Inter Press Service » Global Governance http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 26 May 2016 04:18:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.11 New and Old Vaccines Still Out of Reach for Manyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-and-old-vaccines-still-out-of-reach-for-many/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-and-old-vaccines-still-out-of-reach-for-many http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-and-old-vaccines-still-out-of-reach-for-many/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 04:18:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145308 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/new-and-old-vaccines-still-out-of-reach-for-many/feed/ 0 Least Developed Countries Still Face Significant Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 20:28:29 +0000 Gyan Chandra Acharya http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145304 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/least-developed-countries-still-face-significant-challenges/feed/ 0 The Caracas Crunchhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-caracas-crunch/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-caracas-crunch http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-caracas-crunch/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 17:37:16 +0000 Mahir Ali http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145303 By Mahir Ali
May 25 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

After Uruguay`s former president José Mujica last week declared that Nicolás Maduro was `mad as a goat`, the latter chose to wear the insult as a badge of honour, announcing at a rally: `Yes, I`m as mad as a goat, it`s true. I`m mad with love for Venezuela, for the Bolivarian revolution, for Chavez and his example.

In other words, he pretty much bore out Mujica`s diagnosis. With most Venezuelans embroiled in a daily struggle to obtain commonplace necessities, amid dire shortages and a rate of inflation purportedly in the vicinity of 500pc (by any measure the highest in the world), whatever remains of the Bolivarian revolution clearly isn`t delivering the goods. And the example of Hugo Chavez, notwithstanding his various flaws, can only be sullied by association with the unsustainable state of affairs in Venezuela today.

Small wonder, then, that even long-standing Chavistas are expressing their disenchantment with Maduro in increasing numbers. As one of them told a foreign correspondent earlier this month, `We voted for Maduro because of a promise we made Chavez, but that promise has expired. Either they solve this problem, or we`re going to have to take to the streets.

A little more than three years af ter Chavez sadly succumbed to cancer, there can be little question that his designated successor`s administration has been an unmitigated disaster. This may not purely be a consequence of poor governance, but the latter has undoubted contributed considerably to the current disarray.

Among oil-producing nations, Venezuela has been worst hit by the precipitous decline in the international price of the commodity.

The failure to diversify is a key culprit here: it was never wise to assume that oil prices would remain high. The energy sector has also been hit by a particularly grievous drought, leading to increasingly common power blackouts and pleas from Maduro that women should relinquish hairdryers for the time being.

A 60-day emergency the president instituted at the start of the year remains in place.

The working week for many government servants has been cut down to two days. There were, meanwhile, huge military exercises last week, amid hints from Maduro that the army would be deployed to maintain law and order.

There has thus far been no indication of military disloyalty despite overtures from the opposition which won a decisive majority in last December`s parliamentary elections amid spiralling popular dismay over the government`s spectacularineffectiveness-butthere can be no guarantee this won`t change, especially if Maduro proves to be stupid enough to contemplate a direct blow against democracy.

He has hinted that parliament can be overridden, amid an opposition effort to curtailMaduro`s six-year term by instituting a recall referendum. Chavez, too, faced such a move, and was able to emerge triumphant from a popular vote. His successor is presumably well aware that he would fail to pull off a similar victory, and his administration apparently is keen to put off a vote until next year, past the halfway mark of Maduro`s presidency, when defeat would merely lead to his replacement by his deputy whereas his loss in a recall referendum this year would automatically lead to a fresh presidential election.

Maduro is doing his ostensible side of polltics no favours by clinging on to power, though. That`s not to suggest that the opposition is a desirable alternative. Many of its components represent forces that resisted Chavez`s policies precisely because they were progressive: they saw nothing advantageous in initiatives to abolish illiteracy or to bring healthcare, with large-scale Cuban assistance, to the favelas where many families had never before encountered a doctor. Theydetested the social programmes that kept Chavez afloat: the beneficiaries of his government`s reforms were sufficiently numerous to guarantee anunprecedented string of electoral successes.

Last December`s result wasn`t so much an anomaly as an indication that something had gone very wrong. And almost everything Maduro has attempted since then merely reinforces that impression. Were he to face up forthwith to a recall referendum and promptly bow out thereafter, the seeds sown during the heyday of Chavismo may well survive to bear fruit in the aftermath of the next inevitable failure of neoliberalism.

Anti-democratic measures, on the other hand, would merely serve to bury whatever remains of the so-called Bolivarian revolution.

The comment by Mujica cited at the outset came in the context of a spat between Maduro and the secretary general of the Organisation of American States, Luis Almagro, Mujica`s formerforeignminister,whomtheVenezuelan leader derided as a traitor and a CIA agent after he warned Maduro against dictatorial tendencies.

The CIA was, no doubt, once keen to depose Chavez and would be delighted to see the back of his successor. And it may well be taking a keen interest in the current goings-on in Caracas, but the fact is that the Maduro administration has effectively dug its own grave.

mahir.dawn@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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OPINION: Central America, Still Caught Up in the Arms Racehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/central-america-still-caught-up-in-the-arms-race/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 14:29:10 +0000 Lina Barrantes Castegnaro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145301

In this column, Lina Barrantes Castegnaro, executive director of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, denounces the arms race in Central America and calls for the implementation of the Costa Rica Consensus, which urges rich countries to increase development aid to countries that cut military spending.

By Lina Barrantes Castegnaro
SAN JOSE, May 25 2016 (IPS)

The recent announcement of the Nicaraguan government’s 80-million-dollar purchase of 50 Russian tanks caught the attention of the press in Latin America and caused alarm in the international community.

The purchase, not an isolated acquisition, is part of an arms race seen in Latin America in recent years.

The rise in military spending stands in contrast to the realities in a poor region like Central America, where the levels of defence spending are as shocking as the poverty rates.

Lina Barrantes Castegnaro

Lina Barrantes Castegnaro

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that in 2015, in Belize 1.1 percent of the annual budget (19.6 million dollars) went toward military expenditure, in El Salvador 0.9 percent (223 million), in Guatemala 0.4 percent (274 million), in Honduras 1.6 percent (324 million) and in Nicaragua 0.6 percent (71.6 million).

(Costa Rica and Panama, which don’t have armies, do not declare military expenditure.)

While these funds are being spent on weapons, the specter of hunger and underdevelopment hangs over the region. In the 2015 United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index , Guatemala ranked 128th, Honduras 131st, El Salvador 116th, Nicaragua 125th and Belize 101st, out of 188 countries.

Costa Rica was in 69th place and Panama 60th.

The worst performers in the region, in the HDI, are Honduras and Guatemala, the two countries with the lowest level of human development in Central America.

That is, the poorer the country, the more the government spends on war toys. But the question is: Who will these toys be used to wage war against?

One possible answer is that the upgrading of weaponry is aimed to give countries the capacity to respond in case of war or invasion. But it’s not clear which war or invasion that might be.

Another hypothesis that could be set forth is that they could be used against the countries’ own citizens deported from the United States, who return after graduating from intensive courses in violence and crime in Latino neighbourhoods.

The UNDP Human Development Report 1994 formally introduced a new concept that had been debated for years in the international arena: if the world spent money on development instead of military expenditure, poverty could be eradicated in just a few years.

From that standpoint, poverty doesn’t just have to do with war, but with military spending itself.

In the period 1987-1994 global military expenditure declined by an estimated 935 billion dollars. Unfortunately, this money did not go towards social spending or development; actually the way these funds were used is not clear.

Spending on armament is deplorable, but it is even more so in the case of poor countries like those of Central America.

For that reason the concept of peace dividends, presented to the world by then Costa Rican president Oscar Arias in 2006 as the “Costa Rica consensus”, is so important.

According to this idea, countries that spend more on development than on death would be given priority when it comes to international financial resources.

Just as the Arms Trade Treaty proposes linking human rights and ethics with military spending, the Costa Rica consensus is aimed at creating mechanisms to condone debt and support, with financial resources, developing countries that spend more on health, education and housing for their people, and less on arms and soldiers.

In other words, the international financial community would reward not only those countries that spend in an orderly fashion, as it does now, but those that spend ethically.

When the Nobel Peace Laureates for Food Security and Peace Alliance was created earlier this month, at U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Arias proposed taking up the Costa Rica consensus again as an alternative for fighting hunger in the world, to support countries that use their budget funds for the lives of their citizens rather than their deaths.

We hope the day this will happen is not too far off.

Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Humanitarian Summit, The Big Fiascohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 18:44:42 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145286 UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: United Nations

UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: United Nations

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 24 2016 (IPS)

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) held in Istanbul on May 23-24, managed to send a strong wake-up call to the world about the unprecedented human suffering now in course, but failed to achieve the objective of attracting the massive funds needed to alleviate the humanitarian drama, as none of the leaders of the Group 7 of the richest courtiers nor of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council attended, with the exception of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At the summit’s closing session, while recalling that the WHS achieved its main objective of addressing the conscious of the world towards the growing human drama, both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed strong “disappointment” on the absence of leaders of the most powerful countries.

Though they reiterated their appeal for solidarity to rescue the most vulnerable people on Earth–130 million victims of conflicts and natural disasters and growing, none of them could hold out or offer any hope soon.

“Their absence (G-7 and Security Council leaders) is not an excuse for inaction,” Ban said. The resources required to rescue the lives of tens of millions of human beings represent only 1 per cent of the total world military expenditure, he added.

Ban showed no signs of optimism regarding an end soon of conflicts in Syrian, Yemen, South Sudan, among others, while recalling that every year the United Nations organised a pledging conference and “countries are tired of that.” He also stressed that currently 80 per cent of the UN humanitarian resources are spent on made-made crises.

For his part, Erdogan reiterated veiled threats to the European Union (EU), saying that if this bloc does not fulfil its agreements with Ankara, the “law of returnees” (refugees deported from EU countries to Turkey) may not be passed at the Turkish Parliament.

