Inter Press ServiceGender – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 19 May 2018 21:14:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 “Outsiders” in Focus at French Film Festhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/outsiders-focus-french-film-fest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outsiders-focus-french-film-fest http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/outsiders-focus-french-film-fest/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 21:10:30 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155838 The usual big-name American and British directors were absent this year from the Cannes Film Festival in southern France, creating space for cutting-edge films from Asia, Africa, small European states, and the Middle East. Most of these films put the focus squarely on stories about outsiders, highlighting issues of exclusion, disability, racism and gender inequality […]

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A scene from the film Rafiki, which was banned in Kenya. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

A scene from the film Rafiki, which was banned in Kenya. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

By A. D. McKenzie
CANNES, France, May 19 2018 (IPS)

The usual big-name American and British directors were absent this year from the Cannes Film Festival in southern France, creating space for cutting-edge films from Asia, Africa, small European states, and the Middle East.

Most of these films put the focus squarely on stories about outsiders, highlighting issues of exclusion, disability, racism and gender inequality (including in the film industry). The result was a festival with some of the most engaging movies in the last five years, alongside the trademark glitz.

The winners in the two main categories of the event, which ran from May 8 to 19, exemplified the concentration on the underdog. Manbiki Kazoku (Shoplifters) by Japanese director Kore-Eda Hirokazu won the Palme d’Or top prize, from among 21 films, while Gräns (Border), by Iranian-born Danish director Ali Abbasi, was awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize, beating 17 other movies. The latter category recognizes films that stand out for their originality, and many critics agreed Gräns was remarkable.

“We feel that out of 2,000 films considered by the Festival, the 18 we saw in Un Certain Regard, from Argentina to China, were all in their own way winners,” stated the jury, headed by Puerto-Rican actor Benicio Del Toro.

“We were extremely impressed by the high quality of the work presented, but in the end we were the most moved by … five films” (including Gräns), the jury added

Full of suspense, Abbasi’s movie tells the story of a “strange-looking” female customs officer who has a gift for spotting, or sniffing out, travellers trying to hide their contraband and other secrets, and it takes viewers on her journey to discover who she really is.

We see her experiencing verbal abuse from some travellers, and we slowly discover the exploitation she and people like her have suffered, while also learning about her origins, and seeing her fall in love and deal with appalling crime.

Based on a short story by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, and with superb acting, the film combines romance, dark humour and the paranormal to deliver a subtle message about the treatment of people who are different and society’s behaviour towards those most vulnerable, among other subjects.

A second film that won a major award in the Un Certain Regard category also dealt with “difference” and the acceptance of one’s individuality. Girl by Belgian director Lukas Dhont is a first feature about a boy who dreams of becoming a ballerina, exploring the journey of a trans-teen with a passion for dance. Victor Polster, the 15-year-old actor who plays the title role with poignant credibility, won the best actor award, while Girl also won the competition’s Caméra d’Or prize for best first film.

A scene from the film Girl. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

However, Rafiki (Friend), a movie that some critics expected to receive a prize, had to be satisfied with the extended standing ovation it received from viewers at the festival. The film – about love between two young women – is banned in Kenya, despite being the first Kenyan film selected for screening at the festival.

Director Wanuri Kahui said she was moved by the appreciation the film received, telling reporters that people are eager to watch a “joyful” and “modern” African movie, away from the stereotypical images of poverty and disaster.

Regarding the ban, she tweeted in April: “I am incredibly sorry to announce that our film RAFIKI has been banned in Kenya. We believe adult Kenyans are mature and discerning enough to watch local content but their right has been denied.”

Apart from the Palme d’Or winner (about a family of shoplifters), the films that generated widespread buzz in the main competition included Arabic-language Yomeddine, directed by Cairo-born A.B. Shawky, and featuring a leper in Egypt, and BlacKkKlansman, by African-American director Spike Lee, which won the Grand Prix, the second highest honour at the festival.

A scene from the film Yomeddine. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

Yomeddine stood out for its choice of subject and for portraying and employing persons with disabilities. Viewer and British actor Adam Lannon called the film “beautiful and brilliant”, adding that it was “excellent” to see “actors with disabilities working on screen”.

The film’s main character, Beshay, is a man cured of leprosy, but he has never left the leper colony where he has been placed by his family since childhood. When his wife dies, he sets out in search of his roots, with his loyal donkey. He is soon joined by an orphan boy named Obama, whom he has been protecting, although he would rather have been alone.

What follows is an uplifting road movie across Egypt, with a series of tear-jerking encounters on the way and echoes of “Don Quixote”. Shawky’s first feature has some flaws in that certain elements seem too predictable, but he scores overall with his appeal for humanity and inclusion.

The director Spike Lee on the set of his film BlacKkKlansman. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

The director Spike Lee on the set of his film BlacKkKlansman. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

For Spike Lee, anger at racism comes across clearly in his latest film, which is the story of a real-life African-American policeman who managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan in Colorado. Lee incorporated recent events in the United States in the movie, particularly the killing of Heather Heyer as she protested a white-supremacist gathering in Charlottesville.

At his main Cannes press conference, Lee slammed the current U.S. administration, in a speech full of expletives. “We have a guy in the White House … who in a defining moment … was given the chance to say we’re about love and not hate, and that (expletive deleted) did not denounce the Klan,” he told journalists.

Gender issues were also raised at the festival, with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements never far from movie-watchers’ consciousness, as is the global scarcity of female directors. Only one film directed by a woman (The Piano by Jane Campion) has ever won the Palme d’Or, and women have long been underrepresented at the directorial level.

During the event, 82 women working in the movie sector took over the famous red-carpeted stairs to protest that inequality. Their number was an indication that since the Cannes festival officially began in 1946, following World War II, just 82 movies by women directors have been selected for competition. In contrast, 1,645 films by male directors have been chosen.

Led by the five women on this year’s competition jury, including jury president Cate Blanchett and American director Ava Duvernay, the protest coincided with the screening of Les Filles du Soleil (Girls of the Sun), a movie by French director Eva Husson about a group of female fighters in Kurdistan.

This was just one of several protest events. A few days later, black women working in the French film industry also denounced the lack of quality roles. Sixteen women who have contributed to a book titled Noire n’est pas mon metier (Being black is not my profession) made their voices heard on the red carpet.

“We’re here to denounce a system that has gone on too long,” said Senegalese-born French actress Aïssa Maïga, who described how black actresses tended to be cast only in certain roles.

Among the three women directors in the main competition, Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki took home the biggest award – the Prix du Jury for Capharnaüm, about a boy who sues his parents for bringing him into the world.

In a moving speech, Labaki called for everyone to do more to protect children and ensure their education. “A loveless childhood is the root of all suffering in the world,” she said.

By the time the festival wrapped up with a performance from singers Sting and Shaggy on May 19 (the same day as the Royal Wedding in England), it seemed that both filmmakers and the public were yearning for lasting change, and different stories.

Follow A. McKenzie on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale

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Africa Gains Momentum in Green Climate Solutionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/africa-gains-momentum-green-climate-solutions/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 13:07:54 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155804 Promoting the widespread use of innovative technologies will be critical to combat the hostile effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many African countries are already leading the way with science-based solutions. The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) provide support for countries in making sound policy, […]

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Kenyan farmer Veronicah Ngau shows off her young six-week old maize crops inside (left) and outside (right) of planting basins, an adaptation technique that conserves water. Credit: Ake Mamo/IPS

Kenyan farmer Veronicah Ngau shows off her young six-week old maize crops inside (left) and outside (right) of planting basins, an adaptation technique that conserves water. Credit: Ake Mamo/IPS

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 17 2018 (IPS)

Promoting the widespread use of innovative technologies will be critical to combat the hostile effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many African countries are already leading the way with science-based solutions.

The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) provide support for countries in making sound policy, technology, and investment choices that lead to better approaches for mitigation, adaptation and resilience.A satellite program in Kenya measures the progressive impact of drought on loss of forage, triggering timely insurance payouts to help vulnerable pastoralists.

From biogas to solar installations and improved water conservation, success stories abound on the continent. The challenge now, experts say, is to scale them up. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Africa’s renewable power installed capacity could increase by 290 percent between 2015 and 2030 — compared to 161 percent for Asia and 43 percent for Latin America.

The global Paris Accord is underpinned by its commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, securing funding for alternative sources of energy and adaptation of technology in everyday activities that are geared towards shrinking humanity’s carbon footprint on the planet.

African countries have internalised and made considerable efforts towards these goals despite budgetary constraints, with the United Nations lauding the continent for embracing technology and innovation in its journey to fight climate change.

Jukka Uosukainen, CTCN’s director, spoke with IPS during the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) Africa Regional Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya April 9–10, stressing that technology is already changing the fortunes of people in the continent.

For instance, Mali has successfully applied field contouring technology in rural areas such as Koutiala, reducing the volume of water runoff from 20 percent to 50 percent depending on the soil type.

“This has improved the yield of crops in an area that experienced severe drought and bettered the quality of livelihoods owing to a rise in income,” he noted.

Uosukainen said that Senegal has launched massive biogas digester projects through the National Biogas Program by implementing biomethanisation technologies that facilitate faster access to cleaner energy within the republic. The country also utilises tri-generation and co-generation technologies that use waste as raw materials for energy production.

Furthermore, Mauritius has aptly integrated the use of boiler economizers, which capture the waste heat from boiler stack gases (called flue gas) and transfer it to the boiler feedwater.

This has reduced the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, cutting energy costs and boosting socioeconomic growth amongst its citizens.

Morocco has adopted photovoltaic technology that harnesses solar power for greater energy production. The Noor Ouarzazate IV power station spans 137 square kilometres and generates 582 megawatts of renewable energy for over 1 million people. This has helped increase the nation’s uptake of renewable energy sources to an impressive 42 percent, lessening the rate of air pollution and enhancing quality of life.

In Kenya, a 630 MW geothermal plant has come on line, providing electricity for 500,000 households and 300,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. Kenya alone has the potential to generate 10,000 megawatts from its geothermal resources, says an analysis by Bridges Africa.

Tony Simons, director general of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), said that most African countries have chosen clean energy technologies as a part of their environmental solutions and ICRAF supports these efforts through its work in developing cleaner options for woody biomass-based energy, a key technology used across the continent.

According to ICRAF, Kenya is using water conservation technologies like sunken-bed kitchen gardens and terracing to successfully increase yield production and improve food security.

ICRAF has partnered with several eastern Africa countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi in a project dubbed Trees for Food Security Project which conducts extensive research and development into special tree species for each nation.

This involves detecting the seedlings suitable for specific areas and ensuring modern agricultural techniques are employed during planting. The forest cover helps prevent desertification, reduces carbon dioxide emissions through photosynthesis and enhances of the aesthetic beauty of the lands.

And the Green Cooling Africa Initiative implemented in Ghana and Namibia encompasses modern air conditioning and refrigeration appliances that use minimal electricity and generate lower volumes of toxins into the atmosphere.

Simons called for gender equality in any strategies to address climate change because in all communities, knowledge of agricultural and natural resource management differs by gender, making it is essential to include women’s perspectives in addressing climate change at the farm and local level.

Rehabilitation of water projects is another field that’s getting attention, as African countries seek to reduce the overexploitation of such resources for the benefit of all stakeholders.

For instance, in Kenya, a policy of “green water” technology has been operationalized with the support of various local and international partners with the aim of curbing water shortages and channeling it to better uses.

This technology has enabled arid and semi-arid areas to have regular instances of water supply which is used for irrigation, animal husbandry and subsistence in homesteads. Therefore, it has limited the struggles that rural people undergo in search of water and pasture.

Also the government of Kenya, in partnership with the World Bank Group, the International Livestock Research Institute, and Financial Sector Deepening Kenya, implemented the Kenya Livestock Insurance program (KLIP) in the northern part of the county. KLIP, which is Africa’s large scale public-private partnership livestock insurance program, uses satellite imagery technology to provide early warning of drought.

The satellite measures the progressive impact of drought on loss of forage in the vulnerable pastoral regions of Kenya. It then triggers timely insurance payouts to help vulnerable pastoralists to purchase fodder and animal feed supplements to keep their core breeding alive until the drought has passed.

Acceptance of climate change technologies and innovations has resulted in better farming methods, higher crop yields, lower energy consumption and a reduction in carbon emissions throughout Africa.

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We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 14:27:23 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155759 Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. Credit: Stephane Yas / AFP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Consider this. Boko Haram, the ISIS-affiliated insurgent group has sent 80 women to their deaths in 2017 alone.

The majority of suicide bombers used by terror group Boko Haram to kill innocent victims are women and children, US study reveals.

