Inter Press Service » Fresh Ideas from the Classroom News and Views from the Global South Mon, 29 May 2017 18:27:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What a Waterful World Wed, 09 Mar 2016 15:05:04 +0000 Celia Manzi and Tommaso Amadio We must acknowledge clean water as a fundamental  means to support growth and foster development and its scarcity  as a powerful force generating envinronmental disturbances and perpetuating health issues and social disparitie. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

We must acknowledge clean water as a fundamental means to support growth and foster development and its scarcity as a powerful force generating envinronmental disturbances and perpetuating health issues and social disparitie. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Celia Manzi and Tommaso Amadio
Milan, Mar 9 2016 (IPS)

Water is the engine of the earth. It sustains all forms of life, and our species’ progress completely depends on the availability of water. The importance of this precious resource is matched only by the challenges that its scarcity and poor quality can present to the entire world, even the most developed countries. To better grasp human’s vast and complex relationship to water, we must consider its biological and social impact on individuals and communities.

Water hygiene determines the benefits or hazards water can bring to our bodies. As the fundamental force in the biosphere, water can also transform human societies, playing a central role in major issues like pollution, water scarcity-related conflicts, desertification, forest die-back, and water-logging of mismanaged agricultural lands.

Social problems related to water scarcity are often most pronounced in rural areas in developing nations. Only 15% of Ugandans have access to water on tap, inhibiting the progress of individuals and the nation as a whole. In rural India, to collect all the water needed for drinking, washing and cooking, people must walk miles upon miles while carrying on their heads heavv vessels, for which they often pay exorbitant prices.

Issues of water access and hygiene are global in scale: one in three people lack access to a toilet. Women are disproportionately impacted by social issues surrounding water: in some countries, cultural norms forbid women relieve themselves during the day, leaving these women to wait until nightfall. For the girls worldwide that are fortunate enough to attend school, only half attend schools with toilets, posing major risks to their health and safety.

Nearly half of the world’s total workers work in direct contact with water. Many of these 1.5 billion people are not protected by basic labour rights, while they provide us with one of our most basic needs. We must work to protect the lives of those who provide us with life.

Water-related problems remain unresolved globally, largely because many people underestimate the scope and complexity of these challenges. We must acknowledge clean water as a fundamental means to support growth and foster development and its scarcity as a powerful force generating environmental disturbances and perpetuating health issues and social disparities.

Though we should acknowlege water’s importance to our world every day, World Water Day provides us with an opportunity to recognize one of earth’s most precious elements. Since its proposal by the UN Conference in 1992, World Water Day is celebrated every 22nd of March, focusing on different issues related to water each year.

In 1998, UNICEF led World Water Day with the theme “The Invisible Resources,” focusing on groundwater sources for drinking supply among other uses. In 2003, coordinated by the UNEP, World Water Day was themed “Water for Future” and emphasized mantaining and improving the quality and quantity of fresh water available to future generations. In 2015, important actors like the WWAP, UNESCO, HABITAT, UNEP, World Bank and UN-DESA supported UNDP to plan a World Water Day focused on sustainable development.

This year, the United Nations will to look at from an economic perspective with a World Water Day theme of “Better water, Better Jobs.” This conference will explore how workers’ lives and livelihoods can be improved by the right quantity and quality of water and how water can even transform societies and economies. But as Ban Ki-Moon has noted, “climate change, demographics, water, food, energy, global health, women’s empowerment – these issues are all intertwined. We cannot look at one strand in isolation. Instead, we must examine how these strands are woven together.” The issues that face our earth and our global community have one common thread: water flows everywhere and through everything.


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COP21: A Bridge Between Past and Future Contradictions Wed, 20 Jan 2016 17:15:39 +0000 Tommaso Amadio and Gabriele La Porta Wood Scarcity - CHAD, CAMP IRIDIMI. Climate change have caused a shortage of wood and forced aid agencies to make collections some 60 kilometers away from the camp. Credit: Anne Holmes/GraziaNeri - Italy/IPS

Wood Scarcity - CHAD, CAMP IRIDIMI. Climate change have caused a shortage of wood and forced aid agencies to make collections some 60 kilometers away from the camp. Credit: Anne Holmes/GraziaNeri - Italy/IPS

By Tommaso Amadio and Gabriele La Porta
Milan, IULM University, Jan 20 2016 (IPS)

“We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.” This is the most significant concept of what USA president, Barack Obama, said during the opening day of 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21). This conference, for the first time of over 20 years of UN negotiations, aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate.

All the adversities our world is witnessing and facing in this period, triggered by the terrible Paris attacks on November 13th, have not obtained to hinder most powerful and influent political figures of the contemporary world to sit together in Paris, to face what Vladimir Putin defined “the real humanity common enemy”: climate change. This is the only threat that doesn’t really know any frontier, rules and limitation and affects all of us.

