Inter Press ServiceGlobal Governance – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Food Sustainability, Migration, Nutrition and Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 Enrique Yeves http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156293 Enrique Yeves is Director of Communications, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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Enrique Yeves is Director of Communications, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

By Enrique Yeves
ROME, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted.

We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries , poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, Africa and in Europe.

Enrique Yeves

We want to empower women and girls, yet in every sector we still see serious disparities in terms of equal pay for equal wages and getting more women into senior management positions. We worry about the mass movement of people, many of them disenfranchised, and yet fail to stop the exploitation and even death that too often awaits those who try to migrate.

What is to be done? First, we must understand how each of these issues is interlinked and how they can be alleviated using an integrated approach involving agriculture, education, social services, health and infrastructure. If we channel development assistance in an integrated way, rather than towards specific sectors, we are more likely to achieve sustainable changes – these in turn can ease the burden of coordination and enhance our ability to help governments to achieve more effective and long term improvements.

For this to happen, we need the political will of governments to achieve change, coupled with adequate resources.

These issues are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments committed to the SDGs in 2015, pledging to end hunger, extreme poverty, and other social, environmental and health evils that have left over 815 million people undernourished, and in many areas barely surviving in squalid and inhumane conditions.

The role of governments is central. Only they can exert the political will to enforce the required changes and to set aside the critically needed resources.

The role of development organizations, including the UN, non-governmental organizations and international and regional financial institutions, is also critical. They exist to support governments determined to achieve the SDGs and in so doing to improve their overall social, economic and political wellbeing.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been working for over 70 years on both the policy front and on the ground, doing so globally, regionally, nationally and at the community level. We have been documenting the state of food insecurity in the world, exploring and emphasizing the all-important role of small producers in achieving food security. Small-scale farmers, fishers and foresters, constituting a vast number of the rural poor, are vulnerable to environmental and market forces often beyond their control. Yet it is they who, using tried and tested traditional systems enhanced where possible by improved technologies adapted to their needs, hold the keys to a world without hunger As FAO has documented, family farmers produce more than two-thirds of the world’s food, with smallholders producing more per unit of land.

In the long run, tackling the direct relationship between mass migration and poverty and instability entails addressing basic challenges in the countries that people are leaving, and by providing more integrated assistance to refugees to improve their health and capacity to earn livelihoods in the receiving countries.

An important but frequently underplayed aspect for governments in developing countries is their need for assistance in defining and quantifying their present situation through internationally accepted benchmarks. Reliable statistics are crucial in order to measure progress towards attainment of the SDGs and general progress in development.

FAO delivers a lot of services to its members in this regard. And the effort produces globally relevant information, some of it alarming. Right now, for example, the global number of undernourished people is estimated at 815 million and that figure is rising for the first time in more than a decade. The number of countries reliant on external food assistance is now 39, the highest it’s ever been since FAO started tracking.

Eradicating hunger is a lynchpin for the entire 2030 Agenda, and governments must raise awareness about why achieving the SDGs is critical. This effort will both enable and benefit from women’s empowerment.

Programmes such as food for work, food stamps or a mix of both – especially in situations where conflict or natural disaster have impacted local production – are all part of the toolkit and are demonstrably efficient in fostering women’s power and interests. Increasing access to food is a building block to goals ranging from nutrition to women’s rights and assuring resilient livelihoods for producers.

What is essential is to find synergies – not only to avoid wasteful duplication but to forge the basis for sustainable solutions. Otherwise our worries are in vain.

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Excerpt:

Enrique Yeves is Director of Communications, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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2.5 Million Migrants Smuggled Worldwide, Many Via Social Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/2-5-million-migrants-smuggled-worldwide-many-via-social-media/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 15:43:09 +0000 Emily Thampoe and Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156291 At least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled worldwide in 2016, generating an income for smugglers which ranged between $5.5 billion and $7.0 billion, according to a newly published report “2018 Global Study On Smuggling Of Migrants” by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Coincidentally, the release of the report followedthe arrival in […]

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The Italian Navy rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

By Emily Thampoe and Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

At least 2.5 million migrants were smuggled worldwide in 2016, generating an income for smugglers which ranged between $5.5 billion and $7.0 billion, according to a newly published report “2018 Global Study On Smuggling Of Migrants” by the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Coincidentally, the release of the report followedthe arrival in Spain, over the weekend, of more than 600 stranded migrants, initially rejected by Italy’s new populist government which followed through on its anti-immigration campaign policies.

During the launch of the report, many member states’ representatives were also concerned with the rising role of social media in the illegal smuggling of migrants. The report concluded that many social media platforms are used to advertise smuggling services.

This promotion can be seen through published advertisements on Facebook or other platforms that migrants themselves make use of to share their opinions and experiences with smuggling services.

On the one hand, smugglers will often gander the attention of those thinking to migrate through the creation of enticing advertisements with very nice photos and also provide logistical information such as payment options and methods of getting in contact with them.

While migration has long been an issue handled by member states; since 2016, they decided to work together to produce the Global Compact for Migration through the UN. Intergovernmental negotiations are still ongoing and the states will meet next December in Morocco for the final Intergovernmental Conference.

The report, launched at the meeting,described as the “New York Launch of the First Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants” at the UN HeadquartersJune 13, discusses the topic of smuggling migrants in great lengths, but specially highlights the use of social media by both migrants and smugglers.

The researchers Kristiina Kangaspunta and Angela Me presented the report and discussed its results with the member states’ representatives attending the meeting.

According to the study, smuggling processes vary widely, depending on the area and the type of routes they follow. The duration of the journey, for example, depends on the travel -which can be through sea, air or land- and the organization.

The fastest journeys can last between 15 and 20 days, when smugglers give contacts to the migrants for the different steps of the route. This method is used specially to move migrants from South Asia into Greece.

Once again, this report raised the question of how to handle the migration crisis; and different individuals provided different answers. From UNODC the general claim, held by Kangaspunta and Me, was to encourage member states to share their information on migrants.

On the other hand, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) urged the international community to act faster in order to prevent the refugee crisis.

Oussama El Baroudi, Communications Officer at the IOM, told IPS: “Stopping one boat or more in the Mediterranean Sea is not an answer to Europe’s migration challenges. A comprehensive approach to migration governance is needed, combining opportunities for safe and orderly movement, humane border management and countering migrant smuggling and trafficking. Saving lives should always be our top concern. We must urgently find a means to help these rescued migrants and work for a comprehensive method of supporting migrants and States throughout Europe.”

Asked what IOM is proposing, he added: “IOM urges the EU to re-consider a revision of the Dublin regulation based on the European Parliament’s proposal, and to reach agreement in Council to ensure solidarity among member states fully respecting the provisions of the Treaties”.

However, for some non-profit organizations, member states act too slow to stop the migrant crisis. “European governments and institutions have not always coped well with this crisis and have struggled to provide safe, humane options and adequate care and support for those affected by the trauma of conflict and displacement”, Chelsea Purvis, Mercy Corps Policy and Advocacy Advisor, told IPS.

The Mediterranean is not the only area of concern when talking about the migrant crisis, as some nonprofit organizations emphasize.

David Kode, who leads campaigns and advocacy for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, urged member states to rethink their approach to the Palestinian refugees: “There are currently about 7.0 million Palestinian refugees across the world including the approximately 1.3 million refugees in the Gaza strip. If some states continue to support Israel’s actions and other states remain silent in the face of the atrocities committed against Palestinians, very little will change as Israeli forces continue to use unnecessary, indiscriminate and disproportionate force against protesters”.

The role of social media

The smuggler’s key to success, says the report, depend on building trust with migrants. That’s why, often times “they have the same citizenship as the migrants they smuggle”, and they target the youth in small villages -which are more eager to believe them.

Other tactics used by smugglers may be deceptive and manipulative. Sometimes they use Facebook to pose as employees for NGOs or personnel who are involved with fake European Union organizations.

Some smugglers, especially in relation to Afghan migrants, have made themselves appear to be legal advisors for asylum on various social media platforms. El Baroudi, from IOM, shares his concern with IPS: “Criminal organized groups show unfortunately great capacity in exploiting new technologies to expand their benefits. Social networks are obviously a great leverage of coercion and may result into the trafficking of human beings as observed in Libya”.

On the other hand, migrants also take advantage of social media to discuss the specifics of migrating and using the services of smugglers. In some cases, social media may be used as a sort of “consumer forum” to share experiences with specific smugglers with fellow migrants; akin to a research tool.

For example, Syrians use social media extensively to research the smugglers, asking other migrants for information through Skype, WhatsApp or Facebook.

When asked how the UN, member states, and NGOs can use social media to counter illegal smuggling, Kangaspunta and Me replied that they must harness the power of social media in creating communities, in the same way that migrants warn each other of the risks of hiring a smuggling service.

Sharing her insights with IPS, Purvis said: ”Mercy Corps’ focus is on using technology and social media to help refugees on the move find safety, and our Signpost programme operates in Europe and Jordan. Using an online platform provides refugees with accurate and factual information in their own language about their options and how they can access services in the country they are in.”

El Baroudi shared with IPS what seems to be IOM’s goal: “The desired future outcome is that states, international organizations, and other actors work towards a situation where migration systems, at a minimum, do not exacerbate vulnerabilities but rather guarantee protection of the human rights of migrants irrespective of status, while migration takes place within the rule of law, and is aligned with development, social, humanitarian and security interests of states”.

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Sustainable Land Management, the Formula to Combat Desertificationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sustainable-land-management-formula-combat-desertification/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-land-management-formula-combat-desertification http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sustainable-land-management-formula-combat-desertification/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 22:11:05 +0000 Ela Zambrano http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156279 Sustainable land management (SLM) and conservation are the recipes that with different ingredients represent the basis for combating soil degradation, participants in the event to celebrate the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD)agreed on Jun. 17 in Ecuador. Under the theme “Land has true value. Invest in it,” a Latin American country hosted for the […]

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Trump is Here to Stay and Change the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/trump-stay-change-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-stay-change-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/trump-stay-change-world/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 15:05:37 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156274 Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality. If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump […]

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By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 18 2018 (IPS)

Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality.

If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump is here to stay, and he is a result and not a cause.

