA) to the region that year.

Currently, says Mr. Kituyi, “it is painful to see an overly high cost of transaction mostly going to international payment services like Western Union, PayPal and so on.”

Achieving the objectives of the Global Compact for Migration may take some time, experts believe. Nevertheless, the compact’s immediate impact is that safe, orderly and regular migration is currently at the forefront of global conversation. And that is a step in the right direction.

*Africa Renewal is published by the United Nations

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Excerpt:

Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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From Irregular Migrant to Graduate Lawyer: One Woman’s Journey to Successhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/irregular-migrant-graduate-lawyer-one-womans-journey-success/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=irregular-migrant-graduate-lawyer-one-womans-journey-success http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/irregular-migrant-graduate-lawyer-one-womans-journey-success/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 15:11:16 +0000 Mikaila Issa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159272 Masters of Laws student Khoudia Ndiaye will graduate from Senegal’s University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) next year. The 24-year-old, who specialised in notarial law and dreams of becoming a notary, wants to bring justice closer to local communities like those in her local district of Hann Bel-Air, in Senegal’s capital Dakar, where she rarely sees […]

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Masters of Laws student Khoudia Ndiaye is expected to qualify from Senegal’s University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in 2019. Ndiaye is a returnee migrant. Credit: Samuelle Paul Banga/IPS

By Mikaila Issa
DAKAR, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

Masters of Laws student Khoudia Ndiaye will graduate from Senegal’s University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) next year. The 24-year-old, who specialised in notarial law and dreams of becoming a notary, wants to bring justice closer to local communities like those in her local district of Hann Bel-Air, in Senegal’s capital Dakar, where she rarely sees female lawyers.

While the young, intelligent and dedicated Ndiaye has a bright future ahead of her and speaks with enthusiasm about it, there was a time not too long ago that she never dreamt of becoming so successful. Instead she was living—in fear and subject to racism—in a foreign country.

Ndiaye is a returnee migrant. In 2012, while only 18, and after being enrolled at UCAD’s Faculty of Law for just four months, she was overwhelmed.

Now when she speaks about her reasons for wanting to leave Senegal, she lowers her head and laughs.
“In the first year of law at the university, we were 4,000 students and I underestimated myself because I did not think I had a chance to succeed in this world,” she tells IPS.

A journey into disillusionment 

She began to look for something else to do with her life. She always wanted to work at a call centre and had been told by her cousin Pape, who was living in Morocco, “that call centre employees are very well paid and well connected.”

Daro Thiam (left), a returnee migrant from Mauritania is being interviewed by Khoudia Ndiaye (centre) and and Ndeye Fatou Sall (right) in Hann Bel-Air, a neighbourhood in Senegal’s capital Dakar. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)/Julia Burpee

Leaving one’s family and daring to go on an adventure without warning is a brave decision—surrealistic even—for a young girl in a deeply-religious society like Senegal. “It was not easy to make such a decision. I did not tell my parents because if they knew about my idea, they would not allow me to leave,” Ndiaye remembers.

Pape put her in contact with the people who would help her migrate without regular papers.
“I financed my trip with my scholarship up to 200.000FCFA which is the equivalent of 348 dollars.”
But on the day of the trip to the “promised land” she realised that she was deceived because she had believed she would fly to Morocco, but instead “ended up taking a bus by force”.

After journeying 3,000 kilometres in a minibus, Ndiaye, and the other young Africans who were her travelling companions, arrived in Marrakech, Morocco.

Very quickly, her dream of working in a call centre turned into disillusionment.
What she hadn’t been told, and perhaps what her cousin didn’t know, was that call agents in Morocco were required to have two years of university credits.

For a time she lived with her cousin and his wife and while she was well treated, things were not necessarily easy.
She was witness to her cousin’s mugging and attack in a public street and feared the same would happen to her one day. “Moroccans on a scooter tried to steal his phone. He wanted to defend himself, but young Moroccans stabbed him. I saw the blood flowed and this image traumatised me,” she says with trembling voice.

Home to try again

She decided to return home and her parents, who by then knew of her presence in Morocco, paid for her return flight. Once home, with the advice and support of her family and relatives, Ndiaye pursued her studies once again.
She re-enrolled in university, and it was her second attempt to obtain her Bachelor of Laws.

“At the university, it was a bit like home, I was ashamed of the eyes of people and my classmates because they were all aware that I had stopped my studies to go to Morocco,” Ndiaye regrets.

A new beginning
But on a cold winter’s morning in November, and in the midst of a crowd of young students jostling to register at the university, we manage to force our way through the crowd to reach the main entrance of the Faculty of Law. It is here that Ndiaye’s professors and other UCAD staff gave her a chance. It is here that Ndiaye tried again to obtain her degree, this time succeeding.

“I received support from my teachers, especially one of my teachers who cheered me up whenever I needed it. She now sits at the Dakar court,” Ndiaye says excitedly.

Migrants as Messengers

As Ndiaye thrived with her studies, she was contacted by a friend, also a returnee migrant, who gave her the phone number of Mohamadou Ba, who is in charge of managing a community of returnee migrant volunteers in Dakar.

Ba is part of the Migrants as Messengers (MaM) awareness-raising campaign, which was developed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The peer-to-peer messaging campaign trains returnee migrants how to interview, film and document the stories of their fellow returnees. They share their experiences through Facebook and on other social media sites, providing a platform for others to do the same.

When Ndiaye heard about it, she joined. She met with other returnee migrants and heard of their experiences and stories, as she shared her own. Because MaM is structured as a peer-to-peer campaign, it allowed Ndiaye and other returning migrants to structure a message for young people that was based on their own first-hand experiences “… the best thing is to stay at home or if you decide to travel, do it by a normal way.”

Support that goes beyond financial aid

Ndiaye is also glad for the support she received from the network. “We have gained confidence and hope. And this is much more important than financial aid,” Ndiaye says.

It is not just Ndiaye who has benefited from the training.

Yaya Mballo and Ndèye Fatou Sall are also returnee migrants in Senegal. Thanks to the IOM training they have been able to re-integrate into society and even launched their own business—where they offer public speaking and videography services.