It’s time to turn our nationalism contrasts and interests into a new perspective of globalization. Not centred in business, but in a sane community policy of cooperation, exchange and sharing of sustainable values, resources, information and solutions due to carry us to a new equitable balance. Obvious, it seems easy to say. But if we think about the huge size of the effort that this challenge is asking to all of us, it would be easier to be able to make one more step to a concrete cooperation.

Almost 200 nations delegates have assembled there this week, sharing and defining the new goals linked to this problem, which are focused on:
1- The negotiation of a universal agreement to increase the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.
2- The presentation of the program of all the single States, to show that they’re moving forward together in the same direction.
3- The financial aspects, functional to allow developed and developing countries to achieve their goals before and after 2020.
4- The commitment of civil society and non-governmental stakeholders in order to start with common concrete actions.
But what population will get from all these purposes and all these data? How could we benefit and act in consequence of what our leaders are arguing and according in this fundamental moment of human history?

Obviously nobody can have the 100% of what it was expected. When 196 parties try to get a common deal in a so complex theme, each one asks for the 100%, but many of them could receive zero%. For this reason everybody should be able to accept some compromises. The most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change have prayed for an ambitious agreement, which should have been respectful for human rights. In fact, these countries are the most exposed to natural catastrophes, moreover UN predict that 250 million migrants will leave these lands by 2050.

There are hundreds of billions dollars ready to deploy to countries around the world if they get the signal that we mean business this time. Maybe people is already prepared to accept and put in practice these new rules, everyone of us singularly knows how to act and most of us are already facing the problem in a concrete way, doing its part.

At the same time it’s not so easy to believe to the words of our governors, a common solution is difficult to find if any state doesn’t think out of its box. For instance, Xi Jinping, president of China, has declared that his country confirms its goal of reducing emissions of greenhouse gas of 70% by 2030. But at the same time he asks for a differentiated responsibility, in order to protect legitimate countries needs and to allow developing countries to achieve their goals of social and economic grow.

The vast majority of the countries, especially Southern ones, submitted plans of action to reduce emissions; Nicaragua, for instance, is refusing to do so and then symbolically objecting to the final draft – after it was approved – on the ground that “rich nations” are not doing enough to protect “Mother Earth”. They don’t want to pay for what other countries did. India seems to be on the same way. As we know, it is a developing nation, its prime minister Narendra Modi professing satisfaction that “justice” had been done, which included acceptance of his plan to construct some 455 coal-fired power stations, over 100 more than China. These countries are accepting these new regulations, but it has been considered their moment of high developing and so they’ve been allowed to have larger times for their application.

Russian government declared to be one of the first states of the world that has reduced its gas emissions, achieving a strong delay of the increasing temperature warming, being at the same moment one of the biggest exporters of gas and petrol oil.

About Italian situation, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi declared that Italy has reduced the emissions of about 23% in the last 20 years, but at the same time, in Italy, Pianura Padana represents the most polluted zone in Europe and the second in the world. He promised 4 billion euros destined to Italian corporations as Eni and Enel until 2020, while the same companies are digging new oil fields all around the world.

Until now, people only watched climate changes instead of changing our habits and trying to anticipate it. Our generation has born exactly in the middle of this process and for this reason is charged of a big responsibility: to create a bridge between past and future, melting all the values and perspectives, in the present.

We’re completely conscious about the importance of the consequences of our actions, we learnt to watch behind us to give to the next generations, and to our beautiful Heart, what they deserve. Every one of us represents the present and the future of the world, now we mustn’t ignore it.


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Choco Pie: A Bite of Freedom Fri, 18 Dec 2015 12:47:54 +0000 Dacia Paje and Margherita Rossi By Dacia Pajé and Margherita Rossi
Dec 18 2015 (IPS)

How could a chocolate snack challenge a regime? Surprisingly, in North Korea, it can.

On the 30th of July 2014, a group of 200 people gathered in Paju, a small South Korean city situated at the borders with North Korea. South Koreans, along with North Koreans defectors, grouped to send to the other side 50 oversized balloons, filled with boxes of Choco Pie, a well-known South Korean snack.

The North Korean totalitarianism banned the snack as a symbol of the American capitalism strongly fought in any way by the North Korean dictatorship.

As reported by Sokeel Park in The Guardian, Choco Pies have always played an important role in the Korean Hallyu (the Korean Wave of pop culture), one of the most effective soft power tools used by South Korea to spread its culture all around the world. North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, saw it as a potential contaminator and an enemy for his regime. After banning it, he decided to create a domestic competitor of it as well. On one hand, taking this commercial measure created an alternative to the consumers. On the other hand, stopping the so-called sweet revolution, he again took away the choice from the citizens.