Roberto Savio

In his year and a half of government, Trump has not lost one of his battles. He has changed the political discourse worldwide, established new standards of ethics in politics, a new meaning of democracy, and his electoral basis has not been shrinking at all.

His critics are the media (which a large majority of Americans dislike), the elite (which is hated) and professionals (who are considered to be profiting at the expense of the lower section of the middle class).

There is now a strong divide with the rural world, the de-industrialised parts of the United States, miners with their mine closed, etc. In addition, white Americans feel increasingly threatened by immigrants, minorities, corporations and industries which have been using the government to their advantage. At every election their number shrinks by two percent.

Let us not forget that Trump was elected by the vote of the majority of white woman, in a country which is the bedrock of feminism.

I know that this could create some irate reactions. The United States is home to some of the best universities in the world, the most brilliant researchers as shown by the number of Nobel prizes awarded , very good orchestras, libraries, museums, a vibrant civil society, and so on. But the sad reality is that those elites count, at best, for no more than 20 percent of the population.

In 80 percent of cases, TV news is the only source of information on international affairs. Newspapers are usually only local, with exception of a few (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, in all less than ten), and have a readership of 35 percent of the population.

You have only to travel in the US hinterland to observe two striking facts: it is very rare to meet somebody who knows geography and history even minimally, and everybody is convinced that the United States has been helping the entire world for which nobody is grateful.

An investigation by the New York Times found out that Americans were convinced that their country has been giving at least 15 percent of its budget for support and philanthropy. In fact, in recent decades the real figure has been below 0.75 percent. At the same time, it has a number of institutes of international studies of the highest level with brilliant analysts, plus a large number of international NGOs. But only 34 percent of the member of the Senate, and 38 percent of members of the House of Representatives have a passport…

The country is divided into two worlds. Of course, the same happen in every country, and in Africa or Asia the division between elite and low-level population is even more extreme. But the United States is an affluent country, where for more than two centuries efforts have been made on the fronts of education and integration in a country which has also been called the “melting pot”, and where it is widely believed that it is the best – if not the only – democracy in the world.

Trump, therefore, has an easy and captive electorate, made up of strong believers, and we cannot understand why, if we do not go over the history of American politics, which is in fact parallel to the political history of Europe. The calls for a lengthy analysis which is what is missing in today’s media, and in which recent US politics can be divided (very roughly) into three historical cycles.

The first, from 1945 to 1981), saw the political class convinced that the priority was to avoid a new world war. For this, institutions for peace and cooperation had to be built, and individuals were to be happy with their status and destiny.

Internationally, that meant the creation of the United Nation, multilateralism as a way to negotiate on the basis of participation and consensus, and international cooperation as a way to help poor countries develop and reduce inequalities. Domestically, this was to be done by giving priority to labour over capital. Strong trade unions were created and in 1979 income from labour accounted for 70 percent of total income. A similar trend was also the seen in Europe.

The second cycle ran from 1981 to 2009, the year Barack Obama was named president. On behalf of the corporate world, Ronald Reagan had launched the neoliberal wave. He started by shutting down the trade union of air traffic controllers, and went on to dismantle much of the welfare and social net built over the previous four decades, eliminating regulations, giving free circulation to capital, creating unrestricted free trade, and so on.

That led to delocalisation of factories, the decline of trade unions and their ability to negotiate, and a very painful reduction of the labour share of wealth, which fell from 70 percent in 1979 to 63 percent in 2014, and has continued to decline ever since.

Unprecedented inequalities have become normal and accepted. Today, an employee at Live Nation Entertainment, an events promotion and ticketing company, who earns an average of 24, 000 dollars would need 2,893 years to earn the 70.6 million dollars that its CEO, Michael Rapino, earned last year.

Reagan had a counterpart in Europe, Margaret Thatcher, who dismantled trade unions, ridiculed the concept of community and common goods and aims (“… there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families …” ), partly followed by Gerard Schroeder in Germany. Globalisation became the undisputed new political vision, far from the rigid ideologies which had created communism and fascism, and were responsible for the Second World War. The market would solve all problems, and governments should keep their hands off.

Reagan was followed by Bush Sr., George H. W. Bush. who somewhat moderated Reagan’s policies. While he started the war with Iraq, he did not go on to invade the entire country. And he was followed by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who did not challenge neoliberal globalisation but tried to ride it, showing that the left (in American terms) could be more efficient than the right. To give just one example, it was Clinton who completed deregulation of banks by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act which separated savings and investment banking. That led to the transfer of billions of dollars from savings to investments, or speculation, with the result that today banks consider customer activity less lucrative than investments, and finance has become a sector that is totally separate from the production of goods and services. There are now 40 times more financial transactions in one day than output from industry and services, and finance is the only sector of human activity without any international control body.

Markets are now more important than the vote of citizens given that, in many cases, it is they that decide the viability of a government. Furthermore, this has become a sector with no ethics: since the financial crisis of 2008, banks have paid a whopping amount of 321 billion dollars in penalties for illegal activities.

Clinton’s conviction that the left could be successful also had its counterpart in Europe, like Reagan had Thatcher. It was Tony Blair, who constructed a theoretical design for explaining the submission of the left to neoliberal globalisation: this was the so-called Third Way which was, in fact, was a centrist position that tried to reconcile centre-right economic and centre-left social policies.

However, it became clear that neoliberal globalisation was in fact lifting only a few boats and that capital without regulation was becoming a threat. Social injustices continued to increase and legions of people in the rural area felt that towns were syphoning off all revenues and that the elite was ignoring them, and unemployed workers and the impoverished middle class no longer felt old loyalties to the left, which was now considered representative of the elite and professionals.

In the United States the Democratic Party, which also held a neoliberal view with Clinton, began to change its agenda from an economic approach to one of human rights, defending minorities, Afro-Americans and immigrants, and advocating their inclusion in the system.

The fight was no longer between corporations and trade unions, and Obama was the result of that fight, the champion of human rights also as an instrument of international affairs. In fact, while he had a brilliant agenda on human rights, he did very little on the social and economic front, beside the law on national health. But his alliance of minorities and progressive whites was a personal baggage, who could not pass on to an emblematic figure of the establishment like Hillary Clinton.

That led to a new situation in American politics. Those on the left began to see defence of their identity (and their past) as the new fight, now that the traditional division between left and right had waned. Religious identity, national identity, fight against the system and those who are different, become political action.

It should be stressed that the same process happened in Europe, albeit in a totally different cultural and social situation. Those left out deserted the traditional political system to vote for those who were against the system, and promised radical changes to restore the glories of the past.

Their message was necessary nationalist, because they denounced all international systems as merely supporting the elites who were the beneficiaries. It was also necessarily to find a scapegoat, like the Jews in the thirties. Immigrants were perfect because they aroused fear and a perceived loss of traditional identity, a threat in a period of large unemployment.

The new political message from the newcomers was to empower those left out, those who felt fear, those who had lost any trust in the political class, and promise to give them back their sovereignty, reject intruders and take power away from the traditional elites, the professionals of politics, to bring in real people.

Since the end of the financial crisis in 2008 – which brought about even further deterioration of the social and economic situation) – those parties known as populist parties started to grow and they now practically dominate the political panorama.

In the United States, the Republicans of the Tea Party, radical right-wing legislators, were able to change the Republican party, pushing out those called compassionate conservatives because they had social concern. In Europe, the media were startled to see workers voting for Marine Le Pen in France, but the left had lost any legitimacy as representative of the lower incomes; technological change led to the disappearance of social identities, like workers.

In a period of crisis, there was no capability for redistribution. The left had now found itself in the middle of a crisis of identity and it will not emerge from it soon.

Let us now come to today. In November 2016, to universal amazement, (and his own) Trump was elected president of the United States, and just four months later, in March 2017, Brexit came as a rude awakening for Europe. The resentful and fearful went to the polls to get Great Britain out of Europe. The fact that the campaign was plagued by falsehood – recognised by the winners after the referendum – was irrelevant. Who was against Brexit? The financial system, the international corporations, the big towns like London, university professors: in other words, the system. That was enough.

Here, I have deliberately lumped together the United States and Europe (the European Union) to show that globalisation has had a global impact. A United States, which had been the creator and guarantor of the international system, started to withdraw from it under Reagan when he felt that it was becoming a straitjacket for the United States.

This started the decline of the United Nations: on American initiative, trade was taken away from the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was created. Globalisation has two engines, trade and finance, and both are now out of the United Nations, which has become an institution for health, education, children, woman and other non-productive sectors, according to the market. It is no coincidence that Trump is now fighting against the globalisation that United States invented, and one of its main enemies is the WTO.

An old maxim is that people get the government they deserve. But we should also be aware that they are being pushed by a new alliance: the alternative right alliance. In all countries it has the same aim: destroy what exists. This network is fed at the same time by Russia and the United States. American alt-right ideologues like Steve Bannon are addressing European audiences to foster the end of the European Union, with clear support from the White House. The populists in power, like Viktor Orban in Hungary or Matteo Salvini in Italy (as well those not in power, like Le Pen) all consider Trump and Vladimir Putin as their points of references. Such alliances are new, and they will become very dangerous.

And now we come to Mr. Trump. After what has been said above, it is clear why he should be considered a symptom and not a cause, while his personality is obviously playing an additional important role. It should be noted that he has not lost any important battle since he came to power. He has been able to take over the Republican party completely, and it is now de facto the Trump Party.

In the primaries for the November 2017 elections (for all House of Representative seats and 50 percent of those of the Senate), he intervened to support candidates he liked, and their opponents always lost. In South Carolina, conservative Katie Arrington, who won against a much stronger opponent, Mark Sanford, declared in her acceptance speech: our party is the Trump party.

Trump knows exactly what his voters think, and he always acts in a way that strengthens his support, regardless of what he does. He is a known sexist, and is now involved in a scandal with a porno star? He has moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and he now has the support of the evangelists, a very large and puritan Protestant group which is an important source of votes. (Interestingly, Guatemala and Paraguay which decided to move their embassies to Jerusalem are also run by evangelists.)

Trump has refused to disclose his incomes and taxes, and he has not formally separated himself from his companies. In the United States, this is usually is enough to force people to resign.

