Inter Press Service » Global Governance News and Views from the Global South Mon, 30 Nov 2015 17:32:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 “París Is Not the End of a Climate Change Process but a Beginning” Fri, 27 Nov 2015 15:45:32 +0000 Marianela Jarroud Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during an exlusive interview with IPS in the Blue Room in the Moneda Palace, the seat of government, in Santiago, before flying to Paris to participate in the Nov. 30 inauguration of the climate summit, to be hosted by the French capital until Dec. 11. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during an exlusive interview with IPS in the Blue Room in the Moneda Palace, the seat of government, in Santiago, before flying to Paris to participate in the Nov. 30 inauguration of the climate summit, to be hosted by the French capital until Dec. 11. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Nov 27 2015 (IPS)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says the climate summit in Paris “is not the end of a process but a beginning,” and that it will produce “an agreement that, although insufficient with respect to the original goal, shows that people believe it is better to move ahead than to stand still.”

In this exclusive interview with IPS, held shortly before Bachelet headed to the capital of France, the president reflected on the global impacts of climate change and stressed several times that the accords reached at the summit “must be binding,” as well as universal.

On Monday Nov. 30 Bachelet will take part in the inauguration of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will run through Dec. 11. At the summit, the 196 countries that are parties to the treaty are to agree on a new climate accord aimed at curbing global warming.

The president also said the Paris summit will have a different kind of symbolism in the wake of the terrorist attacks that claimed 130 lives: “It sends out an extremely clear signal that we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated,” she said.

Q: Latin America is a region where the countries face similar impacts from climate change. But it is negotiating with a fragmented voice. Has the region missed a chance for a leadership role and for a better defence of its joint interests?

A: Sometimes it is very difficult to achieve a unified position, because even though there are situations that are similar, decisions must be taken that governments are not always able to adopt, or because they find themselves in very different circumstances.

We belong to the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC) in the negotiations on climate change, along with Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. All of these countries did manage to work together, and we have a similar outlook on the question of climate change.

The countries in this region are not the ones that generate the most emissions at a global level. And above and beyond the differences we may have, the important thing is that we will all make significant efforts to reduce emissions and boost clean energies and other mechanisms and initiatives.

Q: Will the COP21 manage to approve a new universal climate treaty?

A: COP21 is not the end but a beginning of a process where the countries will turn in their national commitments [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCS)]. After that will come the mechanisms to assess the implementation of these contributions, and, from time to time, propose other targets, which would be more ambitious in some cases.

This will be the first climate change summit, after the Copenhagen conference [in 2009] where no accord was reached even though the Kyoto Protocol was coming to an end, where we will be able to reach some level of agreement.

It might not be the optimal level; apparently the contributions so far publicly submitted by the states parties would not achieve the objective of keeping global warming down to two degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, it is a major advance, when you look at what has happened in the past.

That said, what Chile maintains is that the contributions should be binding, and we are going to back that position which is clearly not supported by everyone.

Q: So you include yourself among those who believe Paris will mark a positive turning point in the fight against climate change?

Chile’s contribution

Q: Chile carried out a much-praised citizen input process for the design of its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCS), to be included in the new treaty. But media and business sectors were not pleased with some of the voluntary targets that were set. Will this hinder implementation?

A: Not everyone always agrees, we’ve seen that in different processes. I hope that awareness grows, and that is a task that we also have, as government. Climate change is a reality, not an invention, which will have disastrous consequences for everyone, but also for the economy.

For us it is indispensable, on one hand, to reduce emissions by 30 percent, by 2030. There are some who believe our commitment falls short, but it is what we can commit to today, understanding the economic situation that the country and the world find themselves in. It is a serious, responsible commitment. And obviously, if the economic situation improves, we will set more ambitious goals later.

On the other hand, Chile has an adaptation plan that includes, among other things, the reforestation of more than 100,000 hectares of native forest and an energy efficiency programme.

A: Yes, in the sense that a concrete, definitive agreement will be reached.

But it is, I insist, the start of a path. Later other, more ambitious, measures will have to be adopted, to further reduce global temperatures.

Q: Will the treaty currently being debated include the financing that the Global South and Latin America in particular will need in order to help prevent the planet from reaching a situation that is irreversible for human life?

A: I have a hope that the Green Climate Fund will grow and give more countries access to technology and resources. In this region we will always have the contradiction that we are considered middle-income countries, and thus we are not given priority when it comes to funding, while at the same time our economies are often unable to foot greater costs. And on the other hand, we are the smallest emitters [of greenhouse gases].

This is why in Chile we have set two targets, one without external support and the other with external financing, to reduce emissions by 45 percent. But there is also a possibility of financing through cooperation programmes for the introduction and transfer of new technologies to our countries, which will allow us to live up to the commitments.

Q: As the first executive director of U.N.-Women [2010-2013], you helped establish the idea that women must be taken into account in climate negotiations and actions, because they bear the impacts on a day-to-day basis and are decisive in adapting to and mitigating global warming. What is the central role that women should have in the new treaty?

A: There are a number of day-to-day decisions made by women, which have an influence. For example, energy efficiency is essential when it comes to reducing emissions, and it is often a domestic issue, in questions such as turning off lights, for example.

But in many parts of the world women are also the ones hauling water or cooking with firewood, especially in the most vulnerable areas.

So the importance of women ranges from these aspects to their contribution as citizens committed to the fight against climate change, with the conviction that a green, inclusive and sustainable economy is possible, and to the political role of women at the parliamentary and municipal level, where they are working hard for the adoption of measures and to ensure a livable planet.

Q: As president, and as a Chilean, what worries you most about the current climate situation? What would you see as the highest priority?

A: There are many things that worry me about climate change, ranging from severe drought and flooding to islands that could disappear under water – in other words, how natural events linked to climate change affect the lives of people.

I’m also concerned about two things that are essential for people: clean drinking water and food, two elements that can be profoundly affected by climate change. We have seen that there are areas of the country where people depend on rationed water from tanker trucks.

This not only affects the daily lives of people but also, in agricultural areas, it affects production and incomes. And think about the marvelous variety of fish and seafood that we have in our country, which depends on the temperatures in our oceans.

All of this could be modified. It is all very important, and ends up affecting people’s lives.

Q: Paris was the victim of a Jihadist terrorist attack on Nov. 13, which left 130 people dead. Did these attacks affect the climate surrounding the summit? Will the participation by the heads of state and government also serve as a response to the terrorism?

A: More than 160 heads of state and government have confirmed their attendance at the Paris conference, which sends out an extremely clear signal that we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated.

We are going to Paris first, because the issue to be addressed and discussed is important, but also because we are sending a message that we will not tolerate this kind of action and that we will continue moving forward in the defence of the values that we believe are essential. And we will give a hug of solidarity to our sister republic, France, to President François Hollande and to the French people.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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World’s Poorest Nations Battle Rising Rural Poverty Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:46:41 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The world’s 48 least developed countries (LDCs), described as the poorest of the poor, are fighting a relentless battle against rising rural poverty.

More than two thirds of the population of LDCs live in rural areas, and 60 per cent work in agriculture.

As a result, there is an urgent need for structural changes focused on the fight against poverty, says a new report released November 25 by the Geneva-based UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

“This means developing the synergies between agricultural modernisation and diversification of the rural economy.”

Currently, the total population of the 48 LDCs is estimated at over 932 million people.

UNCTAD’s Least Developed Countries Report 2015, subtitled “Transforming Rural Economies”, presents a road map to address rural poverty, lack of progress in rural transformation and the root causes of migration within and from LDCs.

The migration of poor people from the countryside into cities fuels excessive rates of urbanisation in many of the 48 LDCs, while many international migrants come from rural areas, says the report.

The theme of World Food Day last October was “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty:” in line with FAO’s annual State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report that called for “sustained private and public investments and social protections for the rural poor.”

Rural women, the majority of whom depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods, make up over a quarter of the total world population, according to the United Nations.

And in developing countries, rural women represent approximately 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force, and produce, process and prepare much of the food available, thereby giving them primary responsibility for food security.

Since 76 per cent of the extreme poor live in rural areas, rural women are critical for the success of the new Sustainable Development agenda for 2030, according to the United Nations.

The eradication of poverty by 2030 is one of the main objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders last September.

Gauri Pradhan, the Nepali-based, International Coordinator of LDC Watch, an umbrella group of NGOs in LDCs, told IPS the means of Implementation in the SDGs is key to transforming rural economies and enhancing productive capacity in LDCs, which is primarily based on agriculture.

SDG 2a recognises this, and “it is imperative that we have both international cooperation and effective domestic measures that focus on LDCs,” he said.

SDG2 calls to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

The LDCs cover a wide range of countries, extending from Afghanistan, Angola and Bangladesh to Vanuautu, Yemen and Zambia.

Of the 48 LDCs , 34 are in Africa, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia Sudan and Uganda, among others.

Since the LDC category was initiated by the UN General Assembly in 1971, only four countries have graduated to developing country status based on their improved economic performance: Botswana in 1994, Cabo Verde, in 2007, Maldives in 2011, and Samoa 2014.

At least two more countries — Equatorial Guinea and Vanuatu – are expected to graduate in the coming years.

UNCTAD recommends placing more importance on non-farm rural activities instead of primarily focusing on increasing agricultural productivity, as well as increasing the production of higher-value agricultural products.

Since 2012, economic growth in LDCs has continued to slow, reaching 5.5 per cent in 2014 as compared to 6.1 per cent in 2013.

Demba Dembele, LDC Watch President based in Senegal, told IPS the UNCTAD report comes at a time when agricultural policies and migration issues are high on the African agenda, with a recent African Development Bank Conference on African agricultural policies, and an Africa-European Union Summit on Migration.

“So it is hoped that this report will gives direction on how to deal more effectively with these issues, particularly in Africa”, he added.

The writer can be contacted at

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Did Argentina’s Elections Mark Start of Shift to the Right in South America? Tue, 24 Nov 2015 23:45:55 +0000 Mario Osava In the near future it will become clear whether the triumph of Mauricio Macri, to become president of Argentina on Dec. 10, marked the start of a new era in South America, with the emergence of conservative governments in a scenario where leaders identified as left-wing have been predominant so far this century. Credit: Mauricio Macri

In the near future it will become clear whether the triumph of Mauricio Macri, to become president of Argentina on Dec. 10, marked the start of a new era in South America, with the emergence of conservative governments in a scenario where leaders identified as left-wing have been predominant so far this century. Credit: Mauricio Macri

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 24 2015 (IPS)

Different degrees of economic problems are a common denominator in South American countries where governments that identify as leftist may start to fall, in a shift that began in Argentina and could continue among its neighbours to the north.

“It is not possible yet to say whether this is the end of a cycle, because the reasons for it are still very present…but there is a very complex crisis affecting the governments that I call ‘distributionist’, which are facing difficulties, especially in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela,” Professor Tullo Vigevani of the São Paulo State University told IPS.

For his part, retired diplomat Marcos Azambuja, a former Brazilian ambassador to Argentina and France, told IPS: “It’s not the end of a cycle in Latin America, but the waning of a group of governments tending towards populism associated with nationalism.”“My fear is that the dying Chavismo will come to an undemocratic end, given the fragile position of President Nicolás Maduro, while in Brazil the change will surely be democratic.” -- Marcos Azambuja

“Left” is a concept that has lost validity, he added, preferring to talk about populist governments, stressing the ones along South America’s Atlantic coast. “The ones along the Pacific coast are more modern,” he said.

