Inter Press Service » Global Governance http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:43:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 UN Trade and Development Conference a “Big Win” for Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/un-trade-and-development-conference-a-big-win-for-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-trade-and-development-conference-a-big-win-for-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/un-trade-and-development-conference-a-big-win-for-multilateralism/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:43:00 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146319 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) poses for a photo with Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), President of the Republic of Kenya, and Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), at the opening of the fourteenth UNCTAD session, taking place in Nairobi, 17-22 July 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) poses for a photo with Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), President of the Republic of Kenya, and Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), at the opening of the fourteenth UNCTAD session, taking place in Nairobi, 17-22 July 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 29 2016 (IPS/G77)

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) concluded its five-day meeting in Nairobi on a positive note—the launch of a new e-trade initiative and a multi-donor trust fund on trade and productive capacity.

The meeting, attended by more than 5,000 delegates from 149 countries, also launched the first UN statistical report on specific indicators on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a commitment for a roadmap on fisheries subsidies.

The negotiations ended in the early hours of July 22 after two marathon all-night sessions. The resulting Nairobi consensus, “the Maafikiano”, also sets UNCTAD’s work programme for the next four years.

Billed as UNCTAD 14, the conference was formally opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in the presence of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and the vice-President of Uganda, Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi.

The meeting also launched the 2016 report on ‘Economic Development in Africa’, and highlighted issues around non-tariff measures, debt, and illicit financial flows, along with a fashion show focusing on the creative and commercial potential of Kenya’s fashion industry.

In his opening address, the Secretary-General warned about the “worrying signs that people around the world are increasingly unhappy with the state of the global economy.”

He said high inequality, stagnant incomes, lack of enough jobs – especially for youth — and too little cause for optimism stoke legitimate fears for the future for many in all regions.

“The global trade slowdown and a lack of productive investment have sharpened the deep divides between those who have benefited from globalization, and those who continue to feel left behind. “

And rather than working to change the economic model for the better, Ban said, many actual and would-be leaders are instead embracing protectionism and even xenophobia.

"International financial institutions, which are one of the main sources of financing for development of developing countries, need to be universal, rule-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable." -- Apichart Chinwanno.

“The vision set out in the SDGs – for people, planet, prosperity and peace – will not succeed if shocks and stresses in our global economic and financial system are not properly addressed,” he noted.

Trade must provide prosperity in ways that work for people and planet and respond to the challenges of climate change, said Ban.

A Ministerial Declaration adopted by the 134 members of the Group of 77 and China on the occasion of UNCTAD addressed the “key issues that are of major concern to developing countries,” said Apichart Chinwanno, Permanent Secretary And Special Envoy Of The Minister Of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom Of Thailand, speaking on Behalf of ‘The Group Of 77 and China In New York’.

“These (key issues) include the need to tackle subsidies and various forms of market access restrictions, tax evasion and tax avoidance, illicit capital flows, sovereign debt crisis as well as the need to uphold principles of equity, inclusiveness, common but differentiated responsibilities, special and differential treatment, and the right to development, just to name a few,” said Chinwanno at a Ministerial Meeting Of The Group Of 77 held on the occasion Of UNCTAD in Nairobi on July 17.

“International financial institutions, which are one of the main sources of financing for development of developing countries, need to be universal, rule-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable,” added Chinwanno.

Chinwanno also noted that Official Development Assistance (ODA) remains at an average of just “0.29% of the aggregate donor Gross National Income in 2014, well below the commitment of 0.7%.”

According to an UNCTAD press release, this year’s conference, with the tagline “From decision to action”, had added significance because it was the first UNCTAD conference since the global community established the Sustainable Development Goals and mandated – via the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – with UNCTAD as one of five international organizations to mobilize financing for development.”

The other four organizations are the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Martin Khor, Executive Director of the Geneva-based South Centre said an important aspect of today’s global economy is that the economic weight of the South has undeniably increased, with China and India accounting for a large share of this increase.

He said developing countries as a whole are more integrated into the world economy.  However, these changes have not yet constituted a full scale shift in the global landscape.

The development gap between the North and the South still exists, even exacerbated for some countries.  The task of bridging this gap is becoming more complex and difficult in today’s global economic environment, he cautioned.

Throughout the various major international negotiations that took place last year that resulted in the recently concluded international outcomes like the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Paris Agreement, the South continuously highlighted the need to close the development gap faster and in a more sustainable and equitable manner, he noted.

“None of these outcomes of the international community could have been achieved without the support and leadership of the Group of 77 and China,” said Khor.

“I’m delighted that our 194 member states have been able to reach this consensus, giving a central role to UNCTAD in delivering the sustainable development goals,” UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi, said, just after the conclusion of the meeting.

“With this document, we can get on with the business of cutting edge analysis, building political consensus, and providing the necessary technical assistance that will make globalization and trade work for billions of people in the global south,” he said.

UNCTAD14 President, Amina Mohamed, said: “As the President of this conference, I cannot begin to tell you how I feel right now.”

“It’s a good day for Kenya, a good day for UNCTAD, and a big win for multilateralism,” she said.

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The Race for the White House Is Heating Uphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-race-for-the-white-house-is-heating-up/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-race-for-the-white-house-is-heating-up http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-race-for-the-white-house-is-heating-up/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:03:33 +0000 Shah Husain Imam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146316 By Shah Husain Imam
Jul 29 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Brawn, brain and tears sum up the tone, temper and texture of the Republican and Democrat national conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia respectively. The fiesta, patriotic fervour, quiet but eloquent sobbing ,depth of speaker line-up and story-telling presentations fleshed out with anecdotes were the mirror -image of American electoral democracy in action.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Photo: Orchard

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Photo: Orchard

Beneath the dazzling tapestry, however, likability and trust issues dog the steps of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton even as they have secured nomination for the US presidential election in November. An intensely polarizing campaign now sees a new twist, some say an escalation, to the email scandal centred around the use of a personal server by the former secretary of state. One would have thought we had seen the back of it after the FBI investigations. The probe while alluding to a serious lapse of responsibility had ruled out prosecution against her .The Democrat camp has lately accused Trump of inciting Russian ‘espionage’, a suggestion Moscow had earlier vigorously denied. Republicans are out to whip up a national security concern apparently in desperation over the steadying ship of Democrat candidacy.

Women of the Movement for Care representing the victims of gun shots were present at the penultimate phase of the Democratic convention extending their support to Hillary. Her gun control policy found a resonance with them. Simultaneously, the results of Millennial Youth Research were revealed from the podium highlighting the vulnerabilities of Black youths vis-à-vis their White counterparts.

Both the presidential tickets look considerably revamped by the choice of governor Pence and senator Tim Paine ‘ as vice president running mates of Trump and Hillary respectively. Tim in particular, sounds competent to be officiating the president ‘on a short notice.’

Remember, the primaries were hard – fought, precisely , on two levels: First, between the principal candidates ;and secondly the challengers within the parties battling it out to basically to fathom their chances .Chiefly motivated to resist a frontrunner; this in part may have also been actuated by a desire to create a vote bank by way of influence-peddling.

Some of the contestations in the primaries were taken to the national conventions. Ted Cruz who refused to endorse Trump in the convention had to be booed out by “Trump” ,Trump” yells . By comparison , the intensity of passion and level of sophistication exuded by Bernie Sanders in his adversarial posture towards Hillary Clinton were way above the crudity and humiliation traded between Trump camp and Ted Cruz.

It is a huge add-on to the electoral culture that Bernie with his Left predilections and for all his support base among young men and women by virtue of his commitment to social and economic justice and equal opportunities has proved a statesman of no small measure. Although he let his differences with Clinton go down to the wires, he pulled back in time to retain his clout to negotiate a deal with her on projects close to his heart as well as extend the much-needed support to her at the nick of time.

The stakes are high in a Democratic win and so Sanders gave a resounding endorsement for it: “Based on her ideas and her leadership—Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States. I am proud to stand with her…”

Powerful endorsement speeches intelligently crafted to cut corners were delivered by party big wigs , former high public office holders, iconic figures ,vice presidential nominees ,let alone spouses , sons and daughters of the candidates .

It is a participatory inner party democracy opening out to a broad spectrum representative system, largely backed by money and served by merit that projects the strength of the US as we know it.

It took 134 years since the American independence for women to be voters; nearly a century is passing us by from that watershed moment with a historic responsibility devolving on the US electorate to have their first woman president. After breaking the jinx of a non-white president, it is turn for a woman incumbent in the White House.

The writer is a contributor to The Daily Star. He can be reached at shahhusainimam@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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President of UN General Assembly Continues Push for Openness, Transparencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/president-of-un-general-assembly-continues-push-for-openness-transparency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=president-of-un-general-assembly-continues-push-for-openness-transparency http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/president-of-un-general-assembly-continues-push-for-openness-transparency/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:01:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146312 The President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

The President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 29 2016 (IPS)

The President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, has helped spearhead a push for a more open and transparent selection process for the next UN Secretary-General.

IPS spoke with Lykketoft one week after the 15 members of the UN Security Council cast their first votes in a straw poll to indicate which of the 12 candidates for the UN’s top job they support.

The results of the informal initial vote, which took place on Thursday 21 July, were not publicly released, but were leaked almost immediately.

Since the results were leaked, the straw polls only have a “formality of secrecy”, Lykketoft told IPS.

On behalf of the 193 members of the UN General Assembly, Lykketoft publicly called for the Security Council to convey the results to the other UN member states soon after the vote took place.

However Lykketoft also noted that the straw polls are an initial vote and that the positioning of candidates may well change, noting that new candidates may also emerge.

“It’s much too early to draw conclusions from the straw polls,” said Lykketoft. “Positioning and tendencies … can change over time.”

“The real influence from the membership is now to express to their colleagues in the Security Council if they have preferences among the candidates,” -- Mogens Lykketoft.

A second straw poll is planned for next Friday August 5, he added. However one potential further candidate, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced on July 29 that he would not be running, as he did not receive an endorsement from the Australian government.

“We’ll try to arrange as quickly as possible, if a new candidate comes forward, the same kind of hearings that we have had with the 12 candidates,” he said.

However while the informal dialogues have opened up the selection process for the next Secretary-General to the 193 member General Assembly, it is still likely that the UN Security Council will ultimately decide a single candidate to put forward to the assembly for endorsement.

There have been calls for the Security Council to break with this custom and put forward more than one candidate to the General Assembly, however Lykketoft noted that any change to the current system was up to the Security Council, and that it wasn’t even clear whether the “majority of the General Assembly would ask for more candidates.”

“The real influence from the membership is now to express to their colleagues in the Security Council if they have preferences among the candidates,” said Lykketoft.

“Because we’ve had these informal dialogues, these hearings, we much better know the personalities and the priorities of candidates than one did at any previous occasion, simply because all the other times there wasn’t an established list of candidates, we didn’t even know outside the Security Council which names were brought to the table.”

“That has changed and that means also that all the friends, allies and colleagues of the members of the Security Council can express to them their priorities and that gives a real possibility for influence.”

“I have also said continuously if among the many candidates (there are) clear favourites, I don’t think the Security Council would come up with some quite different names. But we’ll see.”

Group of 77 with candidates for the position of next UN Secretary-General  Ant—nio Guterres (Portugal). UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

António Guterres (centre), former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and candidate for the position of next United Nations Secretary-General, addresses the Group of 77 in a closed meeting at UN Headquarters in New York. Also seated on the panel, from left, are: Álvaro José Costa de Mendonça e Moura, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the UN; Virachai Plasai, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the UN, and Chairperson of the Group of 77 (G-77); and Mourad Ahmia, Executive Secretary of the Group of 77 Secretariat. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

In addition to consultations with the General Assembly as a whole, candidates for Secretary-General had separate consultations with regional groups such as the Group of 77, which Lykketoft described as a “very useful” addition to the selection process.

He noted that members of the Group of 77, which represents 133 developing countries at the United Nations, see development issues and climate change as priorities.

This was reflected in questions posed to the 12 candidates for the role of Secretary-General on behalf of the Group during the informal hearings in the General Assembly. Each of the 12 candidates also held closed hearings with the members of the Group of 77.

The Presidency of the General Assembly

Reflecting on his own role, Lykketoft touched on changes to the office of the President of the General Assembly.

Fiji has been elected to hold the 71st Presidency of the UN General Assembly, when Denmark’s term finishes in September 2016.

Lykketoft noted that as a Small Island Developing State, Fiji does not have the same resources to draw on to support the office of the President as other richer and bigger countries.

The office of the President of the General Assembly relies on contributions from member states. Lykketoft particularly highlighted the importance of member states seconding staff to the office.

“There’s been 35 people from 26 different countries working in the office of the President of the General Assembly, which is a very interesting and very well functioning operation,” said Lykketoft.

“Most of those people are actually a gift from member states to us.”

Lykketoft said he hoped that more countries would come forward to help support Fiji’s Presidency.

“Hopefully there will be more contributions, in particular from countries of the South, because it’s obvious that Fiji is not a rich and big country themselves.”