The EU promised Turkey 3.000 billions in 2017, to add to an equal sum promised last year, in its refugees deportation deal with Ankara, sealed in March.

The EU also is to authorise the entry to its member countries without visa. Nevertheless, thus authorisation will not be implemented soon as promised, as the EU now demands that Turkey fulfils a long list of requirements.

A Foretold Political Failure
During the two-day summit, leaders of 173 countries, including 55 heads of state or government, promised to do more for the 130 million civilians who are victims of conflicts and natural disasters.
Nevertheless, the community of humanitarian organisations have shown scepticism about½ such announcements that would end up in effective commitments and if the expected funds will be employed in the right way.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of Norwegian Refugee Council. Credit: United Nations

Jan Egeland, secretary general of Norwegian Refugee Council. Credit: United Nations

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a leading humanitarian organisation with over 5000 humanitarian workers across more than 25 countries, was one of the strongest voices in this regard.

The humanitarian sector is failing to protect civilians from violence, Egeland said, while commenting how humanitarian aid has to be more efficient and cost-effective not to fail those most in need.

According to Egeland, humanitarian assistance does not reach thousands of victims who are among the most vulnerable of all. “In Fallujah, Iraq, there are now over 50,000 civilians who are besieged, prey to the Islamic State (IS), Engeland cited as an example.

“Nobody is helping them, nobody is reaching them, he warned. The Iraqi government is not helping them, the humanitarian organisations cannot reach them.”

There are thousands of victims like them who are in dire need but are not reached. In Yemen, Engeland said, there are 20 million civilians among the most vulnerable, while stressing that coalitions supported by Western countries are attacking civilians.

Egeland expressed hope that leaders can ask themselves if they can at least stop giving arms, giving money to those armed groups that are systematically violating the humanitarian law, and bombing hospitals and schools, abusing women and children.

Nigerian refugee children at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon. Photo: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

Nigerian refugee children at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon. Photo: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

Fighting parties, be they governmental or militias or opposition or rebels, still get weapons that they use to blow up hospitals and kill civilians, he warned. “Let’s blacklist that armed group and that army and that government.”

“We lack governments saying they will also uphold humanitarian law and the UN refugee convention, keeping borders open and keeping the right of asylum sacrosanct,” Egeland added.

The NSC Secretary General emphasised that “all borders should be open… in Europe, in the Gulf states… in the United States. “As Europeans, when we initiated the refugee convention we really felt that asylum was important when we were the asylum seekers. Why don’t we think it’s equally important now, when we are those to whom people come for asylum?”

From 2011 to 2013, he was the Europe Director of Human Rights Watch, prior to joining NRC where he took up his post as Secretary General in August 2013. In 2006, Time magazine named Jan Egeland one of the 100 “people who shape our world.”

“More resources are sorely needed… but more resources will not solve the problem,” said for his part Francesco Rocca, Vice-President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Speaking on behalf of 190 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Rocca demanded more support to strengthening national and local actors, who are key to the solution.

“Strengthening local and national capacity would have an impact,” he said “Yet, scant resources have been channelled though those key local actors or invested in their long-term capacities.”

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, warned, “the less we help in conflict zones, the more people will move,” and that “sticking people in camps is not the solution.”

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Debate Over Bangladeshi Militants’ External Connectionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/debate-over-bangladeshi-militants-external-connections/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=debate-over-bangladeshi-militants-external-connections http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/debate-over-bangladeshi-militants-external-connections/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 17:59:44 +0000 Ali Riaz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145282 By Ali Riaz
May 24 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

As targeted killings of individuals with unorthodox views and members of minority communities continue unabated in Bangladesh, so does the debate on whether international terrorists have made inroads to the country. The question has been whether the claims of the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) of their presence in Bangladesh should be taken at face value. In the past months, both these organisations have been claiming responsibility for a series of killings. Until recently, these claims have not been accompanied by justifications, but that pattern seems to be changing. The AQIS affiliate Ansar-al Islam, issued a long statement after the murder of Xulhazs Mannan, an LGBT activist and USAID staff member. The government, on the other hand, has continued to deny the existence of these organisations and insists that these are the acts of ‘homegrown’ militants. In April, the English magazine of the IS, Dabiq, published an interview with the so-called Amir of the Bangladeshi chapter of the IS to bolster its presence. Ansar-al Islam claims to represent the AQIS in Bangladesh. This is a mutated version of the organisation Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which came into being in 2007.

Both the denial of any external connections of Bangladeshis, and insistence that the IS/AQIS has recently made inroads in the country, seem to disregard the historical background of militancy in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi militants had regional and extra-regional connections since their inception in the mid-1990s. It is worth recalling that the genesis of Islamist militants can be traced back to the Afghan War (1979-1989) in the late 1980s. The fountainhead of the militant groups in Bangladesh, Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami Bangladesh (HuJIB), emerged in public on April 30, 1992 through a press conference at the National Press Club in Dhaka. A group of so-called volunteers, who participated in the Afghan War in the previous years, arranged a press conference in the wake of the fall of Kabul to the Afghan Mujahedeen. Although the rudimentary form of the HuJI began in Pakistan in 1980, it was formally established in 1988. It expanded in the following four years, as the HuJI leadership wanted to reach out to other parts of South Asia. This led to the establishment of the HuJI in Bangladesh. The initial goal was to use Bangladesh as the launching pad for destabilising neighbouring Myanmar.

The operation of the HuJIB expanded further after it established relationships with the local militant organisation Jamaat-ul-Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB). The JMB was founded in 1998 but was named as such three years later. The founding of the JMB was a culmination of a series of meetings between Sayekh Abdur Rahman and a number of Islamist leaders and Ulema in 1996. These meetings brought Mufti Hannan and Abdur Rahman together. On January 19, 1996, law enforcement agencies busted a training camp in a remote part of Cox’s Bazar and arrested 41 armed militants. The camp was originally thought to be a training camp of Rohingya rebels based in Bangladesh. When these militants were being tried at a local court in Cox’s Bazar, Abdur Rahman was sent as the HuJIB representative to monitor and help the accused. This turned out to be the beginning of a long relationship between JMB and the HuJI-B.

The external connections of the potential militants of Bangladesh began in earnest in 1997-98. The connection established between Indian citizen Syed Abdul Karim Tunda and Abdur Rahman is a watershed moment in the history of militancy in Bangladesh. Tunda, who has been in Indian custody since 2013 on a number of terrorism charges, is alleged to be an operative of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayeba (LeT). Indian intelligence sources insist that Tunda entered Bangladesh in 1994 and operated from there for quite some time. In any case, he was the bridge between Abdur Rahman of the JMB and the LeT and Hafiz Saeed. Indian intelligence agencies had claimed that Thadiyantavide Nazir of the Lashkar-e-Tayeba, allegedly connected to the 2008 bomb blasts in Bangalore, had travelled to Bangladesh.

The presence of regional militants in Bangladesh became publicly known in 2008 and 2009. Abdur Rauf Merchant and Jahed Sheikh, two Indian militants, were arrested in Bangladesh. Between May and September 2009, six members of the so-called Aref Reza Commando Forces (ARCF), including Mufti Obaidullah were arrested. Some of these militants admitted that they were living in Bangladesh for some time; for example, Obaidullah claimed to be in Bangladesh since 1995 and another member of the group Habibullah claimed to be residing since 1993.

The other source for the connections between the Bangladeshi militants and outside groups was the presence of the Rohingya rebel groups in Chittagong Hill Tracts. HUJI’s primary goal was to establish contact with these rebel groups. Interestingly, Rohingya rebel groups, Bangladeshi militants and northeast Indian rebel groups, such as the ULFA, had reportedly worked together to procure weapons from black markets in Southeast Asia and used Cox’s Bazar’s remote shoreline as the drop-off point before being distributed. This shows that cooperation among militant groups across the border does not have to be based on ideological affinity; instead other factors can and do bring these groups together.

In the age of globalisation, exportation of terrorism does not require physical presence of operatives of international terrorist groups in a country. There are many ways of indoctrination and recruitment. Ideas of extremism to identification of targets can well be coordinated from distant lands. A number of attacks in various parts of the world have already demonstrated that the internet as a vehicle is quite effective. The phenomenon called ‘lone wolf’ is pertinent here. As such, the characterisation of ongoing militancy as a combination of global and local – a ‘glocal’ phenomenon, as Habibul Haque Khondoker writes in a local English daily – is apt.

There is no denying that there are Bangladeshi citizens willing to join the ‘Global Jihad’ and bring it home. A survey of newspaper reports published between July 2014 and June 2015, shows that law enforcing agencies arrested 112 alleged ‘militants’. Of these, 22 individuals were identified as either connected to or aspiring to be connected to ISIS, 12 reportedly tried to travel to Syria. Two rounds of arrests of Bangladeshis in Singapore, in December last year and in March this year, also show that expatriates can become vehicles for radicalisation. There have been instances of British-Bangladeshis joining the Syrian war from the United Kingdom. Indian investigators have claimed that Bangladeshi militants, particularly the JMB, have been known to operate from India, particularly in West Bengal.

As such Bangladeshi militants’ external connections should not be viewed as an entirely new phenomenon. This is not to underestimate the significance of connections with the IS or AQIS, instead to underscore that given the history such links would require few efforts. If individual acquaintances of the past metamorphose into an organisational tie, the situation will take a turn for the worse, perhaps slide down to an unmanageable level. The IS/AQIS is capable of providing additional resources and a global stage for these menacing groups. It is a matter of time and opportunity before such a tie can flourish. Therefore, it is imperative to acknowledge that denial cannot be a strategy, and that it is necessary to act in earnest.

The writer is professor and chair of the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University, USA. He is the co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Bangladesh (2016).