Argentina is experiencing “the end of a cycle in a completely normal democratic manner, which should be celebrated,” after 12 years of presidency by the Kirchners, he said, referring to the consecutive terms of the late Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and his widow and successor Cristina Fernández, who steps down on Dec. 10. Both belonged to the Justicialista – Peronist – party.

“But any non-Peronist government will face great difficulties in that country,” Azambuja warned.

Neither of the last two non-Peronist presidents, Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989) and Fernando de la Rua (1999-2001), managed to serve out their full terms; they were both forced to resign.

That will be a challenge for Mauricio Macri, mayor of Buenos Aires since 2007, who won the elections for president in the Nov. 22 runoff, representing the centre-right opposition Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition, made up of his conservative Republican Proposal (PRO) party and the traditional Radical Civic Union (UCR).

Helping him win the elections were the division of the Justicialista Party, on the political front, and the economic crisis.

But now he will have to deal with the country’s economic woes.

The problems include stagnation and the subsequent high unemployment, high inflation – close to 30 percent, say analysts, but only half that according to the authorities – dwindling foreign reserves, and a black market where the dollar is worth nearly 50 percent more than the official exchange rate.

There are also distortions, such as protectionist measures in some sectors, export duties on agricultural products, and subsidies that affect national production and trade with Brazil, whose main market for industrial exports used to be Argentina.

The economic changes promised by Macri, such as the removal of currency controls and restrictions on foreign trade, will affect relations with Argentina’s neighbours. But it is his foreign policy that could drastically modify things in the region.

He wants, for example, to exclude Venezuela from the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) as long as the current government there remains in power, by citing the bloc’s democratic clause, which already led to the suspension of Paraguay’s membership for over a year, due to the impeachment and removal of former president Fernando Lugo in 2012.

A return to warmer ties with the United States, trade accords with the European Union and Pacific rim blocs, and greater openness to trade in general form part of Macri’s plans, in contrast to the protectionist tendencies of governments described as leftist, populist, “distributionist” or Bolivarian, depending on the vocabularies used by different ideological currents.

But regional organisations like Mercosur, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbbean States (CELAC) will not fall into crisis as a result of the political changes in the region, according to Vigevani.

These kinds of organisations are slow to react, which “has adequately served a few limited objectives,” he said.

The change in Argentina and the crises in Brazil and Venezuela, which have political as well as economic aspects, point to a probable wave of right-leaning, neoliberal governments in Latin America, that put a higher priority on the economy than on the social policies of their predecessors.

The situations are different. In Venezuela, where the economy is virtually in a state of collapse, “my fear is that the dying Chavismo will come to an undemocratic end, given the fragile position of President Nicolás Maduro, while in Brazil the change will surely be democratic,” Azambuja predicted in his conversation with IPS.

In those three countries along the Atlantic coast of South America governments “did not adequately administer economic policy, leading to low levels of investment, low savings rates, and scarce technological training, and failed to develop policies to expand, rather than reduce, consensus. Thus, the capacity to prevent neoliberal advances was decisively reduced,” said Vigevani.

Brazil has been suffering from an economic recession since late 2014, aggravated by nearly 10 percent annual inflation and a fiscal deficit that scares off investors. To all of this was added a corruption scandal involving the state oil giant Petrobras as well as all of the country’s major construction companies and around 50 politicians.

In addition, the campaign that led to the reelection of left-leaning President Dilma Rousseff in October 2014 was marked by an unprecedented degree of violence, with clashes and accusations that destroyed the chances of dialogue and negotiation.

As a result, the contradictions between the government’s election promises and its actual practices became so obvious that they undermined the legitimacy and popularity of the president, who had the approval of less than 10 percent of the population according to the latest polls, and is facing the threat of impeachment.

The political bickering has made it impossible to cobble together a stable majority in Congress, which has stood in the way of a fiscal adjustment programme that requires legislative approval of public spending cuts and a rise in taxes.

The economic crisis, blamed by the government on an adverse international environment and by the opposition on mistakes by the government, thus drags on.

“Economic results are important factors in the shift in favour of conservative candidates,” said Vigevani. “But besides the crises and the recession, there are underlying theoretical problems to be addressed, which the neoliberals don’t have answers to either, and this leads to a balance, even in the case of Argentina.”

“Distributionism without a capacity for investment, innovation and adjustment of the productive system is not sufficient, although it is necessary,” he said.

Underestimating or poorly managing economic questions would seem to be the Achilles’ heel of governments seen as leftist or populist in Latin America.

That curse has not affected leaders who, even though they are distributionist or “Bolivarian”, adopted orthodox economic policies, such as Evo Morales, in power in Bolivia since 2006, or Rafael Correa, who has governed Ecuador since 2007.

At the same time, it does not seem to be possible for new or future leaders, even right-leaning ones, to eliminate or even reduce social programmes that “populist” governments have used to pull millions of families out of poverty. Macri has already announced that he will keep them in place.

Everything would seem to indicate that these programmes are now a new dimension incorporated into regional politics, while poverty and social inequality remain unacceptably high in a majority of the countries in Latin America which, despite these “inclusion policies,” remains the world’s most unequal region.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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The Challenge of Climate Change: an Indian perspective Thu, 19 Nov 2015 22:58:41 +0000 Arnab Jyoti Das By Arnab Jyoti Das
NEW DELHI, INDIA, Nov 19 2015 (IPS)

Few countries in the world are as vulnerable to the effects of climate change as India is with its vast population (of over 1.2 billion) that is dependent on the growth of its agrarian economy, its expansive coastal areas and the Himalayan region and islands.

In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its Ambient Air Pollution (AAP) database, revealed that thirteen of top 20 dirtiest cities were Indian. Delhi topped the list followed by Patna, Gwalior and Raipur.

Realizing the problem, the government formulated a policy for abatement of pollution providing multi-pronged strategies in the form of regulations, legislations, agreements, fiscal incentives etc. Over time, the thrust has shifted from curative to preventive measures through adoption of clean technology, reuse and recycling, natural resource accounting, environmental audit to bring about sustainable development.

A recent example is the Rs 2,315 crore Hubli-Ankola railway line cutting across the Western Ghats in Karnataka which has been shown a red signal by the Supreme Court of India’s panel on forest and wildlife, which said that the project’s “huge and irreparable” ecological impact would “far outweigh” its actual tangible benefits.

Mobile enforcement teams have also been deployed on regular basis at various locations for prosecution of polluting vehicles and not having Pollution under control (PUC) certificates. The broad policy framework on environment and climate change has been laid down by the National Environment Policy (NEP) 2006, which promotes sustainable development along with respect for ecological constraints and the imperatives of social justice.

The country has a definite plan of action for clean energy, energy efficiency in various sectors of industries, steps to achieve lower emission intensity in the automobile and transport sector, a major thrust to non-fossil based electricity generation and a building sector based on energy conservation.

Wind energy has been the predominant contributor to the renewable energy growth in India accounting for 23.76 GW (65.2%) of the renewable installed capacity, making India the 5th largest wind power producer in the world.

Solar power is poised to grow significantly with solar mission as a major initiative of the Government of India.

Solar power installed capacity has increased from only 3.7 MW in 2005 to about 4060 MW in 2015, with a CAGR of more than 100% over the decade. The ambitious solar expansion programme seeks to enhance the capacity to 100 GW by 2022, which is expected to be scaled up further thereafter.

India’s investment in climate change appears to be ramping up domestically as well. People are very particular in buying any vehicle or electrical equipment, they look for fuel economy and power savings guide certified by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). The best way forward is by making investments in leapfrog technologies such as ‘100% renewable energy’.

Dharnai in Bihar (India), is a shining example. The village faces extreme poverty, and high illiteracy rates. But life in Dharnai has transformed in the 10 months since an affordable solar grid arrived, the first village in India where all aspects of life are powered by solar energy. Battery backup ensures power is available around the clock and solar water pumps has improved the access of farmers to fresh water resources.

The story of Dharnai ‘solar-powered micro-grid’ could be an exemplary model for bringing clean energy to all and combat climate change. People argue that renewable sources of power are not financially viable, especially for developing economies but they need to realize that any prototype of any model is always the most expensive to build.

It is through constant improvement that we reach an optimized process; this is a cornerstone upon which industry has been built and it is through this principle that I believe we can make our transition to a new era in sustainable development.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Urmi Goswami and @timesofindia.

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Open Defecation to End by 2025, Vows UN Chief, Marking World Toilet Day Thu, 19 Nov 2015 22:39:07 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The state of the world’s toilets reveals the good, the bad and the ugly – but not necessarily in that order.

As the UN commemorated its annual World Toilet Day on November 19, a new study says, contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the rich nations of the developed world has access to a toilet.

The study, released by the UK based WaterAid, points out that Canada, UK, Ireland and Sweden are among nations with measurable numbers still without safe, private household toilets.

Russia has the lowest percentage of household toilets of all developed nations, while India, the world’s second-most populous country, holds the record for the most people waiting for sanitation (774 million) and the most people per square kilometre (173) practising open defecation.

The report highlights the plight of more than 2.3 billion people in the world (out of a total population of over 7.3 billion) who do not have access to a safe, private toilet.

Of these, nearly 1.0 billion have no choice but to defecate in the open – in fields, at roadsides or in bushes.

The result is a polluted environment in which diseases spread fast. An estimated 314,000 children under five die each year of diarrhoeal illness which could be prevented with safe water, good sanitation and good hygiene.

Still, the tiny South Pacific island of Tokelau has made the most progress on delivering sanitation, holding number one position since 1990, followed by Vietnam, Nepal and Pakistan.

Nigeria has seen a dramatic slide in the number of people with access to toilets since 1990 despite considerable economic development.

The world’s youngest country, South Sudan, has the worst household access to sanitation in the world, followed closely by Niger, Togo and Madagascar, according to the study.

WaterAid’s Chief Executive Barbara Frost says just two months ago, all UN member states promised to deliver access to safe, private toilets to everyone everywhere by 2030.

“Our analysis shows just how many nations in the world are failing to give sanitation the political prioritisation and financing required. We also know that swift progress is possible, from the impressive advances in sanitation achieved in nations like Nepal and Vietnam.”

No matter where you are in the world, everyone has a right to a safe, private place to relieve themselves, and to live healthy and productive lives without the threat of illness from poor sanitation and hygiene.

“On this World Toilet Day, it’s time for the world to make good on their promises and understand that while we all love toilet humour, the state of the world’s sanitation is no joke,” said Frost.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF says lack of sanitation, and particularly open defecation, contributes to the incidence of diarrhoea and to the spread of intestinal parasites, which in turn cause malnutrition.

“We need to bring concrete and innovative solutions to the problem of where people go to the toilet, otherwise we are failing millions of our poorest and most vulnerable children,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes.

“The proven link with malnutrition is one more thread that reinforces how interconnected our responses to sanitation have to be if we are to succeed.”

In a report released Wednesday, the 21-member UN Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), calls for the mainstreaming of sanitation.

The focus should widen beyond the home – because toilets are needed in schools, clinics, workplaces, markets and other public places.

“Prioritize sanitation as preventive medicine and break the vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, especially affecting women and children.”

And “get serious about scaling up innovative technologies along the sanitation chain and unleash another sanitation revolution, as key economic and medical enabler in the run-up to 2030, and make a business case for sanitation by realizing the resource potential of human waste.”

Additionally, it says, “de-taboo the topic of menstrual hygiene management, which deserves to be addressed as a priority by the UN and governments.”

In its report, WaterAid is calling on world leaders to fund, implement and account for progress towards the new UN Global Goals on sustainable development.

Goal 6 – water, sanitation and hygiene for all – is fundamental to ending hunger and ensuring healthy lives, education and gender equality and must be a priority.