He also said that there is “a strong wish” in the General Assembly for the UN to provide more resources to the office, in particular to make sure that information is passed on and recorded between presidencies, he added.

The Candidates

There are currently 12 candidates for the position of UN Secretary-General. They include former heads of state and high-level UN officials.

According to leaked reports, Antonio Guterres, former Prime Minister of Portugal and former head of the UN High Commission for Refugees, topped the first straw poll, with Danilo Turk, former President of Slovenia, placing second and Irina Bokova, of Bulgaria who is currently Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) placed third.

In addition to the push for the selection of the next Secretary-General to be more open and transparent, there have also been calls for the ninth Secretary-General to be the first to come from Eastern Europe or the first to be a woman.

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The Human Rights Council adopts the Declaration on the Right to Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-human-rights-council-adopts-the-declaration-on-the-right-to-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-human-rights-council-adopts-the-declaration-on-the-right-to-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-human-rights-council-adopts-the-declaration-on-the-right-to-peace/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 14:19:39 +0000 Christian Guillermet and Puyana David http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146301 By Christian Guillermet Fernández and David Fernández Puyana
GENEVA, Jul 29 2016 (IPS)

On 1 July 2016, the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations in Geneva adopted a Declaration on the Right to Peace by a majority of its Member States. It is the result of three years of work with all stakeholders led by Costa Rica, through its Ambassador Christian Guillermet-Fernández.

The draft resolution L. 18, in which the Declaration was annexed, was presented by the delegation of Cuba. In its presentation, they highlighted not only the hard work of its Chairperson-Rapporteur, his team and Secretariat during the negotiation and preparation of this text.

Christian Guillermet Fernández

Christian Guillermet Fernández

They’ve emphasized that the adoption of this Declaration is framed in the context of the bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities signed in Havana, between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) on 23 June 2016.

While Costa Rica has provided the necessary guidance towards its completion from the first session of the Working Group on the Right to Peace, held in February 2013, to the last session in April 2015 in Geneva, the HRC’s work was aided by the invaluable mobilization and leadership shown by public figures from the world of art, culture and sport, gathered around Peace Without Borders founded by Miguel Bose and Juanes.

Furthermore, the wide-ranging civic engagement is reflected in the wording contained in the first article, which states that “everyone has the right to enjoy peace”.

In light of this Declaration, the main elements of the right to peace agreed among the various international actors, including most of the civil society organizations which actively participated in the intergovernmental process, are the following:
the principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations; the absolute obligation to respect human rights in combating terrorism; the realization of the right of all peoples, including those living under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation; the recognition that development, peace, and security and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing; the peaceful settlement and prevention of conflicts; the positive role of women; the eradication of poverty and sustainable development; the importance of moderation, dialogue, cooperation, education, tolerance and cultural diversity; the protection of minorities and the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

David Fernández Puyana

David Fernández Puyana

In promoting the right to peace, it is imperative that we implement the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, which focuses its attention on human security and the eradication of poverty, disarmament, education, development, environment and protection of vulnerable groups, refugees, and migrants.

The Declaration invites all stakeholders to guide themselves in their activities by recognizing the great importance of practicing tolerance, dialogue, cooperation and solidarity among all peoples and nations of the world as a means to promote peace. To reach this end, the Declaration states that present generations should ensure that both they and future generations learn to live together in peace with the highest aspiration of sparing future generations the scourge of war.

At the level of implementation, the Declaration recognizes the crucial role of UNESCO, which together with the international and national institutions of education for peace, shall globally promote the spirit of tolerance, dialogue, cooperation, and solidarity. To this end, the Declaration recognises in its operative section that “University for Peace should contribute to the great universal task of educating for peace by engaging in teaching, research, post-graduate training and dissemination of knowledge”.

Based on the resolution A/HRC/32 /L.18, the HRC recommends that the General Assembly adopts the “Declaration on the Right to peace” as contained in the annex to this resolution, which will occur in the 71st regular session of the General Assembly, which began its work in September 2016.

Thanks to research, the academic contribution and the trust of many people, governments and institutions, this joint adventure has successfully concluded in Geneva. In particular, the Declaration is the result of the important role played by some sectors of civil society for years, which have shown that genuine dialogue among all stakeholders and regional groups are the foundation of peace and understanding in the world.

Christian Guillermet-Fernández, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Peace (2013-2016): David Fernández Puyana, Legal assistant of the Chairperson-Rapporteur (sept 2014-sept 2016)

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UN Pension Fund Claims its Assets are Safe, Future Securehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/un-pension-fund-claims-its-assets-are-safe-future-secure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-pension-fund-claims-its-assets-are-safe-future-secure http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/un-pension-fund-claims-its-assets-are-safe-future-secure/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 14:18:42 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146278 The 63rd United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund Board meeting in Vienna from the 14 - 22 July 2016. UN Photo/Lee Woodyear

The 63rd United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund Board meeting in Vienna from the 14 - 22 July 2016. UN Photo/Lee Woodyear

By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Jul 28 2016 (IPS)

The UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF), whose current assets are estimated at over $54.2 billion, has no plans to “privatize” and is in “solid” financial health, according to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Fund Sergio Arvizu.

Responding to criticisms by several staff unions, he told IPS the Fund is processing a higher number of retiree cases every month “than any time in history” and the new processing system is complete and fast clearing the backlog of new retiree claims.

Asked about the $1.4 billion currency loss in 2015, which was singled out by a US delegate at the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee last November, Carolyn Boykin, Representative of the Secretary-General (RSG) and head of the Fund’s Investment Management Division, told IPS the loss was due primarily to sales of securities dominated in non-US dollars and also due to the appreciation of the US currency against other major currencies.

Following its 63rd UNJSPF Board meeting in Vienna July 14-22, the 33-member Board re-assured the 126,000 participants and the more than 71,000 retirees and beneficiaries that the Fund “is able to meet its pension and benefit obligations over the long term.”

The Board, which will meet again in July 2017, declared “it is confident the Fund is safe and that the Fund’s future is secure.”

Excerpts taken from written questions sent to Arvizú and Boykin.

IPS: How do you respond to charges made by the Coordinating Committee for International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA) that the pension fund has plans to privatize and invest some of its assets in Wall Street banks and hedge funds? Are there any such plans? Or were there any such plans in the recent past?

BOYKIN: The majority of the Fund’s assets are internally managed and are expected to remain that way, since this is a cost effective. External management represents approximately 15% of UNJSPF assets. The majority of this consists of real assets (mostly real estate) and alternative investments (mostly private equity). The Fund does not presently, nor does it plan in the future to invest its assets in Wall Street banks or hedge funds. The allocation to real assets and private equity is scheduled to expand gradually over time, in keeping with the Strategic Asset Allocation policy which was adopted on August 1, 2015.

IPS: While welcoming the Pension Fund’s attempt to diversify its investments to ensure solid returns, the US has urged the fund to take more steps to improve its internal investment process and explore alternatives to mitigate foreign exchange losses, which had increased substantially in 2015. Any comments? And how big was this loss?

BOYKIN: In 2015, there was a $1,489,150,849.32 total currency loss including: (a) $748,086,861 realized loss; and (b) $741,063,987 unrealized loss. The unrealized loss was due to the strength of the US dollar, and this should be recouped when the US dollar declines against other major currencies; (c) the realized loss is due to sales of securities denominated in non-USD and (d) in many cases, these securities were sold at a profit, but currency effect was negative.

IPS: The African Group at the UN has called for the diversification of the Pension Fund’s investments to developing countries, particularly in Africa. What are its current investments in the developing world? And how big?

BOYKIN: For diversification, the figures are: Goal: Comply with the mandate from the General Assembly to increase the geographic diversification of the UNJSPF, particularly in developing countries. And the 2015 results: Investments in developing countries were increased during 2015. The book value (cost) of investments in developing countries increased by US dollars (USD) 336 million: from USD 5.521 billion as of 31 December 2014 to USD 5.857 billion as of 31 December 2015.

Investments by the Fund in global emerging markets have primarily been in public equity. As of 31 December 2015, the Fund had investments in over 100 countries. This included direct securities investments in 41 countries and 24 currencies, along with indirect investments through international institutions and externally managed funds.

IPS: Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries, Karen Lingenfelder of South Africa told the Administrative and Budgetary Committee last November that the Group was concerned about recent media reports of possible fraud and would seek clarity, including an update of recent audit or investigations undertaken in that regard.” Considering the high value of the Pension Fund’s investment portfolio, the Group urged the Secretary-General to create “a comprehensive anti-fraud policy to better address fraud risk,” as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). This proposal has also been supported by the US. What is the pension fund’s reaction to such an anti-fraud policy?

BOYKIN: Upon request by the ACABQ, the Investment Management Division has drafted an Anti-Fraud policy. The RSG agrees that it is important to have such a policy in order to raise awareness as a preventive measure. Many elements of this policy already exist in other policies. The draft has been reviewed by many oversight parties, and will be adopted prior to General Assembly meetings this fall.

IPS: There are accusations of the botched implementation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning system, called IPAS, which has resulted in a situation where newly retiring staff had to wait an average of six months to receive their first pension payment. What is the current status of delayed pensions to retirees?

ARVIZU: The implementation of the new processing system the Integrated Pension Administration System (IPAS) created delays in the processing of new retirees. Especially during the transition and ramp up period of the implementation, we processed too slowly and a backlog was created. We are still struggling to get the waiting period back to the goal of 4 weeks for any new retiree once all of the papers they need are with the Fund. Presently on average it is 6 to 8 weeks, which is too long. The basic transition is complete. The new system represents a powerful foundation on which the Fund can build its business processes over the next years. To speed up things further we are hiring temporary staff and have created a number of ‘task forces’ in order to reach the goal and to take on the an increased number of new retiree cases that we are receiving. Today the Fund is processing a higher number of new retiree cases per month than any time in its history. At the same time the Fund is receiving more cases. The new system did pay 72,000 benefits in 206 countries and territories around the world since the day it was implemented, which is a complicated process. But I do regret that we could not process new cases faster and remain committed to making sure that we do everything in our power to service all of our members.

IPS: In June, the Fund reported it had cleared 97 percent of the backlog, but this claim was disputed by the staff unions, which said only 36 percent of the backlog had been cleared. In July, the fund reported it had cleared 64 percent of the backlog. But the UN announcement on its intranet didn’t endorse the figure of 64 percent but simply said the fund reported this figure. Does it indicate that the UN administration doesn’t trust what the pension fund is saying?

ARVIZU: No. We continue to work closely with the UN Department of Management and they support our efforts as we support their efforts to expedite all new retiree cases.

IPS: What are the current total assets of the fund?

BOYKIN: As of July 14, 2016, the Fund had a market value of assets equal to $54.247 billion, and the YTD nominal return was 4.21%. The Fund’s long-term return objective (the actuarial assumption) is a 3.5% real rate of return.

IPS: Does the Fund’s investments conform to social and environmental guidelines laid down by the UN and the General Assembly?

BOYKIN: The UNJSPF has an Environmental, Social and Governance “(ESG”) programme. The Investment Management Division (“IMD”) of the UNJSPF has a duty to act in the best interest of our participants and beneficiaries. When evaluating investment opportunities, ESG issues play an important role.

As part of an international organization committed to social progress, better living standards and human rights and as a founding signatory to the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) initiative and in association with the UN Global Compact (UNGC) and the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), IMD acknowledges its responsibility to society.

Our ESG programme is focused on the following areas: We have restrictions on investments in tobacco and armaments securities, and the green investment portion of our ESG programme includes both green bonds and green equity.

The UNJSPF began the “E” or Environmental part of its ESG program in 2008 when the Fund first invested in green bonds. Green bonds facilitate investments with environmental benefits such as renewable energy, sustainable energy, sustainable waste management, biodiversity conservation and clean transportation.

The UNJSPF is a signatory of several important initiatives – the United Nations supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI); A Statement of Investor Expectations for the Green Bond Market; and the 2014/2015 Global Investor Statement on Climate Change.

Subsequent to the UN Climate Summit in September 2014, when the Global Investor Statement on Climate Change was signed by over 400 investors representing more than $24 trillion in assets, our $50 billion pension plan has made significant strides to address climate change.

We worked with MSCI, State Street Global Advisors and BlackRock to develop and launch two low carbon Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), known as LOWC and CRBN. The MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target Index was announced on 23 September 2014 during the UN Climate Summit. This new index was designed to closely track the performance of the MSCI ACWI Index, while having a lower carbon exposure. We are pleased to see this concept become a reality. Together, we can work on stabilizing greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere and providing long-term growth opportunities for sustainable portfolios.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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US Government Report Exposes Exaggerated TPPA Growth Claimshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/us-government-report-exposes-exaggerated-tppa-growth-claims/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-government-report-exposes-exaggerated-tppa-growth-claims http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/us-government-report-exposes-exaggerated-tppa-growth-claims/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 13:29:22 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146283 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jul 28 2016 (IPS)

A US government agency acknowledges that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not deliver many economic benefits promised by its cheerleaders. The 2016 report by the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) acknowledges that the TPP will not deliver many gains claimed by the US Trade Representative (USTR) and the Peterson Institute of International Economics (PIIE) although it uses similar methodology and assumes that the TPP will not change the US trade deficit as a share of GDP.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

The ITC’s credibility has declined over the years as it earned a reputation for cheer-leading FTAs. It had grossly underestimated US trade deficit increases following virtually every ‘free trade’ pact it assessed. Its projections understated the large US deficit increase with Mexico following the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the huge trade deficit explosion with China following ‘permanent normal trade relations’, and the trade deficit spike with South Korea following the US-Korea trade agreement.