He has removed from his cabinet all the representatives of finance and industry he had put in on his arrival (in order to be accepted by the establishment) and replaced them with right-wing hawks, highly efficient and not morons, from National Security Advisor John Bolton to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He has managed to obtain Gina Hastel, a notorious torturer, as director of the CIA with the votes of Democrats.

He has turned his back on a highly structured treaty with Iran (and other four major countries) to forge a totally unclear agreement with North Korea, which creates problems with Japan, an American ally by definition. He has decided to side with Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran, because that move has the support of a large American sector.

In addition to narcissism, what moves Trump are not values but money. He has quarreled with all historical allies of the United States and he is now engaging in a tariff war with them, while starting one with China, simply on the basis of money. However while erratic, Trump is not unpredictable. All that he has done, he announced during his electoral campaign.

Trump believes he is accountable to no one, and has created a direct relationship with his electors, bypassing the media. According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, which keeps track of Trump’s many misstatements, untruths and outright lies, he exceeded 3,000 untrue or misleading statements in his first 466 days – on average, 6.5 untruths a day. Nobody cares. Very few are able to judge.

When a president of United States announces that he is abandoning the treaty with Iran, because they are the main financier of ISIS and Al Qaida, the lack of public reaction is a good measure of the total ignorance of most Americans.

Americans have no idea that Islam is divided between Sunni and Shiite, and that the terrorists are Sunni and based on an extreme interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, or Salafism. Iranians, who are not Arabs, are Shiite, and are considered apostate by the Sunni extremists; Iran has lost thousands of men in the fight against ISIS.

This ignorance helps Trump win Republican voters, no matter what.

The fact that Trump knows exactly what his voters feel and think feeds his narcissism. After his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, at a press conference he said of previous US presidents: “I don’t think they’ve ever had the confidence, frankly, in a president that they have right now for getting things done and having the ability to get things done”.

He does not tolerate any criticism or dissent, as his staff well knows. The result is that he is surrounded by yes men, like no president before. His assistant for trade, Peter Navarro, has declared that there should be a special place in hell for foreign leaders who disagree with Trump.

According to the large majority of economists, the tariff war that he has now started now with US allies plus China will bring growth down all over the world, but nobody reacts in the United States. It is all irrelevant to his voters. He now has a 92 percent rate of confidence, the highest since the United States has existed.

Considering all he has done in less than two years against the existing order leads us to consider that the real danger is that he will be re-elected, and leave office only in 2024. By then, the changes in ethics and style will have become really irreversible.

With many candidates in various countries looking to him as a political example, he will certainly be able to change the world in which we have grown and which, albeit with many faults, has been able to bring about growth and peace.

It is true that the traditional political system needs a radical update, and it does appear able to do so. Meanwhile, it is difficult to foresee how a world based on nationalism and xenophobia – with a strong increase in military spending worldwide, and many other global problems from climate change to no policy for migration, and a global debt that has reached 225 percent of GNP in ten years – will be able to live without conflicts,

What we do know is that the world which emerged from the Second World War, based on the idea of peace and development, the world which is in our constitutions, will disappear.

Democracy, can be a perfect tool for the legitimacy of a dictator. This is what is happening in the various Russias, Turkeys, Hungarys or Polands. A strongman wins the elections, then starts to make changes to the constitution in order to have more power. The next step is to place cronies in institutional positions, reduce the independence of the judiciary, control the media, and so on. That is then followed by acting in name of the majority, against minorities.

This is not new in history. Hitler and Mussolini were at first elected, and today many “men of providence” are lining up.

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Now is Not the Time to Give up on the People of DRChttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/now-not-time-give-people-drc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=now-not-time-give-people-drc http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/now-not-time-give-people-drc/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2018 14:33:56 +0000 Jean-Philippe Marcoux http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156251 Jean-Philippe Marcoux is Mercy Corps Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

By Jean-Philippe Marcoux
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jun 15 2018 (IPS)

After more than 20 years of brutal conflict, few might believe that things could get worse in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). And yet they most dishearteningly are.

In the last year, we have witnessed a continuous escalation of violence that has spread to half of the country, endangering millions. Some 2 million children suffer from acute hunger, and the DRC is home to the largest number of displaced people in Africa.

Political instability has sparked a flare-up of militia violence that has pockmarked eastern and central Congo, forcing tens of thousands to flee in recent months and stirring fears the African nation could plunge back into civil war. Now is the time for the international community to recognize the threat and to finally address the root causes of DRC’s seemingly endless cycle of conflict.

Yet many donors are forced to pick and choose which disasters to respond to in a world grappling with an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises. Budget constraints make it is easy to justify diverting funds to meet emergency needs.

However, the value of long-term development projects, which too often get short-shrift in the face of ongoing crisis, cannot be underestimated.

We know that humanitarian responses mostly serve to alleviate the symptoms of larger issues and are not solutions themselves. So, my organisation, Mercy Corps, and other agencies are working to address what drives conflict in the DRC: the grievances stemming from the lack of access to services and economic opportunities in a country where two-thirds of the population is under the age of 25.

As insecurity and violence in DRC has forced people out of the traditional rural and farming areas and into towns and cities where they feel safer, urban services are struggling to keep up with the new demand.

Currently, three-quarters of the population lack access to safe drinking water. Without access to clean water, people are more susceptible to disease, and women and girls are disproportionately impacted as they often have to take responsibility for the collection of water. As Justine, one of the women we work with says: “Water is life. So there is nothing we can do without water.”

This is why Mercy Corps is undertaking one of our largest-ever infrastructure programmes to provide safe drinking water to approximately 1 million people in the cities of Goma and Bukavu.

The IMAGINE programme, delivered with support from the U.K. government, involves nine local organisations, six health zones, five districts, two cities, two provincial water ministries and the public water utility.

All of these different parts form an integrated water governance initiative working in partnership to ensure that neighbourhoods have access to safe, clean water, as well as the means to provide feedback to improve water-delivery service. IMAGINE is proof that development gains can be made, even while chaos reigns in other parts of the country.

To be sure, Mercy Corps and other aid groups must and do respond to the most pressing needs that arise from violence in the DRC. Since the beginning of 2018, we have doubled our humanitarian response and set up the Kivu Crisis Response for newly displaced Congolese.

This programme allows us to coordinate with other organisations to respond in a smarter more rapid way to the most urgent needs of displaced people, providing lifesaving assistance in a way that maintains their dignity.

Ultimately, the Congolese people hold the power to decide their own futures. This includes choosing their own leaders through elections that are scheduled for this year. Development programmes like IMAGINE are tools that the Congolese people can use to build safer and healthier futures for themselves and future generations. Maintaining, and where possible, increasing development programming is central to this effort.

Home of to some of Africa’s most majestic national parks, this is a nation whose almost boundless natural beauty and potential eludes most newspaper headlines. Despair often eclipses the energy and determination of its inhabitants after so many years of war. But there are seedlings of hope. Now is not the time to give up on the people of DRC.

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Excerpt:

Jean-Philippe Marcoux is Mercy Corps Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo

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You Are More Powerful than You Think!http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/you-are-more-powerful-than-you-think/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=you-are-more-powerful-than-you-think http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/you-are-more-powerful-than-you-think/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 15:25:08 +0000 Monique Barbut http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156239 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Credit: UNCCD

By Monique Barbut
BONN, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

Are you overwhelmed by the depressing news coming at you daily? Conflict, forced migrants, famine, floods, hurricanes, extinction of species, climate change, threats of war … a seemingly endless list. It might surprise you, but you can really make a difference on many of these issues.

Just like every raindrop counts towards a river and every vote counts in an election, so does every choice you make in what you consume. With every produce you consume, you strengthen the river of sustainability or of unsustainability. It is either a vote in favor of policies that spread social goods like peace and poverty eradication or social bads like – conflict or grinding poverty.

We look up to governments a lot, forgetting that governments set up policies to encourage us to make specific choices. That’s how powerful our lifestyles choices are.

Imagine, what would happen if the world’s over 7 billion consumers committed, every year, to just one lifestyle change that will support the provision of goods from sustainably managed land.

Every year, we make New Year resolutions about change. Why not include as one of those resolutions, a changeof habit leading that will lead to a smart sustainable consumer lifestyle? Without any government intervention, you can make choices that will help to end deforestation, soil erosion and pollution or reduce the effects of drought or sand and dust storms.

Monique Barbut

However, to make the right lifestyle change, each of us must first find out where the goods we consume are cultivated and processed. For instance, if they are linked to conflict in regions with rapidly degrading land or forests or polluted water or soils, then chose an alternative that is produced sustainably. It is a small, but achievable change to make every year.

Every country and product has a land footprint. What we eat. What we wear. What we drink. The manufacturer or supplier of the products we consume. The brands related to these suppliers that we will support. We prioritize buying from the local small farm holders to reduce our global land footprint. Consumers have plenty of options.

But a vital missing link is the informed consumer.

Through mobile phone apps**, it is getting easier and easier to track where the goods we consume come from. It is also getting easier to find alternative suppliers of our choice, as the private sector embraces the idea of ethical business. The information you need is literally in the – mobile phone in the – palm of our hand.

But you must believe in your own power to change the world. The global effect on the market may surprise you.

We will reward the food producers, natural resource managers and land planners struggling against all odds to keep the land healthy and productive. This is cheapest way to help every family and community in the world to thrive, and avoid the damage and loss of life that comes from environmental degradation and disasters.

Make 17 June, the celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, your date with nature. It’s the mid-point of the year and a good moment to review the progress you are making towards your New Year resolution of a sustainable lifestyle.

In 2030, when the international community evaluates its achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, you can point to positive changes that you have contributed in favor of present and future generations.

You are more powerful than you think. Take your power back and put it into action.

Monique Barbut is Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

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Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Is there Gender Parity & Reverse Sexual Harassment at UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/gender-parity-reverse-sexual-harassment-un/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2018 12:52:25 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156237 Faced with growing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last year announced a “zero-tolerance” policy to fight harassment in the world body. But UN Women, which was created in July 2010 and dedicated to gender empowerment, has moved one step further– and appointed an Executive Coordinator and […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

Faced with growing allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last year announced a “zero-tolerance” policy to fight harassment in the world body.