“Improving the state of the world’s toilets with political prioritisation and long-term increases in financing for water, sanitation and hygiene, by both national governments and donor countries like the UK.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the central role sanitation plays in sustainable development.

“The integrated nature of the new agenda means that we need to better understand the connections between the building blocks of development.”

In that spirit, he said, this year’s observance of World Toilet Day focuses on the vicious cycle connecting poor sanitation and malnutrition. He said poor sanitation and hygiene are at the heart of disease and malnutrition.

Each year, too many children under the age of five have their lives cut short or altered forever as a result of poor sanitation: more than 800,000 children worldwide — or one every two minutes– die from diarrhea, and almost half of all deaths of children under five are due to undernutrition.

A quarter of all children under five are stunted, and countless other children, as well as adults, are falling seriously ill, often suffering long-term, even lifelong, health and developmental consequences.

Parents and guardians carry the cost of these consequences. Women in particular women bear the direct brunt, he noted.

“Despite the compelling moral and economic case for action on sanitation, progress is too little and too slow,” Ban complained.

By many accounts, sanitation is the most-missed target of the Millennium Development Goals.

“This is why the Call to Action on Sanitation was launched in 2013, and why we aim to end open defecation by 2025,” he added.

The writer can be contacted at

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UN Advisory Board Seeks Powerful New Global Arena for Water and Sanitation Wed, 18 Nov 2015 23:00:46 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

A 21-member UN Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), which has just completed its 11-year mandate, is calling for a complete overhaul of how the United Nations and the international community deals with two unresolved socio-economic issues on the post-2015 development agenda: scarcity of water and inadequate sanitation.

The supreme importance of water and sanitation to development and well-being merits creation of “a powerful new global arena inside the UN”, dedicated to resolving water conflicts and common challenges while tracking progress against the world’s newly-agreed development goals, says a report released Wednesday.

The far-reaching recommendations by UNSGAB include a new intergovernmental platform on water and sanitation, supported by strong, independent panels of world scientists, counsellors and monitors.

Created by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2004 to advance water-related Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) targets, UNSGAB warns that today’s institutional infrastructure requires a major upgrade worldwide to possibly meet water and sanitation-related objectives in the 2030 Agenda — the new “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) adopted by world leaders at a UN summit in September.

The 17 SDGs, which include ensuring clean water and sanitation, plus the eradication of poverty and hunger, are targeted to be achieved by 2030.

“There is currently a mismatch between the integrated and ambitious 2030 vision of freshwater and sanitation management and the international political structures available to contribute to its implementation,” says the report, presented Wednesday by UNSGAB Chair Uschi Eid to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The proposed body, if created, is expected to be the world’s pre-eminent sphere for reaching consensus on common water and sanitation concerns, and to assess progress.

It would closely involve the private sector and other major stakeholders, supported by both a secretariat (UN-Water, and a panel of independent experts mandated to amass authoritative information on water and sanitation issues and stimulate research to fill knowledge gaps.

Additionally, it would support international decision-making “in a balanced, fact-based, transparent and comprehensive way.”

A fact sheet released by UNSGAP points out that the business community ranks water crisis as the number one global risk, based on impact to society, while the projected global increase in water demand between 2000 and 2050 is around 55 percent.

The number of people currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge is over 1.7 billion.

People who still lack improved drinking water sources is estimated at one in 10 (663 million in total) while people without access to improved drinking water: 8 in 10 living in rural areas.

The number of people without such access is increasing in urban areas and in sub-Saharan Africa, and the number of people who use a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated is at least 1.8 billion.

Still, the world has missed the MDG target for basic sanitation by almost 700 million people.

People who still lack improved sanitation facilities number one in 3 (2.4 billion in total) and people who practice open defecation: one in 8 (946 million in total)

The estimated loss in developing countries from lack of access to improved water sources and basic sanitation: 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) while priority given to public water expenditures varies widely between countries: from less than 0.5 percent to more than 2.0 percent of GDP.

The statistics have been sourced to several international organisations and UN agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN children’s agency UNICEF, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Economic Forum.

Addressing the special thematic session on water and disasters, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday water is the source of life, health and livelihoods across the world.

The provision of safe drinking water, he pointed out, is one of the basic responsibilities of national and local governments. Water drives the decisions of businesses and, in many places, determines the rhythm of daily life.

Too little water at the time when it is needed most can mean drought and food insecurity. And too much water – in the form of floods, storms or waves – can devastate entire cities, rich or poor, Ban said.

Contaminated water, whether from human or industrial sources, is claiming the lives of children and affecting the health of communities worldwide, with far-reaching consequences, he warned.

Currently, floods, droughts and windstorms account for almost 90 per cent of the 1,000 most disastrous events since 1990.

“They have caused more than 1.0 trillion dollars in damages and affected more than 4 billion people. The poor and most vulnerable have suffered first and worst,” Ban added.

UNSGAB’s recommendations include:

— A push for increased and improved financial flows, with increased priority to the water and sanitation services sector, as well as water resources management, in national budgets.

— More emphasis to the reality that water scarcity, water pollution and deterioration of water-related ecosystems pose a threat to global sustainable development.

— Develop national wastewater policies and master plans, including cost estimates, timeframes, and sustainable financing plans, to ensure that capital investment plans are matched by external and internal funding sources.

— Water-related disasters must be addressed as part of development planning, including required social protection.

The writer can be contacted at

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Civil Society May be Snagged at Paris Climate Talks Tue, 17 Nov 2015 22:33:00 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The rising security concerns, following the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, are threatening to unsettle civil society participation in the upcoming landmark international conference on climate change in the French capital.

As a result of tight security, there is a strong possibility that a proposed Global March and several other demonstrations by civil society groups may either be curtailed, immobilized or banned altogether, according to several non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The Conference of Parties (COP-21), which is expected to be attended by nearly a hundred world leaders on opening day, is scheduled to take place November 30-December 11, with the adoption of a historic climate change treaty.

Over the last few years, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has continued to underline the importance of the conference in thwarting the impact of climate change worldwide – and specifically on developing countries.

Asked for his comments on the possible restrictions, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “We hope for as much coverage and as much participation by civil society at the COP-21 events in Paris as is possible”.

Of course, he cautioned, “we are well aware of security concerns in France at this difficult time and we trust that security considerations can be handled in such a way that there will still be significant access to conference.”

Journalists who had applied for accreditation also fear there may be restrictions –due both to reasons of space and security, according to sources in Paris.

Basically, the conference site holds about 20,000 people in all – half from governments, half from the UN, NGOs and the press.

So there can’t be much more than 3,000 slots for journalists, given the amount of space available.

Jean-François Julliard, executive director of Greenpeace, France, told IPS Tuesday: “We’re still waiting for the French authorities to tell us if they think the march in Paris, and other mobilization moments around the climate talks, can be made safe and secure. Huge numbers are predicted for the Paris gathering.”

“We at Greenpeace want it to happen,” he said.

“But whatever is decided, in hundreds of towns and cities across the world, people will march for the climate, for Paris and for our shared humanity. It is a vision of human cooperation that the murderers sought to destroy on Friday night. Most certainly, they must fail,” Julliard said.

March or no march, in Paris thousands of people will use their collective imagination to project their voices into the UN climate talks, he added.

“And when they do, those voices will ring loud in the ears of the politicians inside that conference center. We will be heard by those in Paris and beyond who have it within their power to call time on the fossil fuel era,” Julliard declared.

At a press conference Monday, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was asked about reports that over 1,000 journalists, including UN correspondents, may be shut out of the climate talks.

“Does that concern the Secretary General, that a possibly historic landmark occasion like this, thousands of journalists, including UN correspondents from this building, are being denied access to that conference?”

Dujarric said: “Obviously, we do want journalists there. I will check with our colleagues at UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], who are managing the inscriptions for journalists, and I will get back to you.”

In a statement released Monday, ActionAid International said the Coalition CLIMAT 21 and all the organizations that are part of it express its solidarity with the victims of the 12 November in Beirut and those of 13 November in Paris, as well as their families and loved ones.

‘’The world we have always defended is not the one we saw on that night. The world that we defend is one of peace, justice, the fight against inequality and climate change.’’

‘’Our struggle for climate justice will not stop. We have a duty to stand up and continue to fight for a just and livable planet for all. We will continue to mobilize to build a world free of wars, and atrocities, and the ravages of the climate crisis. We will continue to bring solutions and alternatives to fight against climate change.’’

While taking into account the exceptional circumstances, CLIMAT 21 said, ‘’we believe that COP21 cannot take place without the participation or without the mobilizations of civil society in France. Thus, we will implement all our efforts to hold all the mobilizations currently planned. In consultation with the authorities, we will continue to ensure the security of all participants is guaranteed.’’

It is important to remember that this mobilization will be the global: hundreds of thousands of people will mobilize during the two weeks of negotiations of the COP21 and representatives from countries the world over will be present in Paris, the statement said.

‘’The whole world is concerned and we will not ignore these issues,’’ CLIMAT 21 declared.

Meanwhile, in a statement ahead of the climate talks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year – from shifting patterns of disease, from extreme weather events, such as heat-waves and floods, and from the degradation of air quality, food and water supplies, and sanitation.

‘’The upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP-21) in Paris offers the world an important opportunity to not only reach a strong international climate agreement, but also to protect the health of current and future generations. WHO considers the Paris treaty to be a significant public health treaty – one that has the potential to save lives worldwide.’’

In 2012, WHO estimated 7 million people died from air pollution-related diseases, making it the world’s largest single environmental health risk. It is predicted that climate change will cause an additional 250 000 deaths per year from malaria, diarrhoea, heat stress and under-nutrition between 2030 and 2050. Children, women and the poor in lower income countries will be the most vulnerable and most affected, widening health gaps.

The writer can be contacted at

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Latin America to Push for Food Security Laws as a Bloc Tue, 17 Nov 2015 21:41:22 +0000 Milagros Salazar and Aramis Castro A panel in the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, held Nov. 15-17. Second from the right is indigenous leader Ruth Buendía, who represented rural communities in the Forum. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

A panel in the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, held Nov. 15-17. Second from the right is indigenous leader Ruth Buendía, who represented rural communities in the Forum. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

By Milagros Salazar and Aramis Castro
LIMA, Nov 17 2015 (IPS)

Lawmakers in the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean decided at a regional meeting to work as a bloc for the passage of laws on food security – an area in which countries in the region have show uneven progress.

The Nov. 15-17 Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger (PFH) in Lima, Peru drew more than 60 legislators from 17 countries in the region and guest delegations from parliaments in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The coordinator of the regional Front, Ecuadorean legislator María Augusta Calle, told IPS that the challenge is to “harmonise” the region’s laws to combat poverty and hunger in the world’s most unequal region.

Calle added that a number of laws on food security and sovereignty have been passed in Latin America, and the challenge now is to standardise the legislation in all of the countries participating in the PFH to strengthen policies that bolster family farming.“We have reduced hunger by 50 percent (since 1990), but this is still insufficient. We cannot continue to live in a world where food is a business and not a right. It cannot be possible that 80 percent of those who produce the food themselves suffer from hunger.” -- María Augusta Calle

In Latin America, 81 percent of domestically consumed food products come from small farmers, who guarantee food security in the region, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which has advised the PFH since its creation in 2009.

Twelve of the 17 Latin American countries participating in the PFH already have food security and sovereignty laws, Calle said. But it has not been an easy task, she added, pointing out that several of the laws were approved only after long delays.