The incident only highlighted a growing trend of young girls joining extremist groups and carrying out violent acts of terrorism globally.

In a recent survey conducted on suicide bomb attacks in Western Africa, UNICEF found that close to one in five attacks were carried out by women, and among child suicide bombers, three in four were girls.

May 15 marks the International Day of Families, and this year’s theme focuses on the role of families and family policies in advancing SDG 16 in terms of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

With terrorism posing a clear and present threat to peace today, and the recent trend where terrorists are using female recruits for increasingly chilling perpetrator roles, it is a good time to examine the various ways in which we are pushing our daughters towards the perilous guile of terror groups.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Online and offline, terror groups are deliberately seeking to attract women, especially those who harbour feelings of social and/or cultural exclusion and marginalization.

The Government of Kenya has focused on the often-overlooked promise of girls’ education. The young girl of today has higher ambition and a more competitive spirit. She no longer wants to go to school and only proceed to either the submissive housekeeper role, or token employment opportunities like her mother very likely did.

She wants a secure, equal-wage job like her male classmates, to have an equal opportunity to making it to management positions, and access to economic assets such as land and loans. Like her male counterparts, she wants equal participation in shaping economic and social policies in the country.

This is why education is a prime pillar in Kenya’s National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism, which was launched in September 2016. The strategy aims to work with communities to build their resilience to respond to violent extremism and to address structural issues that drive feelings of exclusion.

Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders. What young women now need is to feel that they have a future when they come out of the educational process. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment, are women.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Although Kenya does not have a separate policy for girls’ education, the country has put in place certain mechanisms to guarantee 100% transition from primary to secondary education. This policy will address the existing hindrances to girls’ education and particularly, transition from the primary to secondary level where Kenya has a 10% enrollment gender gap.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Quality education for the youth must not only incorporate relevant skills development for employability, but for girls we must go further to provide psychosocial support. Already, girls and women bear the greater burden of poverty, a fact that can only provide more tinder if they are then exposed to radicalization.

According to estimates, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages, ensuring that all girls get at least secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, would reduce child marriages by more than half.

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. The Kenyatta Trust for example, a non-profit organization, has beneficiaries who are students who have come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. President Kenyatta the founder of the Trust says, “my pledge is to continuously support and uplift the lives of all our beneficiaries, one family at a time.”

For success a convergence of partners is crucial, spanning foundations, trusts, faith based organizations, civil society, media and to work with the Government to advance this critical agenda.

The UN in Kenya is working with the government to understand the push and pull factors that lure our youth to radicalization. One such initiative is the Conflict Management and Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) programme in Marsabit and Mandera counties, supported by the Japanese Government.

The project, being implemented in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the two County Governments, is part of the larger Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic transformation.

UN Women and UNDP in Kenya are also working with relevant agencies to establish dynamic, action-ready and research-informed knowledge of current extremist ideologies and organisational models.

To nip extremism before it sprouts, we must start within our families, to address the feelings of exclusion and lack of engagement among girls who are clearly the new frontier for recruitment by terror groups.

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Excerpt:

Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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To Have Children or Not: The Importance of Finding a Balancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-not-importance-finding-balance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/#comments Fri, 11 May 2018 18:48:35 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155735 While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it. Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman. At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be […]

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While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Credit: Bigstock

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2018 (IPS)

While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman.

At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be 11 billion people in the world by 2100.

Given such trends, more needs to be understood about the factors that influence fertility rates, but not enough is known about it, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) Dr. Osamu Kusumoto told IPS.

“In general, fertility transition is not properly examined yet. Demographers usually analyze statistics over the cause of statistics,” he said.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

While some believe that the shift was a response to declining mortality rates, others have looked to culture and socioeconomic factors as driving fertility transition.

“Value determines the behavior,” Dr. Kusumoto told IPS, pointing to Mongolia as an example.

In the 1950s, Mongolia accelerated its social development with help from the Soviet Union.

Following socialist economic models, significant progress was also made in education and health and pro-natalist policies were implemented, leading to an unprecedented rise in fertility rates.

Between the late 1950s to the 1980s alone, Mongolia’s population doubled from 780,000 to 2 million.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.


However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s birth rates plummeted—a rare occurrence for a country in poverty and seemingly a response to the country’s poor socioeconomic conditions.

Many researchers including Dr. Kusumoto also believe the Central Asian nation’s transition to democracy and a market economy have also influenced fertility rates.

For instance, with more freedoms and improved access to education, women have become more empowered.

Unlike many developing countries, Mongolian women are better educated than men, comprising 62 percent of higher education graduates in 2015. They also have lower rates of unemployment than their male counterparts.

While Mongolians postponed childbearing during the chaos of the 1990s, the rise in female education has led to delays in marriage along with delays in having children.

With the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), future demographic trends may be affected around the world.

The SDGs include specific targets on mortality, health, and education, and researchers believe that its implementation can help reduce population growth.

However, in order to achieve the SDGs, fertility research is needed.

“To achieve the SDGs, an understanding of fertility transition is essential. Proper social policies on fertility to mitigate rapid changes have to be considered,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

“Proper fertility is essential, high fertility and extremely low fertility may harm the society,” he added.

Though they are one of the most prosperous nations in Asia, Japan has seen its fertility rate decline to unsustainable levels and has sparked concerns over the social and economic impact of extremely low fertility.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman which has caused the population to decline by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which discourages families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

At the same time, with a higher life expectancy and a larger ageing population, there are less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

“In Japan, to have children is not rational choice for young individuals because we have social security to support old age…without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain…in the future social security that is the supportive condition for their rational choice will be missing,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

At the other end of the scale, African countries such as Nigeria are experiencing the fastest population increases.

By 2050, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by population.

The UN predicts that one-third of all people—almost 4 billion—will be African by 2100.

This could hamper efforts to achieve key SDGs such as ending poverty and ensuring peace and prosperity.

“From this point of view, the fertility issue is an equally essential requirement for achieving SDGs,” Dr. Kusumoto reiterated.

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The UN and #MeToo: The Saga of Abuse Must End, Once and for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/un-metoo-saga-abuse-must-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-metoo-saga-abuse-must-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/un-metoo-saga-abuse-must-end/#respond Thu, 10 May 2018 13:09:56 +0000 Loraine Rickard-Martin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155707 Loraine Rickard-Martin, PassBlue*

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Secretary-General António Guterres and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, at an event for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Nov. 22, 2017. The author, a veteran of the UN, argues that new steps by the institution to confront sexual harassment systemwide requires a new mind-set as well. Credit: ESKINDER DEBEBE/UN PHOTO

By Loraine Rickard-Martin
NEW YORK, May 10 2018 (IPS)

For many years now, media attention on sexual abuse and exploitation by United Nations peacekeepers cornered the UN and pushed it toward reform. Now, the #MeToo movement has put the organization — and many other major institutions across the world — on red alert.

But UN insiders and supporters are wondering if the leadership’s rush to action in the last few months augurs real change or is mere window dressing after decades of neglecting the problem. Some people see an opportunity for the UN to recognize that its separation of sexual harassment from sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) allows perpetrators to get away with impunity.

Many people also hope that the welcome action spurred by #MeToo will translate into addressing other forms of harassment and abuse of authority. I am doubtful, having in my 37-year career encountered a deepening UN culture of silence and fear and tendency to protect powerful men and complicit women, at any cost.

Last December, spurred by the #MeToo movement, Secretary-General António Guterres created a task force on sexual harassment, headed by Jan Beagle, the UN’s head of management. PassBlue reported at the time on a range of detailed accusations from women working in the UN and foreign missions to the UN, who had experienced sexual harassment. Other media also soon reported on such trouble within the UN.

In February 2018, the UN set up a 24-hour sexual harassment helpline; zero tolerance was reinforced in speeches. In April, the UN announced its first executive coordinator and spokesperson on addressing sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in and outside the institution, Purna Sen.

Will these appointments and the task force mean genuine change in how the UN addresses sexual harassment and abuse?

The problem has existed for a long time. More than 25 years ago at the UN, an employee named Catherine Claxton made charges of sexual harassment and denial of promotion against Luis Maria Gomez, who, when he became her boss, prompted Claxton to finally file a formal complaint against him. Claxton won her case but waited years to receive a cash payment and a gag order yet no promotion; all of this happened only after The New York Times published an article about her case. Gomez parachuted briefly from one UN office into another before retreating into retirement.

The most current and public case of sexual harassment has zeroed in on Unaids, the UN entity tasked with preventing and ending AIDS worldwide. The case involves a complaint from a staff member, Martina Brostrom, against a top Unaids official, Luiz Loures, who was exonerated from the allegations and quietly retired. According to The Guardian, one of the most senior women in Unaids, Miriam Maluwa, who acted as a key witness for the accuser, has been placed on administrative leave.

The case was recently reopened — most likely because of media publicity, significantly when The Lancet published a scathing article on how the accusations were handled and dismissed.

Based on indications in his most recent report on SEA showing fewer cases being reported in certain UN sectors, like peacekeeping, Guterres acknowledged the likelihood of the underreporting of such cases and that most of those that have been submitted involve civilian staff and not peacekeepers. (Jane Holl Lute, the UN envoy on ending SEA, spoke to the media in March 2018 about the report in the video below.)

Which raises the question as to why the UN separates sexual harassment (unwelcome sexual behavior between or among UN staff) from sexual exploitation and abuse (sexual violation of non-UN staff, or SEA) as categories of misconduct. It’s an artificial divide, given that perpetrators criss-cross the lines and seem to have no trouble getting recycled in the UN system, becoming repeat offenders.

More steps have been taken by the UN this month to deal with the allegations: on May 4, it announced plans to develop a screening tool for “confirmed perpetrators of sexual harassment” to prevent them from moving around the UN system. As an example, a high-level Unicef official recently resigned because of inappropriate conduct against women in his previous job at Save the Children UK.

Recycling UN personnel accused of sexual wrongdoing — either through a transfer to another job or another mission or eased into retirement with full benefits — has long been a UN practice. Yet there is no hint of how the screening tool will prevent recycling, since, as Beagle said in announcing it, “sexual misconduct was going unreported in a culture of silence and impunity at U.N. offices worldwide.”

After all, a lack of accountability and responsible reactions to sexual harassment and abuse have much to do with the mutual protection of the “old boys’ club,” including complicit women. The culture also has to do with the fear of displeasing the UN’s 193 member states, who fiercely protect their national staff in the UN system, enabled by a tenuous adherence to Article 100 of the UN Charter, which prohibits personnel of the Secretariat from seeking or receiving instructions from any government.

Some countries, more than others, lobby hard for recruitment, promotion and protection of their nationals, and the UN leadership too often falls in line.

I encountered recycled cases 10 years ago, having witnessed UN personnel performing sensitive work for the institution while sexually harassing their colleagues, openly hiring sex workers and conducting sexual relationships with national staff in the field, some of the latter employed in offices of their national governments.

Indeed, in my career at the UN, I’ve observed little improvement with the problem of sexual abuse and harassment since 1977, when a female colleague and friend on a UN peacemaking mission was drugged and sexually assaulted but too afraid to report it. On the same mission, a UN peacekeeper from a Western country bought — yes, bought — a 16-year-old girl from her impoverished family and took her to live in his officers’ quarters in the UN camp.

In the 1980s, an internationally respected UN colleague casually remarked: “There’s nothing wrong with having sex with 15-year-old girls [in country X]. They want it. They chase after you. It’s normal in the culture.”

Women and men who suffer various kinds of harassment and abuse of authority in the UN system every day are hoping that the attention from #MeToo will trickle down to other types of abuse in management decisions, such as staff selection, promotion, assignments and renewal of contracts.

Many of us have long noted that the problem of various forms of harassment and abuse in the UN has worsened as successive administrations of leadership started to move toward a corporate culture, which has chipped away at staff rights and job security. This shift, pushed by powerful member states, accelerated in the 1990s. The UN internal system of justice was overhauled according to a General Assembly directive in 2009, and though improvements have been made, such as whistleblower protection, many deficiencies remain.

Recent UN cases that surfaced in the media, for example, have specifically uncovered retaliation against whistleblowers, like the much-reported story of Anders Kompass (formerly with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, or OHCHR), who was suspended for revealing a high-level cover-up of the rape of children in the Central African Republic.

Other examples include Peter Gallo, a former UN internal investigator who contended that he suffered retaliation after bringing a complaint of misconduct against officials of the UN’s internal investigative body; and Emma Reilly, another staff member with OHCHR, who alleged that she faced retaliation for trying to get the office to end the practice of providing to governments the names of dissidents scheduled to participate in sessions of the Human Rights Council.