Julia Burpee, Media Development Specialist and trainer at MaM tells IPS how the project has helped its participants transform.
“When we started the videography and storytelling trainings, many of the migrants who returned home from Libya and other countries, were too timid and ashamed to share their stories of migration.
“The more they stood in front of—and behind—the camera and saw the benefits of using video as a tool for healing and advocacy, the more they started to speak up. They now all speak confidently and with conviction about their migration experiences, eager to help inform other West Africans about the risks they faced, and ultimately, save lives,” Burpee says.

Tomorrow, Dec. 18, marks International Migrants Day and many of the returnee migrants will be celebrating it through events held around Dakar.

But today, Ndiaye is keenly interested in gender rights. In fact her Master’s dissertation was on the gender balance in Muslim succession law here in this West African nation.

“Inheritance law fascinates me the most because it is the regulation of everyday life and also it is a fact of society that is heard constantly,” she tells IPS.

“Yes women can,” Ndiaye concludes.

  • Additional reporting by Samuelle Paul Banga in Dakar.

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“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemalahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 13:32:06 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159268 According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. […]

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By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”

Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”

In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises. They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor. The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:

    “Some of the guerilleros were our own sons and daughters, but what could we do? As soon as guerrilleros appeared and preached their socialism, the army arrived, killing us. The guerrilleros were not strong enough to fight the soldiers. We were left to be slaughtered. The only solution we could find was to arm ourselves and with weapons in hand ask the guerrilleros to stay away from our villages. However, all over the world they declared that we were supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. We found ourselves between two fires, solutions were almost non-existent. No one listened to us”

A Catholic priest living in the camp explained: “They tend to be very religious, but their faith is mostly about human dignity. Ixiles want to be masters of their lives. They need to be listened to. Every day I sit for hours listening to confessions. They talk and talk. It makes them content when someone is listening to them. This is one of the problems we Catholics face. Ixiles are abandoning our faith for the one of the evangelicals.”

For centuries the Church had told Ixiles what to do, but finally both Catholics and peasants had been persecuted. In 1982, under the presidency of Ríos Montt, violence reached its peak. A scorch earth campaign lasting for five months resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans, while 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes, most of them over the border, into Mexico. Ríos Montt was a “born-again Christian” and in the aftermath of the violence evangelical sectarians appeared in the Ixil areas. Many of the remaining Ixiles became evangelicals, stating this was their only way to avoid persecution and come in contact with the “High Command” of the unconstrained army forces.

The loudspeakers of evangelical churches amplified their voices, allowing Ixiles to confess their sins and praise the Lord. However, were their voices finally heard? Their well-being improved? Do they have a say in the governing of their country? Many Ixiles are once again leaving their homes, hoping to reach the US. Research indicates a difference between migration patterns of El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. In the former two countries migration decision is more often the result of immediate threats to safety, while in Guatemala it stems from chronic stressors; a mix of general violence, poverty, and rights violations, especially among indigenous people.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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Pakistan: Food Security and Reducing the Price of Wheathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 09:05:26 +0000 Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159265 Robert W. Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, through his work on “efficiency wages”, pointed out that hungry and undernourished workers are not as productive as well fed and healthy workers.   At the level of an individual firm, it would thus make sense for an employer to pay wages that are high […]

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The staple food of Pakistan is wheat with an annual per capita consumption of 124 kgs/head/year. The world price of wheat currently hovers around US$ 234 per tonne (as of 01 November 2018). In Pakistan, the Government, during the last wheat harvest in May/June 2018, paid farmers Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms.

Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan
ROME, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

Robert W. Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, through his work on “efficiency wages”, pointed out that hungry and undernourished workers are not as productive as well fed and healthy workers.   At the level of an individual firm, it would thus make sense for an employer to pay wages that are high enough to allow workers access to food and other necessities – even if such wages are higher than the going market rate.

Some iconic and highly successful firms have in fact done this. Henry Ford, in 1914, caused quite a stir when he decided to offer his workers five dollars a day – double the going market pay at the time. This allowed him to not only have a healthy and satisfied work force but also to pick and choose his employees; to ensure that they stayed with the company; did not spend time looking for other opportunities as their experience and skill levels improved; and felt a stake in the success of the firm.

Other companies such as Guiness, Cadbury’s and Tata’s followed the same route providing not only good salaries but also housing, medical services and schools, as well as scholarship for the brightest children of their employees.

A food-secure, well-nourished, well-housed and educated labor force can enable countries to spur and sustain economic growth and foster shared prosperity.

In Karachi, a friend runs one of the most successful engineering companies in the country. He tells of how two fresh graduate engineers came looking for a job and asking for a salary of Rupees 10,000/month (about US$75 at today’s exchange rate).

My friend told them that this was “a ridiculous demand” and that as qualified engineers from a reputable university he was not prepared to pay a penny less than Rupees 20,000. This was 20 years back and much of the success of the firm was the result of the dedication and hard work on these two “overpaid” engineers.

For countries, the same principles and practices hold. A food-secure, well-nourished, well-housed and educated labor force can enable countries to spur and sustain economic growth and foster shared prosperity.

This was one of the key principles underlying the creation of the welfare state. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the rates of food insecurity and malnutrition are extremely high with approximately 60 percent of the population vulnerable to food insecurity.  Moreover, nearly half of children under the age of five suffering from stunted growth, which implies that their will most likely not reach their full physical and mental potential.

Prime Minister Imran Khan highlighted this issue in his inaugural speech and committed his Government to addressing the country’s nutrition emergency.  However, given the Government’s generally weak implementation capacity and tight fiscal situation there is a need to find suitable low cost means to achieve this goal. On such means is by reducing the price of food.

The staple food of Pakistan is wheat with an annual per capita consumption of 124 kgs/head/year.  The world price of wheat currently hovers around US$ 234 per tonne (as of 01 November 2018). In Pakistan, the Government, during the last wheat harvest in May/June 2018, paid farmers Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms.

This was a price approaching US$ 300/tonne (US Dollar to Pakistan Rupee exchange rate of Rupees 110 which was the rate prevailing at the time of the last wheat harvest) paid at farm-gate.  This is a price well above what farmers in most countries get.

To keep the price of wheat at Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms, the Government imposes import tariffs which currently stand at 60%. In addition huge outlays are incurred to buy, store and then dispose of this wheat. As wheat production has increased beyond domestic need and there is a subsidy given to exporters.