During the inauguration of the Sixth Forum, she said the region has reduced hunger “by 50 percent (since 1990), but this is still insufficient. We cannot continue to live in a world where food is a business and not a right. It cannot be possible that 80 percent of those who produce the food themselves suffer from hunger.”

The fight against hunger is an uphill task, and the forum’s host country is a clear illustration of this.

In Peru, the draft law on food security was only approved by Congress on Nov. 12, after two years of debate. The legislature finally reacted, just three days before the Sixth Forum began in the country’s capital. But the bill still has to be signed into law and codified by the executive branch, in order to be put into effect.

“How can it be possible for a government to put forth objections to a law on food security?” Peruvian Vice President Marisol Espinoza asked during the opening of the Sixth Forum.

Espinoza, who left the governing Peruvian Nationalist Party in October, took the place of President Ollanta Humala, who had been invited to inaugurate the Sixth Forum.

Display of native varieties of potatoes at a food fair during the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. Defending native products forms part of the right to food promoted by the legislators from Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

Display of native varieties of potatoes at a food fair during the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. Defending native products forms part of the right to food promoted by the legislators from Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

The coordinator of the Peruvian chapter of the PFH, Jaime Delgado, told IPS that he hopes the government will sign the new food security bill into law without setting forth observations.

Indigenous leader Ruth Buendía, who took part in the Sixth Forum in representation of rural communities in Peru, said the government should pass laws to protect peasant farmers because they are paid very little for their crops, even though they supply the markets in the cities.

“What the government has to do is regulate this, for the citizens,” Buendía, who belongs to the Asháninka people, told IPS. “Why do we have a government that is not going to defend us? As we say in our community: ‘why do I have a father (the government)?’ If they want investment, ok, but they have to regulate.”

Another controversial question in the case of Peru is the more than two-year delay in the codification and implementation of the law on healthy food for children and adolescents, passed in May 2013, which requires that companies that produce food targeting this age group accurately label the ingredients.

Congressman Delgado said food companies are lobbying against the law, which cannot be put into effect until it is codified.

“It would be pathetic if after so much sacrifice to get this law passed, the government failed to codify it because of the pressure from business interests,” said Delgado.

He said that in Peru, over 200 million dollars are invested in advertising for junk food every year, according to a 2012 study by the Radio and Television Consultative Council.

Calle, from Ecuador, said the members of the PFH decided to call for the entrance into effect of the Peruvian law, in the Sixth Forum’s final declaration.

“The 17 countries (that belong to the PFH) are determined to see the law on healthy food codified in Peru. We believe it is indispensable. It is a wonderful law,” said the legislator.

Peasant farmers from the Andes highlands dancing during one of the opening acts at the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. More than 80 percent of the food consumed in the region is produced by small farmers, while the same percentage of hungry people are paradoxically found in rural areas. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

Peasant farmers from the Andes highlands dancing during one of the opening acts at the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. More than 80 percent of the food consumed in the region is produced by small farmers, while the same percentage of hungry people are paradoxically found in rural areas. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

She explained that in her country food and beverage companies have been required to use labels showing the ingredients, despite the opposition from the business sector.

“In Ecuador we have had a fabulous experience (regarding labels for junk food) which we would like businesses here in Peru to understand and not be afraid of,” Calle said.

The regional coordinator of the PFH said that to address the problem of food being seen as business rather than a right, “we need governments and parliaments committed to the public, rather than to transnational corporations.”

Another country that has made progress is Brazil, where laws in favour of the right to food include one that requires that at least 30 percent of the food that goes into school meals is purchased from local small farmers, Nazareno Fonseca, a member of the PFH regional consultative council, told IPS.

Calle said Brazil’s efforts to boost food security, in the context of its “Zero Hunger” programme, marked a watershed in Latin America.

The PFH regional coordinator noted that the person responsible for implementing the programme in the crucial first two years (2003-2004) as extraordinary food security minister was José Graziano da Silva, director general of FAO since 2011.

Spanish Senator José Miguel Camacho said it is important for legislators from Latin America and the Caribbean to act as a bloc because “there is still a long way to go, but these forums contribute to that goal.”

The commitments in the Sixth Forum’s final declaration will focus on three main areas: food security, where the PFH is working on a single unified framework law; school feeding; and efforts to fight overnutrition, obesity and junk food.

Peru’s health minister, Aníbal Velásquez, said the hope is that “the commitments approved at the Sixth Forum will translate into laws.”

And the president of the Peruvian Congress, Luis Iberico, said people did not enjoy true citizenship if basic rights were not guaranteed and hunger and poverty still existed.

The indigenous leader Buendía, for her part, asked the PFH legislators for a greater presence of the authorities in rural areas, in order for political declarations to produce tangible results.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Nepali Farmers Get Climate Smart Fri, 13 Nov 2015 20:15:47 +0000 Shahani Singh By Shahani Singh

Bimala Bajagain, a farmer and mother of three, wears a fading red kurta and appears older than her age at 35. She offers us plates of salted guavas at the porch of her quake-damaged house.

By mid-day, October’s warm sun boils over Kalchebesi village of Kavrepalanchok district. Bajagain insists we also savour a plate of cucumbers.

“We managed to build our temporary shelter from initial government funds and assistance from an INGO,” Bajagain shares, nodding toward a small hovel constructed of corrugated steel, right beside her cow shed.

“But this structure will have to be rebuilt for winter – the steel heated up unbearably in the summer and now it will turn very cold.”

Bajagain plans to reinforce her shelter with plywood for insulation, which she will fund with a loan from a local cooperative, and eventually pay with income from selling her vegetables, if the water holds out.

“We have scarcity of water during the summer due to erratic rainfall. This year, it poured torrentially for a day but halted for the rest of the season.”

Rows of bitter gourds hang from climbers suspended atop a wired roof. They look ripe for picking, and Bajagain explains that mulching has helped her crops retain moisture through dry spells, sustaining her income.

“It involves nothing more than digging a hole for placing organic manure, sowing the seed and covering it with hay as a protective layer,” she says. The results are obvious: “I had sown my bitter gourd seeds in February this year – six months on, I am still harvesting, whereas last year, the manure dried quickly and the harvest lasted only four months.”

Bajagain says her income has nearly doubled compared to the year before, thanks to the extra water. Donor funds for reconstruction still haven’t been distributed by the government, even eight months since the quake.

The extra money from her increased harvest of potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber and bitter gourd will be all she has to fund both the better winter shelter and support her children’s education.

Bajagain may have high hopes, but she has good reason to remain concerned.

“The total annual rainfall in Kavrepalanchok is not changing, and it is not projected to change,” says Laxmi Dutta Bhatta, ecosystem management specialist at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu.

“It is the pattern of rainfall that is changing – there are heavier, more intense downpours which lead to flooding. What we need is sustainable rainfall that the soil can absorb and which re-charges the ground water.”

Farmers in the neighbouring village of Patlekhet have also found climate-smart ways to adapt.

“Plastic ponds have greatly assisted the irrigation needs of my home garden,” says Saraswati Dhital, a farmer who was helped by a climate-smart project run by the Centre for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED), a local NGO.

Dhital’s pond is lined with plastic sheeting. Waste-water from wash basins and excess water from torrential downpours are channelled into a small plastic-lined pond that irrigate Dhital’s turnips, cardamom, lemon and coriander. Saplings are already starting to sprout.

Each household in Patlekhet village has its own plastic-lined collection pond, while a bigger community pond sits higher up the hill. Having a local irrigation source means Saraswati no longer has to hike to the next hill for potable water; it’s a big time-saver.

“Our main intervention is for waste-water management,” says Keshav Dutta Joshi, programme director, CEAPRED.

“According to our research, a typical family that grows vegetables using waste-water irrigation and keeps cattle can earn more than a migrant labourer working in the Gulf.”

CEAPRED aims to have a scientific basis to design and apply a well-packaged programme for the entire mid-hill agro-ecological region of Nepal that will tell farmers how much water can be harvested.

It will even work out the amount of investment required, the crops that can be grown and the amount of income that can be earned. “But, we will need data from at least three consecutive years of action research for this.” Joshi says.

Japan’s Kochi Technology University (KTU) surveyed over a 1000 farmers in Nepal’s western mid-hill agro-ecological zone. They found that vegetable production and income could increase more than 30 per cent by simply deploying water-conservation techniques like lining ponds with plastic.

The study expects plastic-pond technology to “…contribute to poverty reduction for smallholder farmers…and shall be a promising technology not only in Nepal, but also many other developing nations.”

It seems mulching and water harvesting by using plastic ponds have a good basis for scientific validity as adaptive practices against extreme weather. This will also help alleviate poverty in the mid-hills region in Nepal.

Bajagain is acutely aware that climate change and Nepal’s recent devastating earthquakes means age-old farming methods are going to have to adapt to a new reality. “We need self-sufficient practices to help ourselves. Mulching and plastic ponds have certainly helped us abate losses in the face of unexpected weather and climate change.”

“My crops would dry up and wilt in previous years,” she tells me calmly. “Thankfully, such is not the case this year, given our financial struggles after the quake.”

The story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to @RNW

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Leading Powers to Double Renewable Energy Supply by 2030 Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:45:29 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz China has become the world leader in wind energy, although it is still surpassed by many European countries in terms of per capita wind power generation. Credit: Asian Development Bank

China has become the world leader in wind energy, although it is still surpassed by many European countries in terms of per capita wind power generation. Credit: Asian Development Bank

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSÉ, Nov 12 2015 (IPS)

Eight of the world’s leading economies will double their renewable energy supply by 2030 if they live up to their pledges to contribute to curbing global warming, which will be included in the new climate treaty.

A study published this month by the World Resources Institute (WRI) analysed the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) of the 10 largest greenhouse gas emitters to determine how much they will clean up their energy mix in the next 15 years.

Eight of the 10 – Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and the United States – will double their cumulative clean energy supply by 2030. The increase is equivalent to current energy demand in India, the world’s second-most populous nation.

“We looked at renewable energy because it’s a leading indicator for the global transition to a low-carbon economy. We won’t get deep emissions reductions without it,” WRI researcher Thomas Damassa, one of the report’s authors, told IPS.

More than 150 countries have presented their INDCs, most of which commit to actions between 2020 and 2030. They will be incorporated into the new universal binding treaty to be approved at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris.

Since energy production is the main source of greenhouse gases (GHG), accounting for around 65 percent of emissions worldwide, efforts to curb emissions are essential and must lie at the heart of the new treaty, especially when it comes to the biggest emitters, experts say.

Of the 10 largest emitters, Russia and Canada were not included in the study because they have not announced post-2020 renewable energy targets.

Currently, one-fifth of global demand for electric power is covered by renewable sources, according to a report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), and their cost is swiftly going down. Hydroelectricity still makes up 61 percent of all renewable energy.

But fossil fuels continue to dominate the global energy supply and power generation, making up 78.3 percent and 77.2 percent, respectively, according to REN21.

Studies indicate that in countries like India, where there are serious challenges in terms of access to energy, wind power is now as cheap as coal, and solar power will reach that level by 2019.

“The INDCs collectively send an important financial signal globally that renewables are a priority in the next two decades and a viable, pragmatic solution to the energy challenges countries are facing,” said Damassa.

Coordination between industrialised and emerging countries is crucial, especially the powerful BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc.

That is because industrialised nations are historically responsible for GHG emissions but the BRICS and other emerging countries now produce a majority of global emissions.