Jan Beagle, the director of UN management and recently named to head the UN’s new task force on sexual harassment in the institution, pictured in 2015. Credit: KIM HAUGHTON/UN PHOTO

Guterres’s willingness to be honest and aggressive, at least on the SEA and harassment front, including emphasizing mandatory training and strengthening whistleblower protection, appears to be sincere. But he must ensure that those entrusted by him to carry out his directives are committed to doing just that, from start to finish. Yet what are we to make of the fact that Jan Beagle, now handling the UN task force on sexual harassment accusations, was recently a top executive at Unaids?

A letter dated Feb. 5, 2018 and addressed to Guterres by AIDS-Free World, an American nonprofit watchdog group, notes that Beagle “was Deputy Executive Director for Human Resources and Management at UNAIDS while the very case at hand was being mangled: nary a word of intervention.”

Furthermore, The Guardian reported on May 8 that when Beagle was tapped by Guterres for the top UN management job, she was being investigated for a claim of harassment in Unaids but later cleared. The staff member who made the claim, Sima Newell, said that the investigation was improperly handled by Unaids.

One way that Guterres aims to transform the UN culture is to put more power in the hands of women. His plan has merit, but achieving gender parity must not be used as a distraction from the hard job of ending the prevailing mind-set of impunity. It’s unlikely that such an ingrained bias will be easy to dislodge.

Some people have charged that self-protection, rather than protection of victims, lies at the heart of many recent UN steps to eliminate abuse. An internal memo addressed to his team by Ben Swanson, the UN’s top investigator (from the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services), the day before the UN’s harassment helpline was launched, “suggests that the organization was acting defensively,” said one media report.

The #MeToo movement has offered the UN a welcome opportunity to reverse decades of neglect in how it responds to sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct. No amount of high-profile appointments and other initiatives, however, will result in improvements without a radical change in the UN environment of silence, fear, cover-up and protection of powerful men and complicit women.

The UN’s efforts must extend to addressing all forms of harassment and abuse of authority. Many insiders, observers and supporters know that the UN can, and must, do better.

*PassBlue is an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalism on the US-UN relationship as well as women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters, reported from our base in the UN press corps. Founded in 2011, PassBlue is a project of the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs in New York and not tied financially or otherwise to the UN; previously, it was housed at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. PassBlue is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News.

The post The UN and #MeToo: The Saga of Abuse Must End, Once and for All appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Loraine Rickard-Martin, PassBlue*

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Economies Flourish and Traffickers Profit from the Struggles of Low-Skilled Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economies-flourish-traffickers-profit-struggles-low-skilled-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economies-flourish-traffickers-profit-struggles-low-skilled-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economies-flourish-traffickers-profit-struggles-low-skilled-migrants/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 12:42:14 +0000 Agnes Igoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155668 Agnes Igoye serves as Uganda’s deputy National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and heads Uganda Immigration training Academy

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Human trafficking is not only limited to Uganda or Nigeria — it is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 40.3 million men, women, and children from every part of the world were victims of human trafficking.

It is estimated that 40.3 million people are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Agnes Igoye
KAMPALA, May 8 2018 (IPS)

I was 14-years-old the first time I came face to face with a human trafficker. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raided my home. Ruthless, they demanded virgins and young girls. In a horrifying escape, I endured a treacherous, long journey that ended in an internally displaced people’s camp. I was lucky. Many Ugandan children were not. By the end of the nineteen years’ civil war, UNICEF estimated that the LRA had abducted some 20,000 children.

Human trafficking is still a problem today. Recently, the Nigeria government confirmed 110 school girls are missing, abducted by Boko Haram in Dapchi, in northeastern Nigeria. This follows a similar attack in April 2014 when Boko Haram abducted 276 school girls from Chibok, Borno State.

Human trafficking is not only limited to Uganda or Nigeria — it is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 40.3 million men, women, and children from every part of the world were victims of human trafficking.

Trafficking is lucrative, generating $150 billion in annual profits from forced labour in the private economy, according to International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates. In its report Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour, two-thirds of the $150 billion is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while $51 billion comes from forced economic exploitation

While the LRA and Boko Haram kidnap, most human traffickers employ deceit as a recruitment tool. They target those who are low-skilled, mostly women and children. Lured with promises of gainful employment, the 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage indicates women and girls account for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors, including domestic work.

Many of them experience exploitation. Complaints of abuse of Ugandan low-skilled workers in the Middle East, include physical and racial abuse, no pay or underpayment of wages, denied medical help, sexual abuse and long working hours. In Libya, there have been gross human rights abuses in the form of auctioning of migrants.

Trafficking is lucrative, generating $150 billion in annual profits from forced labour in the private economy, according to International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates. In its report Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour, two-thirds of the $150 billion is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while $51 billion comes from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work and agriculture. The reality is, as low-skilled migrants suffer exploitation, human traffickers become richer.

Profiting from slavery is immoral. And it is time to craft creative solutions to solve this issue.

I have worked to stop human trafficking for almost a decade. I’ve helped build a rehabilitation center for survivors, trained law enforcement to recognize and investigate it, and I advocate globally for the rights of victims. What I have learned is that it is not enough to tell unemployed people about the dangers posed by human traffickers. Instead, we must focus on safe migration and ways to find gainful employment free of exploitation.

We should start by urging more countries to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. So far, only 51 countries, mostly migrant-sending countries, have ratified the convention. Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s) and bilateral agreements between migrant-sending and receiving countries will only be effective when driven by respect for migrant’s rights.

Another tactic is for governments and policy makers to recognize and regulate sectors that attracted low skilled workers like domestic work. The lack of contracts/guidelines of what domestic work entails increases the vulnerability of those employed in the sector. Where contracts do exist, statements like ‘any other duties that your employer will assign from time to time’ have been exploited by traffickers to enslave their victims. In my interviews with survivors, ‘any other duties’ have included providing erotic massage to their employers — women and men alike. One victim was severely beaten for giving the massage without a smile.

Discriminatory migration policies and overly stringent visa regimes also must be altered. When policy makers don’t facilitate the humane movement of low-skilled migrant workers, they feel their only option is to listen to deceptive traffickers. Policies can be crafted to meet the needs of countries but also take away the power of traffickers to deceive and continue to draw victims.

 

Human trafficking is not only limited to Uganda or Nigeria — it is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 40.3 million men, women, and children from every part of the world were victims of human trafficking.

Agnes Igoye

 

While these solutions could help reduce the trafficking of people who are seeking a better life, other tactics are needed to prevent kidnappings like the one I almost experienced. Rather than concentrate resources to military options, governments should tackle the root causes that drive youth to join the ranks of violent extremist organizations. The UN 2015 Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism prescribes dealing with poverty and youth unemployment that make extremist organizations an attractive source of income and belonging.

Governments and development partners also should do more to allocate resources to implement this plan to ensure employment facilitation, skills development, entrepreneurial support, youth involvement in decision-making, mentorship programs, as well as improved education. The World Bank Vice President for Africa Makhtar Diop warned this education should have practical application to improve young people’s productivity to match the demands of a fast changing labour force.

These solutions are key to unlocking the potential of the youth, such as those who raided my home, and now those who belong to Boko Haram and who continue to kidnap girls.

Indeed, these policies are part of the solution to the unemployment crisis that is fueling international human trafficking.

Agnes Igoye serves as Uganda’s deputy National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and heads Uganda Immigration training Academy. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow her on Twitter @AgnesIgoye.

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Excerpt:

Agnes Igoye serves as Uganda’s deputy National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and heads Uganda Immigration training Academy

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Protecting the Health & Rights of People on the Movehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protecting-health-rights-people-move/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protecting-health-rights-people-move http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protecting-health-rights-people-move/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 13:46:45 +0000 Dr. Natalia Kanem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155624 Dr. Natalia Kanem is a United Nations Under-Secretary-General & Executive Director of UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.

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Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UN Population Fund. Credit: UNFPA

By Dr. Natalia Kanem
UNITED NATIONS, May 4 2018 (IPS)

A staggering 258 million people migrated internationally in 2017.

While many of these migrants chose to leave their home countries in search of jobs, education, or to reunite with family, many others had no choice but to leave–to escape poverty, violence or a dearth of opportunities for a better life.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, recently interviewed young migrants in the gateway cities of Beirut, Cairo, Nairobi and Tunis, as part of a multi-city research project. They were drawn to those cities because of insecurity and unrest where they grew up.

And these young people were very honest with us: They faced serious risks and abuses during and after their moves, and things are much harder than they had expected. Even so, they almost universally say – they would do it all over again.

Regardless of what drives migration, benefits can accrue to both countries of origin and destination.

In 2016, migrant workers’ remittances to their home countries totalled more than $400 billion, four times the total amount of official development assistance that year. Remittances enable families in home countries to have better housing, education and health care.

Destination countries stand to gain from the science and technology skills of some migrants and from the unskilled labour of others. Migrants pay taxes, which fund host nations’ social security, health and education systems. Migrants have the potential to drive and sustain economic growth.

And because most international migrants are young when they move, continued migration can contribute to the workforce, to slowing population ageing and to postponing population decline in host countries.

There is ample scope for governments to enhance the benefits and dispel misperceptions or myths about costs of migration. Many of these misperceptions are grounded in racism and xenophobia, which must be tackled head-on.

The first United Nations Sustainable Development Goal is to eliminate poverty. Governments can make headway against poverty and spark economic growth by increasing and sustaining investments in the health, education and rights of young people, especially girls. The social and economic boon from these investments can be significant.

Poverty reduction coupled with successful and inclusive development can provide more individuals with the security, capacity and means to reach their fullest potential at home. Because development expands people’s horizons and aspirations, it provides the means for mobility. This is why, despite what many think, people from the poorest countries are significantly less likely to be found outside their countries of origin.

As people move, they face hazards along their journey. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to violence and discrimination. When migrants are separated from family and support networks, the chances of exploitation, violence and human trafficking become much higher.

Sexual and gender-based violence, already the most common human rights abuse, only increases with disruption and displacement. And far too much evidence shows that child, early and forced marriage increases as well.

Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health care is a major contributing factor to death, disease and disability among displaced women and girls of reproductive age.

We all have an interest—and obligation—to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all people—women and men, girls and boys. This must include migrant and mobile populations during their journeys and on arrival.

Governments, international development partners, civil society and individuals all have roles to play in eliminating negative drivers of migration and building more resilient societies. Fundamental to this are investments in education, health and employment opportunities for young people, especially adolescent girls, who are too often excluded from the benefits of development.

High quality data and information are also critical to help governments understand the motivations, and life circumstances, of migrants, and to locate those in need. UNFPA works to improve the collection and analysis of population data so that investments can be better directed to truly reach the furthest behind first.

Protecting the rights of migrants, especially women and girls, is essential. Human rights are universal and thus apply to everyone, whether they are in their home countries, a host country, or somewhere in between.

UNFPA remains committed to being at the forefront of efforts to protect the rights of migrants, and all people, and to ensure that they have access to the sexual and reproductive health services they need and can live in dignity and safety, free from violence and discrimination.

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Excerpt:

Dr. Natalia Kanem is a United Nations Under-Secretary-General & Executive Director of UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.

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Mothers & Children: Addressing Disappearances through a Gender Perspectivehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/mothers-children-addressing-disappearances-gender-perspective/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mothers-children-addressing-disappearances-gender-perspective http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/mothers-children-addressing-disappearances-gender-perspective/#respond Wed, 02 May 2018 10:13:51 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155577 Rangita de Silva de Alwis* is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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Argentina's Mothers of the Disappeared in protest march.

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2018 (IPS)

At the beginning of the Nuremberg Trials, Justice Robert Jackson, the Chief Prosecutor, charged the world that submitting the enemy to the judgment of the law is “one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.”

Any effort to address missing persons during and after conflict takes this one step forward. It attempts to provide justice after death. However, what constitutes “Reason” must be seen through the lenses of both women and men.

In a fractured and divisive community post-conflict, the nature of “ Reason” is a complex and elusive concept. But how we restore dignity to a disappeared victim and the family and promote “ Reason” and psychological healing is far less contested and helps a broader reconciliation agenda that helps address structural sources of injustice.

The Offices of Missing Persons legislation and institutions set up after conflict can play a particularly important role in reaffirming the right of relatives of those disappeared. However, it is important that we develop new ways of conceiving of accountability mechanisms that provide a more gender sensitive experience of justice.

We need to stretch our moral imagination in order to develop syncretic approaches to transitional justice that are both borrowed from other jurisdictions but deeply rooted in context. A feminist perspective can enrich the construction of the transitional justice field on missing persons. Women’s contributions and experiences and women’s activism must be reflected in framing the initiatives.