But UN Women, which was created in July 2010 and dedicated to gender empowerment, has moved one step further– and appointed an Executive Coordinator and Spokesperson on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination, perhaps one of the few UN bodies to do so.

Dr. Purna Sen, UN Women

Holding that new position is Dr. Purna Sen, Director of Policy at UN Women, who under the newly-created role, will build on the current momentum “to find lasting solutions to stop, prevent and respond to sexual harassment both, within and outside the UN.”

Asked whether there have been any charges of sexual abuse or sexual harassment at UN Women, she told IPS that in 2015, one case of sexual harassment was reported: the allegations, which involved a contractor for UN Women, were substantiated, and the contract was immediately terminated.

In 2016, she said, two cases of allegations of sexual harassment were reported. None of the allegations were substantiated.

In 2017, there was one case of allegations of sexual misconduct against one UN Women staff member. The case is still under investigation.

As part of her mandate, Dr Sen will be calling upon and supporting states, government administrations and the private sector to ensure actions are taken to respond to women’s experiences of sexual harassment.

She begins her assignment with two calls: firstly, asking women to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault and secondly, asking for examples of good practices, policies and laws dealing with harassment.

The email address follows: end.sexualharassment@unwomen.org

Announcing Dr Sen’s appointment, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director PhumzileMlambo-Ngcuka said: “UN Women was established to protect and promote women’s rights. We have a unique role to play in driving action towards accountability.”

“This means zero tolerance for violence and harassment, and actions to ensure that victims are supported. We currently see practices and cultural norms that enable harassment and penalize victims. This has to change.

”In her new role and with her directly relevant background, Purna will help address the deep-rooted patterns of inequality and abuse of women”, she declared.

In an interview with IPS, Dr Sen also responded to charges of “reverse sexual harassments” and the status of gender parity in the UN system.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: What is your response to charges of sexual harassment in reverse – where some high ranking UN officials point out cases where “women staffers throw themselves on their bosses to advance their careers?.”

Dr Sen: “Let’s decipher that statement: is it claimed that women are offering sex for jobs or promotion? If so, surely there are some clear responses.

Any muddying of professionalism, competency and recruitment with matters of sexual behaviour is inappropriate and not for defending. That holds whether it is powerful, high ranking officials (mostly men) or junior staff (more likely to be women, young people, national staff etc). Sexual activities in exchange for career advancement is of course unacceptable.

This possibility or practice must not be treated either as a distraction from the seriousness or ubiquity of gendered, structured sex discrimination that is manifest in sexual harassment, abuse and assault or riposte to accusations.

Those men in high ranking positions making these allegations have no doubt had the opportunity to use their positions to raise this issue over their careers. Has this been done? Or are these issues being raised now when women are calling for accountability for those who abuse?

Treating sexual harassment as isolated incidents, or as incomprehensible acts of individuals (as the formulation in the question suggests) is problematic. It leads to obfuscation or denial of the structural and systemic basis of sexual harassment and assault: these are expressions of patterns of unequal power structures where powerful men (predominantly) hold authority and control over junior staff (more likely to be women, local staff.) such that they can influence their careers or experiences at work.

Denial, distraction and excusing of sexual harassment and assault illustrate cultures where the seriousness and harm of harassment is not recognised or prioritized”.

IPS: A General Assembly resolution going back to the 1970s — and reaffirmed later– called for 50:50 gender parity amongst UN staffers, particularly in decision-making posts. How is UN women conforming to this resolution? What is the breakdown of your staff in numbers between men and women?

Dr Sen: UN Women is supporting the SG’s gender parity efforts through its unique mandate to lead and coordinate the UN system’s work on gender equality, as well as promote accountability, including through regular monitoring of system-wide progress.

UN Women is also a source of substantive guidance on gender parity and related issues for the UN system, and serves as a repository for best practices, provides guidance and tools, and analyses overall UN system trends to identify obstacles to and key drivers of change in advancing towards equal representation.

Additionally, UN Women supports interagency knowledge-sharing and collaboration, as well as capacity building of gender expertise, through system-wide gender networks, including the Gender Focal Points, IANWGE and the UN-SWAP network

Another important step UN Women is taking is the upcoming development of the Guidelines on Enabling Environment, containing system-wide recommendations and practical measures aimed at creating a work environment that is free from discrimination, harassment and abuse of authority, as well as supports women in their careers through family-friendly policies, work-life balance and professional development programmes.

As of today our overall workforce breakdown is 71% female; 29% male.

IPS: What is your response to the argument that jobs in the UN system should go to the most qualified and the most competent – rather than based on gender equality?

Dr Sen: “The problem with this question is that it assumes a contradiction between being ‘the most qualified and the most competent’ on the one hand, and the pursuit of gender equality, on the other. That is a false premise. It assumes that the goal of gender equality jettisons competency and good qualification.

What lies behind this assumption is the belief that women (for it is in general the appointment of greater numbers of women that makes up actions towards gender equality in staffing or representatives’ profiles) cannot be the best qualified or the most competent.

Therein lies a fully gendered belief in the essential incompetence of women and, in contrast, the innate competence of men. I reject that assumption and there are many examples that support such rejection.

In a nutshell, women can be and are both competent and qualified, including the most competent and qualified, in any sector. More pertinent is the question why is it that competent and qualified women are not being appointed?

The same gendered assumption that pre-supposes that women can be neither, is what stops their true talents, skills and competencies being recognized and rewarded. Cultures of gender inequality are insidious and have long passed their expiry date.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Sahel in the Throes of a Major Humanitarian Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 18:04:32 +0000 Mark Lowcock http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156214 Mark Lowcock is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

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A mother caresses the head of her sleeping malnourished baby, at the mother and child centre in the town of Diffa, Niger. Credit: UNICEF/Tremeau

By Mark Lowcock
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

I am increasingly concerned by the situation in the Sahel. In Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, nearly 6 million people are struggling to meet their daily food needs. Severe malnutrition threatens the lives of 1.6 million children. These are levels unseen since the crisis of 2012, and the most critical months are still ahead.

Governments in the region were successful in beating back the crisis six years ago. I am encouraged by the efforts of regional partners to scale up their operations following early warning signs. But the rapid deterioration over recent months reveals an urgent need for more donor support.

The crisis was triggered by scarce and erratic rainfall in 2017, resulting in water, crop and pasture shortages and livestock losses. Pastoralists had to undertake the earliest seasonal movement of livestock in 30 years – four months earlier and much further than usual. This has also increased the likelihood of conflict with farmer communities over scarce resources, water and land.

Food security across the region has deteriorated. Food stocks have already run out for millions of people. Families are cutting down on meals, withdrawing children from school and going without essential health treatment to save money for food.

Severe acute malnutrition rates in the six countries have increased by 50 per cent since last year. One child in six under the age of five now needs urgent life-saving treatment to survive.

In a severe lean season, anticipated to last until September, the number of people who need food and livelihood support may increase to 6.5 million.

I am most concerned about Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania. In Burkina Faso, for example, the number of people facing food insecurity has already jumped nearly threefold since last year. In Mali, the number of people in ‘emergency’ conditions have increased by 120 per cent. In Mauritania, severe acute malnutrition rates are at their highest since 2008.

With support from the United Nations and partners, national authorities have developed prioritized response plans that focus on pastoral and food security needs. A scale-up in operations to reach 3.6 million people with food security interventions is already underway.

Critical nutrition interventions are being scaled up in areas where emergency thresholds have been surpassed. Ongoing technical support to governments and regional organisations is helping mitigate conflict between farmers and herders.

While increased insecurity has complicated aid delivery in parts of the region, the humanitarian presence in the Sahel and capacity to deliver services are stronger than ever before. Regional, national and local organisations stand ready to step up assistance and help meet exceptional needs.

But UN response plans across the six affected countries are only 26 per cent funded. Last week, I released US$30 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to help scale up relief efforts in the region. I call on donors urgently to provide further funding. We can still avert the worst.

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Excerpt:

Mark Lowcock is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

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Stop Neglecting African Conflictshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-neglecting-african-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 12:27:32 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156207 Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group. Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises. “It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent […]

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A group of displaced men, women, and children find refuge at a church on the outskirts of Nyunzu village in eastern Congo. Pastor Mbuyu (pictured) looks after them. Credit: NRC/Christian Jepsen

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group.

Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises.

“It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent seldom make media headlines or reach foreign policy agendas before it is too late,” said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland.

This year’s results found that six of the worlds 10 most neglected conflicts are found in Africa.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – where years of civil war have displaced more than 5 million people – topped the list.

South Sudan, Central African Republic, Burundi and Ethiopia rounded out the top five.

But why are such conflicts so neglected?

Lack of political and diplomatic will is among the NRC’s major concerns.

“We – the West – are good at turning a blind eye when there is little geopolitical interest for us,” NRC’s spokesperson Tiril Skarstein told IPS.

“The countries on the list are often considered less strategically important, and that’s why there’s no international interest in finding a solution,” she added.

Skarstein explained that in some countries, the opposite is the case, where there are many actors with conflicting political interests taking part in the conflict. Such are the cases of Yemen and Palestine, where political gains are put before the lives of civilians.

The lack of political will to work towards a solution is one of three criteria on which a crisis is measured in order to be included on the list.

Media Turns A Blind Eye

According to the NRC, the plight of African refugees is also consistently too far removed from the ‘consciousness of the west’ as their stories fail to be told in Western news and media.

If they are, they certainly are not being covered as as much as other humanitarian conflicts in the world.

Expanding on this point, Skarstein drew comparison between Syria and the DRC where the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in both conflicts is approximately 13 million.

“Many people wouldn’t know that. Why? Because the two have had vastly different levels of international exposure,” she told IPS.

Since many of the refugees from the Syria have fled the Assad regime via Europe, many in the West have been forced to “confront and come to terms with their plight.”

“We are literally seeing these people arrive on our doorsteps. In the media, their story in chronicled, tv, online, on social media. And when people get to see others and know their situation people have a tendency to care and act,” Skarstein noted.

Meanwhile, conflicts in the DRC and other African nations often see displaced people flee to neighboring countries.

“They are not arriving on tourist beaches. Crossing one African border to another doesn’t generate the same level of exposure,” Skarstein said.