The impact of high wheat prices on consumers, particularly the poor, is very significant. Often it is argued that high prices for wheat and other food items help reduce poverty in rural areas.   This is simply not correct as the bulk of Pakistan’s poor rural population comprises of small scale farmers and landless who are net buyers of food.

High prices favor large farmers who have surpluses to sell; the big flour millers who get subsidized wheat from the Government; the large bureaucracy that has been created to run the wheat procurement system; and the banks, who lend to the Government for the purchase of wheat.  Direct budgetary costs of administering the system, according to the Government’s own estimates, amount to Rupees 200 billion (US$1.5 billion)/annum.

If the import restrictions on wheat are removed, domestic prices could fall considerably. In big centers such as Lahore and Karachi, where prices are 11% to 21% higher compared to international prices, a family of six people, consuming about 744 kilograms of wheat per year would save around Rupees 5,000 (almost US$40) per year.

In addition, the Government would save the costs incurred in running the system would amount to another Rupees 6,000 (over US$45) per family. This money could be used to fund targeted food assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable.

It would take some political courage to take on the lobbies of those who benefit from the current system of wheat procurement.  But if this can be done it would make a huge dent in addressing a fundamental problem without any extra outlay of public funds.

Ahmed Raza Gorsi works in international development specializing in food, agriculture and nutrition. Views expressed here are his own.

Daud Khan has more than 30 years of experience on global food security and rural development issues. Until recently, he was a staff member at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He has degrees in economics from the LSE and Oxford – where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Imperial College of Science and Technology.  

 

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African Media Poorly Represented at the United Nations Climate Change Negotiationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/african-media-poorly-represented-united-nations-climate-change-negotiations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-media-poorly-represented-united-nations-climate-change-negotiations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/african-media-poorly-represented-united-nations-climate-change-negotiations/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 15:14:55 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159256 As negotiations at the United Nations conference on climate change come to a close, the highest expectation is that finally, there will be a rulebook to guide countries on what should be done to slow down greenhouse gas emissions that make the earth warmer than necessary, and how countries can adapt to the impacts of […]

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Kenyan cameraman John Ngaruiya (right) and reporter Zeynab Wandati (centre) interview Mohammed Adow (left) of Christian Aid. There were less than 30 African reporters present at COP24. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

As negotiations at the United Nations conference on climate change come to a close, the highest expectation is that finally, there will be a rulebook to guide countries on what should be done to slow down greenhouse gas emissions that make the earth warmer than necessary, and how countries can adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Africa is arguably the continent that is most impacted by climate change, experiencing storms, droughts, and floods; the emergence of new human and plant diseases as well as increased incidents of infectious diseases; unpredictable weather; and rising sea levels, among others. 

However, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) raises one big question: Who is going to tell the African narrative of climate change?

The UNFCCC secretariat has always allocated humble working space for the media, fixed with sufficient state-of-the-art computers, free high-speed internet and printing services, and an information desk to make lives of journalists easier in covering the conference.

But African media has never been truly present at the conference to tell the real African story of the climate change discourse right from the negotiating room.

“It is a shame for the media houses all over Africa to be relying on wire stories when addressing an issue that is of great importance to the African continent. It is totally unacceptable,” said Mohammed Adow, who heads climate policy and advocacy at Christian Aid.

According to Tim Davis, the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) manager for UNFCCC:

  • 1,749 journalists from across the globe were accredited to cover the conference;
  • but only 1,068 turned up.

However, out of these journalists some individual media houses brought in as many as 40 journalists. But looking at the represented media houses on the list, less than 30 journalists are present from African media houses.

IPS contacted some of the African journalists who had registered and not attended. They said they had been prepared and eager to cover the event, but could not make it because of a lack of funding.

“I was really prepared to cover the COP, but I couldn’t make it because I did not get a sponsor,” said Elias Ngalame, a Cameroonian journalist who won the very first Africa Climate Change and Environment Reporting (ACCER) Award in 2013, and has since been reporting about the COP processes.

The same was said by Friday Phiri, an Inter Press Service award-winning environment journalist from Zambia, Michael Simire, a veteran environment journalist from Nigeria, and Agatha Ngotho from Kenya, among many others.

From the entire East African region, including Ethiopia, only four journalists were available to tell the African narrative from COP24 for the African population.

However, sometimes freelance journalists—as opposed to reporters permanently employed at media houses—are more likely to obtain funding to cover global conferences such as this because their stories have wider reach both locally and internationally. But they are oftentimes only sponsored to cover the events of their donors and only present for a short time.

And on the other hand, African media organisations are still either unable to afford the costs of sending journalists to such events, or would prefer to cover local issues.

Mithika Mwenda, the Executive Director for the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), believes that African delegations must take responsibility and support at least one environmental journalist to accompany them.

“Most of the people, especially in the villages who are affected by climate change, do not have time and sometimes capacity to read and understand content from scientific reports, specialised websites, the IPCC reports and so on. Instead, they listen to radio, they watch television and they read daily newspapers,” said Mwenda, whose organisation supported four African journalists to cover COP24.

“So when delegates are coming here, they should think about how the messages they are passing across will be digested, simplified and given a human angle for that 90 year old woman in a rural African village to understand why things are not happening the way they used to when she was a teenager,” Mwenda told IPS.

His sentiments were echoed by Ishaku Huzi Mshelia, an Energy Legal Expert from Nigeria who told IPS that the media is indeed indispensable when it comes to climate change negotiations.

“Decision makers need to learn from the media. When we talk about something like the Talanoa Dialogue, we must have someone who will explain to the masses including policy makers what the term means, and why it is important,” said Mshelia.

He observed that the Africa Union should take responsibility to support African journalists. “Journalists require training on the negotiation process, and resources must be made available if at all we are keen on passing the message from the discussion table to the people who desperately need to adapt to climate change,” he said.

According to Mwenda, Africa has a significant number of journalists who understand issues around climate change, and they have constantly reported about the same from their various countries.

“All we need is to fully involve them in such negotiation processes so that our narrative is not told by people who know less or nothing about the continent,” he said.