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Middle-Class Ethoshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/middle-class-ethos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-class-ethos http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/middle-class-ethos/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 17:47:45 +0000 Niaz Murtaza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145279 By Niaz Murtaza
May 24 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The middle class is viewed as a positive force for progress given its higher education, mobility and wealth. But this view is based on its role in developed states in fostering egalitarian progress, democracy and the rule of law by initiating social movements.

In lower-income states like Pakistan, the middle classes usually eschew this role. They become passive agents under unfair systems or even their partial supporters. Why is this so? As a social scientist, I believe in structural explanations. Structural approaches view widespread negative traits not as coincidentally rampant individual moral failings but the result of broader structural factors which shape societal behaviour potently.

Western middle classes played positive roles within rapidly growing and transforming post-Second World War economies. Such change reduced the conflict between middle-class personal progress and broader egalitarian national progress. Thus, they easily adopted liberal outlooks and supported egalitarian struggles. In contrast, middle classes in places like Pakistan face anemic economies. As such, their personal progress can often only be achieved under unfair national systems which marginalise the masses.

Sections of the middle classes in such situations often become conservative. In fact, as Western economies have stagnated, their middle classes too have done so.

The Pakistani middle class, though small proportionately, totals tens of millions of people because of our large size. This and the lack of concrete data make sweeping generalisations hazardous. But though my daily interactions do not yield a random sample, I come across some conservative traits so frequently that I feel they afflict large sections of middle-class people because of the structural factors that have been mentioned.

The first trait is skewed knowledge of economic and political development issues among many. This has two sides. Firstly, many largely define development in narrow physical terms such as big malls, sleek motorways etc. or narrow economic measures like GDP growth rather than egalitarian, propoor and sustainable development.

Secondly, they view the drivers of development simplistically in terms of single causes like the presence of an honest leader, especially a military one. There is often insufficient appreciation of the multiple, complex causes of development encompassing historical and current, national and global, social, economic and political factors.

Obviously, people from other fields cannot have such deep knowledge. However, even when such information is presented in simple terms, many show little interest in absorbing it, subconsciously knowing it runs counter to their class economic interests. The second issue related to their analytical skills. Social science analysis on complex phenomena like national development involves painstakingly identifying multiple causes and their interrelationships, collecting data about how they have co-evolved in the past in similar contexts and then making tentative predictions and recommendations for effecting gradual future change.

But a large section of the middle class seemingly believes that huge changes can happen instantaneously and the future has little to do with the past. Within such a historical views, there is a firm belief that immediate glory is waiting just around the corner for Pakistan if we could do some simple tasks like electoral reforms or punishing Panama leaks villains under a non-elected regime.

The third trait is illiberal values. Many educated people claim Pakistan`s problems can only be solved by the danda and killing thou-sands of people.

There is widespread support for crude tools like the death penalty, public hangings and military courts. Anyone challenging them on human rights basis is dismissed as impractical.

The final issue isattitudes that can be seen as arrogant, passive and elitist. Despite incomplete knowledge on development and governance issues, there are many among the middle classes that are loath to admit that they could be wrong, and resent being asked for logic and proof. This reveals a faulty view that every-day analysis need not be based on evidence but unsupported opinions.

Even though the corruption scandals of upper-class politicians are a source of great outrage for them, this will still not drive the majority to join social movements. They expect generals and judges will deliver them a clean system in the comfort of their homes.

Finally, they look down upon the masses as lazy, untrustworthy and part of the problem.

Fortunately, some change is evident and one at least sees some desire among a growing number of middle-class people to support progressive causes benefiting the masses.

But even so, those interested in progressive change can only expect at best partial support from the middle class immediately.

Turning them into steadfast allies will require a huge awareness-raising exercise to neutralise the impact of structural causes making them conservative.

The writer heads INSPIRING Pakistan, an economic and political change initiative. murtazaniaz@yahoo.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Economic Interests Harming Global Health: WHO Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/economic-interests-harming-global-health-who-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-interests-harming-global-health-who-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/economic-interests-harming-global-health-who-chief/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 03:50:53 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145270 Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), during the WHO Executive Board's special session on the Ebola emergency. Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin.

Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), during the WHO Executive Board's special session on the Ebola emergency. Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, May 24 2016 (IPS)

Putting economic interests over public health is leading the world towards three slow-motion health disasters, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization’s warned the world’s health ministers on Monday.

Changes in the world’s climate, the failure of more and more antibiotic drugs and the increase in so-called lifestyle diseases caused by poor diet and exercise, are all growing health disasters related to the prioritisation of the economy over public health.

“These are not natural disasters. They are man-made disasters created by policies that place economic interests above concerns about the well-being of human lives and the planet that sustains them,” she said.

Chan’s warnings were part of her speech at the opening of the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva. Some 3500 delegates from the WHO’s 194 member states will participate in meetings at the assembly about some of the world’s most pressing health issues from May 23 to 27.

During her speech Chan also acknowledged the world’s many recent public health successes, however overall she argued that advances in health services and systems could not keep up with the global changes which mean health threats are increasingly traversing borders.

“We are on the verge of a post-antibiotic era in which common infectious diseases will once again kill." -- Margaret Chan, WHO.

“The burning of fossil fuels powers economies,” said Chan, contributing to changes in climate, which have led to the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, as well as to air pollution which the WHO says kills millions of people every year.

“Highly processed foods that are cheap, convenient, and tasty gain a bigger market share than fresh fruits and vegetables,” she added, noting that the resulting non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease are now the “leading killers worldwide.”

However antibiotic resistance may be the problem that has the global health community most concerned, threatening to throw the world back into the dark ages of health care said Chan.

The over-prescription and incorrect use of antibiotics has led to the once wonder drug failing with increasing frequency.

Chan noted that infectious diseases are also becoming more volatile, and that the global health system was not as prepared as it should be for a true global health emergency.

She pointed to examples of recent surges in infectious diseases such as Ebola, Zika, Dengue, Yellow Fever and Chikungunya.

She described the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue as “the price being paid for a massive policy failure that dropped the ball on mosquito control in the 1970s.”

She noted the connection between Zika virus and microcephaly had taken the medical community by surprise.

“The possibility that a mosquito bite during pregnancy could be linked to severe brain abnormalities in newborns alarmed the public and astonished scientists.”

“Confirmation of a causal link between infection and microcephaly has transformed the profile of Zika from a mild disease to a devastating diagnosis for pregnant women and a significant threat to global health.”

However she said that the re-emergence of Zika have decades of slumber in part reflected “changes in the way humanity inhabits the planet (that) have given the volatile microbial world multiple new opportunities to exploit.”

Chan reserved some of her harshest criticisms for the world’s failure to prevent the current re-emergence of yellow fever in Africa, an outbreak the WHO is currently monitoring closely.

She described the conditions in urban environments fueling the current outbreak as a powder-keg.

“For more than a decade, WHO has been warning that changes in demography and land use patterns in Africa have created ideal conditions for explosive outbreaks of urban yellow fever,” she said.

Chan noted that beyond the failure to control mosquitos, the re-emergence of yellow fever also reflected a failure to adequately vaccinate against the disease.

“The lesson from yellow fever is especially brutal. The world failed to use an excellent preventive tool to its full strategic advantage,” she said, noting that there has been a safe low-cost yellow fever vaccine available since 1937.

Chan’s speech is not the only recent stand taken by the medical community showing increasing frustration with the current state of global politics.

Chan also alluded to the medical community’s increasing frustration with the deteriorating conditions of warfare which have seen hospitals bombed, in violation of humanitarian law.

“It also falls to the health sector to show some principled ethical backbone in a world that, for all practical appearances, has lost its moral compass,” she said.

However the successes that Chan highlighted, proving the potential of the world’s health system to address global challenges. also showed that another reality is possible.

“We can celebrate the 19,000 fewer children dying every day, the 44 percent drop in maternal mortality, and the 85 percent of tuberculosis cases that are successfully cured,” said Chan.

She also highlighted the 60 percent decline in malaria mortality in Africa, showing that the fight against mosquito-borne diseases is having success, in at least one area.

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Prickly Pears Drive Local Development in Northern Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/prickly-pears-drive-local-development-in-northern-argentina/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:51:45 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145260 Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Marta Maldonado, secretary of the “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” association, standing next to a prickly pear, a cactus that is abundant in this municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Making use of the fruit and the leaves of the plant has changed the lives of a group of local families. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
CORZUELA, Argentina , May 23 2016 (IPS)

Family farmers in the northern Argentine province of Chaco are gaining a new appreciation of the common prickly pear cactus, which is now driving a new kind of local development.

Hundreds of jars of homemade jam are stacked in the civil society association “Siempre Unidos Minifundios de Corzuela” (smallholders of Corzuela united), ready to be sold.

Until recently, the small farmers taking part in this new local development initiative did not know that the prickly pear, also known as cactus pear, tuna or nopal, originated in Mexico, or that its scientific name was Opuntia ficus-indica.

But now this cactus that has always just been a normal part of their semi-arid landscape is bringing local subsistence farmers a new source of income.

“The women who took the course are now making a living from this,” Marta Maldonado, the secretary of the association, which was formally registered in 2011, told IPS. “They also have their vegetable gardens, chickens, pigs and goats.”

“The prickly pear is the most common plant around here. In the project we set up 20 prickly pear plantations,” she said.

Local farmers work one to four hectares in this settlement in the rural municipality of Corzuela in west-central Chaco, whose 10,000 inhabitants are spread around small settlements and villages.

The initiative, which has benefited 20 families, made up of 39 women, 35 men and four children, has been implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the U.N. Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Small Grants Programme (SGP).

The SGP, which is active in 125 countries, is based on the sustainable development concept of “thinking globally, acting locally”, and seeks to demonstrate that small-scale community initiatives can have a positive impact on global environmental problems.

The aim of these small grants, which in the case of the local association here amounted to 20,000 dollars, is to bolster food sovereignty while at the same time strengthening biodiversity.

The SGP has carried out 13 projects so far in Chaco, the poorest province in this South American country of 43 million people.