To assess the impact of the TPP, the ITC used its variant of a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model modified to take account of foreign direct investment (FDI) effects. To be sure, the ITC accepts growth to rise due to a significant increase in FDI, although there is no strong evidence or even logic that the TPP provisions will ensure the increase in FDI and growth projected. In fact, the procedure used involves many arbitrary elements, such as the impact on the OECD’s Regulatory Restrictiveness Index (RRI), and the impact of the latter on productivity, FDI flows and GDP, both in the US and abroad.

However, the ITC accepts only a fraction of the overall growth attributed to ‘non-trade measures’ (NTMs) by the 2016 PIIE — and World Bank — assessment, effectively rejecting many claims of growth attributed to other NTMs. Thus, for example, the ITC estimates exports will increase by only 1% due to NTMs by 2032 as against the PIIE’s estimate of 9.1% by 2030.

Thus, the economic gains from the TPP are much more modest for the ITC, with US GDP growing by only $42.7 billion (0.15%) by the year 2032, or by an average of less than 0.01% annually. Indeed, the ITC found that US manufacturing output in 2032 would be $10.843 billion lower with the TPP than without it, with manufacturing employment lowered by 0.2%! And while vehicles production would gain, automotive parts, textiles and chemicals output would contract.

Overall projected gains to US real national income are $57.3 billion, or 0.23%, by 2032, implying an average annual increase of slightly over 0.01% over the next 17 years. The much larger increase in US national income compared to GDP suggests that the TPP will significantly increase (mainly corporate) income from economic activity abroad, presumably from outward FDI. It is not clear how much of this is due to enhanced intellectual property rights (IPRs) or TPP-related financial liberalization, or if such income changes have been considered. An alternative possibility is that the terms of trade will change sufficiently in favour of the US.

US trade balance to worsen

The ITC expects the TPP to have small positive effects on the US economy. Dropping the usual CGE modelling assumption of an unchanging trade balance, it adopts a controversial methodology to project changing trade balances. According to the ITC, US exports and imports would be $27.2 billion (1.0%) and $48.9 billion (1.1%) higher than ‘baseline projections’ without the TPP, thus increasing the US trade deficit to $21.7 billion in 2032. It projects that US exports to new TPP and other FTA partners would grow by $34.6 billion (18.7%) while US imports from them would rise by $23.4 billion (10.4%).

The ITC projects increased exports of $27.2 billion in 2032 (in 2017 US dollars), less than a tenth of the PIIE’s projection of $357 billion in 2030 (in 2015 dollars). It expects manufactured exports to rise by $15.2 billion, while such imports would increase by $39.2 billion, increasing the net manufactures’ trade deficit by $24.0 billion.

Although US services’ output is projected to increase by $42.3 billion (0.1%) due to the TPP, the net services’ trade surplus is expected to contract as the increased services’ imports of $7.0 billion would exceed the increased exports of $4.8 billion. Exports of services to non-TPP partners are projected to fall by $11.8 billion, less than the projected increase of $16.6 billion to TPP partners.

The ITC report also projects worsening trade balances for 16 of the 25 US sectors it featured, including vehicles, wheat, corn, auto-parts, titanium products, chemicals, seafood, textiles and apparel, rice and even financial services. It projects a declining market share of US manufactures, natural resources and energy of $10.8 billion as such exports increase by $15.2 billion while imports rise by $39.2 billion by 2032. In the US, agriculture would gain most, with output $10.0 billion, or 0.5%, higher by 2032. However, the costs and implications of the still growing US agricultural – including biofuel – production subsidies are largely ignored in the report.

Who gains, who loses?

While dropping the typical CGE modelling assumption of constant labour supply, the ITC nevertheless seems to assume that the economy naturally tends to full employment. It thus projects overall employment will increase by 128,000 full-time jobs, or by 0.07%, due to the TPP. The trade deficit increase due to TPP implementation would result in 129,484 American job losses, including a manufacturing employment drop of 0.2%. Hence, this has to be largely attributed to services employment growth despite the expected fall in the services trade surplus.

Even if a more comprehensive and balanced assessment of the costs and risks of TPP provisions finds the potential for improved net economic welfare for all in all TPP countries (which the ITC report does not claim to show), TPP measures will not compensate losing participating economies and stakeholders. And while there may be measures available for beneficiaries to compensate losers in some national economies, nothing in the TPP itself will ensure such compensation, let alone adequately compensate those who will lose.

Furthermore, the ITC analysis does not seem to consider public health and consumer welfare losses due to higher prices, and reduced access due to broader, stronger and longer patent and copyright protection — although higher prices for pharmaceutical drugs, software and other forms of intellectual property will impose substantial costs on the public and governments.

Implementing the TPP will greatly profit some large corporations, especially those getting IPR and financial rents. Meanwhile, real incomes for employees, especially the less skilled, are likely to be further depressed, as in the past, due to international competition following trade liberalization. Compensation for such losers is virtually unheard of in developing countries, and declining in developed countries, as they are hardly ever advocated by current conventional wisdom, let alone in the TPP Agreement’s 6350 pages.

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Countering Terrorism in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/countering-terrorism-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=countering-terrorism-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/countering-terrorism-in-bangladesh/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 10:49:12 +0000 Taj Hashmi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146282 By Taj Hashmi
Jul 28 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Politicians and law-enforcers in Bangladesh, from time to time, hype up both panic and complacency by publicizing the following: “terrorists everywhere” or “no terrorists anywhere”, in the country. The ambivalence is counterproductive to counterterrorism (CT) operation. The first and foremost requirement for effective CT is understanding of terrorism per se, that terrorists are not mindless robots programmed to kill innocent people just for the sake of killing. Terrorism is ideology-driven violence, different from violent crime and warfare. Most terrorists, globally, have been well-to-do engineers and technocrats, not poverty-stricken madrassa-educated people.

op_1_0__Terrorism is a deviation, something out of the ordinary; there’s no ordinariness about it like crime, epidemic, floods, or earthquake. It’s a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself. A society or nation creates it, as studies on terrorism have revealed, through various unwise socio-political, and economic decisions. Very similar to cholera or malaria, terrorism spreads through certain germs or bacteria; it just doesn’t drop from the heavens. It’s noteworthy, terrorist outfits representing minority communities often fizzle out – such as the IRA and LTTE – but those who are well-entrenched among the main stream of the population, remain formidable adversaries for years, if not decades.

The primary responsibility for the spread of terrorism in any country lies with the country itself; there is no room for blaming others. I give the example of the ten-year-old American boy, who seconds after the second plane had hit the Twin Towers on 9/11 screamed: “Why are they killing us? We must have done something wrong to some people somewhere”. What this little boy understood that terrorists don’t attack just for the sake of attacking, the American Administration refuses to admit that terrorist attacks are either retaliatory or preemptive by nature. Bangladeshis must also search as to why terrorism is present in their country. Any denial is costly, and counterproductive to effective CT operation.

CT experts in Bangladesh must understand the problem of terrorism has deeper roots than alienation of some rich kids. Is there any problem of mass alienation of people from society, politics, and state – which they consider corrupt, cruel, and lacking in legitimacy? The problem may be political, and “political” has a very broad definition. It’s all about human relations in power perspective; it’s about people’s aspirations, honour, dignity, livelihood, family, and freedom in local, national, and global perspectives. And what’s local is global, and global is local.

In the wake of the latest terror attacks at Gulshan and Sholakia, the question is, are Bangladeshi leaders and law-enforcers still going to be in the denial mode? The stance that there is no ISIS in Bangladesh and that terrorists here are all homegrown locals seems to have become irrelevant. In fact, they should rather worry more about the homegrown elements than the foreign ones, who are relatively easier to track down than the locals. They should understand terrorism is also globalised like the McDonald’s franchise; you don’t need American chefs to prepare their burgers in distant Bangladesh.

An effective CT doesn’t require more troops or policemen, it requires: a) the admission by politicians and police that terrorists do exist in Bangladesh; b) no bragging about actual or elusive success in CT operation; c) no blame game against each other; and d) good governance and fair distribution of prosperity and opportunities to all. Imperatively, mainstream religions or political parties never nurture terrorism. Cults or secret religious or political clans surreptitiously mobilize support for terrorism by systematic brainwashing of people through manipulation of facts and ideologies. The upshot is a tiny minority of angry, marginalised people start believing what’s apparently right is actually wrong, and vice versa.

According to the Home Minister, since only a handful of people are terrorists, the Government can overpower them in no time. The Police Chief is even more complacent: “Militancy has decreased in the country due to law enforcers’ efforts …. Some have been killed in ‘crossfire’ incidents”. Interestingly, only 19 terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers on 9/11, killed around 3,000 people, inflicting a loss of more than a trillion dollars to American economy; and al Qaeda spent less than $500,000 for the attacks. The punch line is 20 terrorists can kill 20,000.

Global CT operators have learnt that there are three different types of politically inspired violence: a) terrorism b) insurgency and c) insurgent-terrorism. The fine line between terrorism and insurgency often remains blurred. While al Qaeda is primarily terroristic, the ISIS champions global insurgencies against all governments across the world. Hence it’s the most dangerous destabilizing force in the world.

As terrorism is often part of broader insurgencies – the terrorist JMB in Bangladesh is a surrogate to the global insurgency called ISIS – CT operators must apply counterinsurgency (COIN) methods as well. David Galula, the guru of COIN operators in the world (although this French expert came from the losing side of the War in Algeria), believes CT-COIN is “eighty percent political, and twenty percent military”. CT-COIN operators in Bangladesh must apply the concerted civil, military, paramilitary, political, economic, and psychological forces to counter terrorism.

Then again, CT-COIN operators mustn’t follow security studies manuals, blindly. One military historian has pointed out, most CT-COIN operations have failed to achieve anything as the losing side has written “99 percent” of their manuals. Hence the desirability of innovation or creativity! Again civil-military cooperation is an essential pre-condition for the success of any CT-COIN operation, so goes General David Petraeus’s Counterinsurgency Field Manual.

The line between terrorists and insurgents is getting blurred, very fast. In countries where terrorists and insurgents come from the main stream of the populations, there’s no guarantee about the success of any CT-COIN operations in those places. There’s no alternative to addressing the socio-political, and economic issues to resolve the problem of terrorism-insurgency in those countries. We know terrorism isn’t a law-and-order problem, and as such there’s no quick fix or police and military solutions to the problem. However, this information is a bitter pill to swallow for most government agencies in Bangladesh, and elsewhere.

Another stumbling bloc to successful CT-COIN operation is some politicians’ and law-enforcers’ disrespect for human rights, human dignity, and privacy of suspects having links with terrorists and insurgents in general. They simply don’t understand extra-judicial killings of suspects and criminals – through the proverbial “encounter” or “cross-fire” – further aggravate the problem of terrorism-insurgency.

To conclude, Bangladesh should use the globally recognised CT-COIN Manual, for example the one developed by the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS), which is all about intrastate and interstate cooperation to contain and defeat terrorist-insurgencies in various countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Bangladesh. While the Comprehensive Security Response to Terrorism (CSRT) method stresses the importance of intrastate civil-military and inter-agency cooperation, including intelligence sharing, the Advanced Security Cooperation (ASC) suggests interstate cooperation among civil-military and intelligence agencies at the international level.

Again, both the CSRT and ASC methods stress the importance of good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights as antidotes to terrorism and insurgency. CT-COIN operators in Bangladesh should learn, there’s no substitute for good governance, which is transparent and accountable, and ensures democracy, the freedom of expression, human rights and dignity. In sum, there’s no police or military solution to the problem of terrorism and insurgency.

The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University in the US. He is the author of several books, including his latest, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan (Sage, 2014).
Email: tajhashmi@gmail.com


This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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African Leaders Driving Push for Industrialisation: UN Officialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:48:56 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146270 The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2016 (IPS/G77)

Industrialisation in Africa is being driven by African leaders who realise that industries as diverse as horticulture and leather production can help add value to the primary resources they currently export.

This is an “inside driven” process, Li Yong, Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) told IPS in a recent interview. “I’ve heard that message from the African leaders.”

The African Union ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’ sets out a plan to transform the economy of the 54 countries in Africa based on manufacturing, said Li.

The process received support from the UN General Assembly on Monday with a new resolution titled the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (2016-2025).