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Negotiating for Naturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/negotiating-for-nature/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=negotiating-for-nature http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/negotiating-for-nature/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 12:59:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159252 Wildlife is being wiped out in an unprecedented rate, and it’s our fault. But a new deal could provide a new pathway forward. Concerned over the rate of biodiversity loss, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is calling for a new deal for nature and people in order to accelerate and integrate action between […]

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Concerned over the rate of biodiversity loss, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is calling for a new deal for nature and people. South Africa’s white rhinoceros recovered from near-extinction thanks to intense conservation efforts. Credit: Kanya D’Almeida/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

Wildlife is being wiped out in an unprecedented rate, and it’s our fault. But a new deal could provide a new pathway forward.

Concerned over the rate of biodiversity loss, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is calling for a new deal for nature and people in order to accelerate and integrate action between three core areas: biodiversity, land degradation, and climate change.

“The trends are shocking. We are facing a decline which is unprecedented and its accelerating,” WWF’s Director General Marco Lambertini told IPS.

“This is a global issue. Almost no country is completely exempt,” he added.

And it’s not just the iconic species like pandas, elephants, and tigers, he noted.

According the WWF’s recent Living Planet report, populations of vertebrate species have declined by 60 percent around the world in just 40 years.

Freshwater species alone faced a decline of over 80 percent.

Such population declines were especially prominent in South and Central America, where there is 89 percent less wildlife than in 1970.

Among the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss are directly linked to human activities, namely land conversion and overexploitation.

Over 40 percent of the world’s land has been converted or set aside for agriculture alone.

The Amazon, which is home to over 10 percent of the world’s species, has seen deforestation and habitat conversion to make way for agricultural activities such as cattle ranching and soy cultivation.

Though there has been some efforts to halt and reverse such harmful activities, 20 percent of the Amazon disappeared in just 50 years.

In Indonesia, primates are facing a heightened risk of extinction as forests are destroyed to produce palm oil.

“Food production is the single most important driver of wild habitat loss…very few people realise the connection between the food that they eat and the impact it is having on wildlife and wild habitats in the world,” Lambertini said.

But it doesn’t stop there.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), unsustainable land management, which encompasses many modern crop and livestock practices, is causing soil and land degradation thus contributing to both desertification and further biodiversity loss.

“With our current trends in production, urbanisation, and environmental degradation, we are losing and wasting too much land,” said UNCCD’s Executive Secretary Monique Barbut in the group’s Global Land Outlook report.

“We are losing our connection with the earth. We are losing too quickly the water, soil, and biodiversity that support all life,” she added.

Lambertini echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “There’s not going to be a prosperous, healthy, happy, just future for us in a degraded planet.”

Finding Common Ground

UNCCD is one of three conventions that were established during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Its sister conventions include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Though significant as separate frameworks, Lambertini highlighted the need for more integration between the three conventions as the three issues are interconnected.

“We are calling for a new deal for nature…that really recognises those interdependencies and that they need to be integrated—land degradation, climate change, and nature conservation,” he said.

The Executive Secretaries of the three conventions also recognised the intersectionality of the three issues during the U.N. climate change conference in 2017, calling for the establishment of a project preparation facility.

The facility would help promote an coordinated action towards the convention’s common issues and finance large-scale multi-disciplinary projects.

However, little has been mentioned of it since.

Similar to the Paris climate accord, the proposed “new deal for nature and people” would ramp up the international community’s efforts through ambitious goals and targets to halt biodiversity loss and protect and restore nature.

Unlike the majority of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the end date of the biodiversity-related targets under the SDGs is in 2020 and it is expected that many countries will not come close to reaching the targets given current trends.

The new deal for nature would therefore be a post-2020 framework, helping governments to keep up, if not raise, their efforts.

A recent U.N. Biodiversity Conference agreed to begin a preparatory process, marking a first step towards a new framework. However, WWF noted that ambition was weak.

“The world needs to wake up to the risks of biodiversity loss. All stakeholders; business, government and people, need to act now if we are to have any hope of creating a sustainable future for all and a New Deal for Nature and People in 2020,” Lambertini said.

“For this to happen, we need a cohesive vision and strong political will – something [Conference of the Parties 14] has unfortunately lacked,” he added.

The Value of Nature

The Living Planet Index calculated that nature provides services worth $125 trillion annually while also providing us with fresh air, clean water, food, and medicine.

Wildlife play an essential role, and can even help restore and conserve land.

“We often forget that these creatures are fundamental to maintaining ecosystems like forests, oceans, wetlands, grasslands and make services that are fundamental to us,” Lambertini told IPS.

“There is a huge link between biodiversity and their ecosystems…and our fight against climate change,” he added.

For instance, approximately 87 percent of all flowering plant species are pollinated by animals, and crops that are partially pollinated by animals account for 35 percent of global food production.

Primates also help disperse seeds and pollen, helping maintain tropical rainforests which are play a crucial role in global rainfall patterns and carbon emissions reduction.

During the recent U.N. climate change conference in Poland, many looked to natural climate solutions including forests which help cut emissions by up to 30 percent.

WWF is urging all stakeholders to come together to deliver on a comprehensive framework to help protect the environment by the next U.N. biodiversity conference set to take place in China in 2020.

“It’s time to stop taking nature for granted—we are depending on nature more than nature depends on us,” Lambertini said.

“Don’t leave nature and environmental conservation and climate change as an afterthought, they have to be driving the thinking and the planning at the policy level as much as the economic level,” he concluded.

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Q&A: Many African Countries Already Live the Future of 2°C Warmerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-many-african-countries-already-live-future-2c-warmer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-many-african-countries-already-live-future-2c-warmer http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-many-african-countries-already-live-future-2c-warmer/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 11:01:50 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159249 As the United Nations climate conference nears an end, all eyes are on the negotiators  who have been working day and night for the past two weeks to come up with a Rulebook for implementation of the Paris Agreement. However, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), climate change is also a humanitarian issue. According […]

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Gernot Laganda, Chief of the Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction Programmes at the World Food Programme says that because of climate change the number of natural disasters in the world have doubled since 1990. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

As the United Nations climate conference nears an end, all eyes are on the negotiators  who have been working day and night for the past two weeks to come up with a Rulebook for implementation of the Paris Agreement.

However, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), climate change is also a humanitarian issue.

According to the humanitarian organisation, natural disasters such as droughts, storms and floods, have doubled since the 1990s.