Less Money, More Problems

Because of the lack of political will and media attention, many of African crises also end up struggling to access humanitarian funds.

“Crises that are given little international attention and are seldom mentioned in the media, are also often declined the financial support needed to meet severe humanitarian needs,” Skarstein told IPS.

DRC is currently the second lowest funded of the world’s largest crises with less than half of the US$812 million aid appeal met.

A further problem is ‘donor fatigue’, a phenomenon whereby the longer a conflict goes on, the harder it is to attract the necessary funding from donors.

“You have conflicts raging for years, sometimes even decades – you get people thinking it’s a hopeless case, it’s all over. We need to fight that,” she said.

So what can get these African conflicts off the most neglected list?

The NRC says the most important thing is for donor states to provide assistance on a needs basis rather than a political one.

The human rights group also highlighted the role of media in bringing attention to overlooked humanitarian disasters.

“Exposure is so critical, that people be heard and listened too is key. The more we speak up about these crises and the more we see of them, the more that can be done,” Skarstein said.

And this list should serve as a reminder to all.

“Just because we do not see these people suffer, it does not make their suffering any less real…importantly, it does not absolve us from our responsibility to act,” Skarstein concluded.

Violence escalated in several parts of the DRC in 2015, forcing almost 2 million people to flee their homes in 2017 alone.

Among the other countries to make this year’s “World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises” list is the Palestinians territories, Myanmar, Yemen, Venezuela and Nigeria.

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Intelligent Land Use Seeks to Make Headway in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/intelligent-land-use-makes-headway-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=intelligent-land-use-makes-headway-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/intelligent-land-use-makes-headway-latin-america/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 02:06:56 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156189 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Farmers are trained in sustainable land management in the Coquimbo region, in northern Chile, bordering the region of Atacama, home to the driest desert on earth. Initiatives such as this are part of the measures to combat soil degradation in Latin America. Credit: National Forest Corporation (CONAF)

Farmers are trained in sustainable land management in the Coquimbo region, in northern Chile, bordering the region of Atacama, home to the driest desert on earth. Initiatives such as this are part of the measures to combat soil degradation in Latin America. Credit: National Forest Corporation (CONAF)

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

Consumers can be allies in curbing desertification in Latin America, where different initiatives are being promoted to curtail it, such as sustainable land management, progress towards neutrality in land degradation or the incorporation of the bioeconomy.

Ecuador is cited as an example in the region of these policies, for its incentives for intelligent and healthy consumption and promotion of sustainable land use practices by producers and consumers.

This is important because 47.5 percent of the territory of that South American country is facing desertification and the worst situation is along the central part of its Pacific shoreline.

On Jun. 15, the second phase of a Sustainable Land Management (SLM) project, promoted by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Ecuador’s Environment Ministry, will be launched with funding from South Korea.

The plan promotes the strengthening of the capacity of communities affected by degradation. In the first phase 348,000 dollars were invested.

Juan Calle López, of the FAO office in Ecuador, told IPS from Quito that the project’s aim is “to improve the capacity of local community and institutional actors, to address and implement SLM in degraded landscapes.”

“The project seeks to have pilot sites serve as a reference for communities to verify SLM efforts and their potential to adapt to local conditions,” he said.

“It also seeks for these practices to have a landscape approach that integrates the management of remaining ecosystems and agricultural areas to maintain local environmental services in the long term, such as regulation of the hydrological cycle and sustainable land use,” he said.

Calle López explained that “the project will work together with local municipal governments, local parishes, and producers’ associations, to jointly define best practices for each area depending on the social and environmental conditions of each site.”

“Local farmers will be the direct stakeholders in the project since their involvement is a prerequisite for developing the different practices on their farms,” in a process which will use tools already tested by FAO and the results of the National Assessment of Land Degradation, carried out in the country in 2017.

Ecuador is also the country that will host this year’s global observance of World Day to Combat Desertification, on Jun. 17. This year’s focus will be on the role of consumers on sustainable land management through their purchasing decisions and investments.

Under the theme “Land has true value. Invest in it,” one of the objectives is to “encourage land users to make use of the land management practices that keep land productive,” said Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the UNCCD.

Symbolically, the event will take place at the Middle of the World Monument, located exactly on the equator, from which the Andean country takes its name, about 35 km from Quito, to symbolise the union of the two hemispheres, the UNCCD coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, José Miguel Torrico, based in Santiago, Chile, told IPS.

Ecuador’s commitment to innovative initiatives to combat soil degradation and to promote sustainable land management, which also include advances in the transition to a bioeconomy, is also recognised by its choice as host.

Tarsicio Granizo, Ecuador’s environment minister, defined the bioeconomy as “an economic model based on renewable biological resources, replacing fossil resources,” which has special meaning in a country that has depended on oil exports for decades as one of the pillars of its economy.

“Experts agree that this model combines economic progress with care for the environment and biodiversity,” Granizo said during the Second Global Bioeconomy Summit, held in Berlin in April.

The minister warned, however, that “this is not a short-term issue. We are only just beginning to develop a framework to transition toward a bioeconomy.”

Meanwhile, in Santiago, Torrico pointed out that “desertification entails losses of 42 billion dollars in annual global income, while actions to recover land cost between 40 and 350 dollars per hectare.”

“On the other hand, the returns on investments in actions against degradation at the global level are four to six dollars for every dollar invested,” he said, explaining the benefits of mitigation projects.

This also applies in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it is estimated that 50 percent of agricultural land could be affected by desertification.

In this region, “13 percent of the population lives on degraded lands, which varies from country to country: in Uruguay 33 percent of the population lives in degraded areas, compared to just two percent of the population in Guyana,” said the UNCCD regional coordinator.

“The annual costs of land degradation are estimated for Latin America and the Caribbean at 60 billion dollars per year, while globally they are estimated at 297 billion per year,” Torrico added.

He warned that “inaction in the face of land degradation will mean that global food production could be reduced by more than 12 percent in the next 25 years, leading to a 30 percent increase in food prices.”

“In direct terms, 40 percent of the world’s population (more than 2.8 billion people) live in regions undergoing desertification, while around 900 million people lack access to safe water,” he said.

“Estimates indicate that in order to supply the world population by 2050 (which is projected to reach nine billion people), agricultural production will have to increase by 70 percent worldwide and by 100 percent in developing countries,” he said.

Otherwise, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population (5.3 billion) could live under water stress conditions. This would mean that 135 million people would have to migrate by 2045, as a result of desertification,” he added.

According to Torrico, “In Latin America and the Caribbean, the most immediate situations are related to how to deal with droughts, for which the Drought Initiative has been implemented in eight countries of the region: Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Paraguay and Venezuela.”

This strategy, he explained, “seeks to harmonize public policies to address this phenomenon.

“The other emergency has to do with the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda, where 26 countries in the region have established a programme of goals to achieve,” he said.

This new commitment is that “what we take from the earth, we have to replace and maintain productivity,” Torrico concluded, on the commitment by its 195 States parties to achieve this neutrality by 2030, assumed in 2015 within the framework of the UNCCD.

The post Intelligent Land Use Seeks to Make Headway in Latin America appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:20:44 +0000 Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156175 Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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12 June is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world's poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health

Although child abuse and exploitation is prohibited by the Kenyan constitution, some children are still engaged in manual labour. XINHUA PHOTO: SAM NDIRANGU

By Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

On 12 June every year is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world’s poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest proportion of child labourers (29 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 years) and is considered detrimental to their health and development.

Many children not yet in their teens, are sent out to work in farms, as sand harvesters, street hawkers, domestic workers, drug peddling and most piteously, as sex workers and child soldiers.

Of all child labourers in these and similar industries around the world, half are in Africa, indicating that the continent’s conscience must urgently be pricked into action.

Jacqueline Mogeni

Kenya has made some commendable moves towards eliminating child labour, primarily through the National Policy on the Elimination of Child Labour, and most recently the Computer and Cybercrime Bill with its provisions on child sexual exploitation. And worth mentioning is the Children’s Act which domesticated most international and continental conventions to enhance child rights and protection.

Kenya has ratified most key international conventions concerning child labour including Minimum Age, Worst Forms of Child Labour, Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

The country must now also ratify the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Among the steps that will reduce the number of children ending up as workers is the policy on compulsory secondary education. Currently, only the primary level schooling is mandatory, which leaves an almost five-year gap between completion and the minimum working age of 18 years.

Officially, primary and secondary schools are prohibited from charging tuition fees, but unofficial school levies, books and uniforms still make it difficult for families to send their children to school. Partly because of that, transition to secondary school is at about 60%, leaving many children prone to exploitation.

While engaging children has been considered as more income, new analysis by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicates child labour is economically unjustified.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Sending such children out to work rather than to school means they miss out on education and the skills that might have landed them better jobs in the future. It means we are not investing in human capital, but rather ensuring the youth will remain mired in low-skilled jobs, thus jeopardising any hopes for reaping a demographic dividend. Efforts to empower, educate and employ young people will have a cascading effect on the rest of society.

Estimates indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, the last few years have witnessed a rise in child labour, where other major regions recorded declines. It is conceivable that the retrogression was driven largely by economic slow-down, but clearly, child labour is likely a cause rather than cure for poverty for families and for entire nations. “Child labor perpetuates poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, population growth, and other social problems”, says Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi.

A particularly obdurate form of child labour is early marriage, with statistics indicating that one in five girls under 15 years is married, invariably to a much older man. The cycle of abuse sets off immediately, with most of these ‘child brides’ being overworked in the home; often made to walk many kilometres to fetch water, sweep the house, prepare meals and give birth to many children while their peers are in school.

Childbirth is a deadly hit-or-miss proposition for them. Young mothers are four times likelier than those over 20 to die in pregnancy or childbirth, even without considering other perils such as fistula that are hazards for child mothers.

Even where such births are uneventful, it means that such children will most likely never go back to school, dashing any hopes of decent employment in future.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour.

With its current momentum including moves to clamp down on exploitation of children and increasing secondary school transition rates, Kenya can be a model for Africa in the global commitment.