In the region where Corzuela is located, “there are periods of severe drought and fruit orchards require a lot of water. The prickly pear is a cactus that does not need water,” said Gabriela Faggi with the National Agricultural Technology Institute (INTA).

The large-scale deforestation and clear-cutting of land began in 1990, when soy began to expand in this area, and many local crops were driven out.

“The prickly pear, which is actually originally from Mexico but was naturalised here throughout northern Argentina centuries ago, had started to disappear. So this project is also important in terms of rescuing this local fruit,” said Faggi.

“Sabores de Corzuela” (Flavours of Corzuela) reads the label on the jars of prickly pear fruit jam produced by an association of local families in this rural municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: UNDP Argentina

“Sabores de Corzuela” (Flavours of Corzuela) reads the label on the jars of prickly pear fruit jam produced by an association of local families in this rural municipality in the northern Argentine province of Chaco. Credit: UNDP Argentina

This area depends on agriculture – cotton, soy, sunflowers, sorghum and maize – and timber, as well as livestock – cattle, hogs, and poultry.

However, it is now impossible for local smallholders to grow crops like cotton.

“In the past, a lot of cotton was grown, but not anymore,” the association’s treasurer, Mirtha Mores, told IPS. “It’s not planted now because of an outbreak of boll weevils (Anthonomus grandis), an insect that stunts growth of the plant, and we can’t afford to fight it, poor people like us who have just a little piece of land to farm.”

Before launching the project, the local branch of INTA trained the small farmers in agroecological techniques for growing cotton, and helped them put up fences to protect their crops from the animals.

They also taught them how to build and use a machine known as a “desjanadora” to remove the spines, or “janas”, from the prickly pear fruits, to make them easier to handle.

“It’s going well for us. Last year we even sold 1,500 jars of prickly pear fruit jam to the Education Ministry,” for use in school lunchrooms, Maldonado said proudly.

The association, whose work is mainly done by women, also sells its products at local and provincial markets. And although prickly pear fruit is their star product, when it is not in season, they also make jam and other preserves using papaya or pumpkin.

“It has improved our incomes and now we have the possibility to sell our merchandise and to be able to buy the things that are really needed to help our kids who are studying,” Mores said.

The project, which began in 2013, also trained them to use the leaves as a supplementary feed for livestock, especially in the winter when there is less fodder and many animals actually die of hunger.

“We make use of everything. We use the leaves to feed the animals – cows, horses, goats, pigs. The fruit is used to make jam, removing the seeds,” said Mores.

The nutrition and health of the families have improved because of the properties of the fruit and of the plant, said Maldonado and Mores. And now they need less fodder for their animals, fewer of which die in the winter due to a lack of forage.

At the same time, the families belonging to the association were also trained to make sustainable use of firewood from native trees, and learned to make special stoves that enable them to cook and heat their modest homes.

In addition, because women assumed an active, leading role in the activities of the association, the project got them out of their homes and away from their routine grind of household tasks and gave them new protagonism in the community.

“Living in the countryside, women used to be more isolated, they didn’t get out, but now they have a place to come here. They get together from Monday through Friday, chat and are more involved in decision-making. In the association they can express their opinions,” said Maldonado.

“When women get together, what don’t we talk about?” Mores joked.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Year of Judicial Accountabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/year-of-judicial-accountability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=year-of-judicial-accountability http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/year-of-judicial-accountability/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:40:01 +0000 Reema Omer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145264 By Reema Omer
May 23 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali has declared the year 2015-2016 as the year of judicial accountability. Judicial independence has long been a flashpoint in Pakistan, as illustrated by the movement nearly a decade ago to reinstate the unlawfully deposed former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

However, accountability has largely been absent from this discourse. Without accountability, independencehasthe potentialtoactasashield behind which judges have the opportunity to conceal possible unethical behaviour. Indeed, judicial accountability is part and parcel of judicial independence, since a judge whose conduct and decisions are influenced by extra-legal elements cannot be independent. Under international standards, including UN basic principles on the independence of the judiciary, therefore, the independence and accountability of the judiciary are inextricably linked.

Chief Justice Jamali`s focus on accountability within the judiciary is welcome, as corruption in the judiciary is a long-standing and chronic issue in Pakistan. Transparency International`s corruption perception surveys, for example, frequently place the judiciary as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country (along with the police).

Chief Justice Jamali`s focus on accountability in all tiers of the judiciary, including the high courts and the Supreme Court, is an important aspect of the accountability drive.

In the past, where judges have acknowledged corruption in the judicial institution, the focus has been limited only to judges in the subordinate judiciary. The National Judicial Policy adopted by the SC in 2009, for example, recommended that strict action be taken against district and sessions judges who carry a `persistent reputation of being corrupt`. However, while judges of the superior courts were encouraged to decide cases expeditiously, there was no recognition of corruption or other misuse of authority by judges of the supreme and high courts in the policy.

The chief justice`s vision on accountability rests on `activating` the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), which under Article 209 of the Constitution is tasked with carrying out inquiries into the capacity and conduct of SC and high court judges.The SJC comprises the chief justice of Pakistan, the two most senior judges of the SC, and the two most senior chief justices of the high courts.

Disciplinary proceedings are initiated before the Council if there is information from `any source`, or it is the opinion of the president of Pakistan, that a judge from the superior judiciary is either incapable of performing his or her duties due to mental or physical incapacity, or that he or she may have engaged in misconduct. A finding of guilt by the SJC is the only method by which a judge of the SC or of a high court can be removed.

The chief justice has acknowledged that the SJC has been rendered ineffective because of prolonged delays in deciding complaints: according to the chief justice, 90pc of cases before the SJC have become moot, as the accused judges retired while their cases were still pending.

In addition, especially in the recent past, military governments and judges of the SC have also undermined the authority and the constitutional role of the SJC.

The most glaring (and damaging) recent example occurred after Gen Musharraf`s proclamation of emergency in 2007, when the unlawful sacking of then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other judges of the SC and high courts and was justified in the name of `judicial accountability`. These judges were dismissed without the involvement of the SJC.

Ironically, under the leadership of chief justice Chaudhry, the process of circumventing the SJC continued. Following restoration in 2009, the SC gave at least 72 judges who were accused of taking oath under Musharraf`s provisional constitution the option of resigning or facing contempt of court charges. Their plea to appear before the SJC for hearing was dismissed by the SC.

In this context, therefore, Chief Justice Jamali`s focus on rejuvenating the SJC to perform its constitutional role is a welcome move.

The process of judicial accountability, however, will require much more: First, measures must be taken to ensure that disciplinary proceedings are not used as a means of intimidation, harassment, or retaliation againstjudges for exercising their judicial functions independently and diligently. At the minimum, this would mean that disciplinary proceedings against judgesare strictly accordingtothe provisions ofthe Constitution and international standards, and must meet all fair trial and due process guarantees.

Second, transparency should be a key aspect of disciplinary proceedings against judges. The number of cases referred to the SJC; the legal and evidentiary bases for the complaints; the time taken for adjudication; and the outcomes of the proceedings must be made public both to maintain the public`s confidence in the administration of justice and also to protect the interests of the parties involved.

Third, what amounts to judicial misconduct must be clearly defined and must be appropriate under the rule of law. While the current understanding of misconduct seems limited to financial corruption, nepotism and misuse of authority, perhaps what is also needed is the recognition of the role of judges in undermining human rights protections or facilitating violations or impunity for such violations.

One of the ways this can be done is to revise the judicial code of conduct to bring it in line with international standards, including reflecting the duty of judges to guarantee and protect human rights.

And finally, judicial immunity under Article 77 of the Penal Code and other provisions of the law which protect judges from liability resulting from their `good faith` judicial actions, should never insulate judges from prosecution for serious crimes and crimes under international law.

If carried out fairly, expeditiously and transparently, the judicial accountability drive initiated by the chief justice can be a step towards restoring public confidence and trust in the judiciary, which has long suffered because of neglect of the problems plaguing the institution. It will also bring Pakistan closer to an independent judiciary, in a truer sense of the term.•

The writer is a legal adviser for the International Commission of Jurists. reema.omer@icj.org Twitter: reema omer

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Is it in Europe’s Interest to Push Russia into China’s Arms?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:59:31 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145256 Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 23 2016 (IPS)

No mention in the media of the dangerous increase in the tension between Europe and Russia and yet Nato has just made operational in Romania a missile system, the ABM, which the United States has declared will protect it from “rogue” states, like Iran.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Russia, especially after the agreement reached with Iran on the control of its atomic industry, is convinced that the system is intended against its military force. The US has announced it will build another second site in Poland in 2018.The intention is to move from “reassurance” of eastern Nato allies to “deterrence” of the Kremlin. That means more troops and equipment, longer deployments, bigger exercises, and a “persistent” presence of Nato and American troops in countries like Poland and the Baltics.

In June, as many as 12 000 American troops will join servicemen from a number of European allies in Poland for an exercise called Anakonda, which will be the largest military exercise carried out in Europe for years. Altogether, 25 000 troops from 24 Nato and partner countries will be involved. US Deputy Secretary of Defence, Robert Work, has announced that 4 000 Nato troops, involving two US battalions, will be moved to the Russian border, permanently:” The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right against the border, with a lot of troops, in extraordinarily provocative behaviour”, he said. Germany is to provide one battalion.

For a long time, the official line of US military is to see in Russia a regime intent on aggression, after the annexation of Crimea, and the country’s intervention in Ukraine. When General Ray Odierno retired as Chairman of Staff, he declared,“Russia is the greatest threat to the United States. His predecessor, General Joseph Dunford, was more specific. He thought Rusia was a bigger threat than ISIS. Odierno said that he saw threats to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

It would be useful to remember that Putin started his tenure by continuing Boris Yeltsin’s line of total cooperation with the United States. As George W. Bush famously said: I have seen inside Vladimir Putin’s eyes, and finally we have a strong ally for US interests”. That was before Bush proceeded to take a number of actions without consultation, which convinced the Russian that he was only considered a marginal player.