“So nowadays there are so many people who require food assistance and other humanitarian aid after disasters than it was a few decades ago,” Gernot Laganda, Chief of the Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction Programmes at WFP, tells IPS at the sidelines of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Kotowice, Poland.

“We are also concerned because with humanitarian aid, we cannot run fast enough as the problem of hunger in the world is running away from us,” Laganda says.

According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018, the number of hungry people increased to over 820 million in 2017 from approximately 804 million in 2016. And Laganda says the ‘trend is on the rise”.

“When we look into a future of 2 degrees Celsius warmer world, it means we will have over a billion people who are at risk of hunger and food security,” he says. Excepts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): How is climate change impacting on food security?

Gernot Laganda (GL): Climate change affects food security in two principle ways. First, there is the whole question around agriculture from production of crops, to the storage to the transport to the market. Climate change can affect each of these stages.

The other one is about extreme events that keep throwing people back into poverty. Each year, 28 million people fall back into poverty because of extreme weather events. That means no matter how much development progress we are making to achieve zero hunger by 2030, every year we slide back, and that is a concern.

IPS: Will women’s ownership of land be of good value especially for climate adaptation?

GL: Having ownership of land certainly increases sustainability of agriculture production because people look after their land. In many cases, development projects fail also because land ownership and who has the right to use the land for how long has not been considered. So it is a big factor in development.

Of course when you mention the issue of ownership of land, then the whole issue of gender comes in, in various ways. On one side, there is a discussion about women being vulnerable in general. But we see it in slightly a different way.  We see it as women being agents of change in many countries and in many communities, so when you want to invest in a sustainable manner, it is a very good idea to have women saving groups. They have very good experiences in building risk reserves. And whenever there are little problems for example when the rains come late, it becomes very efficient to go through such crises. But when it comes to catastrophic shocks, we look more at insurance based models.

IPS: Do you see this COP solving some of the climate problems in relation to food security?

GL: This COP is primarily about implementing the Paris agreement and maintaining the global average of temperature increases well below two degrees Celsius. I think in all the discussions about temperature ranges we tend to forget that many countries, especially in Africa, are already experiencing two degrees Celsius of temperature increase. So the reality in these countries look like what we are still discussing here. Indeed, many African countries already live the future that we are collectively still trying to avoid.

IPS: How has climate change contributed in terms of displacing families?

GL: Statistics from the last 10 years tell us that on average 22 million people are driven from their homes every year because of climate extremes. Migration is actually a traditional adaptation mechanism because people move to other places in search of greener pastures, job opportunities and so on. But we are talking about forced displacement due to climate related disasters. Climate related events can also aggravate conflicts at local levels between farmers and herders for example, or it can still happen between countries especially where we have large international river basins.

IPS: What does the latest  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report mean to Africa in terms of food security?

GL: All countries are affected by climate change but agrarian countries feel it the most. In Africa, many countries have a huge percentage of their GDP coming from agriculture. That makes such economies very vulnerable because agriculture is about climate sensitive resources such as water, crops, fish-stock, livestock among others. All poor countries that heavily depend on natural resources are the most impacted.

IPS: What are your expectations for COP24?

GL: Everybody’s expectation is that we will have a Rulebook by the end of the COP. But there is also a recognition that this is not an easy task because for one it is difficult enough to agree on what we want to do. But [the Rulebook] is about how we are going to hold ourselves accountable.

In the Rulebook, I expect to see a regime by which countries can track and report on the degrees of their progress against their self set targets or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

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Decoding Article 6 of the COP24 Climate Negotiationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 07:11:02 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159242 It is close to curtain call for the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, with ministers from around the world negotiating the text for a “rulebook” to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement for climate action. Amidst the various issues being debated, one of the most technical and complicated is Article 6 of the […]

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The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) side event at COP24 that discussed transparency and NDC implementation. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

It is close to curtain call for the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, with ministers from around the world negotiating the text for a “rulebook” to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement for climate action. Amidst the various issues being debated, one of the most technical and complicated is Article 6 of the agreement, which focuses on the country plans for climate action.

While the world has been having climate conferences since 1992, the tide turned with the Paris Agreement when all countries agreed to play their part to undertake climate action.

“Developing countries now have a strong political will to contribute to the greenhouse gas reduction,” said Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General at the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an international organisation that promotes balancing economic growth without harming the environment. This political will was manifested in Paris with countries voluntarily submitting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for reducing carbon emissions and building climate resilience, taking into account their respective circumstances.

“But at the same time, they need support to affectively implement their NDCs,” Kim said, at a side event at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), which was organised by GGGI and focused on transparency and NDC implementation.

In order to get support from outside, Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of a country’s carbon emissions reduction is almost a precondition as many donor agencies and even private sector organisations want to know how much greenhouse gases a developing country is emitting before they make a decision to support it.

“MRV is key for developing countries to get access to financial, technical and capacity building support, and that’s why we are supporting developing countries to set up more proper and internationally acceptable MRV scheme,” Kim said.

GGGI’s interventions in this area include preparing a low emissions development strategy for Fiji, Colombia’s national green growth strategy and Mongolia’s national energy efficiency plan. The organisation is also working on building capacity to implement MRVs in various countries around the globe, including, Mozambique, Senegal, Nepal and Laos.

“We will continue to support our members and partners in their efforts of effectively implementing NDCs with robust MRVs, so they can access more finance,” Kim said.

“We are committed to reminding countries that green growth can happen.”

One of the speakers at the panel was Ariyaratne Hewage, Special Envoy of the President on Climate Change, Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, in Sri Lanka, which is on track to become a member of the GGGI. He said Sri Lanka anticipates extensive support from GGGI in the years to come for its preparation of various project proposals to fight climate change.

“The present situation in Sri Lanka is severe droughts in one part of the country and heavy floods in another,” Hewage said. During a 2016 survey conducted by the Bonn-based NGO Germanwatch, Sri Lanka was awarded the fourth place in terms of climate vulnerability.

“We are severely affected by climate change, so we are very keen in developing climate change programs to ensure these problems are properly addressed,” Hewage said.

The proposed emission reduction i.e. mitigation targets of Sri Lanka’s NDCs include 30 percent reduction in the energy sector and 10 percent reduction in transport, industry and waste by 2030.