Part of what will be the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant’s turbine room in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. The dam will be the third-largest in the world when it is completed in 2019. Climate change experts are worried about the impact of the megaproject in the vulnerable Amazon rainforest. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Part of what will be the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant’s turbine room in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. The dam will be the third-largest in the world when it is completed in 2019. Climate change experts are worried about the impact of the megaproject in the vulnerable Amazon rainforest. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

China is the leading emitter of GHG emissions and the biggest consumer of energy. But it is also the largest producer of renewable energy, accounting for 32 percent of the world’s wind power production and 27 percent of hydroelectricity, followed in the latter case by Brazil, which produces 8.5 percent of the world’s hydropower.

The Asian giant aims to increase the proportion of non-fossil fuel sources by 20 percent by 2030. The country currently uses coal for 65 percent of its energy, while mega-dams represent just 15 percent.

In the first meeting of energy ministers of the Group of 20 industrialised and emerging nations, held Oct. 5 in Istanbul, the officials acknowledged the importance of renewable sources and their long-term potential and pledged to continue investing in and researching clean energy.

Of the 127 INDCs presented as of late October – the EU presented the commitments of its 28 countries as a bloc – 80 percent made clean energy a priority.

“They certainly help but clearly countries still need to go farther, faster – and in sectors outside of energy as well – to drive emissions down to the level that is needed,” said Damassa.

The pledges made so far would keep global warming down to a 2.7 degree Celsius increase, according to the UNFCCC secretariat, although other studies are more pessimistic, putting the rise at 3.5 degrees.

To avoid irreversible effects for the planet, global temperatures must not rise more than two degrees C above preindustrial levels, although even with that increase, severe effects would be felt in different ecosystems.

Because of that it will be essential to reassess the national pledges during the climate talks in Paris, and establish a clear mechanism for ongoing follow-up of the actions taken by each country.

“I see all of the BASIC (the climate negotiating group made up of Brazil, South Africa, India and China) pledges as ‘first offers’ that will have to be reassessed after the Paris deal is finalised,” Natalie Unterstell, the negotiator on behalf of Brazil at the UNFCCC, told IPS.

The expert, who is now a Louis Bacon Environmental Leadership Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in the U.S., points to key differences between these four countries and Russia, the fifth member of BRICS.

She also explained that while these four countries agreed to reduce the proportion of fossil fuels in their energy mix, there are differences in how they aim to do so.

Adaptation is a large component in South Africa’s INDCs – a signal that the carbon-based economy understands the need to build a more resilient future. India is putting a strong emphasis on solar energy, and Brazil pledged to raise the share of renewable sources in its energy mix to 45 percent by 2030.

Brazil’s proposal is based partly on large hydropower dams, some of which are in socially and environmentally sensitive areas, like the Amazon rainforest.

Meanwhile, the actions that China takes can, by themselves, facilitate or complicate the talks. According to Untersell, the country “has a comparative advantage as it has committed itself to develop renewables technology and is delivering its promise.”

Ties between these emerging economies and the industrialised powers were strengthened over the last year by a series of bilateral accords that began to be reached in November 2014, with the announcement that China and the United States had agreed on joint actions in the areas of climate and energy.

“These agreements are good signals for the industry to transition (to a cleaner model). However, the private sector needs more than aspirational goals to base their operations,” said the expert.

But she said it was a good thing that the agreement between the two countries was based on actions on an internal level, because this shows concrete changes in the energy policies of both nations.

Besides the agreement with Washington, China has signed another with France, Brazil did the same with Germany, and India did so with the United States, in an effort by these countries to speed up their internal transition before COP21.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Maternal Deaths Decline by 44 Percent, Says New Study Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:10:31 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

When world leaders adopted a set of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at a summit meeting in September 2000, one of the heavily-publicised goals was the commitment to reduce extreme poverty and hunger by the end of 2015.

But an equally important goal– that drew less attention– was Goal number Five aimed at improving maternal health – and reducing by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio, by the end of 2015.

A new report, released Thursday, focuses specifically on maternal deaths, which have fallen by 44 per cent since 1990— described as a significant improvement, but still falling short of total success.

World-wide, maternal deaths dropped from about 532,000 in 1990 to an estimated 303,000 this year, according to the report, the last in a series surveying progress under the MDGs.

This equates to an estimated global maternal death ratio of 216 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 385 in 1990, says the joint report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN children’s agency UNICEF, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank Group and the UN’s Population Division.

Maternal death is defined as the death of a woman during pregnancy, childbirth or within 6 weeks after birth.

Despite global improvements, however, only nine countries achieved the MDG 5 target of reducing the maternal death ratio by at least 75 per cent between 1990 and 2015.

Those countries include Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Mongolia, Rwanda and Timor-Leste.

Despite this important progress, the maternal death ratio in some of these countries remains higher than the global average, says the report titled ‘Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015’.

“The MDGs triggered unprecedented efforts to reduce maternal mortality,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health.

“Over the past 25 years, a woman’s risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes has nearly halved. That’s real progress, although it is not enough. We know that we can virtually end these deaths by 2030 and this is what we are committing to work towards.”

Achieving that goal will require much more effort, according to Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director of UNFPA.

“Many countries with high maternal death rates will make little progress, or will even fall behind, over the next 15 years if we don’t improve the current number of available midwives and other health workers with midwifery skills,” he said.

“If we don’t make a big push now, in 2030 we’ll be faced, once again, with a missed target for reducing maternal deaths.”

The report also points out that ensuring access to high-quality health services during pregnancy and childbirth is helping to save lives.

Essential health interventions include: practising good hygiene to reduce the risk of infection; injecting oxytocin immediately after childbirth to reduce the risk of severe bleeding; identifying and addressing potentially fatal conditions like pregnancy-induced high-blood pressure; and ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services and family planning for women.

“As we have seen with all of the health-related MDGs, health-system strengthening needs to be supplemented with attention to other issues to reduce maternal deaths,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta.

“The education of women and girls, in particular the most marginalized, is key to their survival and that of their children. Education provides them with the knowledge to challenge traditional practices that endanger them and their children.”

By the end of this year, about 99 per cent of the world’s maternal deaths will have occurred in developing regions, with sub-Saharan Africa alone accounting for two in three (66 per cent) deaths.

But that represents a major improvement: sub-Saharan Africa saw a nearly 45 per cent decrease in maternal death ratio, from 987 to 546 per 100,000 live births between 1990 and 2015, according to the report.

The greatest improvement of any region was recorded in Eastern Asia, where the maternal death ratio fell from approximately 95 to 27 per 100,000 live births (a reduction of 72 per cent).

In developed regions, maternal deaths fell 48 per cent between 1990 and 2015, from 23 to 12 per 100,000 live births.

Besides poverty and hunger, the MDGs also included goals to eliminate HIV/AIDS, provide adequate shelter, promote gender equality, achieve universal education, protect the global environment and build a global North-South partnership for development.

At a summit meeting in September, world leaders adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a successor to MDGs, with the objective of meeting these new goals by 2030.

The SDGs have a target of reducing maternal deaths to fewer than 70 per 100,000 live births globally.

Reaching that goal will require more than tripling the pace of progress – from the 2.3 per cent annual improvement in maternal death ratio that was recorded between 1990 and 2015 to 7.5 per cent per year beginning next year.

“The SDG goal of ending maternal deaths by 2030 is ambitious and achievable provided we redouble our efforts,” said Dr. Tim Evans, Senior Director of Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group.

“The recently launched Global Financing Facility in Support of Every Woman Every Child, which focuses on smarter, scaled and sustainable financing, will help countries deliver essential health services to women and children,” he said.

The writer can be contacted at

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Climate Change Bites Kenyan Tea Farmers Wed, 11 Nov 2015 22:24:38 +0000 Diana Omondi               Alice Muthoni picking tea in Makomboki, central Kenya. @DW/D. Omondi

              Alice Muthoni picking tea in Makomboki, central Kenya. @DW/D. Omondi

By Diana Omondi
NAIROBI, Nov 11 2015 (IPS)

You wouldn’t typically expect heavy rainfall and frost in East Africa. But the Earth’s climate is changing – and this is affecting one of the world’s largest tea-producing regions, in central Kenya.

For Joseph Mwangi and his wife, picking tea early in the morning has become more difficult lately. “We have been experiencing frost on the leaves,” Mwangi says. “This makes it hard to work, because the frost stings our hands,” he added.

Mwangi and his wife Alice Muthoni earn their living as tea-pickers in Makomboki, central Kenya. Due to the frost, they have had to start picking tea leaves two hours later. But this presents new problems to the couple.

“When I start working late, I only manage to pick 40 kilograms of tea leaves a day, as compared to 70 kilograms in the past,” Muthoni says. “This reduces my pay for the day,” she points out. To earn $1, she has to pick 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of tea leaves.

The tea that the couple picks is delivered to the Makomboki Tea Factory. Evans Muchiri, a production manager at the factory, says that due to weather changes, they have recorded a 16 percent drop in tea harvested so far in 2015, compared with 2014.

Local experience backed by international research
Kenya used to provide the ideal climate for tea cultivation: tropical, red volcanic soils and long, sunny days. In fact, central Kenya is the the world’s third-largest tea-producing region.

In 2013, tea farming contributed up to $1.3 billion (1.2 billion euros) to the national economy, while more than half a million smallholder farmers depend on the cash crop for income.

Tea grows best in mountainous regions, so Makomboki – at an altitude of just more than 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) – used to provide good conditions. But tea also requires temperatures of 16 to 29 degrees Celsius (60 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit), along with stable rainfall – and this has become increasingly unreliable in recent years.

A study by the Kenya’s Tea Research Institute indicates that in 2012, the worst year recorded, almost one-third of the harvest was lost.

“Climate change is already having a negative impact on the lives of tea farmers in Africa,” says Alexander Kasterine, who heads the Trade and Environment Unit at the International Trade Centre (ITC).

“Rising temperatures and extreme weather conditions are reducing tea productivity,” Kasterine adds.

The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) – a not-for-profit organization that works toward making the tea industry more sustainable – says climate change is expected to reduce the land suitable for tea production in tea-growing areas 40 percent by 2050.

Planting trees for tea
To enhance the tea farmers’ livelihoods, ETP created a partnership with ITC and other nongovernmental organizations, and founded a project to help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change effects.

Among other things, the program trains farmers and tea factory managers in both carbon standards compliance and adaptation to climate change.

One of the partners is Makomboki Tea Factory. Farmers here are trained on conservation and management of water, including drip irrigation and soil conservation. They use biogas instead of wood, reducing carbon emissions.

“We are encouraging farmers to plant trees and mulch their crops,” says Joseph Gitau, an assistant at Makomboki Tea Factory. The Rainforest Alliance then issues certificates to participants upon completion.

Gitau explains that planting trees at tea farms helps in reducing the effects of frost on the tea leaves. It’s quite simple: The frosts falls on the tree leaves instead of the tea leaves. Meanwhile, mulching improves soil fertility, preventing soil erosion and frost at the roots.

Successful solutions
The Makomboki factory is not only trying to adapt to climate change, but also to mitigate it. Earlier on, the factory had been using 2,000 cubic meters (2,600 cubic yards) of wood per month as fuel for drying tea, contributing to regional deforestation.

But now, the factory has switched to alternative energy sources. “We use sawdust, rice husks, biomass, and macadamia and cashew nut shells, as well as briquettes made from sawdust and rice husk,” says Evans Muchiri.

The new initiative has saved more than 30,000 trees, while lowering operational costs of the factory by 20 percent.

Kenya’s Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Authority recently awarded the Makomboki factory for its best practices on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

And as the factory comes up other strategies to adjust to changing climatic conditions, this not only helps the environment and the agriculture sector at large: It also makes the lives of tea-pickers like Jospeh Mwangi and his wife Alice Muthoni a lot easier, right away.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to @dwnews.