The resolution was sponsored by the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries and China in collaboration with the African Union, said Li.

“These steps create a momentum that all “industrialization stakeholders” in Africa must take advantage of,” said Li.

The resolution called on UNIDO to work together with the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Economic Commission for Africa to work towards sustainable industrialisation in Africa over the next 10 years.

The types of industrialisation African countries are embracing often involves adding value to the primary commodities, from mining or agriculture, that they are already producing.

It includes horticultural industry, notably in Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal, beneficiation, adding value to minerals mined in Botswana, and shoe and garment manufacturing in Ethiopia, said Li.

However Li noted that in order to attract foreign investment in industrialisation, developing countries need to “do their homework.”

This can include building the necessary business infrastructure required for new industries in industrial parks.
“We have already seen some countries move ahead with attracting investments into industrial parks (including) Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa,” said Li.

Li pointed to recent examples from Ethiopia and Senegal, where the respective governments have invested millions of dollars in building industrial parks to attract foreign investors that create jobs and exports for these two Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Currently, there are 48 LDCs around the world, of which 34 are in Africa.

Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

The decent work and value addition that come with industrialisation are considered a key way that these LDCs can grow, transform and diversify their economies and become middle income countries. Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

LDCs in Africa have had “very low and declining shares of manufacturing value added in GDP since the 1970s”, noted Li.
By investing in industry, these countries can add value to their primary exports, including through agro-industry, as is the case in Ethiopia, whose main exports include coffee, gold, leather products and live animals. “Manufacturing connects agriculture to light industry” noted Li, such as through food processing, garments and textiles, wood and leather processing.

Moreover, industrialisation does not necessarily have to be incompatible with the shift to a low carbon economy, said Li, since use of resource and energy efficient production methods and renewable energy in productive activities such as agro-industry, beneficiation, and in manufacturing, in general, will lead the economy onto a low carbon path.

The world’s least developed countries are following in the footsteps of other countries which have already achieved development, in part due to the industrialisation of their economies.

LDCs are “really eager to learn from those countries (that have) already gone through this process so that is why we have established South-South cooperation,” said Li.

However industrialisation does not only benefit the developing countries which want to attract it.

“Firms in today’s manufacturing powerhouses such as China, India and Brazil that are faced with rising wages at home are searching for locations that offer competitive wages, and appropriate infrastructure,” said Li.

With populations in many countries around the world beginning to age, Africa also has a comparative advantage to offer with growing young populations in many African countries.

“With its young and growing population, some indications show that Africa has the potential to become the next region to benefit from industrialization, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing sectors,” said Li.

By providing employment and opportunities for these young people at home, industrialisation can also address other issues, including migration, inequalities and climate change, noted Li.

“Industry means creating jobs and incomes and industrial jobs partially reduce the pressure on migration and also resolve the root causes,” he said.

The Role of the G77

Li noted that UNIDO works closely with all developing countries, often through the Group of 77 and China, which represents 134 developing countries at the UN.

“The G77 and China has diverse membership, including Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries, Small Islands Developing States, and Middle Income Countries, located in almost all regions of the world and with diverse range of priorities with respect to industrial development,” he said.

“In LDCs, labor-intensive manufacturing is promoted to create jobs.”

“In middle-income countries moving up the technology ladder into higher value added manufacturing is targeted.”
This can include collaborations with “science, technology and research and development institutions, targeted foreign investment promotion, and other relevant services,” said Li.

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Climate Victims – Every Second, One Person Is Displaced by Disasterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/climate-victims-every-second-one-person-is-displaced-by-disaster/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-victims-every-second-one-person-is-displaced-by-disaster http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/climate-victims-every-second-one-person-is-displaced-by-disaster/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 06:15:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146253 Land degradation - Sustainable land management: do nothing and you will be poorer. Credit: UNEP

Land degradation - Sustainable land management: do nothing and you will be poorer. Credit: UNEP

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 27 2016 (IPS)

Climate change and related extreme weather events have devastated the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of most vulnerable people worldwide– by far exceeding the total of all the unfortunate and unjustifiable victims of all terrorist attacks combined. However, the unstoppable climate crisis receives just a tiny fraction of mainstream media attention. See these dramatic facts.

“Every second, one person is displaced by disaster,” the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports. “In 2015 only, more than 19.2 million people fled disasters in 113 countries. “Disasters displace three to ten times more people than conflict and war worldwide.”

As climate change continues, it will likely lead to more frequent and severe natural hazards; the impact will be heavy, warns this independent humanitarian organisation providing aid and assistance to people forced to flee.

“On average, 26 million people are displaced by disasters such as floods and storms every year. That’s one person forced to flee every second.”

“Climate change is our generation’s greatest challenge,” says Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which counts with over 5,000 humanitarian workers across more than 25 countries.

The climate refugees and migrants add to the on-going humanitarian emergency. “Not since World War II have more people needed our help,” warned the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland, who held the post of UN undersecretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief (2003-2006).

Egeland –who was one of the most active, outspoken participants in the World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul May 23-24)– also stressed that the humanitarian sector is failing to protect civilians.

“I hope that world 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,” he said to IPS during the World Humanitarian Summit.

For its part, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

On this, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that coastal populations are at particular risk as a global rise in temperature of between 1.1 and 3.1 degrees C would increase the mean sea level by 0.36 to 0.73 meters by 2100, adversely impacting low-lying areas with submergence, flooding, erosion, and saltwater intrusion.

An estimated 83,100 people remain displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance in Wau, South Sudan. Credit: OIM

An estimated 83,100 people remain displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance in Wau, South Sudan. Credit: OIM

In a recent interview with IPS Nairobi correspondent Manipadma Jena, the director general of the International Organisation for Migration, William Lacy Swing, said that coastal migration is starting already but it is very hard to be exact as there is no good data to be able to forecast accurately.

“We do not know. But it is clearly going to figure heavily in the future. And it’s going to happen both in the low-lying islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean, and in those countries where people build houses very close to the shore and have floods every year as in Bangladesh.”

“It is quite clear that we will have more and more conflicts over shortages of food and water that are going to be exacerbated by climate change,” Lacy Swing warned.

Political crises and natural disasters are the other major drivers of migration today, he said to IPS in the interview.

Lacy Swing confirmed the fact that climate victims now add to record 60 million people who are fleeing war and persecution.

“We have never had so many complex and protracted humanitarian emergencies now happening simultaneously from West Africa all the way to Asia, with very few spots in between which do not have some issue. We have today 40 million forcibly displaced people and 20 million refugees, the greatest number of uprooted people since the Second World War.”

On 25 July, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution approving an agreement to make the International Organisation for Migration part of the UN system.

Founded in the wake of the World War II to resettle refugees from Europe, OIM celebrates its 65th anniversary in December of this year.

AFAO and UNHCR prepared a handbook that will help mitigate the impact of displaced people on forest resources. The handbook aims to help displaced people access fuel for cooking food while reducing environmental damage and conflicts with local communities. Credit: FAO/UNHCR

FAO and UNHCR prepared a handbook that will help mitigate the impact of displaced people on forest resources. The handbook aims to help displaced people access fuel for cooking food while reducing environmental damage and conflicts with local communities. Credit: FAO/UNHCR

“Migration is at the heart of the new global political landscape and its social and economic dynamics. At a time of growing levels of migration within and across borders, a closer legal and working relationship between the United Nations and IOM is needed more than ever,” said the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement welcoming the Assembly’s decision.

IOM, which assisted an estimated 20 million migrants in 2015, is an intergovernmental organisation with more than 9,500 staff and 450 offices worldwide

“We are living in a time of much tragedy and uncertainty. This agreement shows Member States’ commitment to more humane and orderly migration that benefits all, where we celebrate the human beings behind the numbers,” IOM Director General William Lacy said.

Through the agreement, the UN recognises IOM as an “indispensable actor in the field of human mobility.” IOM added that this includes protection of migrants and displaced people in migration-affected communities, as well as in areas of refugee resettlement and voluntary returns, and incorporates migration in country development plans.

The agreement paves the way for the agreement to be signed by Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon and Swing at the UN Summit for refugees and migrants on 19 September, which will bring together UN member states to address large movements of refugees and migrants for more humane and coordinated approach.

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Narrow National Interests Threaten Historic Refugee Agreementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/narrow-national-interests-threaten-historic-refugee-agreement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=narrow-national-interests-threaten-historic-refugee-agreement http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/narrow-national-interests-threaten-historic-refugee-agreement/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 03:59:41 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146238 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/narrow-national-interests-threaten-historic-refugee-agreement/feed/ 0 Forests and Crops Make Friendly Neighbors in Costa Ricahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/forests-and-crops-grow-hand-by-hand-in-costa-rica/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 18:55:58 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146239 Tapantí National Park lies east from the capital San José covering more than 50.000 hectares of forest, which in turn provides valuable watershed protection. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

Tapantí National Park lies east from the capital San José covering more than 50.000 hectares of forest, which in turn provides valuable watershed protection. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz / IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

While Latin America keeps expanding its agricultural frontier by converting large areas of forest, one country, Costa Rica, has taken a different path and is now a role model for a peaceful coexistence between food production and sustainable forestry.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) flagship publication The State of the World’s Forests revealed that commercial agriculture was responsible for 70 percent of forest conversion in Latin America between 2000 and 2010.

“What FAO mentions about the rest of Latin America, clearing forests for agriculture or livestock, happened in Costa Rica during the 1970s and 1980s,” Jorge Mario Rodríguez, the director of Costa Rica’s National Fund for Forestry Finance (Fonafifo), told IPS.“Agricultural development doesn’t necessarily require the expansion of croplands; rather, it demands the coexistence with the forest and the intensification of production by improving national farmers’ productivity and competitiveness" -- Octavio Ramírez.

At its worst moment, during the 1980s, Costa Rica’s forest cover was limited to 21 to 25 percent of its land area. Now, forests account for 53 percent of the country’s 51,000 square kilometers, with almost five million inhabitants.

The country has managed to hold and even push back the advance of the agricultural frontier while strengthening its food security, according to FAO, which says that Costa Rica’s malnutrition rate is under 5 percent, something the organisation accounts as “zero hunger”.

“Here’s a learned lesson: there’s no need to chop down forests to produce more crops,” FAO Costa Rica director Octavio Ramírez told IPS.

Despite the increase in forest cover, FAO states the average value of food production per person increased by 26 percent in the period 1990–1992 to 2011–2013.

FAO attributes this change “to structural changes in the economy and the priority given to forest conservation and sustainable management” which were seized upon by Costa Rican authorities in a specific context.

“It has to do with the livestock crisis during the 1980s but also the priority given by Costa Rica to forest management,” said Ramírez, born in Nicaragua but Costa Rican by naturalisation.

In The State of the World’s Forests report, launched on July 18, FAO explains that Costa Rican forests were regarded as “land banks” that could be converted as necessary to meet agricultural needs.

“To keep the forest intact was looked upon as a synonym of laziness and unwillingness to work,” Ramírez explained.

But there were two key elements during the 1980s that led to better forest protection, the environmental economist Juan Robalino told IPS.

José Alberto Chacón weeds between bean plants on his small farm in Pacayas, on the slopes of the Irazú volcano, in Costa Rica. The terraces help control water run-off that would otherwise cause soil erosion. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

José Alberto Chacón weeds between bean plants on his small farm in Pacayas, on the slopes of the Irazú volcano, in Costa Rica. The terraces help control water run-off that would otherwise cause soil erosion. Picture: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

Meat prices plummeted while eco-tourism became a leading economic activity in the country, explained the specialist from Universidad de Costa Rica and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center.

“This paved the way for very interesting policy-making, like the creation of the Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program,” said Robalino, one of the top experts in Costa Rican forest cover.

FAO states that a big part of Costa Rica’s success comes from PES, a financial incentive that acknowledges those ecosystem services resulting from forest conservation and management, reforestation, natural regeneration and agroforestry systems.

The program, established in 1997 and ran by Fonafifo, has a simple logic at its core: the Costa Rican state pays landowners who protect forest cover as they provide an ecosystem service.

From its launch until 2015, a total of 318 million dollars were invested in forest-related PES projects.  64 percent of the funding came from fossil fuel tax, 22 percent from World Bank credits and the remainder from other sources.

After studying PES impacts for years, Robalino explains the challenge for 2016 is to look for landowners with less incentives to protect their forests and bring them on board with the financial argument.

“The goal is to always look for those who’ll change their behavior because of the program,” Robalino stated.

Because of budget limitations, the program must decide which properties to work with, as applications exceed its capacity fivefold, according to Fonafifo director Rodríguez.

Priorities for PES funding include ecosystem services like watershed protection, carbon capture, scenic beauty and biodiversity conservation.

“Costa Rica learned that forests are worth more for their environmental services than because of their timber,” Rodríguez pointed out.

Fonafifo is now looking for new partnerships with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to launch a new program focused on small landowners who require more technical support, a road also favoured by FAO.