In many countries in conflict and post- conflict, the presence of women, from the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina to the Mothers Front in Sri Lanka, women have altered the contours of transition justice. The Offices set up to address the missing must expose the harms to women as women, mother, wife and grandmother- thereby ignoring the specific harms shared by women or the specific economic and social status of women.

Often, gender crimes are seen only in terms of violence against women but there are other forms of atrocity that impact women in unalterable ways such as the disappearances of family members. A Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) Paul-Henri Arni sums up the importance of the committee’s work thus:. “The worst wound of war… the only wound that gets worse with time is when a son, a daughter, a father, a mother, a husband or a wife does not come for dinner and simply vanishes. We humans are not designed to resist such mental torture.”

In Argentina, among the 30,000 people who were disappeared during the “Dirty War” were an estimated 500 pregnant women and young children. Argentina has taken steps passing legislation to regulate the situation of the disappeared and their families. In 1994, Law No. 24.321 defined enforced disappearances and regulated the process for obtaining a judicial declaration of disappearances Law No. 24.411 established the right to pecuniary reparation for families of the disappeared.

Very early on, as disappearances increased and fear permeated the country, a small group of grandmothers banded together. In April 1977, at the peak of the disappearances, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, wore white head scarves embroidered with the names of their missing relatives, and marched to the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

The mothers now grown to be grandmothers remain a public presence as they march along with other relatives of the disappeared in front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace, to search for their disappeared children who were kidnapped by the military dictatorship.

The mothers and grandmothers or the Las Abuelas lobbied nationally to develop legal precedent to establish the use of DNA in establishing biological identity and pressured the government to support the development of a national genetic database that would allow all relatives of missing children to submit a blood sample for genetic testing. Established in 1989, Argentina’s database continues to be instrumental in the investigation of disappeared children.

The Argentine genetic database set an important precedent and enabled the expansion of genetic tracing as an important tool in accounting for the disappeared and providing a remedy for victims. National and international funding for the database has been budgeted until the year 2050 and has expanded to Guatemala and Peru.

In April 2017, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Marked 40 Years of Searching for the Disappeared. The Mothers are also building a wall with the faces of thousands of disappeared people, to raise awareness of the disappeared during the country’s dictatorship from 1976-1983.

What this shows is that we have to go beyond the tired notions of transitional justice. What is needed is a fuller concept of restorative justice that move away from criminal law formulations of sanctions to reimagining the possibility of restoring a lost social balance through a localization of the international practices and norms of transitional justice.

*Rangita de Silva de Alwis was recently appointed by UN Women and IDLO to the High Level Working Group on Women’s Access to Justice.

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Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis* is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund

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Wider Views for More Equal Societieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/wider-views-equal-societies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wider-views-equal-societies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/wider-views-equal-societies/#comments Wed, 02 May 2018 01:08:45 +0000 Oscar A. Garcia http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155570 Inequalities are on the rise. Since 1980, 1% of the richest people have received double income than the 50% of the poorest. After several years of decline, hunger is also on the rise. The report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World estimates that the number of chronically undernourished people in […]

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By Oscar A. Garcia*
ROME, May 2 2018 (IPS)

Inequalities are on the rise. Since 1980, 1% of the richest people have received double income than the 50% of the poorest. After several years of decline, hunger is also on the rise. The report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World estimates that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world increased from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016. If we go deeper into the analysis we observe that three-quarters of the world’s extremely poor and food-insecure people live in rural areas.

Oscar A. Garcia

Poorest and excluded

Along the path to economic growth, millions of people are excluded. They are individuals who belong to groups that are discriminated against and excluded within their own societies. This discrimination may be on grounds of religion, ethnicity, gender and/or disability. Inequalities are multi-dimensional, multi-layered and cumulative; untangling such complexities is a challenge we must act on. Without understanding the root causes of inequalities, we cannot remove the inequalities themselves, along with the immense barriers they create and which prevent the world’s poorest – those at the “bottom of the pyramid” – from thriving. Without transforming the restrictions that reinforce the deep-seated causes of chronic poverty, substantial progress is unlikely.

Comprehensive analysis to enlighten the path

The discourse needs to shift its focus to the structural issues of inequality, whether economic, political or social. Why is it that tens of millions of people are without clean water? Why is it that poor women do not have access to land? Why is that millions are without food and adequate living conditions? The answers and the realities go far deeper than the issue of poverty alone, and we must arrive at the last corner of those realities and the spaces where people are discriminated against.

Countering inequalities requires robust evidence and more disaggregated data. It also requires going beyond traditional approaches. We need to improve our analytical frameworks, ask the right evaluation questions, talk to poor people and understand their needs, based on which a revitalized development agenda on inequality will emerge. High levels of inequalities can be brought down if we are able to create redistributive policies geared toward shared prosperity, social justice, and democracy for all people.

These and other issues will be discussed at the International Conference “Rural Inequalities: Evaluating approaches to overcome disparities“, organized by the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD, and held on 2-3 May in Rome.

*Oscar A. Garcia, is Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, a specialized agency of the United Nations.

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Human Trafficking for Organs: Ending abuse of the Pooresthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/human-trafficking-organs-ending-abuse-poorest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-trafficking-organs-ending-abuse-poorest http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/human-trafficking-organs-ending-abuse-poorest/#respond Mon, 30 Apr 2018 17:42:38 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155547 Organ transplantation is one of the most incredible medical achievements of the past century. Since the first successful transplants, which took place in the 1950s, organ transplantation has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Globally about 125,000 people undergo organ transplantation each year. This number is small in the face of […]

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By Maged Srour
ROME, Apr 30 2018 (IPS)

Organ transplantation is one of the most incredible medical achievements of the past century. Since the first successful transplants, which took place in the 1950s, organ transplantation has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Dr. Francis Delmonico, is a transplant surgeon with a long career, serving also as an Adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO). Credit: Harvard Health Policy Review

Globally about 125,000 people undergo organ transplantation each year. This number is small in the face of demand for organs widely outstripping supply and consequently creating an underground market for organs that are illicitly obtained from the poor. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “human organs for transplants have two sources, deceased donors and living donors; ultimately, human organs can only be derived from a human body, and thus any action in the field of organ transplantation must be carried out in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards”. The reality is that in several countries such as India, Pakistan, Egypt or Mexico, organ trafficking has been peaking in recent years. Organ transplantation is a medical procedure in which an organ is removed from one body and placed in the body of a recipient, replacing a damaged or missing organ. Organs that have been successfully transplanted include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and thymus. Worldwide, kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart.

“People who are rich are able to buy organs and it’s the poor who end up being the source of these organs” says Delmonico. “You can go to a country such as India and get an organ there (illegally) or you could get the donor coming to India from Africa and do the transplantation there. It happens every day. The extreme aspect of this picture is that this process becomes even more abusive”.
Organ trafficking, also defined as ‘illegal organ trade’, ‘transplant tourism’ or ‘organ purchase’ describes the phenomenon of trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal, a grim reality even in the 21st century.

This IPS correspondent interviewed Dr. Francis Delmonico, a transplant surgeon who is an adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO) on organ donation and transplantation. In 2016, Delmonico was appointed by Pope Francis as an academician of the Pontifical Academy of Science, a benchmark in the field of organ transplantation worldwide.

Delmonico has traversed the world to learn about transplantation practices and how these are carried out by his colleagues across the globe. He states that there is a grim reality around this medical practice. “People who are rich are able to buy organs and it’s the poor who end up being the source of these organs” says Delmonico. “You can go to a country such as India and get an organ there (illegally) or you could get the donor coming to India from Africa and do the transplantation there. It happens every day. The extreme aspect of this picture is that this process becomes even more abusive”.

An example of abuses of this kind is a story reported by world media in February 2018 about a man in India who sold his wife’s kidneys without her knowing about it. The man was eventually arrested, but the woman has been suffering a lot, since her left kidney was infected. Malevolence permeates the practice of organ transplantation in a despicable way.

Delmonico adds that there is yet another aspect about this social injustice. According to him, many rich people come to the United States and simply ‘skip the line’. “These people” says the surgeon, “come mainly from the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or the Emirates. Some others come from Japan, looking for a new heart, but not as many as from the Middle East. They come to the US and supplant somebody who had been on the waiting list for a long time to get a “deceased organ”. “This simply means that if you have money you can buy an organ anywhere in the world” stated Delmonico.

 

Best practice: China

A few years ago, China was under the radar of the transplantation community for suspected unethical and illegal behaviour in this field. For decades, donor organs were taken from executed convicts – a controversial practice which was greatly restricted by the government and eventually banned in 2015.

Delmonico explained the ‘rationale’ behind this Chinese reversal. “China has great ambition to be a leader in the world. It wants to make scientific contribution, presentations at congresses, write reports in the medical literature and so forth. The transplantation community, seeing widespread organ trafficking in China, urged the country’s leaders to make changes otherwise they will not be given opportunities to make any presentations or appear in any medical literature reports. Considering China’s interest in a global leadership role in all aspects of medicine, especially in organ transplantation, convinced them to make changes prohibiting that shameful behaviour”. The practice was banned in 2015 and, in 2016, the number of voluntary organ donors increased to 4,080. This was a great leap in numbers, compared to the 37 voluntary donors in 2010, the year the practice was introduced. The proportion of donors in China, still remains low compared with that of many developed countries but, according to Delmonico, China’s current commitment must be appreciated.


Worst practice: Iran

Delmonico is highly critical of Iran that has a legal market for organs and it is the only country in the world to do so. Delmonico warns that even when authorized by governments, the sale of organs often means exploitation of the poorest. “It’s the same problem. In Iran the government encourages money as the basis for donors but then there is often a negotiation that takes place between a donor and a recipient in which the former stresses the need for more money and the latter is able to meet that need”.

According to the surgeon, Iran is trying to change this practice and to do more on “deceased donation” that is happening in Shiraz and Tehran but Iran is still far from being a positive example. “Even if it starts on legal basis, it quickly becomes a corrupt situation. I’m definitely not in favour of this Iranian approach.”

 

Organ donation and religion

When it comes to religion, the debate on organ donation sometimes turns out to be controversial, as many religious leaders tend to criticize this medical practice saying it is forbidden by their faith. This happens in all the main religions – Islam, Catholicism or Judaism. At the same time, many religious leaders across the world tend to be in favour of organ donation “When it comes to religion” says Delmonico “we can say that practically no religion stops anybody from going to a “deceased donor” for transplant as a recipient. In Israel for example, sometimes the Rabbi would object to having someone being a donor but certainly no one objects to having someone being a recipient”. In the end, considering that all religions agree with deceased organ donation for recipients, it means that, as a consequence, no religion stops you from being a donor.

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, one of the lead initiators of the Global Sustainability Network (GSN) stated “according to Pope Francis’ new ideas in this field, even though it’s not easy to reach an agreement on the notion of God, who is an infinite being with many names and attributes, it is necessary to reach an agreement to act together to defend human dignity and freedom, health, climate and peace. All of the major religious leaders agree on this. Nevertheless, not all religions have a hierarchical structure like the Catholic faith, so it sometimes happens that minor leaders are harder to convince. However, it is necessary to arrive at a consensus, so that all religious leaders act to protect human dignity and health, including the health of our planet. This is one of the tasks of the GSN.”

The GSN is a community and platform that is strongly committed to delivering Goal 8 of the 17 Global Goals. The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths, gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalization of indifference, such us exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking” and so forth.

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world, second only to illegal drug trade. According to EnditAlabama, it is a very lucrative business estimated to be a $32 billion industry annually and it would be only a matter of short time until it surpasses the drug trade and becomes the largest criminal industry in the world, both in terms of business that has moved and in terms of people who are involved.

According to Delmonico what is needed is transparency through which every donor and every recipient is identified and that this information is accessible to the evaluation of the Ministry of Health. The oversight by the Ministry of Health can guarantee the protection of the living donor not be exploited, not have complications, not die and above all it should guarantee that the practice of transplantation in the medical centres is carried out with a satisfactory outcome.

Some other transplant surgeons such as Ignazio Marino, a former Mayor of Rome, Italy had suggested few years ago that “the only way to tackle organ trafficking and organ sale, is by cutting down the demand of organs themselves”. The key, according to Marino, would be to “propose hard legal punishments for those people who buy organs. If they would know that buying an organ would save their lives but also bring them to jail for fifteen years, maybe those people would think about it twice”.