The Cold War between the two Koreas has started long ago, after WWII, which provoked the breakup of lots of families as well as a strengthening the regime. The outlawing of the Choco Pie is just an example of what it is going on inside the country. It is just a hint of how human rights are not respected at all. This apparently absurd privation shows also how North Korean people have no voice in their own country as well as outside it.

In North Korea, we cannot even talk about censorship of means of communication, because everything belongs to the dictator and it is controlled from the beginning by the political headquarter.

Have you ever thought about the fact that we are shown only images about the regime ceremonies?

When we watch the society celebrating the oligarchic government acting like robots, do we perceive them as regular human beings? And still, they are.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official title of North Korea) is actually a huge bubble of violence, in which no one can neither enter nor escape. The country has closed its commercial doors in order to preserve itself and to cut off its population form the occidental world.

“Democracy grows from within, and external actors can only support it.” That is what we can read among the four key recommendations resulting from the International Round Table on Democracy, Peace and Security: The Role of the United Nations, in 2010. However, it is difficult to make this principle reality if we are in a non-existent society with non-existent rights. It is hard to believe that North Korean people by themselves could stand the systematic violence committed by the oligarchic group of soldiers who keep the country as a social prison.

If they refuse everything coming from the outside world, why should we turn our back on them? They deserve the right to bite a pie freely, don’t they?


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Cities Need Increased Climate Financing, Says New Study Mon, 07 Dec 2015 19:17:52 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

As a global climate change agreement reaches its final stage at COP21, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and international partners have released a new report outlining strategies for climate financing in cities.

The report, The State of City Climate Finance released on 4 Dec, highlights the investment gaps, obstacles and requirements needed for the creation of low-emission, climate-resilient urban infrastructure.

“The global response to the climate challenge must also include robust action by cities,” Ban remarked at launch of the report.

“Climate-smart infrastructure is essential for creating a safer, better future for growing urban populations around the world,” he continued.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), urban areas consume over 70 percent of the world’s energy and are responsible for almost half of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities are also increasingly vulnerable to climate impacts. Over 90 percent of all urban areas are coastal, putting populations at risk of rising sea levels and devastating storms.

During COP21, the African Development Bank noted that some of Africa’s biggest cities are extremely susceptible to climatic events, including Accra, Dar es Salaam and Lagos which alone constitute approximately 24 million residents.

As urbanization and population growth continues to increase at a rapid pace, extreme weather events will take an increasing toll on urban communities.

The World Bank estimates that urban areas will bear more than 80 percent of overall annual global costs of climate change adaptation.

The study, initiated by the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance (CCFLA), found that approximately 93 trillion dollars will be needed to design low-emission, climate-resilient infrastructure globally over the next 15 years.

More than 70 percent of this infrastructure will be in urban areas, costing 4.5 to 5.4 trillion dollars per year.

However, according to the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), annual global climate flows in 2013 totaled only 331 billion dollars to both non-urban and urban areas, an almost 30 billion dollar decrease from 2012.

The report also noted that cities in developing countries are often unable to access financing for development since existing frameworks for international climate finance primarily focus on the national rather than municipal level.

CCFLA noted the challenge and need for urban climate finance to increase, stating: “Climate finance will not close the infrastructure investment gap alone— indeed, it represents a small part of total financing flows—but it plays a vital catalytic role, and it will need to be scaled in the coming years.”

In the report, the Alliance underscored five measures to mobilize investment for urban infrastructure.

It urges engagement with national governments to develop policies that encourage cities to invest in low-emission, climate-resilient infrastructure and support for cities to adopt frameworks that price climate externalities, such as cap-and-trade mechanisms.

As of September 2015, 23 cities, states and provinces have implemented carbon-pricing instruments including cap-and-trade policies, which help to control and limit greenhouse gas emissions.

For instance, after four years of a cap-and-trade programme in Tokyo, emissions have been reduced by 23 percent.

CCFLA also recommends the strengthening of facilities to develop climate mitigation and adaptation projects; collaboration with local financial institutions to help cities finance climate-smart infrastructure solutions and; the creation of a network of labs to identify innovative financial instruments and funding models.

The Alliance stated that though these proposals will not by themselves overcome the complex challenges that cities face, taken together, they are an important step towards the creation of climate-smart cities that safeguard the health and wellbeing of people.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged the global community to reflect on the report’s recommendations, stating: “We have no time to lose. There is no plan B.”

CCFLA is a collation of over 40 banks, national governments and civil society organizations established by the UN Chief at the UN Climate Summit in September 2014.

Alliance members aim to publish the State of City Climate Finance report annually and are currently working on a plan to help translate the study’s recommendations into action.


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