“For energy and transport sector we already have developed MRV systems, but for the other sectors – industry, waste, agriculture, livestock, forestry – we need help,” he added.

The need for support was also stressed by Ziaul Haque who leads the Bangladesh delegation’s COP24 negotiations on Article 6.

“Our main issue is lack of capacity to address this enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement at both the institutional level and the individual level,” said Haque, highlighting the need for accurate data.

“We need to bring data on green house gas emissions from different institutions and whether they are collecting and archiving the data in the right manner is an issue that needs to be looked at. In this regard our institutional arrangement is not very strong at the national level,” he said, stating that strengthening the capacity of institutions and individuals who will be dealing with the transparency issue is crucial.

Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, a Distinguished Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and former Special Secretary of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said at the side event that one of the fundamental issues to deciding a transparency framework is that of flexibility.

“Developing countries should be able to make gradual progression on the quality of data,” he said. “We have so far not been able to agree in the discussions on this level of flexibility.”

Moreover, whether the same guidelines regarding MRV of greenhouse gases should be applied to all countries is also an issue of contention at COP24, he added.

Jae Jung, Deputy Director of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Research Center (GIR), another panelist at the side event, said having common metrics and structured summary is crucial.

“At this moment we don’t have the final text of the Paris rulebook, but we do have a very clean text of the common metric with no bracket, so there might be agreement on that,” Jung said.

“In terms of global stock take of emissions we don’t have to have a common metric in our inventory. But when we do the global stock take every five years there has to be someone doing the conversion applying the same common metric to all countries’ inventories,” he added.

He also stressed the importance of “structured summary” – a form of presentation of aggregated presentation of data that makes it possible to see the level of carbon emissions of one country – stating that helps to avoid double counting issue.

“There is opposition to structured summary because some parties want to use qualitative indicators and narrative descriptions of their NDCs,” he said, “But how does it make sense logically to have qualitative results when you have a quantitative target?”

One way to address the multifaceted challenges to NDC implementation would be through engagement of the private sector, according to experts.

“Many people think Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is about the market itself, but it is about increasing cooperation,” said Dr. Suh-Young Chung, Director of Center for Climate and Sustainable Development Law and Policy (CSDLAP).

“If you look at the Paris landscape to meet the 2-degree Celsius temperature target, you realise it is not enough and you need to bring in private sector investment. And countries need to work together on this,” he said, adding that Article 6 eventually needs to promote cooperation with the private sector, via incentive mechanism to engage businesses and addressing the risks they face.

“Article 6 is about bringing more opportunities for developing countries, but to do so, you need MRVs first,” he said.

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Senior UN Official Resigns Undermining Sexual Abuse Chargeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/senior-un-official-resigns-undermining-sexual-abuse-charges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=senior-un-official-resigns-undermining-sexual-abuse-charges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/senior-un-official-resigns-undermining-sexual-abuse-charges/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 06:59:52 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159244 The UN’s heavily-hyped “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse is being ridiculed once again –– this time with the abrupt resignation of the head of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) who faced charges of sexual harassment and was the subject of an inquiry by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). The resignation […]

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ICSC Commissioners with former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

The UN’s heavily-hyped “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse is being ridiculed once again –– this time with the abrupt resignation of the head of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) who faced charges of sexual harassment and was the subject of an inquiry by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

The resignation of the ICSC chairman, Under-Secretary-General (USG) Kingston Rhodes, who holds one of the highest ranking jobs in the UN system, followed the release of the OIOS report to the ICSC last week.

But the contents of the report are under wraps since neither the OIOS nor ICSC have announced plans to go public with the results of the months-long investigations in an institution which has long preached “transparency and accountability” to the outside world.

The New York-based Equality Now, a non-governmental organization (NGO) which promotes women’s rights, received an official email December 11 from the ICSC’s Executive Secretary, Regina Pawlik, that the chair, Kingston Rhodes from Sierra Leone, is resigning, effective 14 December—about two weeks ahead of his planned retirement.

Antonia Kirkland, Legal Equality Global Lead at Equality Now, told IPS that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged months ago that the allegations against the Chair of the ICSC are “credible.,”

“So he should have done everything to protect his own staff from sexual harassment regardless of the Chair of the ICSC, or anyone else’s, technical employment status vis-a-vis the UN.”

She said the UN’s zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment should apply to all, without exception, with survivors and their interests at the center.

“All those who have been found to perpetrate sexual harassment should be held accountable. The UN is the premier international defender of human rights and should start by defending its own employees from sexual harassment in the workplace,” said Kirkland.

Moreover, she pointed out, the Commissioners of the ICSC, whose meetings are funded by the UN, should have held the Chair accountable, first when the UN Secretary-General brought the allegations to their attention almost 10 months ago.

“The fact that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report took a year to be completed and shared with the ICSC Commissioners, and has never been shared with the complainant, is unacceptable,” she added.

The ICSC is described as an independent expert body established by the 193- member UN General Assembly, and its mandate is to regulate and coordinate the conditions of service of staff in the United Nations common system, while promoting and maintaining high standards in the international civil service.

At a press briefing December 11, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq was asked about the OIOS investigation.

Question: “So, there is a report submitted by OIOS… but will the UN release its report, or how will it address it, in the name of transparency”. As you know, responded Haq, “the ICSC is outside of the United Nations itself”.

“The report has been submitted to them, and it’s up to them to respond. Ultimately, I don’t speak for them; so, I can’t answer questions about what they may do,” he added.

Paula Donovan, a women’s rights activist and co-Director of AIDS-Free World and Code Blue Campaign, told IPS “for months, my question about this ICSC saga has been: “Why, when the UN constantly cites the need for more and better-qualified investigators at OIOS, are they farming out the UN’s over-stretched investigators’ services to any entity that, according to the SG’s spokesperson, isn’t part of the UN?”

“It’s become second nature for the UN to respond to any question related to sexual abuse in ways that test public confidence in the organization’s relationship with the truth,” declared Donovan, a former UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa.

When allegations of sexual harassment were made against the ICSC last November, the United Nations admitted that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has no jurisdiction over a UN body created by the General Assembly and answerable only to member states.

http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act/

Kirkland of Equality Now told IPS: “When the complainant went to the UN Ethics Office to complain about retaliation, she was asked to transfer, rather than him being put on administrative leave, at the very least”.