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New Index Measures Empowerment & Inclusion of Women in Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/new-index-measures-empowerment-inclusion-women-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-index-measures-empowerment-inclusion-women-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/new-index-measures-empowerment-inclusion-women-agriculture/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 14:32:23 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155517 The pilot version of a new index for measuring empowerment and the inclusion of women in agriculture was launched April 27 in Washington DC. Described as the Project-Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (Pro-WEAI), it was developed jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), and thirteen […]

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Two farmers pick potatoes in Pampas, 3,276 meters above sea level, in the Andean region of Huancavelica, in central Peru, during a visit by specialists who accompanied IPS to the area that is home to the largest variety of native potatoes in the country. From Peru, potatoes spread throughout the entire world. Credit: Mariela Pereira / IPS

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

The pilot version of a new index for measuring empowerment and the inclusion of women in agriculture was launched April 27 in Washington DC.

Described as the Project-Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (Pro-WEAI), it was developed jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), and thirteen partner projects.

The tool helps agricultural developmental projects to assess women’s empowerment in a project setting, diagnose areas of women’s disempowerment, design strategies to address deficiencies, and monitor project outcomes, according to a press release.

“The pro-WEAI is a new tool that tells us what is happening within the household: Did participation in the project improve women’s control of income or intrahousehold harmony? Did it increase the possibility of domestic violence?” said Agnes Quisumbing, senior research fellow, IFPRI.

“It measures aspects of empowerment key to health and nutrition outcomes, an integral part of nutrition-sensitive agricultural projects.”

Pro-WEAI builds on the success of the original Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), launched in 2012, by directly capturing indicators of women’s empowerment at the project level, instituting a mechanism by which programs can measure the impact of an intervention.

Based on an initial round of project data, the core empowerment module of pro-WEAI measures three domains of power: power from within (intrinsic agency), power to (instrumental agency), and power with (collective agency).

Seven of the Pro-WEAI indicators build on the original WEAI indicators with some modifications: input in productive decisions; autonomy in decisions about income; ownership of land and other assets; access to and decisions on credit; control over income; work balance; and group membership.

Pro-WEAI strengthens the linkages to the three types of powers by including 5 new indicators: self-efficacy; attitudes toward domestic violence; visiting important locations; membership in influential groups; and respect among household members. A woman is considered empowered in pro-WEAI if she has adequate achievements in 75 percent, or 9 out of the 12 indicators, according to the press release.

“Combining qualitative and quantitative study has helped us understand empowerment,” said Ruth Meinzen-Dick, senior research fellow, IFPRI. “In the qualitative study, people described an empowered woman as someone who helps others. That fits well with the ‘power with’ domain in the quantitative indicators, and shows that empowerment is not just an individual activity,” she added.

The index was developed as part of the Gender Agriculture and Assets Project 2 (GAAP2), which works with 13 agricultural development projects that expressed the need for ways to measure if the interventions improved women’s lives. For instance, health and nutrition projects wanted to know if the intervention increased women’s decision-making in areas related to health and nutrition outcomes. These partner projects collected data to pilot pro-WEAI in the nine countries in which they work.

“By linking both quantitative and qualitative tools, pro-WEAI has improved understanding of how men and women define complex aspects such as empowerment, status, self-esteem, and tangible outcomes that are derived from being empowered,” said Susan Kaaria, Senior Gender Officer, Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Pro-WEAI is helping the UN Joint programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women, implemented by FAO, International Fund for Agriculture Development, World Food Programme and UN Women, in assessing the programme’s contribution to the empowerment of rural women in the Adami Tulu and Yaya Gulele districts of Ethiopia.

“I believe the use of the Pro-WEAI tools is going to result in more approaches being designed in the future that engage men and women, maybe equally or in equitable ways—even if it’s for the benefit of women’s empowerment,” said Bobbi Gray, research director, Grameen Foundation. “This has been an eye-opening experience, and we look forward to continuing this sort of research in our other projects.”

Pro-WEAI validation and testing is still ongoing. The final version of the pro-WEAI will be informed by the endline data collection and feedback received from stakeholders and project partners.

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Women Farmers in Peru Bring Healthy Meals to Local Schoolshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/women-farmers-peru-bring-healthy-meals-local-schools/#respond Thu, 26 Apr 2018 22:50:27 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155498 Getting children and adolescents to replace junk food with nutritious local organic foods is the aim of a group of women farmers in a rural area of Piura, on Peru’s north coast, as they struggle to overcome the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon. “We have given talks about healthy eating in schools, because […]

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Under the hot sun of the Pacific Ocean coast, in the department of Piura, 25 women farmers undergoing training in the Agroecological School return from a technical assistance activity in the province of Morropón, in northern Peru. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

Under the hot sun of the Pacific Ocean coast, in the department of Piura, 25 women farmers undergoing training in the Agroecological School return from a technical assistance activity in the province of Morropón, in northern Peru. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

By Mariela Jara
CHULUCANAS, Peru, Apr 26 2018 (IPS)

Getting children and adolescents to replace junk food with nutritious local organic foods is the aim of a group of women farmers in a rural area of Piura, on Peru’s north coast, as they struggle to overcome the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon.

“We have given talks about healthy eating in schools, because in today’s times we have forgotten what it means to eat healthy, nutritious food, and everything is fried or sweets, which is why there is malnutrition and obesity,” one of the women, Rosa Rojas, who has an organic garden in the community of Piedra de Toro, told IPS.

She is one of 25 women farmers trained in agro-ecological techniques by the non-governmental Flora Tristán Centre for Peruvian Women. They are engaged in small-scale agriculture in the valleys and highlands of Morropón, one of the eight provinces in the department of Piura, whose capital is Chulucanas."I feel that I contribute to the well-being of my family and my community. With the other women we are constantly working to eliminate malnutrition, anemia and obesity from our lives because these cause other ills. If we sit idly by, what future are we going to have?" -- Jacqueline Sandoval

The department of Piura was hit between December 2016 and May 2017 by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a complex weather pattern resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

During that period, heavy rains and flooding affected more than one million people, left 230,000 without homes, and destroyed 1,200 hectares of crops, according to the governmental National Information System for Disaster Prevention and Response.

Rojas, 53, remembers those terrible months when many families were torn apart with the departure of parents or older siblings, forced to go abroad to make a living and to support those left behind in their communities.

“Women were left in charge of the homes and the plots of land, worrying about how to put food on the table for our children and grandchildren,” she said.

“We had to eat the beans that we had kept for seed, and supporting each other among all the neighbours, we have recovered little by little to be able to plant again on the land that had been washed clean by the rains,” she said.

Almost a year later, she has replanted her vegetables, including coriander, lettuce, carrots, beets, cabbage, leeks, tomatoes, yellow peppers and cucumbers, using organic fertiliser that she makes herself.

“My family’s diet is enriched with these healthy and nutritious organic fruits and vegetables. My community is waking up to what is natural food, we are learning the importance of eating vegetables daily, and that is what we are sharing at schools with teachers, mothers, fathers and students,” she said.

Yaqueline Sandoval, 42, a farmer in the community of Algodonal, in the neighbouring municipality of Santa Catalina de Mossa, is also recovering from the ravages of the coastal El Niño.

Rosa Rojas (2nd-R), stands with other women farmers participating in the Agroecological School of the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women's Centre, where they were trained in organic production techniques that they have been applying in their gardens, in the rural area of the department of Piura, in Peru's northern coastal region. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Rosa Rojas (2nd-R), stands with other women farmers participating in the Agroecological School of the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women’s Centre, where they were trained in organic production techniques that they have been applying in their gardens, in the rural area of the department of Piura, in Peru’s northern coastal region. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

She says she has resumed planting in her organic garden, together with her family, where the star product is the cowpea bean or black-eyed pea, which they call the “bean of hope” as it is ready for eating in a short time.

“Just 40 days after planning we are eating our beans. It is a very generous plant, it feeds us and it is a seed for the future because it adapts to different conditions and is very strong, something vital now we are facing climate change,” Sandoval told IPS.

Changing school habits

This is one of the inputs that the farmers use to create “healthy lunch boxes,” for students to carry their meals to eat in the public primary and secondary schools in the urban centres of the municipalities.

The lunches include meals prepared with local produce, to replace what schoolchildren were buying in the kiosks at their schools, such as cookies, crackers and chocolate, sugary drinks and other industrially processed sweets.

“We make tortillas with our vegetables and beans, we prepare passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) soft drinks, and we accompany it with a banana,” Sandoval said, describing what the children are now carrying in their lunch boxes.

“They are healthy and nutritious fruits of our land, free of chemicals, that nourish and do not damage the children’s health,” she said proudly about the initiative she is carrying out with other mothers of schoolchildren at the local “Horacio Zevallos” school.

This experience began last year with talks in the high school classrooms on the benefits of a healthy diet and the negative effects on their bodies and health of fast food or junk food.

“There was so much interest that this year in the Science, Technology and Environment course they are working in a small garden that they have set up on the premises of the school, where they are planting lettuce, carrots and other vegetables,” she added.

Sandoval, who considers herself an activist and entrepreneur, said agroecology is a tool that has allowed her to improve her relationship with nature, to make better use of the soil, water and seeds, and consequently, to improve her diet and health.

“I feel that I contribute to the well-being of my family and my community,” she said. “With the other women we are constantly working to eliminate malnutrition, anemia and obesity from our lives because these cause other ills. If we sit idly by, what future are we going to have?”

Sandoval’s concern is well-founded.

The governmental Observatory of Nutrition and the Study of Overweight and Obesity indicates that more than 53 percent of Peru’s population has excess body fat and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ranks the country as the third in Latin America in terms of overweight and obesity.

Escolástica Juárez, 57, stands on her family farm where she grows organic fruits and vegetables in the village of Chapica, Morropón province, in the northern coastal department of Piura, Peru. She is involved in the effort to promote healthy eating at the local school. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

Escolástica Juárez, 57, stands on her family farm where she grows organic fruits and vegetables in the village of Chapica, Morropón province, in the northern coastal department of Piura, Peru. She is involved in the effort to promote healthy eating at the local school. Credit: Courtesy of Sabina Córdova

For its part, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has warned that one in five children under ten is already experiencing this problem due to the combination of factors such as inadequate diets and low levels of physical activity. And in Piura, three out of ten children under five suffer from anemia.

Eating healthy and nutritious food in a region rich in biodiversity could seem normal. But it is still a pending objective due to a lack of public investment in small-scale agriculture, training for rural populations and attention to the problem of water shortages.

In this context, taking advantage of traditional knowledge and using new know-how acquired in training and thanks to technical assistance puts women farmers in a better position to face the permanent challenges of climate change in order to achieve food security.

“Knowing about agroecology helps us use water more efficiently, irrigate our crops without wasting, replace crops that need a lot of irrigation, and choose beans that adapt to droughts. This knowledge is important for our food security,” said Escolástica Juárez.

Juàrez, a 57-year-old farmer, lives in the village of Chapica, in the municipality of Chulucanas, where the temperature reaches 37 degrees Celsius.

She has taken the healthy lunchbox initiative to the local “Colegio de Fátima” school.

“The school principal has called us back to continue with the talks this year,” she told IPS. “My grandson tells me that more of his classmates are eating healthy meals, it’s a matter of persistence, it takes time to bet families to change bad habits but it can be learned.”

She added that she feels grateful for the “bean of hope”, which like other farmers she has learned to cook in different ways, based on knowledge they have shared among themselves.

“We can eat them fresh from the pod, store them to cook later, and select some for seed. Even if there is a shortage of water, we know that it will feed us. We return the plant’s generosity sharing what we know with other neighbours and at the schools,” Juárez said.

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Myanmar Unlikely to Resolve Rohingya Problem Without International Helphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:53:14 +0000 Trevor Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155462 Trevor Wilson is a retired Australian diplomat who served as Australian Ambassador to Myanmar from 2000-03, and has been Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University since 2003.

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Trevor Wilson is a retired Australian diplomat who served as Australian Ambassador to Myanmar from 2000-03, and has been Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University since 2003.

By Trevor Wilson
CANBERRA, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

The lead-up to the Australia-ASEAN Summit in Sydney on 16-18 March 2018 was characterised by widespread and well-publicised protests in Sydney against human rights abuses occurring in several ASEAN member countries – namely Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

These protests dominated pre-summit media coverage and likely surprised some ASEAN leaders who might not have expected such a public outcry. In some instances, the protests were accompanied by quite negative commentary in Australian media.

Trevor Wilson

As Myanmar’s State Counsellor and de facto head of government, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended the Australia-ASEAN summit for Myanmar. This was her first official visit to Australia, although she had visited in late 2013 when she was a mere member of parliament, before her National League for Democracy (NLD) won a resounding victory in the November 2015 general elections.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was accorded the courtesy of a full state visit to Canberra. Yet throughout her visit, she faced constant criticism from the Australian public over her government’s handling of its Muslim minority group, the Rohingya.