While it is obvious that Putin suffers from paranoia, and uses confrontation to obtain popular support, it would be wise to see matters also from the Russian viewpoint. To start with, it has been established beyond doubt that Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to not intervene militarily in the European countries that were under USSR dominance, provided NATO kept the existing borders.

The fact that this engagement was not kept has always been present in the Russian psyche. When Reagan met Gorbachev in Reykavik in 1986, Putin was in his mid-30s. the USSR was a superpower, present in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America, with important allies in Asia.

When Putin become 40, his country had been splintered into 15 nations. And when he come to power, in 1999, the USSR had lost one-third of his territory, and half of its population. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan, ihe Baltic States, Ukraine, Bielorussia, Moldova and Armenia were gone. At the same time, Nato continued its endless trend of encirclement with Russia. Putin saw the Ukrainian pro-Russian government overthrown in a US-backed coup. And the encirclement continues, asking even militarily insignificant countries, like Montenegro (some 3 000 soldiers in total), to join Nato.

“Russia has not accepted the hand of partnership “says Nato Commander, General Philip Bredlove, “ but has chosen a path of belligerence”. Well, it is significant that an impressive 80% of the Russian population shares Putin’s paranoia, and also does not see the “hand of partnership”. When Putin annexed Crimea and supported separatists in Ukraine, his popularity increased at home dramatically., especially because Crimea had always been part of Russia, until Nikita Khrushchev donated it to Ukraine, as a symbolic move in 1954. The 90% of Crimeans were Russian speakers, like those living in the Eastern part of Ukraine, a country that was created by joining Western Ukraine, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with Eastern Ukraine, which was part of the Russian empire. Putin very adroitly said that his task was to protect “Russian citizens, wherever they live”, and this struck a chord with the Russian people.

It should be made clear that there are no excuses in legal terms for Putin’s action. But in real life it is always useful to consider events by taking into account both sides of any story. The fact is that Putin reached the conclusion that Russia was considered, in Barack Obama’s words, “just a regional power”, and that to be admitted into the G7 and other Western fora was not giving him the chance to have Russia and himself considered an important player, and thus he decided to take a confrontational path in order to be taken seriously. He put a knife in the side of the West, by dividing again the two halves of Ukraine, obliging the West to sink hundreds of billions of dollars to sustain a deeply corrupt government in Kiev, and its ability to turn the knife when he wanted.

This move led to the establishment of sanctions by the West in 2014, with the declared goal of having Putin capitulate and abandon his intervention in Ukraine. However, Putin again interceded outside its borders, by intervening in Syria, where Russia has a naval base. The arrival of Russia has completely changed the situation in Syria, and now everybody agrees that there cannot be any military solution without Russia’s agreement.

Of course, one key principle behind US foreign policy is that nobody should challenge its power. Yet it is a principle, which is becoming increasingly unrealistic, as the emergence of China is showing. However, in the American psyche, the USSR is gone, and any attempt to recreate it, under any guise, is just a provocation. And while China has not had a direct clash yet with the US, Crimea and Ukraine were indeed a slap on the hand…

Now, seen from outside the western world, as many analysts have pointed out from Latin America and Asia, this situation does not make much sense. Let us take the sanctions. They have cost over $100 billion in lost exports to Russia. But this figure hides a difference: US exports to Russia dropped by 3.5%, while for Europe by as much as 13%, especially from the fragile European agricultural sector (which fell by 43%). Imports from Russia into Europe fell by 13.5%. According to the European Commission, the European Union’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is going to drop by 0.3% in 2014 and 0.4% in 2015 due to the sanctions. That is quite a considerable drawback, considering that Europe’s expected growth rate is expected to be just 1.5% on average, with countries, like Italy, barely making it over 1%.

Meanwhile a new trend is emerging that is largely being ignored by the media. Since 2104, Russia has been deepening its partnership with China, with which it had traditionally had difficult relations. The Chinese economic slowdown, due to its change of economic model based on exports to this latest shift towards internal market expansion, does not make this the best moment for economic cooperation. Yet, Russia and China have just signed a $25 billion deal, to boost Chinese lending to Russian firms, and a host of other accords. Russia has agreed a $400 billion deal, to supply China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually, from 2018 over the coming 30 years.

Russia’s Sberbank has received a $966 million credit line from the China Development Bank. China is launching a $2 billion-investment fund, targetig agricultural projects. And $19.7 billion will be used to open a rail link between Moscow and the Russian city of Kazan. At the same time, Russia agreed to increase its weapon’s sales to China, and a deal was done for the sale of the S-400 air defence system to China (to the great chagrin of the United States and Japan), for $3 billion, with another $2 billion for the sale of 24 Su-35 fighter planes. The two countries declared that they would increase their bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2020.

What is totally new and important is that both countries also decided to strengthen their military cooperation. This year they will take part in a joint Sea-2016 naval drill, hosted by China. The Deputy minister of Defence, Anatoly Antonov has declared: “Military cooperation between the two countries is highly diverse, and has improved significantly over the last three years .A more tight interaction between military departments corresponds to the national interest, and we expect this interaction to increase”.

This should lead Europeans to start reflecting seriously on events. Is it in the interest of Europe to keep pushing Russia into the hands of China? Is it not time to search for a settlement with Russia, that would include Ukraine, Syria, and an engagement to end “deterrence”, for an agreed status quo, which would reopen trade and cooperation, and satisfy the frustrated egos of Russian citizens? It should be recognized that even between allies, like the EU and US, sometimes there are different priorities…Maybe the American elections will change the rules of the game…

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Humanitarian Summit: Too Big to Fail?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:14:27 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145254 A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

With a line up of heads of state or government telling all what they did to alleviate human suffering and promising to do more, along with leaders of civil society and humanitarian
organisations denouncing lack of honest political will to act while governments continue spending trillions of dollars in weapons, the two-day World Humanitarian Summit kicked off today May 23 in Istanbul.

In fact, while the United Nations reports that the international community spends today around 25 billion dollars to provide live-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). estimates world’s military expenditure in 2015 was over 1.6 trillion dollars.

“Never mind–this Summit is too important to fail,” a high-ranking Asian diplomat on condition of anonymity said to IPS. “The leaders of the richest countries, especially in Europe and the Gulf Arab states, are perfectly aware of the magnitude of the humanitarian challenges facing them,” the diplomat added.

“Some of them will be sincerely sensitive to human suffering; others will be more concerned with their ‘political’ peace of mind… Most industrialised countries, in particular in Europe, are eager that the humanitarian crises are dealt with and solved out of and beyond their borders.”

It is about the fear that this unprecedented crisis, if it grows exponentially as predicted, would inevitably lead to more conflicts and more instability affecting their [those leaders] political and economic welfare, according to the diplomat.

In this regard, the facts before the 5,500 participants in this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit are that over the last years conflicts and natural disasters have led to fast-growing numbers of people in need and a funding gap for humanitarian action of an estimated 15 billion dollars, according to UN estimates.

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

“This is a lot of money, but not out of reach for a world producing 78 trillion dollars of annual Gross Domestic Product,” says the report of a UN promoted high-level panel on humanitarian financing. “Closing the humanitarian financing gap would mean no one having to die or live without dignity for the lack of money,” it adds.

The report addressing the humanitarian financing gap, says that this “would be a victory for humanity at a time when it is much needed.

As part of the preparations for the WHS, the UN Secretary-General had appointed a nine-person panel of experts to work on finding solutions about this widening financial gap.

The panel identified–and examined three important and inter-dependent aspects of the humanitarian financing challenge: reducing the needs, mobilising additional funds through either traditional or innovative mechanisms, and improving the efficiency of humanitarian assistance.

The report is also relevant in the context of adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It states that only by focusing the world’s attention on the rapidly growing numbers of people in desperate need will we be able to achieve the SDGs.

The panel recognises that the best way to deal with growing humanitarian needs is to address their root causes. “This requires a strong determination at the highest level of global political leadership to prevent and resolve conflicts and to increase investment in disaster risk reduction.”

“Because development is the best resilience-builder of all, the panel believes that the world’s scarce resources of official development assistance (ODA) should be used where it matters most—in situations of fragility,” the report concludes.

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Species Loss, the Migration Hiding in Plain Sighthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/species-loss-the-migration-hiding-in-plain-sight/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=species-loss-the-migration-hiding-in-plain-sight http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/species-loss-the-migration-hiding-in-plain-sight/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 09:34:48 +0000 Monique Barbut http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145248 The author is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification]]>

The author is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

By Monique Barbut
BONN, May 23 2016 (IPS)

Two months ago, I was in Agadez, a city in the middle of the famous Ténéré Desert of Niger. Agadez has become a major transit point on a hazardous journey for the hundreds and thousands of desperate people from all over West Africa trying to make it to the Mediterranean coast every year.

Monique Barbut

Monique Barbut

The loss of productive land and unpredictability of the rainy seasons has left many Sahelians with far too few options. Their livelihoods are under threat. When communities that are culturally nomadic and that practice seasonal migration as a coping mechanism resort to permanent migration and abandon the land, it signals an unfolding crisis.

Migration has become the ‘hot potato’ issue of our times. Alongside it, hidden in plain sight, is another threat that closely reflects this same abandonment dynamic. Plants and animals are also moving from their native homes to other parts of the world. A recent example is the mosquito carrying the deadly Zika virus. In a relatively short time, it has migrated from South to North America, and is now threatening to reach Europe.

The transformation occurring in ecosystems as a result of climate change, as plant and animal species selectively find new habitats, is difficult to fathom or explain to the public. It will be even harder to contain it.

The rate at which plant and animal life is migrating signals deepening trouble in the systems that support life on Earth – land, water, plants, climate, etc. Species migration, like human migration, has an impact in the new locations, but also in their places of origin.