The post Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labour appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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We Have Told G7 Leaders to Make Gender Inequality & Patriarchy Historyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/told-g7-leaders-make-gender-inequality-patriarchy-history/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=told-g7-leaders-make-gender-inequality-patriarchy-history http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/told-g7-leaders-make-gender-inequality-patriarchy-history/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2018 10:20:06 +0000 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Michael Kaufman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156161 Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women &
Michael Kaufman is Co-founder, White Ribbon Campaign and Senior Fellow, Promundo institute

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women & Michael Kaufman is Co-founder, White Ribbon Campaign and Senior Fellow, Promundo institute

By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Michael Kaufman
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

For most people, the annual G7 meeting may just seem like an expensive photo-op that doesn’t connect with any concrete change in people’s lives. But for us, appointed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sit on his G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, it was a unique opportunity to push for strong commitments for girls’ and women’s rights.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference at the G7 summit last week.

We had the opportunity to meet the seven leaders for breakfast and make a strong case for concrete commitments and accelerated action to achieve gender equality within a generation.

There is unprecedented momentum and support for gender equality and women’s rights. With the universal adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, which put gender equality at the center, and the global attention brought by #MeToo and related campaigns on ending sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women, support for improving outcomes for girls and women has never been so high.

The explosion of discussions in our offices and shop floors, our boardrooms and locker rooms, our dining rooms and bedrooms must come right to the G7 table. It is therefore significant that leaders spent two hours discussing gender equality and that it was also part of other discussions.

As the richest economies in the world, G7 countries can bring about far reaching systemic changes envisaged in the global agenda for sustainable development. The impact of G7 countries goes well beyond their borders. We have told leaders that they must use this unique footprint for the benefit of women and girls.

Together with the Gender Equality Advisory Council, we have put forward a comprehensive set of recommendations.

As a foundation, it is critical to eliminate discriminatory legislation which persists in G7 countries and around the world. We also called for the removal of barriers to women’s income’s security and participation in the labour market.

Concrete measures, such as legislation and implementation of pay equity can close the wage gap between men and women. And the jobs of the future, whether it is in the digital economy or artificial intelligence, must help close – not further widen – the gender gap.

For most women, the challenge of balancing productive and reproductive lives creates a “motherhood penalty” that triggers major setbacks for women in the economy. G7 leaders can shape an economy that closes the gap between women and men through affordable childcare, paid parental leave, and greater incentives for men to do half of all care work.

Addressing violence against women in the workplace is critical. Employers, shareholders, customers, trade unions, Boards, Ministers all have an obligation to make workplaces safe, hold perpetrators accountable and end impunity.

The emerging International Labour Organization’s standard to end violence and harassment at work should be supported to drive greater progress in this area.

None of this will happen without the full participation and voice of women at all decision-making tables. We applaud the increasing numbers of countries with gender equal cabinets. We need more countries to follow suit, as well as the private sector.

Because men still disproportionately control our political, economic, religious, and media institutions, they have a special responsibility to actively support policies and cultural change. Men’s voices and actions, including those of our predominately male political leaders, are critical because they have such a big impact on the attitudes and behavior of other men.

We welcome the announcement by Canada, the European Union, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the World Bank of an investment of nearly US$ 3 billion for girls’ education, including the single largest investment in education for women and girls in crisis and conflict situations. This is a significant step forward to build a foundation for greater progress.

In our own work, as the Executive Director of UN Women, and as a writer and activist focused on engaging men to promote gender equality and end violence against women, we’ve been witness to dramatic changes over the past few decades. The courage of individual women and the leadership of women’s movements have meant that patriarchy is being dismantled in front of our eyes.

But greater leadership is required. A strong commitment by G7 leaders to take this agenda forward beyond the Summit can push forward the most dramatic and far-reaching revolution in human history. The one that will make gender inequality history.

The post We Have Told G7 Leaders to Make Gender Inequality & Patriarchy History appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women &
Michael Kaufman is Co-founder, White Ribbon Campaign and Senior Fellow, Promundo institute

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China Generates Energy and Controversy in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2018 08:04:43 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156109 As in other Latin American countries, in recent years China has been a strong investor in Argentina. The environmental impact and economic benefits of this phenomenon, however, are a subject of discussion among local stakeholders. One of the key areas is energy. A study by the non-governmental Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) states that […]

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Demonstrators protest the construction of two mega hydroelectric power plants on the Santa Cruz River in Argentine Patagonia, with Chinese investment of five billion dollars. Despite concerns about environmental impacts, the government of Mauricio Macri decided to go ahead with the projects. Credit: Courtesy of FARN

Demonstrators protest the construction of two mega hydroelectric power plants on the Santa Cruz River in Argentine Patagonia, with Chinese investment of five billion dollars. Despite concerns about environmental impacts, the government of Mauricio Macri decided to go ahead with the projects. Credit: Courtesy of FARN

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

As in other Latin American countries, in recent years China has been a strong investor in Argentina. The environmental impact and economic benefits of this phenomenon, however, are a subject of discussion among local stakeholders.

One of the key areas is energy. A study by the non-governmental Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) states that China has mainly been financing hydroelectric, nuclear and hydrocarbon projects.

Just four percent of these investments are in renewable energies, which is precisely the sector where the country is clearly lagging.

“China’s main objective is to export its technology and inputs. And it has highly developed hydraulic, nuclear and oil sectors. There are no more rivers in China where dams can be built and this is why they are so interested in the dams on the Santa Cruz River,” María Marta Di Paola, FARN’s director of research, told IPS."What we attributed in the past to U.S. pressure we are now experiencing with China….The dams are a clear example of how this pressure for economic reasons could be trampling over the nation's environmental sovereignty.” -- Hernán Casañas

China is behind a controversial project to build two giant dams in Patagonia, on the Santa Cruz River, which was approved during the administration of Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015) and ratified by President Mauricio Macri, despite strong environmental concerns.

The dams would cost some five billion dollars, with a foreseen a capacity of 1,310 MW.

However, expert Gustavo Girado said that it is not China that refuses to get involved in renewable energy projects, but Argentina that has not yet made a firm commitment to the energy transition towards clean and unconventional renewable sources.

“Like any country with a lot of capital, China is interested in all possible businesses and takes what it is offered. In fact, in Argentina it also has a high level of participation in the RenovAr Plan,” explained Girado, an economist and director of a postgraduate course on contemporary China at the public National University of Lanús, based in Buenos Aires.

He was referring to the initiative launched by the Argentine government to develop renewable energies and revert the current scenario, in which fossil fuels account for 87 percent of the country’s primary energy mix.

Also participating in this industry are Chinese companies, which during the period January-September 2017 produced 25 percent of the total oil and 14 percent of the natural gas extracted in the country.

Since 2016, the Ministry of Energy has signed 147 contracts for renewable energy projects that would contribute a total of 4,466 MW to the electric grid, most of them involving solar and wind power, which are currently under development.

The goal is to comply with the law enacted in 2015, which establishes that by 2025 renewables must contribute at least 20 percent of the capacity of the electric grid, which today is around 30,000 MW.

In this sense, 15 percent of the power allocated through the RenovAr Plan has been to Chinese capital.

One mega project in renewable energies is the Caucharí solar park, in the northern province of Jujuy, which is to consist of the installation of 1,200,000 solar panels built in China, on a 700-hectare site.

The project has a budget of 390 million dollars, of which 330 million will be financed by the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China.

China is also behind Argentina’s intention to develop nuclear energy, since in 2017 it was agreed that it would finance the fourth and fifth nuclear power plants in this South American country, at a total cost of 14 billion dollars.

However, the Macri administration announced this month that it would indefinitely postpone the start of construction of at least the first of these plants, to avoid further indebtedness and reduce the country’s high fiscal deficit.

The decision is aimed at facilitating the granting of a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), after the crisis of confidence that resulted in a massive outflow of capital and which put the local economy in serious trouble.

On the other hand, other energy projects funded by Chinese capital are going ahead, including four other hydroelectric power plants and thermal plants powered by natural gas.

So far, the investments already committed by Beijing in the energy sector in Latin America’s third-largest economy total 30 billion dollars, in addition to projects in other areas, such as infrastructure, agribusiness or mining.

“The Chinese looked first at their continent, then at Africa, and for some years now they have their eyes on Latin America. First of all, they were interested in agricultural and mineral products, and today they are not only the region’s second largest trading partner, but also a good investor,” Jorge Taiana, Argentine foreign minister between 2005 and 2010, told IPS.

The veteran diplomat recalled a point made by then U.S. President George W. Bush at the 2005 Summit of the Americas (SOA) in the Argentine city of Mar del Plata, where the region refused to form the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

“He (Bush) told us,’I don’t know why they care so much about the FTAA, when what we need to discuss is how we defend ourselves against China’,” Taiana said.

He maintains that it depends on the decisions of Argentina and the rest of the countries in the region whether they will benefit from or be victims of China’s aggressive economic expansion.

“Foreign direct investment is always beneficial. The secret lies in what conditions the recipients put in place and what their development plan is,” he said.

“Argentina, for example, built its railways with English capital, and all the tracks converge in Buenos Aires because the English were only interested in getting the agricultural products to to the port. Those are the things that shouldn’t happen,” he added.

Environmental organisations are particularly critical of the dams on the Santa Cruz River, which begins in the magnificent Los Glaciares National Park and could affect the water level in Lake Argentino, home to the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the country’s major tourist attractions.

However, the dam contract has a cross default clause whereby, if not built, Chinese banks could also cut off financing for railway infrastructure projects they are carrying out in Argentina.

“What we attributed in the past to U.S. pressure we are now experiencing with China,” said Hernán Casañas, director of Aves Argentinas, the country’s oldest environmental organisation.

“The dams are a clear example of how this pressure for economic reasons could be trampling over the nation’s environmental sovereignty,” he told IPS.

In this regard, Di Paola said that “China has occupied in Latin America the place previously occupied primarily by traditional financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.”

“The problem is that it does not have the same framework of safeguards, so they are able to start infrastructure works without complying with environmental requirements,” he said.

But Girado sees things differently, saying “the financial institutions impose conditions on the countries that receive the credits, which China does not do. In that sense it is more advantageous.”