Australians are naturally dismayed by the disastrous humanitarian circumstances confronting the Rohingya, large numbers of whom had fled to Bangladesh after heavy-handed military operations against them by the Myanmar Army in August and September 2017.

Both Australian government and non-government responses have led to additional humanitarian assistance flows from Australia to help relief efforts.

So far, this assistance is mainly going to Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh. This does not really get to the heart of the problem, which is ultimately for Myanmar to resolve.

The Rohingya question was reportedly raised in confidential sessions of the Australia-ASEAN Summit but was not mentioned in any official media coverage. In fact, Myanmar’s policy on the Rohingya remains in stalemate.

One important challenge for Suu Kyi is to demonstrate how her government would implement the policies she announced in her 19 September 2017 speech to the Myanmar nation. The world has yet to hear how her policies of inclusion and realising the peace dividend for all Myanmar’s people might be achieved in Rakhine State as a credible part of a compact involving the Rohingya.

Even if tangible and satisfactory outcomes will take time to achieve, Suu Kyi needs to articulate how any truly relevant action plan might be seriously pursued. The people of Myanmar and international donors alike are keen to know that a way forward is worth pursuing.

Any internal solution of the Rohingya issue in Myanmar will eventually need to address the vexed question of citizenship for the Rohingya. However, this seems to be more than Myanmar’s Buddhists can tolerate at the moment, obsessed as they are with any perceived threats to national sovereignty.

Even Aung San Suu Kyi may not have sufficient authority on her own to forge a new national consensus in Myanmar that means treating Rohingya more fairly, and she is still apparently reluctant to entrust finding a way forward to the United Nations.

But it is meaningless to hold her alone morally responsible or to single her out for not doing more when the Rohingya problem has been mismanaged by all concerned for so long.
Whatever transpires, Myanmar will probably not be able to fashion a solution to its Rohingya problem without additional direct international assistance, but any Myanmar government response to the Rohingya problem will be constrained by growing public hostility in the country towards the Muslim population.

There has been some press reporting that the Myanmar Government had decided to allow the United Nations access to the areas where the Rohingya were forced to leave, but UN access to Rakhine State is not confirmed.

A UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission has been waiting for permission to enter Myanmar since late 2017 in order to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against the Rohingya.

The issue of whether or not Australia should provide direct assistance to Myanmar will now need delicate consideration, free from any additional constraints from ASEAN. This is especially the case since achieving an ‘ASEAN consensus’ may not be feasible.

Australia has a strategic interest in having the Rohingya problem resolved on an enduring basis, but Australia does not necessarily have the clout to do this on its own.

It would require working more intensively to persuade all stakeholders to take the Annan Commission recommendations seriously, to establish a better and more transparent regional basis for cross-border migrant workers, and to ensure that those whose claims to refugee status can be verified are granted protection in countries like Australia, where Rohingya have proved to be excellent citizens.

The post Myanmar Unlikely to Resolve Rohingya Problem Without International Help appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Trevor Wilson is a retired Australian diplomat who served as Australian Ambassador to Myanmar from 2000-03, and has been Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University since 2003.

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The Nowhere People: Rohingyas in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/nowhere-people-rohingyas-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nowhere-people-rohingyas-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/nowhere-people-rohingyas-india/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155451 A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants. Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in […]

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Rohingya refugees in India face discrimination and threats of deportation back to Myanmar. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Rohingya refugees in India face discrimination and threats of deportation back to Myanmar. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants.

Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in the world at three million — have found shelter across vast swathes of Asia including in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh alone, who now face the onset of the monsoon season in flimsy shelters."As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis." --Dr. Ranjan Biswas

Demographers note that the Rohingyas’ displacement, while on a particularly dramatic scale, is illustrative of a larger global trend. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the world is witnessing the highest level of displacement on record with 22.5 million refugees, over half of them under 18, languishing in different parts of the world in search of a normal life.

Often referred to as the boat people – because they journey in packed boats to escape their homeland — around 40,000 Rohingyas have trickled into India over the past three years to cities like New Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Jammu where their population is the largest. Some had settled in the Kalindi Kunj camp that was set up in 2012 by a non-profit on a 150-odd square metre plot that it owns.

The camp’s occupants worked as daily wage labourers or were employed with private companies. A few even ran kirana (grocery) kiosks near the camp. Most of these refugees had landed in Delhi after failed stints in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh or Jammu (a northern Indian city), where they were repeatedly targeted by radical Hindu groups.

Nurudddin, 56, who lost all his belongings and papers in the Kalindi Kunj fire, told IPS that he has been living like a vagabond since he fled Myanmar with his wife and four children in 2016. “We left Myanmar to go to Bangladesh but we faced a lot of hardships there too. I couldn’t get a job, there was no proper food or accommodation. We arrived in Delhi last year with a lot of hope but so far things haven’t been going too well here either,” said the frail man with a grey beard.

Following the Kalindi Kunj fire, and public complaints about the government’s neglect of Rohingya camps, the Supreme Court intervened. On April 9, the apex court asked the Centre to file a comprehensive status report in four weeks on the civic amenities at two Rohingya camps in Delhi and Haryana, following allegations that basic facilities like drinking water and toilets were missing from these settlements.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Rohingyas told the court that the refugees were being subjected to discrimination with regard to basic amenities. However, this was refuted by Additional Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta who, appearing for the Centre said there was no discrimination against the Rohingyas. The court will again take up the matter on May 9.

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The Rohingya issue entered mainstream public discourse last August when the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party government abruptly asked the country’s 29 states to identify illegal immigrants for deportation –  including, the guidance said, Rohingya Muslims who had fled Myanmar.

“As per available estimates there are around 40,000 Rohingyas living illegally in the country,” India’s junior home minister Kiren Rijiju then told Parliament: “The government has issued detailed instructions for deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Rohingyas.”

In its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre claimed that Rohingya refugees posed a “serious national security threat” and that their deportation was in the “larger interest” of the country. It also asked the court to “decline its interference” in the matter.

The Centre’s decision to deport the Rohingyas attracted domestic as well as global opprobrium. “It is both unprecedented and impractical,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told Scroll.in. “It is unprecedented because India has never been unwelcoming of refugees, let alone conducting such mass deportation,” she said. “And I would call it impractical because where would they [the Indian government] send these people? They have no passports and the Myanmar government is not going to accept them as legitimate citizens.”

Some critics also pointed out that the Rohingyas were being targeted by the ruling Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party government because they were Muslims, an allegation the Centre has refuted.

Parallels have also been drawn with refugees from other countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have comfortably made India their home over the years. However, to keep a strict vigil against the Rohingyas’ influx, the Indian government has specially stationed 6,000 soldiers on the India-Bangladesh border.

Activists say that despite thousands of refugees and asylum seekers (204,600 in 2011 as per the Central government) already living in India, refugees’ rights are a grey area. An overarching feeling is that refugees pose a security threat and create demographic imbalances. A domestic legal framework to extend basic rights to refugees is also missing.

Since the government’s crackdown, Rohingya groups have been lobbying to thwart their deportation to their native land. In a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India titled Mohammed Salimullah vs Union of India (Writ Petition no. 793 of 2017), they have demanded that they be allowed to stay on in India.

However, the government has contented that the plea of the petitioner is untenable, on grounds that India is not a signatory to the UN Convention of 1951. The convention relates to the status of refugees, and the Protocol of 1967, under the principle of non-refoulement. This principle states that refugees will not be deported to a country where they face threat of persecution. The matter is now in the Supreme Court of India which is saddled with the onerous task of balancing national security with the human rights of the refugees.

However, as Shubha Goswami, a senior advocate with the High Court points out, while India may not have signed the refugee convention, it is still co-signatory to many other important international conventions like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the principle of non-refoulement, and it is legally binding that India provide for the Rohingyas.

There’s growing public opinion as well that the government should embrace and empower these hapless people.

“Rather than resent their presence, India should accept the Rohingyas as it has other migrants,” elaborates Dr. Ranjan Biswas, ex-professor sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis which will usher in peace and stability in the region.”

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Kidnapped, Abducted and Abandoned…http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kidnapped-abducted-abandoned/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kidnapped-abducted-abandoned http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kidnapped-abducted-abandoned/#comments Tue, 24 Apr 2018 06:39:05 +0000 Geetika group http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155434 Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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By Geetika Dang , Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Apr 24 2018 (IPS)

Kidnappings and abductions have soared since 2001. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that their share in total crimes against women nearly doubled from 10% in 2001 to 19% in 2016. More striking is the fact that 11 women were kidnapped or abducted every day in Delhi in 2016. What these statistics do not reveal are brutal gang-rapes of kidnapped minors and women, multiple sales to husbands who treat them as animals, unwanted pregnancies, police inaction, and frequent abandonment with nowhere to go—not even to their maternal homes—because of the stigma of a being a “prostitute”.

Geetika Dang

An illustrative account from Mirror (23 August 2016) is not atypical. A 12-year-old girl went missing on 2 July 2006, in northeast Delhi and returned home after 10 years. After she was sold to a farmer for a paltry sum, she was forced to work all day in the fields, load heavy sacks of grain onto her back and trucks, and then at night she was raped by numerous men. Over a period of three years, she was sold nine times. At 15, she was sold and married to a drug addict and alcoholic from whom she had two children. After the husband’s death in 2011, she was tortured, forced to have sex with her brother-in-law and his friends, her children were taken away and she was thrown into the street.

A frequently cited fact that for every100 abductions of women aged 18-29 years, 66 were abducted for marriage, is at best a half-truth as it conceals how women are traded and treated as animals.

Our analysis with the data obtained from the NCRB, the Census, National Commission of Population and RBI unravels the factors that are responsible for the surge in kidnappings and abductions, especially since 2013 or post Nirbhaya.

While the incidence of kidnapping and abduction (per 1,000 women) surged 7.5 times in India over the period 2001-16, many states and Union Territories (UT) witnessed alarming spikes too. In Haryana, for example, it spiked 15 times, and in Assam 8.5 times. Delhi remained the worst with the highest incidence in both 2001 and 2016, and saw a surge of 5.8 times during this period.

Vani S. Kulkarni

An important finding of our analysis is that the higher the sex ratio (ratio of women to 1,000 men) in a state, the higher is the incidence of kidnappings and abductions. Available evidence suggests that women are often abducted from areas that have a surplus and sold in areas with a deficit. The more affluent a state, the more likely is this crime. The higher the ratio of rural/urban population, the lower is the incidence of kidnappings and abductions of women. This implies greater vulnerability of women in urban areas. As emphasised by Amartya Sen (2015) and others, the roots of crimes against women lie in the weak police and judiciary system, and callousness of society. An approximation to the ineffectiveness of the police and judiciary system is the conviction rate for all IPC crimes, which is extremely low, besides being a long drawn-out corrupt process. Yet it lowers the incidence of kidnappings and abductions. Another is governance that we capture through which party ruled a state (BJP or its coalition, Congress or its coalition, and President’s rule, relative to regional parties). The difference may lie in whether they believe in gender equity, women’s autonomy and their protection. Accounting for all other factors, the incidence of kidnappings and abductions of women are lowest in Congress or its coalition ruled states and highest in President ruled states. The latter presumably reflects a breakdown of the law and order system. Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, 2013 on saw a surge, suggesting that over these years the incidence of this crime rose markedly. It is unclear why this surge persisted.

Raghav Gaiha

The IPC distinguishes between kidnapping (applies to minors) and abduction (applies to adults). Sections 359 to 369 of the Code have made kidnapping and abduction punishable with varying degree of severity according to the nature and gravity of the offence. For example, whoever maims any kidnapped minor in order that such minor may be employed or used for the purposes of begging, is punishable with imprisonment for life. Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person in order that such person may be murdered or may be so disposed of as to be put in danger of being murdered, is punishable with imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment up to ten years. The relentless rise in kidnappings and abduction, and subsequent abandonment of women, despite a plethora of legislation and amendments, tell a cruel tale of apathy towards them and abysmal enforcement machinery.

Published in the Sunday Guardian, 22nd April 2018

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Excerpt:

Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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The Gang Rape and Murder of an 8 Year Old Child in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/gang-rape-murder-8-year-old-child-india/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 18:21:40 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155414 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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A protest march in New Delhi against the rape a a child in Kathua. Credit: PTI

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

Grotesque and barbaric, is the only way to describe the rape and murder of an 8 year old child, in a country where women and girls are traditionally revered as Goddesses.