An assessment in 2012 of the impacts of the ragweed species in Europe, for instance, shows it poses a risk to human health and agriculture. In future, more people may suffer allergies and maize, potato and sugar beet farmers, among many others, may be fighting a new weed.

On the other end is the predicted loss of food crops such as maize, beans, bananas and finger millet from much of sub-Saharan Africa. The loss of these crops, which are widely consumed in the region, could lead to new types of hunger crises.

Human migration is guided by reason and choice, and can be managed, even reversed, with the right policy incentives. For instance, if land is restored people may return. However, areas that are abandoned by humans are depopulated and eventually collapse and die for lack of investment.

By contrast, the migration of biodiversity is irreversible beyond a certain threshold. It is almost impossible to recover plants and animals that have become extinct or have migrated due to ecosystem change. Areas that are abandoned by species eventually die for lack of ecosystem services.

The forces driving species migration are strikingly similar to those driving people in West Africa’s Sahel region towards Agadez.

According to the local people, the forces driving their migration North are: land that is no longer productive; droughts and flash floods that are stripping much of the fertile top soil from the land; and population pressure in some of the most fertile areas of West Africa.

Climate change impacts, such as droughts that transform the local vegetation, the emergence of dust in new areas and migration of plants that are swept by floods, are some of the forces behind species migration and the disappearance of native species.

The damage already done to the climate system makes the transformation of ecosystems almost inevitable. Restoring degraded lands is the last hope we have to keep ecosystems functioning at the level they are in today. That window of opportunity, however, is closing fast.

That is why, in observing the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May, we must celebrate the countries leading the way in mainstreaming the biodiversity that has sustained us and our livelihoods for millennia.

Let’s celebrate and recognize the 90 countries that are setting national targets to restore degraded lands in order to ensure the fertile lands in use by 2030 stays stable and, in turn, sustains species and ecosystems.

Many of these are the poorest countries and communities of the world. But they have chosen to share their labor, knowledge and limited finances to maintain the integrity of an Earth that we all share.

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Humanitarian Summit Aims to Mobilise Up to 30 Billion Dollarshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 09:08:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145245 Sudanese refugee children protest against food ration cuts at Touloum refugee camp in Chad | Credit: IRIN

Sudanese refugee children protest against food ration cuts at Touloum refugee camp in Chad | Credit: IRIN

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

The two-day World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), opening today May 23 in Istanbul, aims at mobilising between 20 and 30 billion dollars to face the on-gowing, worst-ever humanitarian crises, said Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs andEmergency Relief Coordinator.

“Let us not underestimate the gravity of what lies before us in these coming days: A once in a generation opportunity to set in motion an ambitious and far-reaching agenda to change the way that we alleviate, and most importantly prevent, the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people,” O’Brien added in an interview with IPS.

Asked about most civil society organisations increasing concern that the financial resources the WHS is aiming to moblise would come at the very cost of current, already extremely short funding to longer-term objectives, such as the sustainable development goals, O’Brien said, “Not at all; we expect the international community fo be more generous.”

The Istanbul Summit is both about fresh thinking and building on the best, and the change that’s necessary to deliver for our fellow men and women who need us most, said O’Brien.

“Disasters, both man-made and natural, are becoming more frequent, more complex and more intense. More than 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and violence. At this summit, humanitarian partners around the world will commit to take concrete action to address this,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliassonin at a press conference on the eve of the Istanbul Summit.

The United Nations estimates that more than 130 million people are in need of assistance and protection across the world today.

Every year, humanitarian needs continue to grow and more people need more help for longer periods of time. This also drives up the costs of delivering life-saving assistance and protection. UN-led appeals have grown six-fold from 3.4 billion dollars in 2003 to nearly 21 billion dollars today.

Representatives of 177 countries, including 68 heads of state and governments, and crises-affected communities, civil society organisations, the private sector and UN agencies attend this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.

The WHS follows an extensive global consultation with 23,000 stakeholders world-wide to identify the key humanitarian challenges of our time.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General laid out the United Nations’ vision for the Summit in an Agenda for Humanity focusing on a set of core commitments: to prevent and end conflicts; uphold the norms that safeguard humanity; leave no one behind; change people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need; and invest in humanity.

In addition to the Summit’s plenary sessions starting May 23, series high-level leaders’ round tables are scheduled on: Leaders’ Segment for Heads of States and Governments on day one.

The Leaders’ Segment will discuss the five core responsibilities of the Agenda for Humanity.

These five core responsibilities are: one, Political Leadership to Prevent and End Conflict; two, Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity; three, Leave No One Behind; four, Change People’s Lives – from Delivering Aid to Ending Need; and five, Invest in Humanity.

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What do Aid Organisations Want from the Humanitarian Summithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/what-do-aid-organisations-want-from-the-humanitarian-summit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-do-aid-organisations-want-from-the-humanitarian-summit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/what-do-aid-organisations-want-from-the-humanitarian-summit/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 00:54:03 +0000 Daphne Davies http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145241 By Daphne Davies
LONDON, May 23 2016 (IPS)

The UN World Humanitarian Summit takes place in Istanbul, 23-24 May. So what hopes do the humanitarian organisations, which deliver aid on the ground, have for the outcomes?

The UN report One Humanity: shared responsibility, produced ahead of the Summit describes the international community as “in a state of constant crisis management”. The report emphasises that conflict and fragility remain the biggest threats to human development, with 11 major civil wars in 2014, and nearly 1.4 billion people living in fragile situations. By 2030 62 percent of the world’s poor are likely to be living in fragile situations.

Just a case of more resources?

The increase in humanitarian disasters has brought with it an unbridgeable funding gap, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) relief agencies appealing for an extra $US16.4 billion in 2015.

Kathrin Schick, Director of VOICE (Voluntary Organizations in Cooperation in Emergencies), the European network of non government organisations (NGOs) involved in humanitarian aid, says while money is scarce, it is a case of “how much can we do with what we have –making aid use not only more effective, but also more efficient”.

Gareth Price-Jones, Senior Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, CARE International, agrees there is a massive case for more resources, and points out that “the total humanitarian aid bill could be covered by the profits of the big six tobacco companies. However, the problem is less the supply of humanitarian aid, and more the failure to prepare for disasters, to address conflict and increasingly a failure to address climate change”.

Will a Grand Bargain between donors and the UN alleviate the funding crisis?

The High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing has also produced a report for the meeting Too important to fail. The report suggests that the funding crisis can be alleviated through striking a ‘Grand Bargain’, between donors and the UN. This would involve more engagement with the private sector, greater emphasis on crisis prevention and disaster risk reduction and bridging the humanitarian/development divide.

Schick describes this as “possibly the one concrete proposal to come out of the Summit”, whereas for Price-Jones it is “an efficiency drive – a first step in convincing donors and taxpayers that making aid as efficient as possible won’t address the funding gap”.

Réiseal Ni Chéilleachair, Trocaire’s Humanitarian Advocacy and Policy Adviser, believes that UN reform could make humanitarian action more effective by reducing the bureaucracy for getting funds, shortening time delays between securing funding and implementation, making UN agencies collaborate more, strengthening UNOCHA’s role and streamlining reporting requirements across donors.

For Alex Jacobs Director of Programme Quality, Plan International, there should be more predictable long-term funding and some of the conditions for getting funding should be removed. He also wants a mechanism in which recipients of humanitarian aid can give feedback on how aid was delivered and used.

However, some NGOs remain sceptical about how much the WHS will achieve, as evidenced by Medecins Sans Frontiers’ withdrawal from the Summit, saying “We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response”.

More work with local partners

In preparation for the Summit humanitarian organisations have produced the ‘Charter for Change’ (so far signed by 23 international NGOS). The Charter urges International NGOs (INGOs) to change the way they work, passing more power and resources to local ‘Southern-based’ partners.

The emphasis on localisation runs through One Humanity. Schick believes that “we have to talk about first responders since national and international NGOs have to work in partnership and more attention has to be given to capacity building of national NGOs who are often the first on the scene”. However, Ni Chéilleachair feels more needs to be done before this can work: “Funding systems need to be adapted to support local actors and new partners, rather than their expending limited resources trying to navigate the existing ones”.

Relying more on governments, and business is another thread running through the report, which NGOs applaud. Alex Jacobs believes that host governments are becoming “more muscular” in taking the lead in providing support after natural disasters, as happened after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

Business is increasingly being used to supply essential international services, with credit card companies working with PLAN to carry out cash transfers. Business is useful in setting up systems for long-term prevention for natural disasters, and often prefers to work at arms’ length, rather than putting their staff into high-risk situations.

Invest in stability – linking development with humanitarian aid

The UN report notes that “a shift from perpetual crisis management towards effectively managing prevention and early action is urgently needed”, and INGOs agree that greater collaboration between humanitarian and development NGOs, is crucial in preventing disasters.

Schick says linking humanitarian action with measures where NGOs help local communities prepare for natural disasters is an obvious move. Ni Chéilleachair adds that organisations and donors need to be more agile and responsive if this development-humanitarian complementarity is going to be successful.

However, the difficulties of combining development and humanitarian do not present problems for ‘multi-mandate’ organisations, like CARE, which can combine funding “from different pots and multiply the impact, building resilience, so when disaster hits your aid solves immediate problems and addresses long-term issues”, says Price-Jones.

Outcomes

Humanitarian actors are concerned when aid is used to mitigate the effects of the conflicts, as in Syria or South Sudan, and where their staff are most at risk. One positive outcome in the run-up to the Summit is the acknowledgement that solving conflict is the precursor of humanitarian work.

All the NGOs consulted agreed that the only way to resolve the humanitarian crisis was for the most powerful member states to show the political will to solve it. As Schick put it: ”We want UN Member States to take the political will to solve conflicts, which will reduce humanitarian needs”.