“Agricultural development doesn’t necessarily require the expansion of croplands; rather, it demands the coexistence with the forest and the intensification of production by improving national farmers’ productivity and competitiveness,” said Ramírez, FAO’s local representative.

Both FAO and local experts interviewed by IPS agreed that PES seized upon a national and international crossroads to launch a program that despite its success, is not the only cause for Costa Rica’s recovery.

“Costa Rica’s success cannot be exclusively attributed to PES since other policies, like the creation of the National Protected Areas System and its education system, also played a major role,” Rodríguez explained.

Beyond this program, the country has a longstanding environmental tradition: close to a quarter of its territory is under some type of protection, the forestry law bans forest conversion, and sports hunting, open-air metallic mining and oil exploitation are all illegal.

The country’s Constitution declares citizens’ right to a healthy environment in its article 50.

“I remember my school teacher telling us students that we had to protect the forest,” Robalino recalled.

However, Costa Rica’s forest recovery didn’t reach all ecosystems in the country and left mangroves behind. Their area has diminished in the past decades.

According to the country’s 2014 report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, mangrove coverage fell from 64.452 hectares in 1979 to 37.420 hectares in 2013, a 42 percent loss.

This ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to large monoculture plantations on the Pacific coast, where the local Environmental Administrative Tribunal denounced the disappearance of 400 hectares between 2010 and 2014, due to human-induced fire, logging and invasion.

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How Did We Arrive at This Chaos?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 13:28:11 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146233 Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News. ]]>

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

A Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times”. That meant that too many events would disrupt the essential elements of harmony, on which the Chinese pantheon is based.

We certainly live in very interesting times where every day dramatic events pile on us, from terrorism to coup d’etat, from climate disaster to the decline of institutions and ever increasing social turmoil. It would be important, even if very difficult, to look in a nutshell why we are in this situation now – “lack of harmony” . So here goes a dramatically compressed explanation.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Let us start from a little known fact. After the Second World War, there was a general consensus on the need to avoid the repetition of its horrors. The United Nations served as the meeting place for all countries, and the Cold War created as a reaction, an association of the newly independent countries, the Non Aligned countries, which acted as a buffer between the East and West camps. More, the North South divide become the most important aspect of international relations. So much so that in 1973, the United Nations General Assembly adopted unanimously a resolution on a New International Economic Order (NIEO).The world agreed to establish a plan of action to reduce inequalities, foster global growth and make of cooperation and international law the basis for a world in harmony and peace.

After the adoption of the NIEO, the international community started to work in that direction and after a preparatory meeting in Paris in 1979, a summit of the most important heads of state was convened in Cancun, Mexico in 1981, to adopt a comprehensive plan of action. Among the 22 heads of state, came Ronald Reagan, who was elected a few weeks before, and this is where he found Margaret Thatcher who was elected in 1979. The two proceeded to cancel the NIEO and the idea of international cooperation. Countries would do policy according to their national interests, and did not bow to any abstract principle. The United Nations started its decline as the meeting place on governance.

The place for decisions became the G7, until then a technical body, and other organizations, which would defend the national interests of the powerful countries.

At the same time, three other events did help Reagan and Thatcher to change the direction of history.

One was the creation of the Washington’s consensus, elaborated in 1989 by the American Treasure, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, which imposed as policy that the market was the only real engine of societies. States were an obstacle, and they should shrink as much as possible (Reagan also considered abolishing the Ministry of Education). The impact of the Washington Consensus on the ‘Third World’ was a very painful one. Structural adjustments severely cut the fragile public system.

The second was the fall of the Berlin Wall, also in 1989, which brought an end to ideologies, and obliged adoption of neoliberal globalization, which turned out to be an even more strict ideology. The main points of neo-liberal globalization included: the rule of the market (liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government); cutting public expenditure for social services (and reducing the social safety net); deregulation (reducing government regulation of everything that could diminish profits); privatization (selling state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors); eliminating the concept of “the public good” or “community”and replacing it with “individual responsibility (pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves – then blame them, if they fail, as “lazy”).

The third was the progressive elimination of rules of the financial sector, started by Reagan and completed by Bill Clinton in 1999. Deposit banks were able to use the depositor’s money for speculation. Finance, that was considered to be the lubricant of economy, went on its own way, embarking on very risky operations, not any longer linked to the real economy. Now we have for every dollar of production for goods and services, 40 dollars of financial transactions.

Nobody defends any longer the Washington Consensus, and the neoliberal globalization. It is clear to all that while at macro level, globalization increased trade, finance and global growth, at microeconomic level it has been a disaster. The proponents of neoliberal globalization claimed that the growth would reach everyone in the planet. Instead, growth has been concentrating more and more in fewer and fewer hands. Six years ago, 388 individuals owned the same wealth as that of 3.6 billion people. In 2014, the number of the super wealthy come down to 80 individuals. In 2015, this number came down to 62 individuals. The IMF and the World Bank have been asking to reinforce the state as the indispensible regulator, reversing their policy. But the genie is out of the bottle. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe has lost 18 million of its middle class citizens and the US 24 million. On the other hand, there are now 1,830 billionaires with a net capital of 6.4 trillion dollars. In the UK, the level of inequality in 2025 is expected to be the same at the time of Queen Victoria in 1850 at the time of the birth of capitalism.

The new world created by Reagan is based on greed. Some historians claim that greed and fear are the two main engines of history; and values and priorities change in a society of greed.

Let us come to our days. We have again a new group of three horses of Apocalypse. The damages of the previous 20 years (1981-2001), are compounded by those of the continuing twenty years (2001-2021) and we are not through yet .

The first, was that in 2008 the banking system of the US went berserk for absurd speculations on mortgages. That crisis moved to Europe in 2009, caused by the falling value of the state’s title, like the Greek ones. Let us recall that to save the banking system, countries have spent close to 4 trillion dollars. An enormous amount, if we consider that banks still have toxic titles for 800 billion dollars. Meanwhile the banks have paid 220 billion dollars in fines for illegal activities. No banker has been incriminated. Europe is not yet back to its pre-crisis level of life. Meanwhile, many jobs have disappeared because of delocalization to the cheapest place of production, and jobs with substandard salaries have increased, together with precarious ones.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), today a worker makes in real terms 16% less than before the crisis. This has affected especially young people, with a European average of 10.5% of youth unemployment. Yet, the only stimulus for growth is for the banking system, into which the European Central Bank‚ is injecting 80 billion of dollars per month. This would have solved easily the youth’s unemployment.

Economists speak now of a “New Economy”, where unemployment is structural. From 1950 to 1973, world’s growth was over 5% per year. It came down to about 3% during 1973 and 2007 (OPEP’s blockade of petrol price in 1973 marked the shift.). Since 2007 we are not able to reach 1%. We have to add the growing unemployment that the technological development is causing. Factories need a fraction of the workers they had before. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (robotizing), will bring robot production, now at 12%, to 40% in 2025. Some mainstream economists, like Larry Summers, (the establishment voice) say that we are in a period of stagnation that will last for many years. Fear for the future has become a reality, fueled by terrorism and unemployment, with many dreaming that is possible to go back to the better yesterday. This is what populist leaders, from Donald Trump to Le Pen, are riding. A consequence of the crisis was that in several European countries populist parties, engaged in a nationalist call, riding xenophobia and nationalism have emerged, 47 at the last count. Several of them are already in coalitions that govern, or directly, like in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia. Now watch the next Austrian elections.

The second horse of Apocalypse has been the result of the interventions made in Iraq by US, and then Libya and Syria by Europe (with a particular role by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy).

As a result, in 2012 Europe started to receive massive immigration, for which there was no preparation. Suddenly, people were afraid of the human tide coming, and its impact in workplace, culture, religion, etc. That become a major factor for fear.

And then the third horse was the creation of ISIS in Syria, in 2013, one of the gifts of the invasion in Iraq. Let us not forget the global crisis started in 2008, and since then populism and nationalism were on the rise. But ISIS spectacular media impact and the radicalization of many young Europeans from Arab descent, usually from the margin of societies and laws, accentuated Fear, and was a gift for the populist, now able to use xenophobia for mobilizing disaffected and insecure citizens. The decline of European institutions has brought several countries (after Brexit), to call for a deep revision of the European project. Hungary is going for a referendum on 2 of October. Would you accept an immigrant quota imposed by the EU, against the will of the Hungarian parliament? The same day there will be the re-run of Austrian elections, that the extreme right wing lost for 36,000 votes. Then the Netherlands, France and Germany will follow, with an expected increase of the extreme right wing parties. At the same time, Poland and Slovakia also want to have a referendum about the EU. It could well be that at the end of 2017, European institutions will be deeply wounded.

The real problem is that since the failed Cancun Summit in 1981, countries have lost the ability to think together. India, Japan, China, and many other are going through a tide of nationalism. In Cancun, all participants, from Francois Mitterrand to Indira Gandhi, from Julius Nyerere to Pierre Trudeau shared a set of common values.: social justice, solidarity, the respect of international law, and the conviction that strong societies were the basis for democracy (except of course for Reagan and Thatcher). She famously declared: there is no such thing as a society, there are only individuals). They shared many books. They considered peace and development as the paradigm for governance. All this has been swept away. Politicians, left without ideologies, subordinated to finance, have turned mainly to an administrative debate, on singles issues, without a framework, where left or right have become difficult to discern. We are clearly in a period of Greed and Fear.

Time is not helping. In 1900 Europe had 24% of the world population. At the end of this century, Europe will be 4%. Nigeria will be more populous than the US. Africa, now at 1 billion, will be 2 billion by 2050, and 3 billion by 2100. It is time now to engage all together to discuss how to face the coming world. We took 25 years to reach an agreement on climate, maybe it is too late. On migration and employment, two and a half decades is an eternity. But this must be a global agreement, not just a kneejerk reflex by Chancellor Angela Merkel in total solitude, without even consulting French President Francois Hollande. But this kind of agenda is politically unimaginable. How to discuss these issues with Le Pen, Donald Trump, the other emerging populists and the nationalist tide that runs in the world?

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Modern-day Slavery in Oman? Domestic Workers in Perilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 14:45:13 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146210 Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered  Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

By Dominique Von Rohr
ROME, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

In order to escape poverty and support their families back home, thousands of domestic workers from South and South-East Asia migrate to Oman with the promise of stable employment in local households.

Once they arrive in Oman, new employers often seize their passports so that they cannot depart when they want, ultimately, denying them their freedom of movement.

They are made subject to excessive working hours, sleep deprivation and starvation. Many suffer from verbal or sexual abuse.

All too often, the money they work so hard for is denied to them. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, a great number of female migrant domestic workers fall prey to such abusive employment, and become Oman’s modern-day slaves.

The country’s visa sponsorship system, known as kafala, as well as the absence of labour law protections for domestic workers make migrant workers highly vulnerable to exploitation.

The kafala creates an “unbreakable” tie between the migrant worker and their employer, which means that the migrant worker’s visa is directly conditioned by the employer.

This prohibits migrant workers from switching jobs, even if they face abuse at their workplace. At least 130’000 migrant domestic workers are affected by the kafala system.

Families in Oman acquire their services through recruitment companies, employing them to take care of their children, cook meals, and clean their homes.

The recruitment companies typically ask for a fee to be paid for the mediation, and several migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their employers demanded they pay them back the recruitment fee in order to be released from their service.

Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay, or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse”, Rothna Begum, a Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, confirms.

A report from Human Rights Watch also stated that women who decide to escape their abusive employment often face legal penalties.

Asma K., a domestic worker from Bangladesh, told Human Rights Watch that she was not only “sold” to a man, her passport had also been taken away from her, and she was forced to work 21 hours a day tending to the needs of 15 people.

Asma was both sexually and verbally abused, denied of her right to a fair wage in addition to being deprived of food. Many other female domestic workers share Asma K.’s story.

Once a migrant worker has escaped an abusive employer, very few options remain. If the women go back to the agencies that recruited them, the agents often beat them and forcefully place them into new families.

The Omani police offers little help, usually dismisses the domestic workers’ claim, and returns them to the family they came from, where in several cases, the workers are assaulted by their employers, Human Rights Watch says.

Some women risk getting reported as “absconded”, an offense which can lead to their deportation or even a criminal complaint against them.

While several Omani lawyers confirm that they have no confidence in Oman’s labour dispute settlement procedure or courts for redress for domestic workers, some embassy officials dissuade domestic workers from even fighting for their case, due to the lengthy process and the high probability of facing defeat.

This process eventually leads to workers returning to their home countries without pay, with the dream of providing for their families shattered and no hope for justice.

In order to protect its nationals from abusive employment, Indonesia has banned migration to Oman, as well as other countries with a similar history of migrant labour abuse.

However, such bans often have an opposite effect, leaving those most desperate for work vulnerable to traffickers or forced labour as they try to sidestep their own country’s restrictions.

Human Rights Watch states that several countries do not protect their nationals against abusive employment, nor do they provide help to those who fall victim to trafficking, abuse and mistreatment living abroad.