Indeed, it appears the Commissioners have allowed the Chairman to resign quietly, on the day of his farewell party this Friday (replacing the annual holiday party), rather than terminating him. This comes just before the end of his term on the 31st and sends the wrong message that powerful men can harass UN female staff with impunity,” she added.

In a statement to IPS, Equality Now identified the complainant as Shihana Mohamed, a Human Resources Policies Officer who has been working with ICSC since 2005 and in the UN system for over 20 years.

She told Equality Now: “I was sexually harassed by the Chairman of the ICSC for over 10 years – and I was not the only one. Because I said “NO” to his repeated sexual advances, he denied me promotions, and excluded me from duty travels, training, assignments, projects, Commission sessions and working groups”

“In 2016, I was on sick leave for 3-months due to the stress caused by the hostile office environment and retaliation by the ICSC management.”

“His quiet resignation just two weeks before the end of his term is a slap in my face and barely a slap on his wrist. It is very sad that the ICSC, a jointly-funded body with a mandate to cover all facets of UN staff employment conditions, failed to make Mr. Rhodes accountable for his misconduct.”

Also, the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly have said that they do not have any jurisdiction over the ICSC Chairman who is a UN official elected by the General Assembly.

“Then, my question is, who has the jurisdiction over him? Can this one person stand above all the rules, regulation and UN values as well as with no checks and balances while dealing with public funds and trust?,” she asked.

Messages to Rhodes and to his Vice Chairman Aldo Mantovani, seeking comments, went unanswered.

Meanwhile, Peter A. Gallo, the Legal Counsel to Shihana Mohamed, said in a statement released December 13, that he had formally requested the Secretary-General waive the immunity of Rhodes.

“I have not received any response to that request. Mr. Rhodes is not a “UN staff member” as such, but enjoys the protection of the 1946 Convention on Privileges and Immunities,” he said.

“The United Nations has often denied that they use that Convention as a mechanism to protect sexual offenders, but the Secretary-General’s failure to act on this request shows that is not the case,” said Gallo, himself a former OIOS investigator.

He pointed out that the sexual harassment complaint against Rhodes was made twelve months ago.

“The pertinent UN rules state that such investigations should normally be completed within three months, but I have been informed by Investigations Director, Mr. Ben Swanson of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (“OIOS”) confirming that while a complaint was received in November 2017, the investigation was not actually commenced for another five months while the Organization delayed making a decision on whether Mr. Rhodes could actually be investigated. The OIOS investigation then took a further seven months.”

In June this year, said Gallo, the “Secretary-General acknowledged that the evidence against Mr. Rhodes was “credible” and “serious” – but although he may not have the authority to discipline the ICSC Chairman, the Secretary-General does have the authority – and indeed the duty – to waive the immunity and leave the matter to the legal system in New York: but has been unwilling to do so.”

He said “to allow the subject of an sexual harassment investigation to avoid being held accountable for his actions by simply accepting his resignation less than ten working days before he was due to retire anyway is a patent insult to every woman working in the UN system, and shows the utter futility of victims relying on the UN to hold perpetrators accountable for misconduct.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Not Just the Big Guys Are Against the Compacthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/not-just-big-guys-compact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-just-big-guys-compact http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/not-just-big-guys-compact/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 22:40:19 +0000 Souleymane Brah Oumarou http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159239 A few hours after the adoption of the United Nation’s Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, a consortium of Moroccan human rights organisations—La Vie Campesina—held a sit in protest in front of Marrakech’s Grand Post Office. In the statement issued on December 11, the leaders of the 15 organisations denounced the […]

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A few hours after the adoption of the United Nation’s Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, a consortium of Moroccan human rights organisations—La Vie Campesina—held a sit in protest in front of Marrakech’s Grand Post Office, denouncing the compact. Credit: Souleymane Brah Oumarou/IPS

By Souleymane Brah Oumarou
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 13 2018 (IPS)

A few hours after the adoption of the United Nation’s Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Marrakech, a consortium of Moroccan human rights organisations—La Vie Campesina—held a sit in protest in front of Marrakech’s Grand Post Office. In the statement issued on December 11, the leaders of the 15 organisations denounced the compact.

“It is a setback, not only for the free movement of people and their goods, but also a violation of human rights, protection of migrants and their families as provided for in international conventions already approved by the United Nations and other institutions,” says Federico Daniel, a member of the consortium, adding that La vie Campesina proposes an alternative compact “to restore the primacy of the rights of men, women, children and peoples.”

This can be achieved, he explains, by “building local economies that are sustainable, united and just, while a state’s responsibility is to prevent criminalisation, repression or detention of migrants on their migratory routes before they reach their country of destination and settlement.”

The consortium’s stance echoes that of a number of UN member countries that made last minute withdrawals from the compact. Hungary, Australia, Israel, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Latvia, Italy, Switzerland and Chile have all either refused to sign it or expressed reservations. The United States, one of the first to bridle against the U.N.’s push for the Compact, has gone as far as labelling it a violation of state sovereignty.

“We believe the Compact and the process that led to its adoption, including the New York Declaration, represent an effort by the U.N. to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of States to manage their immigration systems in accordance with their national laws, policies, and interests,” read a statement released by the U.S. on the eve of the conference.

But the U.N. insists that the compact is voluntary and cooperative, not legally binding, and fully respects the sovereignty of states. 

“The Global Compact respects the sovereignty of countries,” says U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.  “And I believe that, reading carefully the Compact, countries will be able to understand that there are no reasons to be worried about the Compact. And I am hopeful that in the future they will join us in a common venture to the benefit of their own societies of the world as a whole and of the migrants.”

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The Evolution of Moroccan Immigration: a Lesson for All Countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/evolution-moroccan-immigration-lesson-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=evolution-moroccan-immigration-lesson-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/evolution-moroccan-immigration-lesson-countries/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 22:25:24 +0000 Lahcen Elyasmini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159237 One of the reasons Morocco embraced hosting the Global Compact on Migration is because it is country in which the story of immigration is deeply embedded. The evolution of the Moroccan immigration phenomenon occurred during the second half of the 20th century. The first waves of migrants began at the end of the 1950s and […]

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By Lahcen Elyasmini
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 13 2018 (IPS)

One of the reasons Morocco embraced hosting the Global Compact on Migration is because it is country in which the story of immigration is deeply embedded.
The evolution of the Moroccan immigration phenomenon occurred during the second half of the 20th century. The first waves of migrants began at the end of the 1950s and at the beginning of the ‘60s, heading toward Europe—France, in particular.