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Africa: Resolved to Address African Problems Using African Solutionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 17:31:28 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145238 Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission.

Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission.

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey , May 22 2016 (IPS)

The African Union (AU) representing 54 countries and home to 1,2 billion inhabitants, will be in Istanbul to participate in the May 23-24, 2016, first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) with two key demands—that the international humanitarian system be redefined, and a strong, firm own commitment to itself, to the continent and its people, anchoring on the primacy of the states.

In an interview with IPS on the eve of the WHS, the Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission, Olabisi Dare said “All the key concerns that the AU will be raising at the World Humanitarian Summit is that there is a need for the redefinition of the international humanitarian system; this redefinition should take the form of a reconfiguration of the system.”

The Nigerian career diplomat and international civil servant with over 27 years international field and desk experience in Asia, Africa, Europe and America, added that the requested redefinition “should take the form of a reconfiguration of the system, it being understood that the existing system which is predicated on the UN Resolution 46 182 is to say the least not being faithfully implemented.”

It is therefore in this context that the African Union is going to Istanbul with its own commitments to itself, that is its own commitment to the continent and its people and one of the key things of this commitment is to anchor on the primacy of the states itself, “the State has the primary responsibility to its own people to satisfy their needs and to take care of their vulnerabilities,” said Olabisi.

“We look at these in several forms:

  1. The African Union feels the State has to play the primary role of coordinating any and all humanitarian action that may take place within its territory; the States have in their efforts to alleviate the needs of its people; the States have also to maintain humanitarian space and have a responsibility to guarantee the safety of both the humanitarian workers and humanitarian infrastructure.
  2. We note that the State has the capability and capacity in key areas like use of military assets in assisting humanitarian action–a key  example is the use of military forces in Liberia and other acted countries the military was deployed to serve as the first line of defense to combat the spread of the disease.

That said, Olabisi remarked “We can’t over-emphasise the role of the State in ensuring that humanitarian action and relief is dispensed in an effective manner and we see that this in itself will effect humanitarian action more readily on the continent.”

“Africa however is resolved to begin addressing its own problems using African solutions to African problems.“ - Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission
Asked what are the African needed solutions that the AUC brings to the WHS, Olabisi, who was also senior Political/Humanitarian Affairs Officer at the African Union Mission in Liberia, with extensive experience in various aspects peace-building in a post conflict environment, including serving on the Technical Support Team to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, reaffirmed “The African Union will make proposals in terms of what it considers as the reconfiguration of the International Humanitarian systems.”

“Part of the solution is that there is a need for governments to play the primary role and a greater coordination role in order to fulfill the attributes of state in terms of its predictive and responsive nature and other attributes and this in itself is as part of what Africa has committed  to do and if this find its way to the Secretary General’s report as part of the recommendation, this would be very good.”

Olabisi, who was involved in the return and rehabilitation programme of over 300,000 Liberian refugees from across the West Africa sub-region, added “We are also going to call for the re-engineering of resolution 46182 Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian emergency assistance of the United Nations to reflect  Africa’s views, to reflect the need to elevate the role of the state primarily to be to deliver to its people.”

The Resolution 46182 that Olabisi refers to, was adopted in 1991, setting as “Guiding Principles” that humanitarian assistance is of cardinal importance for the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies and must be provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality.

Guiding Principle 3 clearly states, “The sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States must be fully respected in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. In this context, humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of the affected country and in principle on the basis of an appeal by the affected country.”

“Each State has the responsibility first and foremost to take care of the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies occurring on its territory. Hence, the affected State has the primary role in the initiation, organization, coordination, and implementation of humanitarian assistance within its territory,” states also the Guiding Principle 4.

And Guiding Principle 9 stresses, “There is a clear relationship between emergency, rehabilitation and development. In order to ensure a smooth transition from relief to rehabilitation and development, emergency assistance should be provided in ways that will be supportive of recovery and long-term development. Thus, emergency measures should be seen as a step towards long-term development.”

Common African Position (CAP). Courtsey of the African Union Commission

Common African Position (CAP). Courtsey of the African Union Commission

For its part, Guiding Principle 10 stresses, “Economic growth and sustainable development are essential for prevention of and preparedness against natural disasters and other emergencies. Many emergencies reflect the underlying crisis in development facing developing countries.

“Humanitarian assistance should therefore be accompanied by a renewal of commitment to economic growth and sustainable development of developing countries,” it adds. ”In this context, adequate resources must be made available to address their development problems.”

“Contributions for humanitarian assistance should be provided in a way which is not to the detriment of resources made available for international cooperation for development,” says Guiding Principle 11.

Obalisi then recalled “When you look at the Common African Position (CAP) [on the post 2015 development agenda], you find  that the first pillar speaks to the privacy of the state; all the other 9 pillar speak the same in one form or another.”

Africa will be calling on itself to be able to deliver more on resources and allocate more resources to humanitarian action, he added. “This is because it is mindful of the fact that the resource portals are dwindling from the north.”

Asked what are the outcomes that Africa would most expect from the WHS, Olabisi said that Africa expects the guarantee that international humanitarian system will be reconfigured to conform with new demands and address the issues faced by the humanitarian system at the moment – one of the main outcome the Summit will deliver.

“Africa is making these commitments to itself-due to the non-binding nature of the summit. The commitments Africa has made go beyond the WHS whether the summit is binding or not it will not affect what Africa is committed to, in its own self-interest and this is one of the key recommendations we will be taking to WHS.”

He stressed that Africa’s commitments are not to the WHS but the Summit “gives us an opportunity to discuss a paradigm shift in terms of the way we do things in the humanitarian field in Africa and also to see that we can positively add to the mitigation and alleviation of the sufferings of our people when disasters and displacements occur.”

“One of the key things to note is that Africa will go ahead with its own commitments, “our resolve to come up with something that is workable, pragmatic, and something that will make us see ourselves in a light that puts us in a position to help ourselves despite the grand bargain on Africa being shut out of the whole system,” Olabisi emphasised.

“Africa however is resolved to begin addressing its own problems using African solutions to African problems.“

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Humanitarian Summit Must Address Weapons Shipments Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 17:04:43 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145235 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too/feed/ 2 A Teacher Has Been Taught His Lesson!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-teacher-has-been-taught-his-lesson/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-teacher-has-been-taught-his-lesson http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-teacher-has-been-taught-his-lesson/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 14:11:35 +0000 Mohammad Badrul Ahsan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145226 By Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
May 22 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Greek historian Herodotus, living in the fifth century, couldn’t have known in advance that a headmaster was going to be humiliated in Narayanganj on the second Friday of May 2016. But when he said that men trusted their ears more than their eyes, it set the standard of mob justice for all time to come. Those who’ve watched the disgusting video of that outrageous incident couldn’t believe their eyes while ears burned with shame. The headmaster was doing earholding sit-ups while an all-daddy lawmaker wagged his finger, keeping count. When the exhausted and embarrassed victim fell on the floor after the third time, he was pulled up to stand on his feet. Then like a mechanical toy, the poor man was made to raise his folded hands to his forehead asking for forgiveness before a hysterical crowd.

Infuriated by the incident of public humilation of a school teacher in Narayanganj, netizens have stirred social media in protest. Photo: Star

Infuriated by the incident of public humilation of a school teacher in Narayanganj, netizens have stirred social media in protest. Photo: Star

Most people who had gathered at the scene had trusted ears more than eyes. Most of them had come to witness the punishment for a crime they had not witnessed. Mob justice is always swayed not by proof but by provocation.

The foreign media touted it as yet another instance of minority persecution. The teacher being a Hindu man has largely contributed to that apprehension, particularly when religious sentiments are being deployed to do dirty work for devious minds. What happened in Narayanganj was a low-down showdown, when powerful people exploited holy sentiments to settle an unholy score. The family of the student, who was disciplined by that teacher, may have pulled the strings to get even with him. The influential school committee members also saw an opportunity to get rid of him.

The teacher was allegedly roughed up by the unruly mob before the circus that followed. As far as this victim is concerned, he was already humiliated before the humiliation was recorded on video. The rest of us in this country have been humiliated afterwards. We have been humiliated when the authorities sat on their hands, despite so many outcries across the country, when nothing happened after a number of ministers condemned the act. The final humiliation came for everyone in the final blow of cruelty after the school committee, instead of being repentant and apologetic, went ahead to sack the headmaster.

I would like to plead with this teacher to take comfort in the fact that while he bore the physical brunt of the humiliation, the sensible people of this country have felt the shame. And I ask him not to think he was targeted for his professional or religious denomination. We all live in a country, where the powerful have sadly and perversely taken the powerless for granted.

I can assure him that in any civilised country, the lawmaker would have been arrested, the Parliament would have condemned their rowdy colleague, and the state would have rushed to the protection of the victim and his job. Since none of these has happened until now, he is free to draw his own conclusion. I recommend he should consider this as an option. He should think as if wild animals have badly mauled him in a dangerous jungle.

In shame and despair, human chains around the country had people holding their own ears. It was symbolic, of course, a gesture to express solidarity with the victim and indignation for his embarrassment. One of the limitations of human condition is that it’s confined to its own limitations. After initial reactions, this entire episode is either going to taper off or will be forgotten soon.

What will persist is the horror that, in future, will haunt every teacher in every school of this country. Teachers will think twice before taking a student to task, or grading papers, or even assigning homework. They will feel nervous to lance with the school committees, lest their intentions will be taken out of context and brutalised. After all, why should anybody risk their safety and honour if doing a job well should cost them both?

This isn’t to rule out the possibility that the headmaster in Narayanganj could have said or done anything wrong. But the public humiliation of a teacher has mislaid the moral compass, because more than a man was harassed on that day. An entire institution was stripped of its honour, its glory mocked as if neighbourhood kids taunted a raving madman.