In 2012, Oman promised the United Nations Human Rights Council to look for alternatives to the kafala system, however, Human Rights Watch states that no concrete proposal has since been made, and up until now, Oman’s labour law does not protect domestic workers.

In April 2016, a Ministry of Manpower official stated in the Times of Oman that Oman is considering protecting domestic workers under its labour law, however, when requested for information on possible law reforms or other measures to protect domestic workers, the Omani government remained silent.

Human Rights Watch states that Oman was further criticized by the United States government for not demonstrating increased efforts to address human trafficking.

In 2015, there were only five prosecutions on sex trafficking, with no prosecutions on forced labour at all.

In order to provide protection for domestic workers, Human Rights Watch urges Oman to revise the kafala system, and advises it to cooperate with the countries of origin to help prevent exploitation.

Instead of punishing migrant domestic workers for escaping their appalling conditions, they should be granted justice by means of fair prosecutions against those who manipulated, scorned and abused them.

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A Case of Failing Democracy or Fading Geo-politicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:35:05 +0000 Adil Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146203 By M. Adil Khan
Jul 25 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The ‘coup’ of July 15 in Turkey failed within hours of its start, and given that it enlisted very limited support within the army itself, some called it not a coup but a ‘mutiny’.

oped_1_afp__In recent times, there have been many reports, mainly in the West, of unhappiness with Erdogan’s Islamism and authoritarian style of governing, but no one thought that this would translate into a coup. After all, it was not that long ago when the world cheered “The Rise of Turkey”. Under Erdogan’s leadership and with a mix of liberal democracy and neoliberal economic policy, Turkey marched ahead economically. Turkey looked like the poster boy of the Muslim world – modern, progressing and yet Muslim.

However, while the economy was growing, Islamist nationalism also surged unnoticed in the beginning. Islamist nationalism was hailed as Islam’s democratic answer to ‘terrorism’ that in recent times has become the scourge of most Muslim majority nations.

But all of a sudden, the scene changed and the tone became very different – to some, Turkey is now a “failed model” and this is because Erdogan “changed the Constitution for his own benefit and restarted his wicked conflict with the Kurds” (Independent, July 16, 2016) , and yet others argue that “the successful liberalisation in Turkey during the last three decades itself paved the way for Islam’s later authoritarian and conservative incarnations” (The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism, Cihan Tugal).

So which one of these views is correct?

It is not easy to answer that, but one thing is clear: the way millions poured into the streets at the call of Erdogan to repel the ‘mutiny’, the answer is not the disapproval of Erdogan by his people as their leader nor does it seem to be his governance style, not at this stage at least. Notwithstanding, the fact that there has been a ‘mutiny’ (not coup) indicates that not everything is hunky dory in Turkey these days.

Since its inception as a ‘modern’ state in 1923 under Kemal Ataturk, a post-colonial invention of the West which was built on the ashes of the defeated, humiliated and dismantled Ottoman monarchy, Turkey has rotated between booms and busts, democracy and coups, secularism and Islamism, and this largely depended on the not-so-apparent changing mood of its benefactors. It is no surprise that any effort by Turkey – regardless of whether this is done through a democratic or an authoritarian polity – that pursues nationalistic aspirations at the cost of the hegemon’s agenda in the region is to invite trouble. Like many previous coups, the July 15, 2016 ‘mutiny ‘is no exception and thus, needed to be seen in this context.

Indeed, this ‘mutiny’ is nothing but a culmination of several policy clashes that manifested themselves through Turkey’s resurgent sovereign Islamist nationalist identity that challenged the diktats of geopolitics at different levels, and on many occasions has put Erdogan at odds with the West’s idea of ‘modern’ Tukey – a secularised, de-cultured, de-Islamised ‘lackey’.

In the context of these complex and conflated dynamics, it is difficult to say which of the factors, Erdogan’s authoritarianism or the West’s diminishing control over Turkey, has prompted the mutiny but the picture that emerges – and given that millions poured on the street at the call of Erdogan to foil the mutiny – is that the West’s script that the mutiny has been caused by deficits of democracy is anything but true. The answer lies somewhere else.

Erdogan blames his nemesis, the US based self-exiled cleric Gulen for the mutiny and accordingly, asked the US government to extradite him to face trial in Turkey. In response, the Obama administration asked for evidence of Gulen’s involvement in the mutiny.

Erdogan’s woes started with a number of policy shifts, some good and some terrible, that he initiated lately. Firstly, his move to severe diplomatic ties with Israel in 2013, in the aftermath of the latter’s attack on a Turkish Gaza peace ship, a principled decision, earned him the wrath of a powerful and dangerous foe that many believe to be behind the numerous political and economic unrests that have been plaguing Turkey lately. Secondly, his clash with Russia was unnecessary and proved costly. Most importantly, his government’s alleged patronisation of ISIS has proved to be a grave mistake, and Erdogan has been paying for it since. Thirdly, encouraged by NATO and inspired by his reported personal hatred, Erdogan’s dogged determination to evict Assad in Syria cost Turkey dearly.

However, it is his recent reversals of some of these policies, especially cementing of relationships with Russia and peace overtures to Syria, that have put him at extreme odds with the Zionist/NATO conglomerate, Turkey’s post-colonial ‘nurturer’. Indeed, a delayed and somewhat less-than-strong disapproval of the coup by the NATO is instructive and has prompted speculations that they might have expected a different outcome.

Nevertheless, Erdogan be warned, his adversaries have noted one thing quite clearly that more than the support or non-participation of the loyal faction of his army, it is the people who have foiled the mutiny. They are his main strength and therefore, to ensure that the next coup or ‘revolution’ does not fail, many believe that is quite possible that the hegemon’s nexus will make sure to weaken Erdogan’s support base, the people, by alienating them through the engineering of a false economic crisis (remember Iran’s Mosaddek, Chilli’s Allende!).

Therefore, for Erdogan, the journey ahead is fraught and as he has found out already, a stricter form of authoritarianism and purging of critics is not the solution. The people are his answer and thus the way forward is not to shrink that base but expand it by engaging people to build a Turkey that is economically progressive, politically inclusive and spiritually nourishing.

The writer is a former senior policy manager of the United Nations.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Biswal’s Dreams Just Pretentious Prattlehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:14:15 +0000 Editor Sunday Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146199 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Jul 25 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

So Nisha Biswal, the US State Department’s point person on Sri Lanka, says that Sri Lanka could be another Singapore.

That will be the day. If after six visits to the country in 20 months she has still not grasped the basics of Sri Lanka’s socio-political culture and mores, the lack of respect for law and order and the rule of law infused by political interference and intimidation, she could hardly be a messenger of hope and good sense.

Nisha Biswal told a group of Sri Lankan business leaders that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to model his country on Ceylon and now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore

Nisha Biswal told a group of Sri Lankan business leaders that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to model his country on Ceylon and now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore

Perhaps she has become accustomed to the obsequiousness of foreign minister Samaraweera for things western and his habit of clinging on to the hands of every foreign visitor seemingly as a token of eternal friendship but actually in case they make a break for a quick getaway as some suspect.

The other day media carried a picture of our over-zealous foreign minister holding on to the hand of the visiting Chinese foreign minister leaving the latter looking rather perplexed. The Chinese reaction was not surprising given that the pro-western UNP leadership turned its back on Beijing shortly after the “good governance” coalition came to office possibly because China provided financial help to the Rajapaksa government when our so-called western friends would not do so and even refused to provide weaponry to fight an insurgency.

But now that the pro-western UNP finds itself in a financial mess it has no qualms about kowtowing and publicly displaying a willingness to accept its financial help with open arms and empty money bags.

An occasional peck on both cheeks might be considered by some in our diplomatic fraternity as a sign of undying friendship and gratitude. But in the world of diplomacy such over-familiarity especially in public might not always win friends and influence nations.

Speaking to a group of Sri Lankan business leaders during her recent visit, Nisha Biswal said that Singapore’s one time prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had wanted to model his country on Ceylon at the time. But now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore.

Does Biswal believe that Sri Lankans are gullible or is this an insidious move to make this strategically-located nation an integral cog in Washington’s pivot to Asia policy intended to stymie China’s economic and military advance westward in the Indian Ocean?

If Biswal was even faintly aware of the bedrock on which the nascent Southeast Asian city-state was built she would not be proposing that we turn ourselves into a soulless nation however economically advanced and rich it has turned out to be.

I do not know whether Biswal has met Lee Kuan Yew when he was leading his newly independent state and talked to him. I have when I was working in Hong Kong and Mr. Lee visited the then British colony for a major conference.

So meticulous was the Singaporean he was able to tell me what I had called him in some of my writings – a dictator, an autocrat and a politician who did not tolerate dissent.

He did not entirely disagree but he carefully adduced reasons why he had to act the way he did, to craft a policy framework for a majority Chinese population sandwiched between two huge Malay-dominated nations. He said even Singapore’s language policy was determined by this geopolitical consideration.

Mr. Lee said that when Singapore was heading for independence Ceylon was the model on which he hoped to build the emergent state. Ceylon had a high rate of literacy, an educated people with a good educational system, an efficient civil service, a well-functioning judiciary and a performing economy.

But all these important qualities that made the Ceylonese nation were dissipated and destroyed by over-bearing and obtrusive politics. In later years when his people asked him for democratic rights and political freedoms he asked them whether they wanted to be another Sri Lanka involved in ethnic conflict.

Those who know the real Singapore story – I nearly went to work there when the editor of a new newspaper scheduled for launch invited me to join – how Ceylon born J.B. Jeyaretnam, the only opposition MP was treated (or mistreated) after he entered parliament after several attempts, how several journalists suffered including a friend of mine on the Business Times, Kenneth James, for ‘offences’ that most journalists would have considered normal professional duties.

Space does not permit an elaboration of the restrictions Singapore places on its citizens including the use of laws that a public gathering of five persons or more requires a police permit and charges of contempt of court, criminal and civil defamation and sedition are used to rein in government critics.

Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2015 states that the “Singapore’s government limits political and civil rights—especially freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association—using overly broad legal provisions on security, public order, morality, and racial and religious harmony.”

Admittedly some advances have been made – however meager – in the way of democratic freedoms. But the Singapore that Biswal and others speak of glowingly was not build on democratic foundations and the rights and freedoms associated with a free society.

So is Biswal then asking Sri Lanka to dismantle the constitutional and other rights guaranteed to its people, the democratic political system that took root even before independence in 1948 and the free press that politicians unfailingly promise the country?

I dare say Sri Lanka can well do without the corrosive and corrupt politics practiced today by many equally corrupt and abrasive politicians. If a nuclear destruction of the existing political system was possible that would certainly be for the betterment of the country.

Is Biswal able to provide such purifying political cleansing that is surely needed if Sri Lanka is to become another Singapore? Despite the democratic deficit that marks Singapore’s years of independence, it was able to achieve an enviable economic record because there were certain prerequisites that its leaders laid down.

Singapore was founded on meritocracy where only the best entered public service and other institutions and followed professional careers. Equally corruption was stamped on wherever it appeared and the guilty were shown no mercy.

Respect for law and order was inculcated in the populace and those who violated the law paid for it. That was the social order that produce Singapore’s economic miracle and a people who called themselves Singaporeans rather than by their ethnicity.

Moreover the city-state has had a political leadership that placed the country before self and was truly committed to building a prosperous society where the majority of its people were able to lead a comfortable life.

The reverse is surely true of Sri Lanka. Why talk of meritocracy when some of those who occupy official positions probably do not know what it means, where relatives, friends and acolytes are handpicked and planted in jobs for which the public pays. The qualified are deposited in the closest dust bin because they do not belong to the correct party, have not paid pooja to the presiding almighty and have sought to expose corruption and abuse or to indulge in it.

How could we build a meritocracy which is what Singapore has done, if a fundamental principle on which Sri Lankan politics is founded is nepotism and clannishness which this government promised to eliminate but practices with the same vigour as its predecessor?

The promises that the current government made to introduce “good governance” have been shattered long before the first year of this National Unity Government has ended. A classic recent example is the admission in parliament by the Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella that he recruited 45 persons as consultants to the Southern Transport Development Project of the Road Development Authority at Rs.65,000 a month. If the highest qualification most of them have is the “O” level or some even lower how are they qualified to be consultants and consulted on what?

Lakshman Kiriella, who is increasing becoming an embarrassment to the UNP, admitted they were given these jobs because they helped in bringing his party into power. Whoever consults these unqualified consultants should seek psychiatric assistance.

It was not long ago that he wrote letters to two university authorities seeking to influence the appointment of persons known to him.

Just a few days ago I saw an article in which the writer says that the High Post Committee had advertised in newspaper calling for public comments on three persons whose names were listed for particular appointments.

It seemed that these three persons, one of whom is the President’s brother, was already functioning in those posts and have been doing so for some time. If the story is true then somebody should remind this committee of the bolting horses and the stable door.