During this period, France, like many European countries, was re-constructing itself in the wake of the Second World War, and it also needed a boost to its workforce because of huge human losses during the war—hence the appeal of foreign labourers.

Morocco was particularly well placed to provide, both literally, due to its proximity to the southern shore of Spain—which lies but 15 kilometres from Morocco’s coast at the narrowest point of the Strait of Gibraltar waterway between them—and culturally and historically. Between 1912 – 1956, Morocco was a French and Spanish protectorate, during which French policy meant a Moroccan could travel freely to France without a visa, a far cry from the situation now in Europe, hence there already was a Moroccan footprint established in the country. 

Come the late 1960s and into the 1970s, Moroccans kept immigrating to France, many to work in the agricultural as well as industrial sectors. This wave continued until the 1973 Oil Crisis around the world, after which the weakened French economy could not absorb more immigrants. Furthermore, unemployment had hit much of the French population, leading to increased racism and xenophobia.

As a result, the attention of Moroccan immigrants turned toward other European countries such as Holland, Belgium, Germany and Scandinavian countries. But many of these potential destination countries had by this stage restrictive entry measures, introducing visas since the ‘80s. As a result, more southern-placed European countries such as Spain and Italy became destination countries for migrants, after they arrived but could not continue northward.

During the last twenty years, Morocco has received its own big immigration wave of Africans, who have arrived, dreaming of reaching Europe. But the strong security measures now established by almost all European countries, including Spain, have turned Morocco into a destination country, with many of these migrants choosing to settle in Morocco, the coast of Spain visible but unreachable on the horizon.

This migratory evolution means that Morocco knows all about being a country of origin, of transit and of destination, leaving an indelible print on the nation’s psyche. Hence it increasingly seeks to cooperate with European countries on the matter, having learned through experience and realising—perhaps more than most others—how immigration is a structural phenomenon that can’t be resolved only by security measures. The Global Compact on Migration is what Morocco has been looking for. But how many other countries will follow through with this new vision on how to handle migration?

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Costa Rica: First Country to Protect Sustainable Fisheries of Large Pelagics Specieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 12:31:47 +0000 Kifah Sasa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159227 Kifah Sasa is Sustainable Development Officer at UNDP Costa Rica

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Credit: UNDP

By Kifah Sasa
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Dec 13 2018 (IPS)

Twelve years ago, in a restaurant in Puntarenas on the pacific coast of Costa Rica, a group of long line fishermen met with three UNDP conservation specialists.

The conservationists wanted to understand how best to avoid illegal fishing inside Cocos Island Marine Protected Area, located off the shore of Costa Rica and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As part of their stakeholder engagement strategy, they decided to meet longline fishermen for dinner. It didn’t turn out quite as they had hoped – not many hands were shaken after dessert.

There was one table but two very different perspectives. The UNDP personnel were working on a project which saw illegal fishing on Cocos Island as a conservation issue.

On the other hand, the group of local entrepreneurs from Puntarenas were challenged by depleted resources and closed markets. Though some of them were indeed responsible for illegal fishing, none were big businessmen with major ambitions, but rather owners of a couple of long line vessels trying to make a living — with little access to credit and paying the highest social security costs in the region for every member of their expeditions.

The prospect of UNDP supporting the government to further restrictions on their livelihoods, was not taken lightly. A lot of mistrust turned the food, and the mood, sour.

According to data estimated by the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA), the country’s fishing sector is made up of around 400 boats with each boat carrying between five and eight people, forming a working population of around 2,000 to 3,200 directly linked to the sector.

Together with the families that depend on this activity, the affected population reaches between 10 to 16 million people and this is without including those indirectly linked through the thousands of other indirect jobs which ensure fishing activity such as transportation, fishing supplies, food, mechanics, and others.

Credit: UNDP

Fast forward to the present day and twelve years later, the perspectives of both the conservationists and the fishermen have changed. Last November, not far from that restaurant in Puntarenas, Costa Rica was the first country in the world to launch a National Action Plan for sustainable fisheries of large pelagic species, using UNDP’s methodology.

Through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) and the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the country officially presented a plan with three main areas of work: improving the fisheries of large pelagic species in Costa Rica such as tuna, swordfish and mahi mahi; increasing the supply of seafood from sustainable sources and ensuring the social welfare of the people linked to the fishing activity.

During the presentation of the plan, one of those same sector leaders from the restaurant took the opportunity to approach the same UNDP staff member he met all those years ago and said to him, “I wanted to thank UNDP for the trust it has given us and for helping us build a formal plan with institutions”.

A clear victory for UNDP’s firm confidence and strong commitment to multi-stakeholder dialogue as the key element to achieve systemic change for sustainable commodity production.

The National Action Plan for Large Pelagic Fisheries will run for ten years and will directly contribute to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Costa Rica.

Credit: UNDP

A model case study of successful convening and collaboration between different stakeholders, it is the result of a process of dialogue lasting twelve months and involving more than one hundred representatives of government, academia, civil society, international cooperation, fishermen, exporters, restaurants and supermarkets.

A group of people who were not likely to be happy in same room a few years ago but are now committed to working together towards a more sustainable, inclusive and promising future for Costa Rican fisheries.

Through 2019, we celebrate ten years of UNDP supporting multi-stakeholder approaches to the sustainability challenges of highly-traded commodities around the world.

Through the Green Commodities Programme, UNDP’s approach has been to build trust among stakeholders by facilitating neutral spaces where they can collaborate on a shared vision and agenda for action, coming to a collective agreement on the root of the sustainability problems of key commodities and on how they will work together to resolve them.

Through its multi-stakeholder National Commodity Platforms, the programme is currently working on palm oil, cocoa, coffee, beef, soy, pineapple and fisheries in Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

The post Costa Rica: First Country to Protect Sustainable Fisheries of Large Pelagics Species appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Kifah Sasa is Sustainable Development Officer at UNDP Costa Rica

The post Costa Rica: First Country to Protect Sustainable Fisheries of Large Pelagics Species appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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