Alexander the Great said he owed his living to his father and his life to his teacher. We grew up ingesting that same value, respecting teachers no less than parents because we knew and still know it for a fact that they’ve largely made us who we’re. The lawmaker in Narayanganj must be holding repressed anger against his teachers. The sit-ups could be a Freudian slip to do unto them what they may have done unto him!

The writer is Editor of the weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
Email: badrul151@yahoo.com.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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The Heavens Poured and Atlas Shruggedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-heavens-poured-and-atlas-shrugged/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-heavens-poured-and-atlas-shrugged http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-heavens-poured-and-atlas-shrugged/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 13:51:48 +0000 Editor sunday http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145224 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
May 22 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

Sri Lankan parliamentarians appear to have been moved to unseemly mirth regarding the floodwaters which devastated the country this week, causing more than sixty three officially reported deaths and thousands more missing, with even greater numbers rendered homeless and destitute.

Warranting a serious response
As sorrowful scenes were recorded across the island, the gravity of the deluge had yet to be taken seriously on the floor of the House. Indeed, as much as Atlas shrugged in the disturbing portrayal by Ayn Rand of capitalist and greedy businessmen projected as the real heroes of society, here too we may aptly say that parliamentarians laughed on the banks of the Diyawanna Oya even as the muddy waters came right up to the door of the Parliament.

These rude bursts of laughter were in response to Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s wisecrack on Friday that if the self styled Joint Opposition members had not engaged in coconut smashing rituals, this calamity would not have occurred. But the issue here surely warrants a far more serious response than such hilarity?

The sheer ineptitude of the Government in bringing relief and redress to the affected people is one facet of the problem. This was the recurring theme throughout the country as the displaced wailed before television cameras that they had not been helped by government agencies. No doubt, there were determined and selfless government servants who devoted themselves to the arduous task of flood relief but the stern commitment shown by the Government itself as an entity was certainly lacking.

Result of disastrous development
At an even more distressing level, there appears to be no acknowledgement of government policies and practices which have directly contributed to this flood devastation. Public officials are fond of advising people not to occupy lands that are susceptible to landslides and floods. Yet they conveniently forget the fact that much of this damage is done by politicians themselves. We are familiar with the ruthless acquisition of land by politicians for commercial purposes such as building hotels and the like. These are lands which should have been preserved for water retention purposes, both in major cities and elsewhere.

All these ‘projects’ were without environmental approval as obliging public officers rubber stamped acquisitions of land even (unbelievingly) in the mangrove marshes of Negombo. So as former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers profess sympathy with affected victims, it must be clearly understood that disastrous ‘Rajapaksa’ development was a major contributory factor to the present crisis.

Neither is the Government in power free from responsibility. Despite all the sanctimonious outrage regarding the Port City project when its politicians were campaigning for the popular vote last year, they have tamely acquiesced to continuing with the project minus some minor changes. This makes nonsense of the Prime Minister’s claim during electioneering that this project would devastate the coastal line from Colombo to Beruwala and that he would forthwith cancel the project if his party assumed power. We are not assured by the Government’s claim that environmental conditions have now been complied with. Quite apart from this, this Government appears unable to clean even a culvert properly. This is a breakdown of the provincial and local government machinery in a most essential sense.

Past warnings of such calamities
The dangers attendant on proper environmental safeguards not being followed prior to ambitious development projects being undertaken are now alarmingly evident. This week’s treacherous flooding of parts of the Southern Expressway, once praised as Sri Lanka’s flagship expressway project is a good illustration. More than a decade ago, this columnist was part of the legal team which challenged the shifting of the trace of the Southern Expressway from one route to a completely new direction. This shift was despite the fact that the relevant environmental assessment had not been properly carried out in respect of this new direction of the expressway named as the ‘final trace.’ This was in contradiction to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA)’s injunction that any changed route should avoid traversing through wetlands of the area.

The legal challenge was based on a number of factors including the risk of environmental damage if the changed route was adopted. At the time, though the Supreme Court before which the matter finally went on appeal, responded by awarding compensation to the petitioners whose lands had been acquired without following proper procedures, (SCM 20.01.2004), the judges balked at ordering a complete change in the routing of the expressway, probably due to the massive expense that this would involve.

However both in the Court of Appeal and in the Supreme Court, the crucial importance of conducting a proper environmental assessment was stressed. As found by a committee of judges appointed to undertake an empirical study of the affected area, the changes adversely affected property rights of poor villagers. Decision makers were put under a duty to consider all relevant environmental consequences and afford affected persons an opportunity to voice their opinion. As the Court of Appeal affirmed, ‘this fosters dialogue between decision-makers and involved parties, which is an essential pre-requisite of any development project for such project to have sustainability over a long period.”

Discrimination between the poor and the affluent
But in the years following this decision, even that bare judicial and environmental review of development projects went by the board. The impact of the Mundy decision on Sri Lanka’s political leadership, in so far as preventing ill planned development projects, has been negligible. This has ramifications for proposed expressways as well, including the Kandy-Colombo Expressway. A continuing failure to satisfy environmental safeguards presents a nightmare scenario of environmental devastation far worse than what was experienced in May.

This accentuates the profound discrimination that we saw a few days ago between the poor left stranded on the top of their houses, clutching pitifully meager belongings and the affluent. While the more privileged enjoy expressways should the less privileged be left to suffer such fates due to corporate and political greed ?

These are questions that should reflectively occupy our minds, quite apart from reaching out to the affected through relief provisions. And parliamentarians may perhaps refrain from hilarity when addressing this calamity which afflicted the country in these generally serene Vesak weeks. Surely this is the minimum that Sri Lankans should forcefully demand.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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County Governments in Kenya Must Take Lead in Fight for Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/county-governments-in-kenya-must-take-lead-in-fight-for-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=county-governments-in-kenya-must-take-lead-in-fight-for-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/county-governments-in-kenya-must-take-lead-in-fight-for-gender-equality/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 13:32:26 +0000 Tarja Fernandez and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145222 Ms Tarja Fernandez, @fernandeztarja, is the Ambassador of Finland to Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee @sidchat1, is the UNFPA Representative to Kenya.]]> Ambassador Tarja Fernandez speaks at the International Women’s Day on 08 March 2016. Photo Credit: Embassy of Finland, Kenya

Ambassador Tarja Fernandez speaks at the International Women’s Day on 08 March 2016. Photo Credit: Embassy of Finland, Kenya

By Ambassador Tarja Fernandez and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 22 2016 (IPS)

The 3rd Devolution Conference that took place in Meru, Kenya between 19 and 21st April was an opportunity to discuss how the post-2015 development agenda will be localized and how county governments will deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

President Uhuru Kenyatta has said that devolution is vital in helping the country achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And this is beautifully aligned to Kenya’s own Vision 2030, which is to create a globally competitive and prosperous Kenya with a high quality of life by 2030.

Devolution is all about inclusion and participation. Devolution is therefore also an opportunity to champion gender equality.

So the SDG goal number 5, is about, “Achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls” is one of the key drivers of sustainable development. Half of the population should not be left behind. Inclusion of women and girls must be at the core of the development plans will accelerate potential for economic growth and well-being of the societies at large.

In order to address gender and other inequalities county governments need to know about them.

As was evident with the Millennium Development Goals, data derived from national surveys tend to miss the marginal numbers and thus downplay serious regional disparities, as the averages used in reporting progress mask the suffering of many.

For instance, while national data indicates that Kenya’s total fertility rate is 3.9, parts of the country have a total fertility rate of up to 7.8. This represents women who have limited decision making power about when or if they should have children, for reasons ranging from lack of family planning information and services to religious and cultural practices.

The Demographic and Health Survey (DHS, 2014) indicates that the national prevalence of female genital mutilation is 21%. However, among the communities where the practice is still intractable, the rates go up to 98%.

Clearly, there are populations whose concerns are going unheeded.

It is the voices of such populations that county governments have an opportunity to amplify as they seek to find relevance for the SDGs.

How can this be done? By providing opportunities for women of all ages to participate in county planning and budgeting processes. Being aware of their rights and listening to their needs. Building county governments’ capacities to analyze gender issues and address them in the County Integrated Development Plans. Sensitizing men on the benefits of providing more space for women to participate decision making, both at home and in public spheres of life. Moreover, including men consistently in discussions related to gender equality.

For gender responsiveness to be met, the equity principle must underlie the identification of priorities, planning, budgeting and service delivery. Collecting county disaggregated data will be a key to identification of development needs, and culturally acceptable solutions. In addition, community participation will be crucial to ensuring that the voices of women and girls, the youth and the marginalized, will no-longer be left unheard.

Counties now have the opportunity to identify their own priorities and to design service delivery mechanisms suitable for local needs. Each county in Kenya has its own unique challenges and circumstances, but also the resources to solve its problems. Respecting and utilizing valuable local traditions that do not violate human rights can be a rich resource from which development plans can draw knowledge, legitimacy and participation.

Though recent surveys such as the DHS 2014 have quality data from the regions, the counties themselves need a lot of support to generate, access and utilize disaggregated data with measurable indicators. As observed recently by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, tackling inequalities and measuring progress towards sustainable development is constrained by a lack of core population data and under-developed capacity to use such data for development.

Changing entrenched gender inequalities is, however, not an easy task. There are deep social, economic and cultural forces that drive stereotyping and discrimination and these will not disappear without deliberate actions.

These actions by all counties are a key approach to nationalizing the SDGs, reducing inequalities, especially gender inequality, while unlocking the potential that women have for delivering sustainable change.

At the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women which took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 14th-24th March 2016, President Kenyatta was among the 80 leaders that made commitments to advance gender equality and ensure equal opportunity. He said, “I’m convinced that our nations and the world stand to gain tremendously if we continue to embrace that progress for women is progress for us all. Investing in women is more than a matter of rights; it is the right thing to do.”

As development partners in Kenya we are committed to work with Government of Kenya and the county authorities to advance gender equality and empowerment.

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