So this is the country that Biswal wants to turn into another prosperous Singapore. Either she knows little of what she is talking about or is deliberately trying to sell these ideas to drag Sri Lanka into a tighter embrace with Washington so we will loosen our ties with China.

If this is the kind of rubbish that visiting diplomats oozing with spurious bon homie, lecture us about we could well do without it.

Before she comes here next and the Foreign Minister rushes to offer another handshake she should rid herself of the mental sloth that characterizes her advice.

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

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Rights of Indigenous Peoples ‘Critical’ to Combat Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rights-of-indigenous-peoples-critical-to-combat-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rights-of-indigenous-peoples-critical-to-combat-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rights-of-indigenous-peoples-critical-to-combat-climate-change/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 11:50:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146196 Maasai pastoralists, who participate in a farmer field school, are selling animals at a local market in Narok, Kenya. Indigenous peoples have a key role to play in addressing climate change. Credit: FAO

Maasai pastoralists, who participate in a farmer field school, are selling animals at a local market in Narok, Kenya. Indigenous peoples have a key role to play in addressing climate change. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

No longer it is about restoring the legitimate rights of over 370 indigenous peoples spread across 70 countries worldwide, many of them living in dire situation, but now about their central, critical role in combating climate change.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has relentlessly emphasized this new reality.

“Very few countries have so far made a clear commitment to a requirement in the Paris Climate Change Agreement that countries undertaking climate change activities should ensure the rights of indigenous peoples,” she says, while reminding of “the large number of violent deaths of people protecting their forests and rights to land in 2015 – the deadliest year for environmental defenders on record.”

“It’s a dire situation in terms of respect for the rights of indigenous peoples,” she told the participants in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Committee on Forestry (COFO) which met in the Italian capital on July 18-22.

“Indigenous peoples across the world experience the consequences of historical colonisation and invasion of their territories, and face discrimination because of their distinct cultures, identities and ways of life,” according to UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

On this, FAO stated that “Governments must do much more to provide the enabling conditions required for indigenous peoples, local communities, smallholders and their organisations to restore degraded landscapes and achieve climate change mitigation and adaptation in practice.”

Specifically, René Castro Salazar, FAO’s Assistant-Director General warned that the issue of indigenous rights to land and territories was ‘critical’ for the success of climate change initiatives.

“Unless we help indigenous peoples achieve secure land tenure and better governance, it will be very hard to achieve long-term solutions,” Castro Salazar said. “We are lagging behind, and we need to do more.”

Vast Carbon Stocks

A third of global forests are under some form of management by families, smallholders, local communities and indigenous peoples, and represent some of the most important carbon stocks in the world, FAO reported during the meeting. Government-recognised community forests alone hold an estimated 37.7 billion tonnes of carbon stock.

Agro-forestry farmers are tending to the crops in Kigoma, Tanzania. Forests are an integral part of the national agriculture policy with the aim of protecting arable land from erosion and increasing agricultural production. Credit: FAO

Agro-forestry farmers are tending to the crops in Kigoma, Tanzania. Forests are an integral part of the national agriculture policy with the aim of protecting arable land from erosion and increasing agricultural production. Credit: FAO

“Family smallholders, local communities and indigenous peoples have a key role to play in preserving these carbon stocks by reducing deforestation, managing forests sustainably and restoring tree cover as part of productive rural economies, particularly when they belong to strong producer organisations,” according to the UN agency.

In addition, an estimated 1.5 billion hectares of land hold potential for smallholder farmers to combine agriculture with trees.

“But failure to find the best way to engage with local stakeholders and align their interests with forest conservation can significantly compromise the chances of achieving carbon sequestration and mitigation targets.”

Greater Ownership

In an outcome statement issued at the close of the Rome meeting, participants urged governments to provide the enabling conditions required for local communities, indigenous peoples and local producers, “to manage larger territories, from securing and enforcing tenure rights to creating favourable business incentives and offering technical, financial and business extension services.”

They also called on global financing mechanisms, government programmes and private investors to direct investment and support towards local communities, indigenous peoples, smallholders and producer organisations.

Finally, they called for climate change initiatives “to shift towards giving greater ownership to local communities, indigenous peoples, smallholders and producer organisations and engaging them in participatory and qualitative assessment of the forest cover and trees on farms they manage.”

Livelihoods of Millions of People, Precarious

On the occasion of the Rome meeting, FAO issued a new study that helps to fill a significant knowledge gap on the presence and extent of forests and trees in the world’s drylands, where the food security and livelihoods of millions of people, already precarious, are increasingly being threatened by climate change.

The study’s preliminary findings show that trees are present with hugely varying densities on almost one-third of the world’s 6.1 billion hectares of drylands, which cover an area more than twice the size of Africa. Almost 18 per cent of this area contains forests.

An estimated 2 billion people, 90 per cent of whom are in developing countries, live in drylands. Recent studies have indicated the need to restore these areas to cope with the effects of drought, desertification and land degradation.

In particular, water availability in drylands is expected to decline further due to changes in climate and land use, the new study warns.

“Poor people living in remote rural areas will be most vulnerable to food shortages, which combined with violence and social upheaval, are already leading to forced migration in dryland regions in Africa and western Asia.”

Until now, there has been little statistically based knowledge on dryland trees –particularly those growing outside forests– despite their vital importance to humans and the environment, according to the study.

The leaves and fruit of trees are sources of food for people and fodder for animals; their wood provides fuel for cooking and heating and can be a source of income for poor households; trees protect soils, crops and animals from the sun and winds, while forests are often rich in biodiversity.

Drylands are divided into four aridity zones (see map): the dry sub-humid zone, is the least arid of the four zones and consists mostly of the Sudanian savanna, forests and grasslands in South America, the steppes of eastern Europe and southern Siberia, and the Canadian prairie.

Most dryland forests occur in this zone, as do some large irrigated, intensively farmed areas along perennial rivers; at the other extreme, the hyper-arid zone is the driest zone and it is dominated by desert – the Sahara alone accounting for 45 per cent, and the Arabian desert forming another large component.

Factbox

At a glance: some preliminary findings of the FAO Global Drylands Assessment:
• The global drylands contain 1.11 billion hectares of forest land, which is 27 per cent of the global forest area, estimated at approximately 4 billion hectares.

• Two-thirds of the drylands forest area can be defined as being dense, meaning it has closed canopies (i.e. a canopy cover greater than 40 per cent).

• The second most common land use in drylands is grassland (31 per cent), followed by forest (18 per cent) and cropland (14 per cent). The category other lands constitutes 34 per cent of the global drylands area.

• The least-arid zones have the most forest. The proportion of forest land is 51 per cent in the dry subhumid zone, 41 per cent in the semiarid zone, 7 per cent in the arid zone and 0.5 per cent in the hyperarid zone. The average crown cover density is ten times higher in the dry subhumid zone than in the hyperarid zone.

• Trees outside forests are present on 1.9 billion hectares of drylands (31 per cent of the global drylands area), if all land with more than 0 per cent crown cover is included. Thirty per cent of croplands and grasslands have at least some crown cover, as do 60 per cent of lands classified as settlements.

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El Salvador Faces Dilemma over the Prosecution of War Criminalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/el-salvador-faces-dilemma-over-the-prosecution-of-war-criminals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=el-salvador-faces-dilemma-over-the-prosecution-of-war-criminals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/el-salvador-faces-dilemma-over-the-prosecution-of-war-criminals/#comments Sat, 23 Jul 2016 20:12:45 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146188 Residents of La Hacienda, in the central department of La Paz in El Salvador, are holding pictures of the four American nuns murdered in 1980 by members of the National Guard, as they attend the commemorations held to mark 35 years of the crime, in December 2015, at the site where it was perpetrated. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Residents of La Hacienda, in the central department of La Paz in El Salvador, are holding pictures of the four American nuns murdered in 1980 by members of the National Guard, as they attend the commemorations held to mark 35 years of the crime, in December 2015, at the site where it was perpetrated. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Jul 23 2016 (IPS)

The ruling of the highest court to repeal the amnesty law places El Salvador in the dilemma of deciding whether the country should prosecute those who committed serious violations to human rights during the civil war.

It also evidences that, more than two decades after the end of the conflict in 1992, reconciliation is proving elusive in this Central American country with 6.3 million inhabitants.

At the heart of the matter is the pressing need to bring justice to the victims of war crimes while, on the other hand, it implies a huge as well as difficult task, since it will entail opening cases that are more than two decades old, involving evidence that has been tampered or lost, if at all available, and witnesses who have already died.“We do not want them to be jailed for a long period of time, we want perpetrators to tell us why they killed them, given that they knew they were civilians...And we want them to apologize, we want someone to be held accountable for these deaths”-- Engracia Echeverría.

Those who oppose opening such cases highlight the precarious condition of the judiciary, which has important inadequacies and is cluttered with a plethora of unsentenced cases.

“I believe Salvadorans as a whole, the population and the political forces are not in favour of this (initiating prosecution), they have turned the page”, pointed out left-wing analyst Salvador Samayoa, one of the signatory parties of the Peace Agreements that put an end to 12 years of civil war.

The 12 years of conflict left a toll of 70,000 casualties and more than 8,000 people missing.

Samayoa added that right now El Salvador has too many problems and should not waste its energy on problems pertaining to the past.

For human rights organizations, finding the truth, serving justice and providing redress prevail over the present circumstances and needs.

“Human rights violators can no longer hide behind the amnesty law, so they should be investigated once and for all”, said Miguel Montenegro, director of the El Salvador Commission of Human Rights, a non-governmental organization, told IPS.

The Supreme Court of Justice, in what is deemed to be a historical ruling, on 13 July ruled that the General Amnesty Act for the Consolidation of, passed in 1993, is unconstitutional, thus opening the door to prosecuting those accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict.

In its ruling, the Court considered that Articles 2 and 144 of said amnesty law are unconstitutional on the grounds that they violate the rights of the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity to resort to justice and seek redress.

It further ruled that said crimes are not subject to the statute of limitations and can be tried regardless of the date on which they were perpetrated.

“We have been waiting for this for many years; without this ruling no justice could have been done”, told IPS activist Engracia Echeverría, from the Madeleine Lagadec Center for the Promotion of Defence of Human Rights.

This organization is named after the French nun who was raped and murdered by government troops in April 1989, when they attacked a hospital belonging to the guerrilla group Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

The activist stressed that, even though it is true that a lot of information relevant to the cases has been lost, some data can still be obtained by the investigators in the District Attorney’s General Office in charge of criminal prosecution, in case some people wish to instigate an investigation.

The law has been strongly criticized by human rights organizations within and outside the country, since its enactment in March 1993.

Its critics have claimed that it promoted impunity by protecting Army and guerrilla members who committed human rights crimes during the conflict.

However, its advocates have been both retired and active Army members, as well as right-wing politicians and businessmen in the country, since it precisely prevented justice being served to these officers –who are seen as responsible for frustrating the victory of the FMLN.

“All the crimes committed were motivated by an attack by the guerrilla”, claimed retired general Humberto Corado, former Defence Minister between 1993 and 1995.

The now repealed act was passed only five days after the Truth Commission, mandated by the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses during the civil war, had published its report with 32 specific cases, 20 of which were perpetrated by the Army and 12 by insurgents.

Among those cases were the murders of archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero in March 1980; four American nuns in December of the same year, and hundreds of peasants who were shot in several massacres, like those which took place in El Mozote in December 1981 and in Sumpul in May 1980.

Also, six Jesuit priests and a woman and her daughter were murdered in November 1989, a case already being investigated by a Spanish court.

The Truth Commission has also pointed to some FMLN commanders, holding them accountable for the death of several mayors who were targeted for being considered part of the government’s counter-insurgent strategy.

Some of those insurgents are now government officials, as is the case with director of Civil Protection Jorge Meléndez.

Before taking office in 2009, the FMLN, now turned into a political party, strongly criticized the amnesty law and advocated in favour of its repeal, on the grounds that it promoted impunity.

But, after winning the presidential elections that year with Mauricio Funes, it changed its stance and no longer favoured the repeal of the law. Since 2014, the country has been governed by former FMLN commander Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

In fact, the governing party has deemed the repeal as “reckless”, with the President stating on July 15 that Court magistrates “were not considering the effects it could have on the already fragile coexistence” and urging to take the ruling “with responsibility and maturity while taking into account the best interests of the country”.

After the law was ruled unconstitutional, the media were saturated with opinions and analyses on the subject, most of them pointing out the risk of the country being destabilized and on the verge of chaos due to the countless number of lawsuits that could pile up in the courts dealing with war cases.

“To those people who fiercely claim that magistrates have turned the country into a hell we must respond that hell is what the victims and their families have gone –and continue to go- through”, reads the release written on July 15 by the officials of the José Simeón Cañas Central American University, where the murdered Jesuits lived and worked in 1989.

Furthermore, the release states that most of the victims demand to be listened to, in order to find out the truth and be able to put a face on those they need to forgive.

In fact, at the heart of the debate lies the idea of restorative justice as a mechanism to find out the truth and heal the victims’ wounds, without necessarily implying taking perpetrators to jail.