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Refugee Crisis May Threaten Development Aid to World’s Poor Wed, 11 Nov 2015 21:52:23 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

As the spreading refugee crisis threatens to destabilize national budgets of donor nations in Western Europe, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday appealed to the international community not to forsake its longstanding commitment for development assistance to the world’s poorer nations.

Ban’s appeal comes two days after a UN pledging conference reported a “dramatic decline” in donor commitments: from 560 million dollars in 2014 to 77 million dollars in the most recent pledges, largely covering 2015.

Asked if the Secretary-General’s appeal was the result of the decline in commitments, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told IPS: “It’s in response to many factors, including concerns expressed by some states about maintaining aid levels.”

The secretary-general said resources for one area should not come at the expense of another.

Redirecting critical funding away from development aid at this pivotal time could perpetuate challenges that the global community has committed to address, he warned.

“Reducing development assistance to finance the cost of refugee flows is counter-productive and will cause a vicious circle detrimental to health, education and opportunities for a better life at home for millions of vulnerable people in every corner of the world,” Ban declared.

At a summit meeting of political leaders from Europe and Africa in Malta Wednesday, the European Union (EU) was expected to announce plans to create a Special Trust Fund, initially estimated at 1.9 billion dollars, to address the financial problems arising out of the refugee crisis.

Since European countries are expected to boost this fund over the next few months, there are fears these contributions may be at the expense of development assistance.

According to figures released by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), development aid flows were stable in 2014, after hitting an all-time high in 2013.

But aid to the poorest countries continued to fall, according to official data collected by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Net official development assistance (ODA) from DAC members totalled 135.2 billion dollars, with a record 135.1 billion dollars in 2013, though marking a 0.5% decline in real terms.

Net ODA as a share of gross national income was 0.29%, also on a par with 2013. ODA has increased by 66% in real terms since 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals were agreed, according to OECD.

The secretary-general said that with the world facing the largest crisis of forced displacement since the Second World War, the international community should meet this immense challenge without lessening its commitment to vitally needed official development assistance. (ODA)

He underscored the importance of fully funding both efforts to care for refugees and asylum seekers in host countries as well as longer-term development efforts.

The Secretary-General said he recognized the financial demands faced by host communities and partner governments as they seek to support the international response.

He expressed his “sincere gratitude to governments and their citizens for their generosity.”

Nick Hartmann, Director of the Partnerships Group at UN Development Programme (UNDP) told delegates Monday the important agreements that Member States had come to in 2015 called for increased policy support.

To deliver that, adequate and predictable resources were required.

He said core resources were the foundation of UNDP’s support to the poorest and most vulnerable.

UNDP, he pointed out, had responded to a range of crises over the past year and had ensured that 11.2 million people benefited from improved livelihoods. Almost a million jobs were created in 77 countries, with half of those reaching women.

“However, he said reduced contributions from many top partners and unfavourable exchange rate movements had caused a downward trend in funding.”

Hartmann said a number of partners faced overwhelming pressures, including the migrant crisis, he thanked those who had submitted pledges at Monday’s pledging conference.

The UNDP is described as the UN’s global development network covering 177 countries and territories.

The writer can be contacted at

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Latin American Legislators, a Battering Ram in the Fight Against Hunger Wed, 11 Nov 2015 16:24:36 +0000 Marianela Jarroud A girl in traditional festive dress from Bolivia’s highlands region displays a basket of fruit during a fair in her school in central La Paz. Fruit is the foundation of the new school meal diet adopted in the municipality, which puts a priority on natural food produced by small local farmers in the highlands. The alliance between family farming and school feeding is extending throughout Latin America thanks to laws put into motion by the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

A girl in traditional festive dress from Bolivia’s highlands region displays a basket of fruit during a fair in her school in central La Paz. Fruit is the foundation of the new school meal diet adopted in the municipality, which puts a priority on natural food produced by small local farmers in the highlands. The alliance between family farming and school feeding is extending throughout Latin America thanks to laws put into motion by the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Nov 11 2015 (IPS)

Lawmakers in Latin America are joining forces to strengthen institutional frameworks that sustain the fight against hunger in a region that, despite being dubbed “the next global breadbasket”, still has more than 34 million undernourished people.

The legislators, grouped in national fronts, “are political leaders and orient public opinion, legislate, and sustain and promote public policies for food security and the right to food,” said Ricardo Rapallo, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Food Security Officer in this region.

The members of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger also “allot budget funds, monitor, oversee and follow up on government policies,” Rapallo told IPS at FAO regional headquarters in Santiago, Chile.

A series of successful public policies based on a broad cross-cutting accord between civil society, governments and legislatures enabled Latin America and the Caribbean to teach the world a lesson by cutting in half the proportion of hungry people in the region between 1990 and 2015.“The Parliamentary Front Against Hunger is a key actor in the implementation of CELAC’s Food Security Plan, for the construction of public systems that recognise the right to food.”-- Raúl Benítez, regional director of FAO

But the 34.3 million people still hungry in this region of 605 million are in need of a greater effort, in order for Latin America to live up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is aimed at achieving zero hunger in the world.

The Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger (PFH), to be held in Lima Nov. 15-17, will seek to forge ahead in the implementation of the “plan for food security, nutrition and hunger eradication in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) by 2025.”

The plan, which sets targets for 2025, is designed to strengthen institutional legal frameworks for food and nutritional security, raising the human right to food to the highest legal status, among other measures.

“The Parliamentary Front Against Hunger is a key actor in the implementation of CELAC’s Food Security Plan, for the construction of public systems that recognise the right to food,” the regional director of FAO, Raúl Benítez, told IPS.

The PFH was created in 2009 with the participation of three countries. Six years later, “there are 15 countries that have a strong national parliamentary front recognised by the national Congress of the country, which involves parliamentarians of different political stripes, all of whom are committed to the fight against hunger,” Rapallo said.

As a result, “laws on family farming have been passed, in Argentina and Peru, and in the Dominican Republic there are draft laws set to be approved. To these is added the food labeling law in Ecuador,” the expert said, to illustrate.

Bolivia sets an example

In Bolivia, the School Feeding Law in the Framework of Food Security and the Plural Economy, passed in December 2014, is at the centre of the fight against poverty in an integral fashion, Fernando Ferreira, the head of the national Parliamentary Front for Food Sovereignty and Good Living, told IPS in La Paz.

This model, which draws on the successful programme that has served school breakfasts based on natural local products in La Paz since 2000, is now being implemented in the country’s 347 municipalities.

The farmer “produces natural foods, sells part to the municipal government for distribution in school breakfasts, and sells the rest in the local community,” said Ferreira, describing the cycle that combines productive activity, employment, nutrition and family income generation.

The school breakfast programme has broad support among teachers because it boosts student performance and participation in class, Germán Silvetti, the principal of the República de Cuba primary school in the centre of La Paz, told IPS.

“They didn’t used to care, but now they demand their meals,” Silvetti said. “Some kids come to school without eating breakfast, so the meal we serve is important for their nutrition.”

In the past, students didn’t like Andean grains like quinoa. But María Inés Flores, a teacher, told IPS she managed to persuade them with an interesting anecdote: “astronauts who go to the moon eat quinoa – and if we follow their example we’ll make it to space,” she said to the children, who now eat it with enthusiasm.

Appealing to the appetites of the 145,000 students served by the school breakfast programme is a daily challenge, but one that has had satisfactory results, such as the reduction of anemia from 37 to two percent in the last 15 years, Gabriela Aro, one of the creators of the programme and the head of the municipal government’s Nutrition Unit, told IPS.

Authorities in Bolivia say the government’s “Vivir Bien” or “Good Living” programme will reduce the proportion of people in extreme poverty which, according to estimates from different national and international institutions, stands at 18 percent of the country’s 11 million people.

In the Mexican Congress, lawmakers with the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger are pushing through laws that boost food security and sovereignty, to guarantee “the right to sufficient nutritional, quality food” that was established in the constitution in 2011. Credit: Emilio Godoy/ IPS

In the Mexican Congress, lawmakers with the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger are pushing through laws that boost food security and sovereignty, to guarantee “the right to sufficient nutritional, quality food” that was established in the constitution in 2011. Credit: Emilio Godoy/ IPS

Mexico, another case

In Mexico, a nation of 124 million people, meanwhile, poverty has grown in the last three years, revealing shortcomings in the strategies against hunger, which legislators are trying to influence, with limited results.

“Legislators must be more involved in following up on this, one of the most basic issues,” Senator Angélica de la Peña, coordinator of the Mexican chapter of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger, told IPS in Mexico City. “Even if we define budgets and programmes, they continue to be resistant to making this a priority.”

There are 55.3 million people in poverty in Mexico, according to official figures from this year, and over 27 million malnourished people.

The increase in poverty reflects the weaknesses of the National Crusade Against Hunger, the flagship initiative of conservative President Enrique Peña Nieto, which targets undernourished people living in extreme poverty.

The Crusade is concentrated in 400 of Mexico’s 2,438 municipalities, involves 70 federal programmes, and hopes to reach 7.4 million hungry people – 3.7 million in urban areas and the rest in the countryside.

The Senate has not yet approved a “general law on the human right to adequate food”, which was put in motion by the Parliamentary Front and involves the implementation of a novel constitutional reform, which established in 2011 that “everyone has a right to sufficient nutritional, quality food, to be guaranteed by the state.”

The draft law will create a National Food Policy and National Food Programme, besides providing for emergency food aid.

But in spite of the limitations, Mexico’s social assistance programmes do make a difference, albeit small, for millions of people.

Since February, Blanca Pérez has received 62 dollars every two months, granted by the Pension Programme for the elderly (65 and older), which forms part of the National Crusade Against Hunger.

“It helps me buy medicines and cover other expenses. But it is a small amount for people our age – it would be better if it was every month,” this mother of seven told IPS. She lives in the town of Amecameca, 58 km southeast of Mexico City, where half of the 48,000 inhabitants live in poverty.

Pérez, who helps her daughter out in a small grocery store, is also covered by the Popular Insurance scheme, a federal government programme that provides free, universal healthcare. “These programmes are good, but they should give more support to people like me, who struggle so much,” she said.

Two urgent regional needs

Above and beyond the progress made, Rapallo said Latin America today has two urgent needs: reduce the number of hungry people in the region to zero while confronting the problem of overnutrition – another form of malnutrition.

Overweight and obesity “are a public health challenge, a hurdle to national development, and a moral requisite that we must address,” said Rapallo.

In that sense, he added, “parliamentarians are essential” to bring about public policies that contribute to good nutrition of the population and their growing demands.

“There are parliamentarians that are real leaders in their respective countries. But if all of this were not backed by a strong civil society that puts the issue firmly on the agenda, we wouldn’t be able to talk about results,” he said.

With reporting by Emilio Godoy in Mexico City and Franz Chávez in La Paz.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Climate Change May Increase World’s Poor by 100 Million, Warns World Bank Tue, 10 Nov 2015 17:47:42 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The UN’s heavily-hyped Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were approved by more than 160 world leaders at a summit meeting in September, are an integral part of the world body’s post-2015 development agenda, including the eradication of hunger and poverty by 2030.

But that ambitious goal, warns the UN’s sister institution, the World Bank, can be thwarted by the devastating impact of climate change on the world’s poorest people.

In a new study released Monday, the World Bank says climate change is already preventing people from escaping poverty.

“And without rapid, inclusive and climate-smart development, together with emissions-reductions efforts that protect the poor, there could be more than 100 million additional people in poverty by 2030.”

The report, released ahead of the international climate conference in Paris November 30-December 11, finds that poor people are already at high risk from climate-related shocks, including crop failures from reduced rainfall, spikes in food prices after extreme weather events, and increased incidence of diseases after heat waves and floods.