There have been numerous cases of rape across the country, however, the story of little Asifa, who was sedated, gang raped, tortured and then murdered in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir has haunted us all. While Asifa was killed in January 2018, the details of the case only grabbed national headlines in April, this was partly due to the heinous nature of the crime, and disturbing allegations that the child’s treatment, was the result of a concerted plan of action to drive out the nomadic Muslim community which her family belongs to.

Since then, the media in India has been awash with case after case of babies and girls being raped across India, with little to no action taking place to prevent this deluge of sexual assault and violence. From an 8-month old baby girl in Indore, to a 9-year in Etah, Uttar Pradesh, to a 10-year old girl in Chhattisgarh, to the rape of a 16-year old in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh (allegedly by a leader in the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s ruling party), there is seemingly a new atrocious daily headline which exposes the rape and murder of yet another child.

All the while, elected officials have either been shockingly silent, or have spoken out too late, and some have even shown their active support for the accused perpetrators of such crimes.

Have we become so numbed in India, that such revelations no longer hold any shock value for us? Has the simple humanity of protecting our innocent and helpless children from harm, the most important duty of every adult in India, forsaken us?

Consider this. In 2016, over 19000 cases of rape were registered in India. In 2017, in India’s capital Delhi, an average of 5 rapes was reported every day.

In response, through an executive order and cabinet approval, the Indian government introduced the death penalty for those found guilty of the rape of a child under the age of 12.

Globally death sentences are coming to an end. It is my personal belief that the death penalty will have little or no effect, however heinous the crime is. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “when fighting a monster, be careful not to become a monster yourself”.

The issue that India is grappling with at present is an endemic, societal problem and no quick fixes are likely to solve it. Harsh penalties alone will not be a deterrent. As the malaise is systemic, so too should be the cure.

So here is a four-tier approach

Firstly, it is important to increase the reporting of rape and assault. Across the world rape is a generally underreported crime; this is all the more true in India. It is essential that women and children be educated on their rights on reporting of a violent act against them through an active social media campaign.

Secondly, it is absolutely vital that law enforcers are trained to react swiftly and with sensitivity to women and children who have been harassed, assaulted or raped. Sensitivity training and knowledge of the rights of women and children are another vital need and must be made mandatory for all law enforcement agencies.

Thirdly, punishments need to be exemplary and widely covered in the media. There must be a “shock and awe” campaign of zero tolerance of sex offenders and those who kill and violate women and children. Fast track courts must ensure that the law is surgical and unrelenting in pursuing and ensuring that such offenders face the full force of justice, regardless of their rank and station.

Finally, a nationwide campaign is needed to ignite values and traditions that respect and nurture women and children. This can only be borne out of consensus in society. Awareness amongst men of the scope of this issue is critical. Men who turn a blind eye to such brutal acts in their own neighbourhoods, communities and families are just as culpable as those that perpetrate these acts. Action from courts and police will not suffice if the community remains defiantly opposed to change.

So the biggest question remains: how exactly to engage the entire populace to initiate a change in mindset? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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DR Congo’s Mai-Ndombe Forest ‘Savaged’ As Landless Communities Strugglehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 16:10:51 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155317 Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally […]

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The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Credit: Forest Service photo by Roni Ziade

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Credit: Forest Service photo by Roni Ziade

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
INONGO, Democratic Republic of Congo, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally cut from the Mai-Ndombe forest, an area of 10 million hectares, which has some trees measuring between 35 and 45 meters.“Evicting the guardians of the forest risks losing the forest." --Marine Gauthier

Destined for overseas export

“We witness this kind of spectacle every day, whereby tons and tons of logs and timber find their way to the capital either via the Congo River or by road, where they will eventually be shipped overseas, or just sold to the black market,” environment activist Prosper Ngobila told IPS.

Mbo, the truck driver who brought the load, confirmed: “This stock and others that are already gone to the capital are destined for overseas export. I’m only a transporter, but I understand that the owner of this business is a very powerful man, almost untouchable.”

Thousands of logs cut from trees 20 meters in height are currently lying in the Mai-Ndombe forest waiting to be hauled off, while thousands more have been left there to rot for years, Ngobila added.

“It’s shocking to say the least,” he said.

Rich in natural resources

The forests of Mai-Ndombe (“black water” in Lingala) are rich in rare and precious woods (red wood, black wood, blue wood, tola, kambala, lifake, among others). It is also home to about 7,500 bonobos, an endangered primate and the closest cousin to humans of all species, sharing 98 percent of our genes, according to the WWF.

The forests constitute a vital platform providing livelihoods for some 73,000 indigenous individuals, mostly Batwa (Pygmies), who live here alongside the province’s 1.8 million population, many of whom with no secure land rights.

Recent studies also have revealed that the province – and indeed the forests – boasts significant reserves of diamond, oil, nickel, copper and coal, and vast quantities of uranium lying deep inside the Lake Mai-Ndombe.

Efforts to save the forests

The WWF and many environmental experts, who deplore the gradual destruction and degradation of these forests for their precious wood and for the benefit of agriculture, continue to plead and lobby for their protection.

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change.

In an effort to save these precious forests, the World Bank in 2016 approved DRC’s REDD+ programmes aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fight forest’s deforestation and degradation, which it would fund to the tune of 90 million dollars annually.

The projects, which are currently estimated at 20, have since transformed the Mai-Ndombe Province into a testing ground for international climate schemes. And as part of the projects, indigenous and other local people caring for the forests and depending on them for their livelihoods were supposed to be rewarded for their efforts.

Flaws and fiasco

However, Marine Gauthier, a Paris-based expert who authored a report on the sorry state of the Mai-Ndombe forest, seems to have found serious flaws in these ambitious programmes.

The report, released a few days before the International Day of Forests on March 21 by the Rights and Resources’ Initiative (RRI)), cited weak recognition of communities’ land rights, and recommended that key prerequisites should be addressed before any other REDD+ funds are invested.

In the interim, it said, REDD+ investments should be put on hold.

Gauthier, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to stop the funding from doing more damage to the people of the forest, told IPS in the aftermath of the report’s release, “In DRC and more specifically in the Mai-Ndombe, the history of natural resources management has always been done at the expense of local communities.

“Industrial logging concessions have been granted on their traditional lands without their consent and destroyed their environment without any form of compensation, and protected areas have been established on their lands prohibiting them to access to the forest where they hunt, gather, conduct traditional rituals, hence severing them from their livelihood and culture – again, without their consent.”

Struggle for landless peasants

Under the DRC’s 2014 Forest Code, indigenous people and local communities have the legal right to own forest covering an area of up to 50,000 hectares.

Thirteen communities in the territories of Mushie and Bolobo in the Mai-Ndombe province have since asked for formal title of a total of 65,308 hectares of land, reports said, adding that only 300 hectares have been legally recognised for each community – a total of only 3,900 hectares.

Alfred Mputu, a 56-year-old small scale forest farmer who is among the people still waiting for a formal title, told IPS: “I have been working and living in this land for decades, but as long as I don’t have a formal title that gives me the right to own it, I wouldn’t say it belongs to me.

“What if the government decides to sell it to foreign companies or to some rich and powerful people? Where will we go to live?”

The consequences of these communities living in and around these forests with no secured land rights could be dire, according to experts.

Zachary Donnenfeld, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) senior researcher for African futures and innovation, told IPS: “They could have their land sold out from under them by the government, likely to a private multinational company.

“Even if they are allowed to stay on their land, the environmental degradation caused by this industry could cause a noticeable deterioration in the quality of life for people in the area.”

Pretoria-based Donnenfeld added: “My guess is that the government is more interested in selling these resources to multinationals than it in seeing it benefit the community.

“To be fair, the government could be trying to sort out competing claims among the local groups. There could have been some overlap, for example communities bidding for the best land, and the government could be deciding what’s fair based on historical use or something. That said, my guess is that communities won’t get most of this land – at least in a secured land rights sense.”

Poverty and conflicts

Gauthier pointed out that these situations create poverty and conflicts between project implementers and communities, as well as between communities.

“Instead, when communities get secured land rights and are empowered to manage their lands themselves, studies show that it is the best way to protect the forest and even more efficient than government-managed protected areas.

“REDD+ opens the door to more land-grabbing by external stakeholders appealed by carbon benefits. Local communities’ land rights should be recognised through existing legal possibilities such as local community forest concessions so that they can keep protecting the forest, hence achieving REDD+ objectives.”

Gauthier said if their land rights are not secured, they can get evicted, as has already happened elsewhere in the country, such as South Kivu in the Kahuzi Biega National Park where 6,000 pygmies were expelled.

“Evicting the guardians of the forest risks losing the forest, when enabling them to live in and protect the forest as they have always done is the best way to keep these forests standing.”

Many observers say situations such as these impact negatively on the most vulnerable – women and children – who are already bearing the brunt of a country torn apart by dictatorship, economic mismanagement, corruption and two decades of armed conflict.

Chouchouna Losale, vice-coordinator of the Coalition of Women for the Environment and Sustainable Development in the DRC, told IPS that a humanitarian crisis has ensued in the Mai-Ndombe Province after the savannahs donated to women were ‘given’ to an industrial logging company.

“There are now cases of malnutrition in the area,” Losale said.

The Coalition of Women for the Environment and Sustainable Development advocates for the recognition of rights and competence of women in general, and aboriginal women in particular, in the Congolese provinces of Mai-Ndombe and Equateur.

“I urge the government to advance the process of land reform in order to provide the country with a clear land policy protecting forest-dependent communities,” Losale said, adding that proper consultation with communities should be done to avoid conflict.

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The UN tells private enterprise leaders that “Business as Usual Won’t Work”.http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2018 17:42:20 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155241 As global citizens face an array of issues from unemployment to discrimination, affecting their livelihoods and potential, a UN agency called upon businesses to employ a new, sustainable, and inclusive model that benefits all. Business leaders from around the world convened at the United Nation’s 2018 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) partnership forum to hear […]

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By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11 2018 (IPS)

As global citizens face an array of issues from unemployment to discrimination, affecting their livelihoods and potential, a UN agency called upon businesses to employ a new, sustainable, and inclusive model that benefits all.

2018 ECOSOC Partnership Forum. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Business leaders from around the world convened at the United Nation’s 2018 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) partnership forum to hear how the private sector can work with governments to improve global economic opportunities.

“The private sector is an indisputable partner in reducing global inequalities and improving employment opportunities for all” the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the audience.

Mohammed stressed that the private sectors contribution to development was essential if the world is to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, in order for this to happen Mohammed said that “business as usual simply won’t work.”

Instead, leaders were challenged to commit to align their business goals with the SDGs by investing in sustainable business models.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to challenge the business leaders present here today to make bold commitments to a more inclusive future for all,” said Marie Chatardova, president of the ECOSOC.

Chatardova reminded the leaders of the UN’s Business and Sustainable Development Commissions recent research that found that investment in sustainable models could create some $12 trillion dollars in economic opportunities by 2030.

“Investing in sustainable development goals – it’s a ‘win-win partnership,” she said.

Calling for Inclusion

Today, 192 million people are unemployed. Eight per cent of the global population live in poverty. There is a mounting youth unemployment crisis. Women, indigenous and disabled persons continue to face barriers to equitable and meaningful employment.

Attendees highlighted the importance of sustainable business models that prioritize diversity and inclusivity by getting women, youth, indigenous and disabled persons into the workforce.

In panel discussions, many business leaders spoke of their companies’ ongoing diversity programs.

Sara Enright, director of the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC), pointed to Impact Sourcing – an example of inclusive business practice.

Impact sourcing, Ms Enright told the forum is: “when a company prioritises suppliers who are hiring and providing career development to people who otherwise have limited prospects of formal employment.”

The GISC is a global network of 40 business that include – Google, Microsoft, Aegis, and Bloomberg – that have committed to impact sourcing.

In March, GISC members were challenged to hire and provide training to over 100,000 new workers by 2020. Enright said so far ten companies have responded to the challenge, pledging to hire over 12,000 workers across Kenya, Nepal, Cambodia and the United States.

Enright said she expected many more companies to sign up and stressed that the GISC would monitor and measure the outcomes.

The UN applauded GISC’s work as an inspiring example of the private sector working collaboratively and inclusively to meet the SDGs vision.

Curb Your Corruption

Another issue that arose during the forum was corruption in development.

Last year global development funding reached $143 trillion dollars, of which the UN estimates that over 30 percent of funds failed to reach their intended destinations.

The UN told business leaders that if they commit to using technology that better tracks where money goes in development, then it will help curb corruption.

Bob Wigley, chairman of UK Finance, encouraged businesses to invest in technologies like ‘Block Chain’.

Block-chain, or Distributed Ledger Technology, is a digitized public record book of online transactions that was developed in 2008 with the rise of online currency ‘bitcoin’.