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Human Rights Must Be on the Table During U.S.-North Korea Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2018 06:54:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156112 Human rights issues must be included in next week’s United States-North Korea summit in order to create a “sustainable agreement”, said a UN expert. In an effort towards denuclearization, U.S. President Trump is set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. In anticipation of the summit, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights […]

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Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, addresses the Assembly’s annual general debate. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Human rights issues must be included in next week’s United States-North Korea summit in order to create a “sustainable agreement”, said a UN expert.

In an effort towards denuclearization, U.S. President Trump is set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

In anticipation of the summit, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Tomás Ojea Quintana called for human rights issues to be a topic of discussion.

“At some point, whether [in] the next summit or other summits to come or meetings, it is very important that human rights are raised,” Quintana said.

“I am not of the opinion that a human rights dialogue will undermine the opening and the talks on denuclearization at all,” he added.

Instead, DPRK’s participation in a discussion on human rights will give them “credibility” and “show that they want to become a normal state.”

While they have signed and ratified several human rights treaties, North Korea remains one of the most repressive, authoritarian states in the world

A 2014 UN report found systematic, gross human rights violations committed by the government including forced labor, enslavement, torture, and imprisonment.

It is estimated that up to 120,000 people are detained in political prison camps in the East Asian nation, often referred to as the “world’s biggest open prison.”

“My call is for an amnesty, a general amnesty that includes these prisoners, and it is a concrete call,” Quintana said.

The UN Commission of Inquiry also found the “inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

Approximately two in five North Koreans are undernourished and more than 70 percent of the population rely on food aid.

Most North Koreans also lack access to basic services such as healthcare or sanitation.

Diarrhea and pneumonia are the two main causes of death for children under five, the report said.

It wouldn’t be the first time that President Trump has taken a strong stance on North Korea.

“No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea,” Trump said during his first speech to the General Assembly in 2017.

“It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior,” he added.

In an open letter, more than 300 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world have also called on North Korea to reform its regime and hope the upcoming meeting will urge human rights improvements as part of any agreement.

“North Korea’s increased dialogue with other countries is a positive step, but before the world gets too excited they should remember that Kim Jong Un still presides over perhaps the most repressive system in the world,” said Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director Brad Adams.

“As the UN Security Council has recognized, human rights abuses in North Korea and threats to international peace and security are intrinsically connected, so any security discussion needs to include human rights,” he continued.

Human Rights Watch is among the human rights organizations that signed the letter.

Among the letter’s calls to actions, organizations urged Kim Jong Un to act on UN human rights recommendations, increase engagement with the international human rights system, end abuses in detention and prisons, and to accept international humanitarian aid for needy communities.

“If [Kim Jong Un] really wants to end North Korea’s international isolation, he should take strong and quick action to show the North Korean people and the world that he is committed to ending decades of rights abuses,” Adams said.

Quintana echoed similar sentiments, noting that human rights issues were sidelined over two decades ago when the U.S. and the DPRK signed an agreement to freeze Pyongyang’s nuclear programme and again during recent six-party talks.

“Those processes, although they were well-intentioned, were not successful,” he said.

“For this new process to be successful, my humble opinion as a human rights rapporteur is that the human rights dialogue should be included because it is part of the discussion. Human rights and security and peace are interlinked, definitely, and this is the situation where we can prove that,” Quintana continued.

Otherwise, any denuclearization agreement would send the “wrong message” and prevent the two parties from building a “sustainable agreement.”

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It Takes More Than Two to Tango: Platform to Achieve SDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/takes-two-tango-platform-achieve-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=takes-two-tango-platform-achieve-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/takes-two-tango-platform-achieve-sdgs/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 14:16:16 +0000 Silvia Morimoto http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156103 Silvia Morimoto is Country Director UNDP Argentina

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Argentina is in a need of a new development paradigm, to combat a slew of development challenges. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Silvia Morimoto
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

Buenos Aires is a charming city; rich with history, magnificent architecture, and a soul and music that can pull you to tango in a heartbeat.

But the city’s staggering beauty and its abundant culture struggles with challenges. Argentina’s average poverty rate stands at 25.7% today. Hard-core poverty has averaged around 20% in the last few decades unequally distributed along the country and concentrated in urban areas.

Argentina is in a need of a new development paradigm, to combat a slew of development challenges. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) believes those development challenges require a platform approach, using technology and innovation, to hack development challenges, even faster.

One of the favorite maxims of development experts is that everything is complex and interconnected. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by all nations manifest those strong linkages.

To contend with those complex linkages, we are developing a platform in Argentina to mediate connections between an unprecedented range of actors, to help the country achieve the SDGs.

The objective of such a platform is to intensify support to the government in dealing with development challenges, while providing space for building relationships beyond traditional partners.

The idea is to partner with so called ‘unusual suspects’ to convene, connect, engage in co-creating innovative solutions, and raising much needed resources to finance those solutions.

This will foster active collaboration between UN agencies, as well as a range of institutions including government agencies, the private sector, international financial institutions, academia, unions, faith-based institutions and civil society organizations.

Rene Mauricio Valdez, UN Resident Coordinator in Argentina, sees UNDP as a platform that allows to interconnect different actors, sectors and even other platforms to generate sounder policies and programs.

In the world of digital economies, speed and flexibility in decision making are imperative. Mobile technologies have enabled millions to live their lives online. A platform approach is vital if we are to keep up with this ever-shifting development landscape.

Our vision is to try to focus on so called ‘wicked problems’ – problems that seem impossible to resolve. In Argentina, this means for example taking on the challenge of Matanza-Riachueloriver that meanders around the southern edge of Buenos Aires.

That once sleepy and muddy river -as the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges described it- on whose banks more than five million people reside is now a toxic waterway, contaminated by factories, tanneries, and sewage. It has high levels of arsenic, cadmium and other pollutants that are affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, especially children who live along the riverbanks. They have lead in their bloodstreams, and suffer from a host of respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.

UNDP is willing to support the government to transform the lives of the people living by the river.

It is the kind of problem that befits platform thinking. It requires giving up control and opening-up the space for creative processes to thrive. This will mean moving away from business as usual in an organization steeped in traditions and processes, which allows for unprecedented openness and freedom, to harness integrated responses to economic, social and environmental issues.

We are up for that challenge, as adapting and innovating to a shifting development landscape has long been part of our raison d’etre. A platform approach to our work represents that evolution.

It would ensure that programmes and projects are implemented more efficiently, and with greater transparency and accountability. And it would spawn a growing archive of knowledge, experience, and best practices from across the world, but especially between MERCOSUR states.

UNDP’s new Strategic Plan sets out a vision for UNDP’s ambitions over the next four years, reflecting the people centred nature of the 2030 Agenda. UNDP Argentina has already contributed to mapping available information on sustainable development through the country’s 2017 National Development Report 2017, and developed an online platform with statistical information on baselines and targets for select indicators.

Assessments of the country’s resources to meet SDGs targets will allow for identification of funding gaps for prioritized goals and help raise resources to bridge those gaps.

This will further strengthen and accelerate the process of integrating the 2030 Agenda into Argentina’s plan’s and policies. The aim is to create a more prosperous Argentina at every level. Argentina is showing that it takes more than two to tango, “To leave no one behind.”

The post It Takes More Than Two to Tango: Platform to Achieve SDGs appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Silvia Morimoto is Country Director UNDP Argentina

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Afghan Electorate: Basic Needs Must be met Before Political Progress can be Ensuredhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/afghan-electorate-basic-needs-must-met-political-progress-can-ensured/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=afghan-electorate-basic-needs-must-met-political-progress-can-ensured http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/afghan-electorate-basic-needs-must-met-political-progress-can-ensured/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 05:56:55 +0000 Will Carter http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156097 Will Carter is Head of Programme, Norwegian Refugee Council, Afghanistan

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Despite the poor situation regarding food security and displacement, the upcoming elections in Afghanistan provide the populace with a sense of hope.

A family struggles through a dusty environment in Afghanistan. Credit: Fraidoon Poya / UNAMA

By Will Carter
KABUL, Afghanistan, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

After four decades of perpetual conflict, Afghanistan rolls into two consecutive election years – parliamentary this year, presidential the next. But the country and its people are going through even tougher times than usual with continued displacement and a looming hunger crisis.

Since the last elections in 2014, hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees and migrants have been deported or are returning, not out of hopefulness for a country reborn, but of desperation in a hostile and unwelcoming climate abroad. Increasing numbers of refugees are displaced again after they return.

In addition, over a million Afghans have fled their homes within the country due to worsening armed conflict creating record levels of internal displacement. Left with no opportunities for a safe life, many deportees attempt to make their journeys abroad again and so the vicious circle continues.

Now the full effects of a drought coinciding with the political deadlock of elections are threatening an already exhausted population. Hunger is now hitting the country hard. The drought has already affected two out of three provinces in Afghanistan, with displaced families in the North and West regions particularly at risk.

Food insecurity levels have always been high in this country whose main agricultural output is opium, and where food production struggles to break even. But successive ‘prolonged dry spells’ over the past years are now forcing communities to their knees – thousands of families selling off their assets in ‘distress sales’ are now camped in urban centres.

In a survey released by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in January, one in two displaced Afghans said they could not adequately feed their families and were often skipping meals. This is an increase from one in three in 2012.

In hard-to-reach Badghis province in the northwest of the country, the most food insecure province in the country, over half of the recently displaced had no food stocks, and the rest had less food than to last them for a full week. 86 per cent of these displaced households had below borderline food consumption scores, with three quarters borrowing food, two thirds going into mounting debts, and a third eating smaller portions and fewer meals. One in four had restricted their own eating so that small children could eat. Over two million people risk becoming food insecure in the coming months.

Taking a step back, the landlocked country seems like a series of potent man-made and natural disasters stacked atop one another, altogether creating one of the most complex, protracted, largest emergencies on earth.

In spite of this, political and donor commitments to the country are now wavering, if not withering. Compared to five years ago, perhaps the peak of the military stabilisation period, there are now five times more internally displaced Afghans, but only half the humanitarian budgets.

NRC’s own emergency response mechanism in Afghanistan has been halved due to funding shortfalls earlier this year, specifically reducing our capacities in the North and West regions of the country.

Given the current desperate situation, it seems Afghans do not have much choice in the matter of the upcoming elections. The question of whether or not now is a good time stands as a rhetorical one.