Titled ‘Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty’, the study says such shocks could wipe out hard-won gains, leading to irreversible losses and, driving people back into poverty, particularly in Africa and South Asia.

According to the report, the poorest people are more exposed than the average population to climate-related shocks such as floods, droughts, and heat waves, and they lose much more of their wealth when they are hit.

In the 52 countries where data was available, 85 per cent of the population live in countries where poor people are more exposed to drought than the average.

Poor people are also more exposed to higher temperatures and live in countries where food production is expected to decrease because of climate change, the report notes.

“This report sends a clear message that ending poverty will not be possible unless we take strong action to reduce the threat of climate change on poor people and dramatically reduce harmful emissions,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

“Climate change hits the poorest the hardest, and our challenge now is to protect tens of millions of people from falling into extreme poverty because of a changing climate,” he added.

Asked for a response, Harjeet Singh, Climate Policy Manager at ActionAid, told IPS the World Bank’s analysis of poor people’s vulnerability to climate impacts is not new, but it rightly highlights that poverty cannot be addressed without tackling climate change.

He said poor people and poor countries are most vulnerable to climate change as they have limited assets, skills and knowledge to overcome the effects.

“However, the World Bank is coming late to the game with its talk of improving social protection to fight the effects of climate change”, Singh said.

In reality, he pointed out, the World Bank has had a long and dubious record of forcing developing countries to reduce their public expenditure to provide basic services, and protecting socially and economically weaker populations.

“It will need to address this before it can reliably practise what the report preaches,” he declared.

Louise Whiting, senior policy analyst, water security and climate change at the UK-based WaterAid, told IPS the world’s poorest are most at risk from climate change and are receiving the least amount of climate-change financing to help them adapt to climate-related weather shocks including flood, drought and heat waves.

“Our research tells us that in Bangladesh alone, an estimated 38 million lives are at risk between now and 2050 because of climate-change related disasters,” she pointed out.

“The climate path we are on now means an end to development – an end to all progress on extreme poverty.”

She said for families living in extreme poverty, with fragile access to safe water, good sanitation and hygiene, these lengthening dry seasons and intensifying monsoons wipe out years of work and further entrench the cycle of poverty.

“Safeguarding basic services including clean water, sanitation and hygiene helps communities recover faster and become more resilient to climactic extremes.”

Whiting said national governments in developing countries need more support in designing and implementing projects to help eradicate poverty while building communities’ resilience to climate change, as well as financing.

Leaders at this month’s crucial talks in Paris must not forget the world’s poorest, and include a strong focus on helping them to adapt to this challenging new reality, she added.

The writer can be contacted at

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Opinion: The Grant of Patents and the Exorbitant Cost of “Lifesaving” Drugs Tue, 10 Nov 2015 13:35:45 +0000 German Velasquez

Germán Velásquez is Special Adviser for Health and Development, South Centre, Geneva

By Germán Velásquez
GENEVA, Nov 10 2015 (IPS)

The important relationship between the examination of patents carried out by national patent offices and the right of citizens to access to medicines hasn’t always been well-understood. Too often these are viewed as unrelated functions or responsibilities of the state. And the reason is clear: patentability requirements are not defined by patent offices, but frequently by the courts, tribunals, legislation or treaty negotiators.

Germán Velásquez

Germán Velásquez

This is the case when patent policy is implemented in isolation from, rather than guided by, public health policy.

Given the impact of pharmaceutical patents on access to medicines, patent offices should continue to align their work in support of national health and medicine policies, using the freedom permitted by the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) to define patentability requirements.

The TRIPS Agreement requires all World Trade Organization (WTO) member states to incorporate into their legislation universal minimum standards for almost all rights in this domain: copyright, patents and trademarks.

A patent is a title granted by the public authorities conferring a temporary monopoly for the exploitation of an invention upon the person who reveals it, furnishes a sufficiently clear and full description of it, and claims this monopoly.

As with any monopoly, it may lead to high prices that in turn may restrict access. The problem is compounded in the case of medicines, when patents confer a monopoly for a public good and essential products needed to prevent illness or death and improve health.

According to the TRIPS Agreement, the patentability requirements used by national intellectual property offices require a product or manufacturing process to meet the conditions necessary to grant patent protection, namely: novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability (utility).

These three elements, however, are not defined in the TRIPS agreement and WTO Member States are free to define these three criteria in a manner consistent with the public health objectives defined by each country.

It is widely held that patents are granted to protect new medicines to reward the innovation effort. However, the number of patents obtained annually to protect truly new pharmaceutical products is very low and falling. Moreover, of the thousands of patents that are granted for pharmaceutical products each year, a few are for new medicines – e..g. new molecular entities (NMEs).

All of the above led the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), to develop, in 2007, guidelines for the examination of pharmaceutical patents from a public health perspective.

The guidelines were intended to contribute to improving the transparency and efficacy of the patent system for pharmaceutical products, so that countries could pay more attention to patent examination and granting procedures in order to avoid the negative effects of non-inventive developments on access to medicines. The major problems can be identified in the current use of the patent system to protect pharmaceutical innovation: reduction in innovation, high prices of medicines, lack of transparency in research and development costs, and proliferation of patents.

A study carried out by the journal Prescrire analysed the medicines that were introduced to the French market between 2006 and 2011, arriving at the conclusion that the number of molecules that produced significant therapeutic progress reduced drastically: 22 in 2006; 15, 10, 7, 4 in the following years up to 2011, which was a year in which Prescrire declared that only one medicine of significant therapeutic interest was brought to the market. Given that France is one of the largest pharmaceutical markets in the world, the reduction in innovation confirmed France is a good indicator of the global situation.

Oncologists from fifteen countries recently denounced the excessive prices of cancer treatments, which are necessary to save the lives of the patients, and urged that moral implications should prevail; according to them, of the 12 cancer treatments approved in 2012 by the United States Food and Drug Administration, 11 cost more than 100,000 dollars per patient per year.

Since the 1950s, there have been some references to the costs of Research and Development (R&D) for pharmaceutical products. According to some sources the average cost of research for a new pharmaceutical product these figures have increased from 1 million dollars in 1950 to 2.5 billion dollars for the development of a single product.

During the summer of 2014, a number of European countries, including France and Spain, spent many months negotiating with the company Gilead on the price of a new medicine for hepatitis C known as Solvaldi. The price fixed by Gilead was 56,000 Euros per patient for a twelve-week treatment, or 666 Euros per tablet. According the newspaper Le Monde the price of each tablet was 280 times more than the production cost. In France, it is calculated that 250,000 patients should receive this medicine, the cost of which would represent 7 per cent of the annual state medicine budget.

The application of patentability requirements for medicines, given their public health dimension, should be considered with even more care than in the case of regular merchandise or luxury items. The first and most important step is to use the freedom permitted by the TRIPs Agreement to define the patentability requirements: novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability (utility) in a way that keeps sight of public interest in the wide dissemination of knowledge.


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Africa Demands for More Input to Save the Climate Sat, 07 Nov 2015 07:38:38 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu 0 Parliamentary Forum to Set New Goals Against Hunger Sat, 07 Nov 2015 00:39:16 +0000 Milagros Salazar Two peasant farmers with a calf in the Andes highlands community of Alto Huancané in the southeastern department of Cusco. Small farmers like them provide around 80 percent of the food for the inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

Two peasant farmers with a calf in the Andes highlands community of Alto Huancané in the southeastern department of Cusco. Small farmers like them provide around 80 percent of the food for the inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

By Milagros Salazar
LIMA, Nov 7 2015 (IPS)

Undertaking the challenge of pushing for new legislation to guarantee food security in their countries, legislators from Latin America and the Caribbean, together with guest lawmakers from Africa and Asia, will hold the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger Nov. 15-17.

The Forum will provide an opportunity to share experiences, said Aitor Las Romero, in charge of organisation of the forum in the Peruvian office of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which provides support to the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger, created in the region in 2009.

The list of participants in the forum is still open; “other countries of Latin America that have not yet formed their Parliamentary Front, but want to start working towards that goal, are even participating,” the FAO expert told IPS.

The central issues at the sixth Forum will be food security, healthy eating, and other proposals to fight hunger, Peruvian congressman Modesto Julca, who was the first coordinator of the Peru chapter of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger, told IPS.

FAO estimates that 34.3 million people in the region are hungry, according to the latest edition of the Panorama of Food and Nutritional Security in Latin America and the Caribbean, released in May by the FAO regional office in Santiago, Chile.

Peruvian anthropologist Jorge Arboccó said “poverty and hunger are closely intertwined with land use, those who administer it, and the role of states in that relationship.”

In Latin America, 81 percent of food products come from small-scale family agriculture. “They are the farmers who generate the most employment in our countries, employing between 57 and 77 percent of the economically active population,” Arboccó has stated, based on FAO figures.

Although the fight against hunger transcends borders, each national chapter of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger works at its own pace according to the political situation in each parliament.

In the case of Peru, the Front is made up of 13 members “and some participate more than others, but we are working for it to be represented better by all the political forces,” Las Romero told IPS.

The sixth Forum will focus on three main thematic areas, according to the agenda released Friday Nov. 6. The first will be “the plan for food security, nutrition and hunger eradication in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) by 2025.”

The other two are “parliamentary dialogue between the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger of Latin America and the Caribbean with parliamentarians from Asia-Pacific, Africa and other regions,” and “the construction of commitments and policies that strengthen the enforcement of the right to adequate nutrition and food and nutritional sovereignty and security.”

These three thematic areas will overlap during the discussions among the legislators in Lima with three issues considered a priority by the Front: family agriculture and its decisive weight in guaranteeing the right to food and food sovereignty; schools meals as an essential tool in the fight against hunger; and the new challenges presented by overnutrition, a form of malnutrition.

One of the last fronts formed in the region was Peru’s. After a year of work, it got the single-chamber Congress to approve a law on family agriculture. But it has not yet managed to push through two other draft laws, on food security and school meals.

Despite the difficulties, “the fact that parliamentary fronts have been set up throughout Latin America and that today we are the headquarters of that front is representative – it is recognition that we are a country with great diversity,” the coordinator of the Peruvian front, Jaime Delgado, told IPS.

Delgado said they have been working together with civil society on issues like agriculture and food controls under the question of hunger or malnutrition.

In Peru, more than 90 percent of agricultural producers are family farmers and 75 percent of the food consumed is grown on farms less than five hectares in size, said Arboccó, the anthropologist, based on statistics from the 2012 agricultural census.

Although hunger levels have been significantly reduced in Peru according to FAO, there are still 2.3 million hungry people in this country of 30 million.

Poverty affects 33.8 percent of the population in Peru’s Andean highlands, 30.4 percent in the jungle region, and 14.3 percent in the coastal areas, according to 2014 figures from the national statistics institute.

“As an indigenous woman, I am now in Congress, insisting on issues like food sovereignty, family farming, climate change, and healthy eating,” Claudia Coari, a congresswoman for the southeastern department of Puno, told IPS.

“So this is a strength that we are just starting to take into account,” said the lawmaker, who forms part of Peru’s parliamentary front.

Coari said the Forum to be held in Lima is an opportunity to “learn from other countries that have already made progress” and to reinforce what has already been done in Peru. “Now we have to all work together,” she said.