It is an entirely decentralized means of record keeping, meaning it is operated on a peer-to-peer basis rather than one central authority.

Wigley said the technology allows the direct tracking of online payments, ensuring that it is delivered correctly.

“If I was the recipient of state aid or wanting to know where my funds are going exactly then I’d be using block-chain systems, not the antiquated bookkeeping that gives rise to potential corruption every time a payment trickles from one set of hands to another,” he said.

“Think of how embracing and enhancing block chain technology could ensure accountability and transparency – things that are critical to meeting the SDGs,” Wigley continued.

A Race to the Top

Whilst many businesses are committing to the SDGs and implementing sustainable initiatives, more still needs to be done to unlock the full potential of the sector.

Kristine Cooper from United Kingdom insurance company Avia said it is a question of creating ‘competition’ between business by tracking them in their commitment and delivery.

“Lots of companies are doing great things in diversity and SDG commitments and how they do business to meet these goals, but it’s hard to know who’s doing really well, there is no consistency with reporting,” Cooper said.

“The system lacks the incentives to make right decisions and make organizations live up their responsibility.”

Ranking companies and holding them accountable, Cooper said, would create a “race to the top” and in the process, truly unleash “the power of the corporate and private sector in meeting development goals”.

Discussion points from this meeting will be further discussed in ECOSOC meetings held in May 2018, as well as at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2018.

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The Cover up Culture: Sexual Abuse & Harassment in the UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/cover-culture-sexual-abuse-harassment-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cover-culture-sexual-abuse-harassment-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/cover-culture-sexual-abuse-harassment-un/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 14:34:39 +0000 Peter A Gallo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155204 Peter A Gallo is a former investigator at the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS)*

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In February 2018, the UN launched a 24-hour hotline for staff to report sexual harassment. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Peter A Gallo
NEW YORK, Apr 9 2018 (IPS)

Under-Secretary-General Jan Beagle recently spoke at an event at the International Peace Institute on the subject of ‘Combating Sexual Harassment in the United Nations.’ She spoke eloquently and coherently, but what she said, unfortunately, was largely an exercise in distraction and futility.

Beagle praised the UN as some sort of ‘trailblazer’ for actually having a sexual harassment policy for ten years, but the UN has only been drawn into the sexual harassment spotlight as a consequence of the ‘Harvey Weinstein effect’ so her admission that ‘much remains to be done’ has to be public confirmation that that policy has been ineffective.

It has been ineffective because the Department of Management – of which Beagle is now in charge – ensured that it would not be rigorously enforced, because the UN culture is one of adherence to the ‘Prime Directive’ which involves protecting the Organization from all criticism, regardless of the facts.

‘Sexual harassment’ encompasses a broad spectrum of offensive behaviour, from the inappropriate joke though more direct and offensive verbal harassment, to the unwelcome physical contact at the more serious end of the spectrum.

There, physical contact, combined with the requisite sexual intent element, constitutes a criminal offence – and that is the point at which the impotence and the hypocrisy of UN is most clearly seen, because Beagle’s Department is fiercely protective of the mechanisms used to protect those accused, and deny justice to victims.

In addressing sexual harassment, there is an inherent conflict in ST/SGB/2008/5 (and similar regulations in the funds and programs) in that the allegation is investigated by lay “investigators” hand-picked by the Program Manager, and the same policy also holds that managers and supervisors who fail to ensure that such complaints are addressed in a fair and impartial manner can themselves be sanctioned for their negligence.

There are, of course, no known cases of this actually ever being enforced; but thousands of cases where a “fact-finding panel” reached the finding most desirable for the Program Manager who appointed them. This is not a coincidence, this is the Prime Directive in practice; the rights of victims are of less importance than telling the boss just what he wants to hear.

One of the Secretary-General’s initiatives has been the recent announcement that sexual harassment investigations would henceforth be handled by OIOS. This, sadly, is no improvement.

Criticisms of ‘fact-finding panels’ pale into insignificance compared to the Organization’s wilful blindness to the complaints of corruption and other unethical conduct within OIOS. Gross incompetence and prejudice on the part of investigators is not only common, but those responsible are invariably protected for their unprofessionalism.

Indeed, the last time OIOS conducted a sexual harassment investigation – the Sirohi case – it was so badly mismanaged that OHRM had to settle the case at the last minute and keep the UNDT from ever being published in an attempt to keep the facts hidden. UN staff members can take comfort in knowing that all the investigators involved in that travesty have since been promoted, so they can now make a mess of many more sexual harassment investigations being directed to OIOS.

The UN is now claiming that they are listening to victims, praising the Secretary-General’s leadership, when in reality, his contributions amount to little more than sound bites.

The Organization is fiercely protective of a burden of proof that is not only difficult to meet, but – as the recent UNAIDS case demonstrates – also puts the decision-making responsibility in the hands of senior officials who have more interest in protecting the perpetrator than any notional concept of “justice” for the victim.

Indeed, the UN “legal system” makes it extraordinarily difficult for victims to challenge the decision not to discipline their assailants.

Complainants in the UN are troublemakers, and the ‘whistleblower protection’ rules are little more than a joke, so any staff member who reports serious misconduct risks their own career by doing so.

The road to promotion in the UN allows no tolerance for anything other than unconditional submission to the Organization and unthinking obedience to what is deemed to be the proper procedure, regardless of the consequences. Criticism of the UN, including acknowledging that a problem exists, is heresy.

As a result, consciously or otherwise, promotion boards ensure that anyone perceived to think or express themselves in an irregular – and hence possibly seditious – manner will be weeded out, so while geographical (and therefore cultural and ethnic) diversity is mandated in its founding charter, the UN culture is one of blind loyalty to the “groupthink” doctrine, and any committee comprised of senior UN officials, regardless of their ethnicity, can be expected to demonstrate very low levels of cognitive diversity.

Of course, even to admit that any UN policy has actually failed is to violate the ‘Prime Directive’ so it will not be done.

The sexual harassment problem cannot be addressed by the same people, using the same thought processes, as were formerly blind to the fact a problem even existed.

The corporate culture in the UN has created the sexual harassment problem, and is incapable of resolving it. Having created an environment pre-disposed towards protecting those the Organization wishes to protect, the most that can be expected from the Secretary-General’s lip service to this issue is a temporary ‘Hawthorne effect.’

It is not the rules or the policies or even the procedures that are at fault as much as the culture of the UN officials who cling to the fallacious belief that misconduct can be addressed without holding the perpetrators accountable.

The UN cannot police itself, and at the end of the day cannot protect its own female employees from sexual assault. One need look no further than the farcical handling of the Loures investigation by UNAIDS.

The solution is not just another policy, another committee or another co-ordinator, nothing short of a completely independent investigative body will suffice.

*The author is a former UN staff member who, as an OIOS investigator, suffered retaliation over a two year period as a consequence of a having made a misconduct complaint against senior OIOS officials who impugned his competence but denied him any explanations of what he was alleged to have done wrong. He says he was refused ‘protection against retaliation’ by the Ethics Office twice, had six applications to the UNDT dismissed on legal technicalities. Since separating from the UN he has been an outspoken critic of the corruption in the Organization, has been quoted in newspapers worldwide, invited to speak on television, and appeared as a witness before a US Congressional Committee. The Department of Management, he complains, is still unable and unwilling to answer the questions he asked about what he is alleged to have done that constituted a ‘performance shortcoming.’

The post The Cover up Culture: Sexual Abuse & Harassment in the UN appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Peter A Gallo is a former investigator at the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS)*

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India Cracks Down on Human Traffickinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/india-cracks-human-trafficking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-cracks-human-trafficking http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/india-cracks-human-trafficking/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 11:22:21 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155162 The Indian Union Cabinet has cleared the long-awaited Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, which proposes an imprisonment of 10 years to life term for those trafficking humans for the purpose of begging, marriage, prostitution or labour, among others. The bill will become a law once cleared by both houses of Parliament. In a […]

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The Walk Free Foundation estimates that 45.8 million people, including millions of children, are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The Walk Free Foundation estimates that 45.8 million people, including millions of children, are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Apr 5 2018 (IPS)

The Indian Union Cabinet has cleared the long-awaited Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, which proposes an imprisonment of 10 years to life term for those trafficking humans for the purpose of begging, marriage, prostitution or labour, among others. The bill will become a law once cleared by both houses of Parliament.

In a pioneering move, the ambit of the proposed legislation transcends mere punitive action to encompass rehabilitation as well. It provides for immediate protection of rescued victims entitling them to interim relief within 30 days. There are specific clauses to address the victims’ physical and mental trauma, education, skill development, health care as well as legal aid and safe accommodation."If implemented, the law could have far-reaching benefits, like curbing the underground labour industry and ensuring that fair wages are paid." --High Court advocate Aarti Kukreja

The National Investigation Agency, the country’s premier body combating terror, will perform the task of national anti-trafficking bureau. A Rehabilitation Fund is also being created to provide relief to the affected irrespective of criminal proceedings initiated against the accused or the outcome thereof.

“It’s a victory of the 1.2 million people who participated in 11,000 km long Bharat Yatra (India March) for this demand,” Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi said in a statement, referring to a month-long march he organised last year.

According to global surveys, human trafficking is the third largest organized crime violating basic human rights. The Australia-based human rights group The Walk Free Foundation’s 2016 Global Slavery Index points out that at a whopping 18.35 million, India leads the global tally for adults and children trapped in modern slavery.

Thousands of women and children are trafficked within India as well as well as neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh. Some are enticed from villages and towns with false promises of gainful employment in the cities, while a large number of them are forcefully abducted by traffickers.

As trafficking is a highly organized crime involving interstate gangs, the bill proposes a district-level “anti-trafficking unit” with an “anti-trafficking police officer”, and a designated sessions court for speedy trials. The Bill also divides various offences into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”. The former category of crimes carries a jail term of seven to 10 years while the latter can put the offenders in the clink for at least 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.

Also, aggravated offences would include trafficking for the purpose of forced labour, begging, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity, trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage. The draft bill also moots three years in jail for abetting, promoting and assisting trafficking.

There is also a provision for a time-bound trial and repatriation of victims — within a period of one year from the time the crime is taken into cognisance.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 8,100 cases of trafficking were recorded in India in 2016 with 23,000 trafficking victims being rescued last year. However, experts say the figures fail to reflect the true magnitude of the crime. The actual figures, say activists, could be much higher as many victims do not register cases with the police for lack of legal knowledge or due to fear from traffickers.

India’s West Bengal state – which shares a porous border with poorer neighbours Bangladesh and Nepal and is a known human trafficking hub – registered more than one-third of the total number of victims in 2016. Victims were also trafficked for domestic servitude, forced marriage, begging, drug peddling and the removal of their organs, the NCRB figures showed.

Worsening the crisis are the growing demands of a burgeoning services industry in India which recruit the abducted without a system of proper vetting, say experts. This practise is directly responsible for the spiralling number of human trafficking cases reported in India. It is here that the new proposed law can go a long way in combating human trafficking.

“If implemented, the law could have far-reaching benefits, like curbing the underground labour industry and ensuring that fair wages are paid,” says High Court advocate Aarti Kukreja.

The Walk Free Foundation estimates that 45.8 million people, including millions of children, are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world, compared to 35.8 million in 2014, a concern that affects large swathes of South Asia. But significantly, there is no specific law so far to deal with this crime. Experts hope the proposed legislation will make India a pioneer in formulating a comprehensive legislation to combat the trafficking menace.

Currently, trafficking in India is covered by loophole-ridden laws that enables miscreants to give the law a slip. According to New Delhi-based social activist Vrinda Thakur, the new initiative’s comprehensive nature will help tackle trafficking more effectively.

“All previous legislation dealing with human trafficking treated traffickers as well as the trafficked as criminals. This was bizarre. It prevented the victims from coming forward to report the crime. However, as per the proposed new law, the first of its kind in India, victims will be offered assistance and protection,” elaborates Thakur.

As part of the government’s larger mission to control trafficking, some measures are already underway. An online platform has been created to trace missing children and bilateral anti-human trafficking pacts have been signed with Bangladesh and Bahrain. The government is also working with charities and non-profits to train law enforcement officers. The proposed new law will act as a force multiplier to take these efforts further.

Kukreja elaborates that the Bill has an in-built mechanism to eschew antiquated and bureaucratic legislature that currently bedevils law enforcement in India.

“It will unify existing laws, prioritise survivors’ needs and provide for special courts to expedite cases,” she says.

By whittling down human trafficking in South Asia and deterring traffickers with high penalties, labour practices will decline, giving abducted women and children the chance to better their future, contributing to the country’s economic and social development.

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