“We do not want them to be jailed for a long period of time, we want perpetrators to tell us why they killed them, given that they knew they were civilians”, stressed Echeverría.

“And we want them to apologize, we want someone to be held accountable for these deaths”, she added.

In the case of Montenegro, himself a victim of illegal arrest and tortures in 1986, he said that it is necessary to investigate those who committed war crimes in order to find out the truth but, even more importantly, as a way for the country to find the most suitable mechanisms to forgive and provide redress”.

However, general Corado said that restorative justice was “hypocritical, its only aim being to seek revenge”.

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Beyond Rhetoric: UN Member States Start Work on Global Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/beyond-rhetoric-un-member-states-start-work-on-global-goals/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:05:23 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146182 Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

Ministerial Segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 22 2016 (IPS)

UN member states “are going beyond rhetoric and earnestly working to achieve real progress” towards the Sustainable Goals, the members of the Group of 77 and China said in a ministerial statement delivered here on 18 July.

The statement was delivered by Ambassador Virachai Plasai, Chair of the Group Of 77 (G77) and China during the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) which took place at UN Headquarters in New York from 18 to 20 July.

During the forum, the 134 members of the G77 and China reaffirmed the importance of not only achieving the Sustainable Development Goals but also the driving principle of leaving no one behind.

“We must identify the “how” in reaching out to those furthest behind,” said Plasai who is also Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the UN.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours,” Plasai added.

The UN’s 193 member states unanimously adopted the 2030 Development Agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in September 2015. The goals reflect the importance of the three aspects of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental, and countries will work towards achieving them by the year 2030.

However more still needs to be done to ensure that developing countries have access to the resources they need to meet the goals, said Plasai.

“We reiterate that enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building, and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system,” he said.

“To make this real, we cannot simply reaffirm all the principles recognised in the (2030) Agenda... but must earnestly implement them in all our endeavours." -- Ambassador Virachai Plasai

“We urge the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including through the G20 Summit in China which will focus on developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

At a separate meeting during the High Level Political Forum the G77 and China noted some of the specific gaps that remain in financing for development.

During that meeting the G77 and China expressed concern that rich countries are failing to meet their commitments to deliver Official Development Assistance (ODA) – the official term for aid – to developing countries.

“We note with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in this year’s outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address (gaps in ODA),” said Chulamanee Chartsuwan, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative Of The Kingdom of Thailand to the UN, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Speaking during the forum on July 19, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of the High Level Political Forum, “as the global central platform for follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Ban presented the results of the first Sustainable Development Goals report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on July 20. The report used “data currently available to highlight the most significant gaps and challenges” in achieving the 2030 Agenda, said Ban.

“The latest data show that about one person in eight still lives in extreme poverty,” he said.

“Nearly 800 million people suffer from hunger.”

“The births of nearly a quarter of children under 5 have not been recorded.”

“1.1 billion people are living without electricity, and water scarcity affects more than 2 billion.”

Leaving No One Behind

Ban also noted that the importance of collecting data about the groups within countries that are more likely to be “left behind”, such as peoples with disabilities or indigenous peoples.

Collecting separate data about how these groups fare is considered one way for governments to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 10 which aims to decrease inequality within countries.

However SDG 10 also aims to address inequalities between countries, an important objective for the G77, as the main organisation bringing together developing countries at the UN the G77 wants to make sure that countries in special circumstances are not left behind.

Countries in special circumstances include “in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Small Island Developing States, as well as countries in conflict and post-conflict situations,” said Chartsuwan.

However while the world’s poorest and most fragile countries have specific challenges, many middle income countries also have challenges too, the G77 statement noted.

Climate Change Agreement Needs Implementation

Developing countries, and particularly countries with special circumstances, are among those that are most adversely affected by climate change, and therefore wish to see speedy adoption and implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement alongside the 2030 Agenda.

Ban told the forum that he will host a special event during the UN General Assembly at 8am on September 21 for countries to deposit their instruments of ratification.

“We have 178 countries who have signed this Paris Agreement, and 19 countries have deposited their instrument of ratification.”

“As you are well aware, we need the 55 countries to ratify, and 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions accounted.”

“These 19 countries all accounted is less than 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“So we need to do much more,” he said.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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We Must Talk: Not Just Ph and China but Us and China, Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-must-talk-not-just-ph-and-china-but-us-and-china-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-must-talk-not-just-ph-and-china-but-us-and-china-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-must-talk-not-just-ph-and-china-but-us-and-china-too/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:27:28 +0000 Francisco Tatad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146185 By Francisco S. Tatad
Jul 22 2016 (Manila Times)

Let us do this chronologically.

Days before the release on July 12 of the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, at The Hague, on the Philippine maritime dispute with China, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. announced he was willing to sit down with Beijing for bilateral talks on the possible joint exploration of mineral and marine resources of the disputed maritime areas in the South China (West Philippine) Sea.

Francisco S. Tatad

Francisco S. Tatad

This was a pointed departure from the previous position of the Aquino government, which had insisted on a purely multilateral approach to the dispute, invoking international law under UNCLOS—the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. President Rodrigo DU30 did not correct or rebuke Yasay for his statement, so one assumed it had his full authority.

This apparently alarmed the US government, which had openly supported Aquino’s position and chided Beijing for its refusal to agree to arbitration and to recognize the jurisdiction of the arbitral body. On the eve of the release of the ruling, which everyone expected to be favorable to the Philippines, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter telephoned Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to talk about the impending verdict and its implications to the security of the region.

Kristie Kenney’s role

Hours before our “victory,” US State Department Counselor Kristie Kenney, a former ambassador to the Philippines, met with Yasay at the Department of Foreign Affairs “to call on the parties to respect the ruling.” This was completely ironic because the Philippine government was the only party to the arbitration, and could not have been expected to “disrespect” a ruling in its favor. If at all, the Philippines should be the one asking China to respect the ruling and the US to help persuade Beijing.

In reality, Kenney’s call was a rebuke to the newly initiated foreign secretary for his gratuitous statement on bilateral negotiations, which caught Washington totally by surprise. Nothing was reported from the Kenney-Yasay conversation, but when the ruling from The Hague came and profuse and euphoric reactions greeted it from the US, Japan, Australia and the European allies as well as from all sorts of netizens, Yasay had to welcome it in measured tones, calling for “sobriety” at the same time.

Albert del Rosario recycled

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who had been quoted as saying the Philippines would be a frontline state in containing China’s rise, and had engaged Beijing in steaming rhetoric on the South China Sea issue when he was still in office, was recycled out of wherever he was enjoying his retirement for publicity purposes, to speak actively about the ruling and receive the applause of the public who had yet to see our victory at the The Hague was completely psychic.

Yasay’s next opportunity to be heard came at the 11th Asia-Europe Summit Meeting, in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, on July 15 – 16, where on behalf of DU30, who was unable to attend, he called upon China to bind itself to the process it had rejected from the very start. He was somehow overshadowed in the press by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who pressed the point against China far more strongly than he did, prompting the Chinese government to point out that Japan was not a party to the issue at hand.

ASEM unmoved, FVR mooted

In its post-conference statement, ASEM refused to be drawn into the Philippines-China controversy, limiting itself to a general statement to the peaceful settlement of territorial disputes. Apparently, Yasay had some conversation with the Chinese delegation at the margins of the conference, but nothing came out of it in the press. Yasay’s performance provoked rumors of his early departure, prompting the President to issue a statement dismissing such possibility.

At the same time DU3O announced he was going to name former President Fidel V. Ramos as his special envoy to start talks with the Xi Jinping government. This was promptly welcomed by Beijing, and Ramos himself indicated genuine interest in it. But the latest word from Yasay is that there won’t be any talks with China, unless the latter agrees to discuss the PCA ruling, which it does not recognize.

Talks torpedoed?
This tends to show that some powerful actor has succeeded in torpedoing the rapprochement project, and that we should expect belligerent rhetoric and tension, which we were trying to arrest, to ratchet up. This means that the new DFA management never understood why bilateral talks were needed, in the face of a ruling that tends to create a worse crisis than the one it was seeking to ease.

To this observer the merit of bilateral talks was never in doubt. But the talks have to be without any preconditions. We just won the arbitral ruling, true; but no power on earth could compel China to recognize it. So why would China want to have talks with us that begin with a discussion of what it does not want to recognize? And what benefit do we hope to gain from it?

On the other hand, if we sit down to discuss ways and means of working together for peace and economic development without touching a gaping wound that’s still so fresh, China would most probably appreciate our generosity and try to match it to the fullest. This is the Asian way, unfamiliar to the West. Eventually, after we have been bonded by the strongest economic, social, cultural and human ties, we could perhaps begin to talk of the most difficult territorial problems between us.

A Korean tale
The story of a young Korean I had met on one of my earlier trips to Seoul seems most apt. He said he had a Japanese classmate with whom he fought on the first day they met—over the issue of Japan’s colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. The Japanese militarists had killed his parents, and he wanted to take it out on the young Japanese. He broke his nose, although he himself did not go unscathed. Despite this incident, he took pains to befriend his perceived nemesis.

They became such good friends that whenever any of his other friends would begin to talk of what the Japanese did to Korea in the past, he would immediately change the subject, and his Japanese friend would be profuse in his thanks. One day his friend asked about his dead parents, and if he could visit their graves to pay his respects. From then on, it became so easy for them to discuss their dark past.

GMA tried joint exploration
DU30 and Yasay were not the first ones to mention the possibility of joint exploration of marine and mineral resources in the South China (West Philippine) Sea. In 2004, during the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, the Philippines and China already agreed to conduct joint exploration for oil and gas in the disputed waters. In March 2005, Vietnam became the third party to the Joint Maritime Seismic Undertaking (JMSU).

This, however, fell apart because of maritime incidents between China and Vietnam, and certain controversies involving China’s big business contracts in the Philippines. There was also a move to question the constitutionality of the JMSU before the Supreme Court. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has taken the lead in discussing the Philippine claim as against China’s so-called “nine-dash line” in various forums, maintains that any joint exploration with China as an equal partner would violate the Constitution, which permits foreigners not more than 40 percent equity in the exploitation of the country’s natural resources.

Marine Peace Park
But Carpio is willing to adopt the idea of Dr. John McManus, professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami, that the disputed areas be converted into a Marine Peace Park for the benefit of all. This is not much different from a previous proposal in this column that the area be declared a common heritage of mankind, free from any kind of military weapons, particularly nuclear, or the political control of any nation, but for the benefit of all. This sounds like an idea whose time has come, although rather utopian; but I fear it would be immediately shot down by the military powers who see the South China Sea not only as the great waterway through which passes $5 trillion of the world’s annual trade but also as an irreplaceable playground for the world’s most powerful aircraft carriers, warships and submarines.

Without any means to compel China to comply with a ruling that invalidates its so-called “nine-dash line,” there is obvious need for the Philippines and China to talk and avoid inflammatory rhetoric and counterproductive political or military initiatives. As I have said a few times before, we have no need of war with China, nor can we afford it. Given our limited resources, how do we feed 1.3 billion Chinese, if they survive such a war, and should we win it?

US and China must talk
But since the real conflict is the geopolitical rivalry between the world’s lone superpower and Asia’s rising regional power, there is even more urgent need for them to sit down and discuss the terms upon which we are to build a new world order. The basic conflict is civilizational, and must be resolved as such.

As the British author and journalist Simon Winchester puts it in his book Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers, the Eastern civilization on the West side of the Pacific and the Western civilization on the East side of the Pacific have finally met to turn the Pacific into the inland sea of tomorrow, where the Mediterranean was the inland sea of the ancient world, and the Atlantic the inland sea of today. America has dominated the Pacific for the past 60 years, but its declining economic and political power has rendered it insecure about China’s phenomenal economic, political and military rise.

Search for equivalence, avoiding the ‘Thucydides Trap’

America needs to see, Winchester writes, that China is not interested in replacing or challenging the US as a world power. It does not intend to colonize, enslave or dominate any country or people like the Western powers, but simply wants to “enjoy equivalence.” This mistaken fear of China, left unchecked, could lead to what has been called the “Thucydides Trap,” in which a rising power causes fear in an established power which inevitably escalates toward war. We learn this from the History of the Peloponnesian War, which happened when after Athens and Sparta defeated Persia, Sparta’s growing fear of Athens led the two former allies to destroy each other.

In a major 2015 article in The Atlantic, Prof. Graham Allison of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government asked whether the US and China are headed for war because of the Thucydides Trap. A few years before that, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a speech before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on March 3, 2012, warned the US against falling into such a trap.

Chinese President Xi Jinping himself has said, “We all need to work together to avoid the ‘Thucydides Trap’—destructive tensions between an emerging power and established powers… Our aim is to foster a new model of major country relations.”

Indeed this can be avoided, not by demonizing the rising power or trying to prevent its rise, but by peaceful and constructive engagement, which begins to happen when the contending parties sit down without any preconditions to talk.

fstatad@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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