With additional reporting from Aramís Castro in Lima.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Climate Change Threatens Flavour of Argentine Wine Thu, 05 Nov 2015 04:11:53 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet Storage tanks in a winery in the western Argentine province of Mendoza. The distinctive colour of the wine made from malbec grapes, the main kind produced by local winemakers, is starting to change due to the impact of climate change. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Storage tanks in a winery in the western Argentine province of Mendoza. The distinctive colour of the wine made from malbec grapes, the main kind produced by local winemakers, is starting to change due to the impact of climate change. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
MENDOZA, Argentina, Nov 5 2015 (IPS)

Purple garlic that is losing its color? More translucent wine? Climate change will also affect the flavours of our food in the absence of measures to mitigate the impacts of global warming, which are already being felt in crops that are basic to local economies, such as in the Argentine province of Mendoza.

An exposition by the National University of Cuyo (UNCuyo), during the Climate Change Forum held in October in Mendoza, the capital of the province of the same name, organised jointly with the United Nations Development Programme (UNCP), raised the subject.

“Will climate change affect the quality of malbec?” read one sign at the exposition, referring to Argentina’s most characteristic wine.

“The rise in temperature dulls the color of purple garlic,” says a study by horticulture expert Mónica Guiñazú at UNCuyo’s department of agrarian sciences.

Gastronomic considerations aside, a large part of the economy of this Andean province in west-central Argentina depends on crops like malbec grapes. Winemaking alone represents six percent of the province’s GDP.

“In our regional economy, malbec is the most important variety. That’s why we chose it as an object of study,” said Emiliano Malovini, one of the researchers who carried out a study on “the effect of rising temperatures on the physiology and quality of malbec grapes” by the university’s vegetable physiology section and the National Council on Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET).

In Argentina, “nearly 90 percent of the garlic is produced in Mendoza,” said Guiñazú.

It’s not a question of alarming wine tasters or lovers of garlic, which has proven nutritional and therapeutic properties.

But in the case of malbec, Malovini explained to IPS, “we expect the quality of grapes will decline as a result of the climate change that is projected, as well as what is already happening, the very warm years we have had.”

Malovini cited forecasts by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of a temperature rise of two to four degrees Celsius in this part of South America by the end of the century.

Climate Change Forum held in October in the city of Mendoza, the capital of the western Argentine province of that name, where rising temperatures threaten the flavours of the crops that are a pillar of the regional economy. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Climate Change Forum held in October in the city of Mendoza, the capital of the western Argentine province of that name, where rising temperatures threaten the flavours of the crops that are a pillar of the regional economy. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

“What has been observed in the preliminary results is a small decline (in quality), mainly in the colour,” he explained, referring to anthocyanins, phytochemicals that play a crucial role in the colour of red wine.

“This is very important because a high-quality, high-end wine for export requires a certain minimal level of colour in the grapes,” he said.

At the same time, “there is another component, the polyphenol content in wine, which gives it ageing potential, to produce wines laid down for two or three years,” he added.

Other changes seen were an increase in alcohol content and a reduction in acidity.

Malovini is studying techniques to counteract the effects of climate change, such as hormone therapy and agricultural practices like restricting irrigation water in vineyards.

Also worried are garlic growers in Mendoza, who make Argentina the world’s third-largest garlic exporter, after China and Spain, in a country where more than half of all exports are agricultural products.

The researchers found that the growing period was up to 10 days shorter, which would in principle be a positive thing, said Guiñazú, because it would make it possible to produce garlic earlier, to supply other markets.

The bad news was that a five degree Celsius rise in temperature – and a 1.5 degree increase in the soil – would spell significant decoloration in purple garlic.

“In Argentina, it doesn’t matter if the colour pales…but in the European Union they put a lot of importance on that. It is penalised,” he said.

According to industry estimates, garlic production generates 10,000 direct and 7,500 indirect jobs, and is a driver of the economy in the wine-producing, mountainous geographical region of Cuyo in west-central Argentina, especially Mendoza and the neighbouring province of San Juan.

Participants in the Climate Change Forum noted that global warming would reduce the water coming from mountain snow melt, fuelling the process of desertification in Mendoza, besides causing more frequent and severe climate events like hail or drought.

“In the last four years a significant water shortage has been seen,” said Daniel Tomasini, UNDP’s coordinator of environment and sustainable development. “Which could form part of the normal variations that have always been seen, or could be the result of climate change.”

“Rivers in Mendoza are expected to see water flows shrink by 15 to 20 percent in the next few years,” he told IPS.

A UNDP report points out that this would affect crop yields and the quality of life of small-scale rural producers.

“Not only regional food security faces a threat, but also the production of food that is distributed to the rest of the country, and is exported,” he said.

That prospect, said Elena Abraham of the Argentine Dryland Research Institute (IADIZA), would increase the social inequality between arid and productive parts of the country.

In Mendoza, 95 percent of the territory is desert and only 4.8 percent is made up of irrigated oases, where 95 percent of the province’s 1.8 million inhabitants are concentrated. Agriculture consumes 90 percent of the province’s water supply.

Outside of the productive areas people mainly depend on subsistence sheep herding and small-scale agriculture, and have historically been neglected by the state.

“We are going to have a desert in the strictest sense of the word,” Abraham told IPS. “The word desert comes, precisely, from ‘to desert’. And people will leave because they won’t have any other option for development – as they are already doing.”

It is the paradox of a region of the developing South that is preparing to mitigate the effects of climate change for which it has virtually no responsibility, but is a direct victim, since experts predict that Mendoza will be one of the provinces hit hardest by the rise in temperatures.

“Climate change is no longer an abstraction,” José Octavio Bordón, president of the UNCuyo Global Affairs Centre, which works on climate change adaptation, said during the forum. “It is the world that my children and their children will live in.”

Argentina is the third biggest Latin American emitter of greenhouse gases and ranks 22nd in the world, accounting for 0.88 percent of the global total, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

In its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), Argentina pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2030, and said it could increase that goal to 30 percent with international support.

That commitment, considered insufficient by local and international environmentalists, forms part of the INDCs that will be included in the new treaty climate to be approved at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in Paris in December.

Argentina’s position is that “we are not going to reduce emissions if that generates problems for our people, or for national development, but the goals we have set take this into consideration,” the government’s undersecretary of promotion of sustainable development, Juan Pablo Vismara, told IPS.

“We are worried that absolute obligations will be established (in Paris), such as a quota or an emissions ceiling for us. We must consider that we will have to continue to emit gases, to develop and to fight poverty, but also because we produce food for the rest of the world,” said the high-level official of the secretariat of the environment and sustainable development.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Open Data – Still Closed to Latin American Communities Wed, 04 Nov 2015 00:40:37 +0000 Emilio Godoy Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of ECLAC, and other heads of international agencies discuss the need for greater transparency on the part of governments, during the Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Mexico City. Credit: ECLAC

Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of ECLAC, and other heads of international agencies discuss the need for greater transparency on the part of governments, during the Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Mexico City. Credit: ECLAC

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Nov 4 2015 (IPS)

Open data policies in Latin America have not yet enabled communities to exercise their right to access to information, consultation and participation with regard to mining or infrastructure projects that affect their surroundings and way of life.

These rights are contained in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration states that “each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes.

“States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.”

“In Latin America, the lack of open, timely information is a widespread problem,” said Tomás Severino, director of the Mexican NGO Cultura Ecológica.

The expert explained to IPS that “information is technical and specialised. Open data gives us the possibility to generate accessible information, to break it down and to disseminate it.”“The problem is severe; it is not enough to just be transparent. There is a question of timing. When do citizens need that information? After the fact? That’s a mistake. We need to think about how to make information available before decisions are reached, as well as information about the impact of those decisions.” -- Carlos Monge

The link between open data and projects that have an influence on local communities and the environment was one of the issues at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit held Oct. 27-29 in Mexico City.

Taking part in the summit were representatives of governments and civil society and academics from the 65 countries participating in the Partnership, created in 2011 under the aegis of the United Nations. Of that total, 15 countries are from Latin America.

During the summit’s forums and workshops, the delegates of organised civil society called for a strengthening of open data policies and faster progress towards compliance with Principle 10, which cannot happen unless there is movement towards total information openness.

It is common practice in the region for communities to be uninformed about the very existence of mining, oil, energy and other kinds of projects even when carried out in their immediate vicinity, as they are neither previously consulted nor given access to information. Permits and concessions are off their radar.

Countries in the region ratified the declaration on the application of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, signed during the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

According to information shared by participants during the open government summit in Mexico, the question of the environment is limited to instructions to disseminate public consultations in the environmental impact assessment process in the Second Plan of Action on open data 2013-2015.

Currently, Mexico is collecting proposals to design a third, more ambitious, plan.

One of its key focuses is “natural resource governance”, which encompasses climate change, fossil fuels, mining, ecosystems, the right to a healthy environment, and water resources for human consumption.

Representatives of civil society in Latin America discuss the application of open data policies and Principle 10 on access to information, participation and consultation on environmental issues, during one of the panels at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit held Oct. 27-29 in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Representatives of civil society in Latin America discuss the application of open data policies and Principle 10 on access to information, participation and consultation on environmental issues, during one of the panels at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit held Oct. 27-29 in Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

For its part, Peru has been discussing since May a “strategy on openness and reuse of open government data” for the period 2015-2019, which would include environmental questions.

In August, Argentina presented the first part of its “second plan for open government 2015–2017”, which also fails to include major environmental considerations.

“The problem is severe; it is not enough to just be transparent,” said Carlos Monge, the representative in Peru of the U.S.-based non-governmental Natural Resource Governance Institute. “There is a question of timing. When do citizens need that information? After the fact?

“That’s a mistake. We need to think about how to make information available before decisions are reached, as well as information about the impact of those decisions,” he told IPS.

Monge complained that since 2014 countries like Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have reformed their legislation to lower environmental standards, with the aim of drawing investment in the mining and oil industries, due to the drop in global demand for raw materials, one of the pillars of their economies.

The “Global Atlas of Environmental Justice” lists 480 environmental conflicts in 16 Latin American and Caribbean nations, related to activities like mining, fossil fuels, waste and water management, access to land and infrastructure development.

The initiative forms part of the European project “Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade” and is coordinated by the University of Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology and drawn up by experts from 23 universities and environmental justice organisations from 18 countries.

The majority of the disputes, the atlas says, are concentrated in Colombia (101), Brazil (64), Ecuador (50), Peru (38), Argentina (37) and Mexico (36).

When they are in the dark about infrastructure or mining or oil industry projects in their local surroundings, communities suffer what U.S. Professor Rob Nixon calls “slow violence” from environmental problems arising from the exploitation of natural resources, which generates conflicts and further impoverishes local populations.

Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), complained during the summit that local communities are not previously informed about extractive industry projects and said the region is not yet ready to meet open data requirements.

“It’s important for them to have information on concessions, contracts, impacts, revenue, consultations, so they are aware beforehand of the effects,” she told IPS.

The countries of this region agreed in November 2014 on the negotiation of a treaty on Principle 10, in a process facilitated by ECLAC, which is about to open a regional natural resource governance centre.

The second round of negotiations took place Oct. 27-29 in Panama, and the third is to be held in April 2016, in Uruguay.

Severino, who is taking part in Mexico’s open data initiatives and in the Principle 10 regional negotiating process, stressed the need to modify laws to bring them into line with these schemes.

“We need participation and consultation mechanisms,” he said.

Monge cited two processes that he said should be given institutional structures. “Zoning and consultation imply the generation of a lot of information. If they want to carry out a project, the information on money, water and territory should be made transparent,” he said.

The first refers to zoning of residential, industrial or ecological areas, by the municipal authorities, and the second involves asking local populations whether or not they want a project to go ahead.

“Consultation is one of the most effective instruments. Principle 10 addresses it before a project is carried out,” Bárcena said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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