Are Afghans hopeful of the years ahead? This one is not a rhetorical question. The odds are obviously stacked against them, but opinion polls (such as The Asia Foundation) reveal something else.

A sense of hope.

If Afghans still have hope amidst continued violence, swirling forced displacement and hunger, ahead of approaching elections, then so too must world leaders, donor countries and humanitarians.

We cannot give up, give in, abandon, or go silent.

The global public must force politicians to make good on their commitments to Afghanistan. Donors must step up their support to aid work. Humanitarians must be held accountable to not shrink but to help hungry and displaced, but yet hopeful Afghan boys and girls despite the darker, more dangerous context.

If Afghans’ hopes are dashed yet again – even they will eventually stop hoping. And that is a recipe for disaster – hope will be replaced by depression, anger, and an overwhelming need to escape. We cannot afford this, and Afghans deserve better than conflict, hunger, and forced displacement.

The post Afghan Electorate: Basic Needs Must be met Before Political Progress can be Ensured appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Will Carter is Head of Programme, Norwegian Refugee Council, Afghanistan

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The Spotlight Initiative: Eliminating Violence & Harmful Practices Against Women & Girlshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/spotlight-initiative-eliminating-violence-harmful-practices-women-girls/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=spotlight-initiative-eliminating-violence-harmful-practices-women-girls http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/spotlight-initiative-eliminating-violence-harmful-practices-women-girls/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 15:58:05 +0000 Natalia Kanem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156089 Natalia Kanem is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Population Fund, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women & Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme

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Credit: UN

By Natalia Kanem, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka & Achim Steiner
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 6 2018 (IPS)

The numbers are shocking: at least one in three women on the planet has suffered physical or sexual violence, usually at the hands of a family member or intimate partner. More than 700 million women alive today were married as children. Up to 250 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation.

Although violence against women and girls is widely recognized as a global pandemic, the response has ranged from indifferent to sporadic to inadequate, with weak enforcement of laws, the continued impunity of perpetrators and limited resources to address the issue.

But less than a year ago, something significant emerged: the Spotlight Initiative, an unprecedented, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations, with 500 million euros in seed funding from the EU. Comprehensive in scope, targeted in focus, it is changing how we do business across the UN system and across countries and regions.

We recognize that violence against women and girls is a complex phenomenon deeply embedded in unequal power relations between men and women, and persistent social norms, practices and behaviours that discriminate against women at home, in the workplace, and in society at large.

Several factors can further heighten the risk of women and girls facing violence, such as their ethnicity, religion, age, income, immigrant status, disability, and sexual orientation. Those who are most vulnerable to violence are very often those whose lives are under threat in other ways, through poverty or lack of access to health or education.

They are often those who society has left out. They are also those who, through Spotlight, we will not allow to be left behind, following the central tenet of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Until now, investments in prevention and essential services for survivors of violence and their families have been insufficient or uneven across or within countries. We know that the solutions rely on working at multiple levels and bringing many different players to the table.

We need to hold the uncomfortable conversations that address the root causes of such violence and extend rights and opportunities to those who have previously been excluded.

Since its launch, the Spotlight Initiative has been working closely with countries in Asia (the Safe and Fair programme for migrant women workers), Africa (with a focus on sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices), and Latin America (focusing on femicide) with plans to extend activities to the Pacific and the Caribbean in the months ahead.

The planning phase has been nothing less than inspiring: government officials from multiple departments breaking through silos with international partners from different UN agencies and the EU, civil society and activists who are usually excluded from the tables of decision-making and project design.

Each country programme is being led by the UN Regional Coordinator, in line with the latest UN reform efforts to make the initiative more collaborative, transparent, and effective.

In Malawi, through Spotlight, we are supporting dialogue on discriminatory social norms, for example, through community theatre, engaging traditional leaders and educators to teach their communities how to build non-violent, respectful and equitable relationships from early childhood onwards.

In Mexico, we are training health care workers to identify early signs of abuse and prevent violence against women through school-based campaigns to raise awareness about gender stereotypes and negative ideas about masculinity.

In Niger, we are engaging men and boys and strengthening the ability of women’s rights defenders to advocate policy reform and hold decision-makers accountable. The focus in Niger, as in the other seven participating countries in Africa, is on sexual and gender-based violence, harmful practices (such as child marriage and female genital mutilation) as well as sexual and reproductive health rights.

In Zimbabwe, we are using radio and other media to spread awareness on the issue. To ensure that services are accessible to all women and girls, including those with disabilities, we are introducing measures such as access ramps at service centres, sign language, braille and audio versions of information materials.

Guided by common principles of human rights, the benefits of multilateralism, as well as the objectives set out by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Spotlight Initiative reflects a deep commitment to eliminating gender-based violence across the globe. The Initiative is a flagship programme for UN reform to deliver in an integrated way on the SDGs.

Violence against women has been ignored or kept in the shadows for far too long. The name of the Initiative – Spotlight –symbolizes the importance of driving this issue into the light so it can be seen, tackled and eliminated. The UN and participating countries are willing to spread that light. Now it is time for everyone to join us.

The post The Spotlight Initiative: Eliminating Violence & Harmful Practices Against Women & Girls appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Natalia Kanem is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Population Fund, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women & Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme

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Q&A: Greening Colombia’s Energy Mixhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/qa-greening-colombias-energy-mix/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 01:15:11 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156075 Constanza Vieira interviews JUHERN KIM, GGGI acting representative in Colombia

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Juhern Kim, acting representative of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Colombia, gives a presentation on the intergovernmental organisation’s strategies. Credit: GGGI Colombia

Juhern Kim, acting representative of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Colombia, gives a presentation on the intergovernmental organisation’s strategies. Credit: GGGI Colombia

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, Jun 6 2018 (IPS)

Colombia is a global power in biodiversity and water resources, but at the same time it depends on exports of fossil fuels, coal and oil, to the world. But don’t panic: in the green economy there are also incomes and jobs – says a world expert on the subject, Juhern Kim.

“If Colombia makes intelligent use of its abundant natural resources, its natural capital, it can create new business opportunities linked to bio-economics, sustainable agriculture and forestry, which have the potential to generate income and create green jobs,” Kim, an environmental economist and ecosystem management specialist, told IPS in an interview.

Kim is acting representative in Colombia of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an intergovernmental organisation created in 2012, which promotes sustainable development that is both economically viable and socially inclusive. It works directly in 26 countries, including Colombia.

In June last year, Colombia ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, by which it pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030, to help fight global warming.

Among other issues, Kim analysed in his interview with IPS how this South American country is moving towards climate change mitigation and adaptation and a low-carbon economy, as committed to in the climate agreement signed in December 2015 in the French capital, at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The expert, who previously represented the GGGI in Vietnam and worked on issues related to the green economy at the UN Environment, also analysed how Colombia can make its energy mix and its economy greener in general.

IPS: Colombia is the world’s fifth largest producer of coal. How does the GGGI suggest bringing about an end to mining, an activity that runs counter to the climate accords?

JUHERN KIM: Coal production plays an important role in the Colombian economy: it contributes around 1.5 percent of GDP and 18 percent of total exports. Since about 95 percent of the coal produced in Colombia is exported, national coal production is affected by international market trends.

The recent volatile price fluctuation for commodities, and the associated impact on the Colombian economy, clearly shows that the country’s economy needs to be diversified in order to grow more and better.

Furthermore, future global demand for coal will tend to fall, although it will happen progressively and not for all types of coal.

Many countries have started to shut down their coal plants, and have been working on reducing the consumption of other fossil fuels, reinforced by international commitments such as the Paris Agreement, where Colombia made its own commitment as well.

GGGI promotes a sustainable and inclusive economic growth path, which implies the reduction of coal and other fossil fuel use, due to the negative environmental impacts.

That’s why GGGI has been supporting the government of Colombia for the last year and a half through the National Planning Department (DNP) to formulate a long-term green growth policy, that proposes actions related to the economic activity of coal in three ways:

1. Incorporation of renewable energy in the energy mix. GGGI advocates for countries to achieve energy transitions towards cleaner technologies. In Colombia, the production of electricity from coal amounts to 8 percent of the total.

2. Exploring new economic growth drivers to diversify the economy currently depending on the mining-energy sector (oil and coal exports). For instance, Colombia has abundant resources associated with natural capital, such as biodiversity – if Colombia utilizes these resources wisely, they can create new business opportunities related to bio-economy, sustainable agriculture, forest economy, which have the potential to generate income and create jobs (green jobs).

3. Curbing the environmental impacts of coal mining, especially by informal miners. Coal mining has informality rates close to 40 percent, while many productive units do not have an environmental license and have exploitation techniques that are harmful to the environment. It is intended to strengthen the mining formalization and provide technical assistance to reduce pollution.

IPS: How can the coastal population be protected from the intensification of tropical storms and the advance of coastal erosion?

JK: Colombia is being highly threatened by tropical storms and coastal erosion in two coastal areas that represent nearly 1,700 km in the Caribbean and 1,300 km in the Pacific.

Colombia has coasts on two oceans, and the frequency and intensity of such extreme events have been increasing, which, added to the deficient planning of urban development, increases the vulnerability and risk of people, infrastructure, and ecosystems.

The National Adaptation Plan recognises the country’s vulnerability to this type of events.

The country is now moving in the right direction led by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS) by including climate change variables within the planning and zoning of the territories, which will be articulated with adequate financing and technology transfer to implement mitigation measures for this type of risks.

Of particular importance is the ecosystems-based adaptation measure.

In this case, protecting and increasing the mangroves on the coastal lines will reduce coastal erosion, and at the same time allow the sustainable use of this type of ecosystem for the benefit of local people’s livelihood.

In other cases, it will be necessary to implement traditional infrastructure measures that avoid short-term calamities. Increasing local capacities, public awareness, adequate planning and the implementation of risk mitigation measures are key to achieving this objective.

IPS: A key question is the energy transition. How can clean energy be promoted in Colombia? Is community self-management better, or are large regional concessions, criticised as monopolies, preferable?

JK: Colombia has a high proportion of clean energy from hydroelectric generation (70 percent). However, this energy depends on the hydrological cycle which makes it vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

In that sense, it will be beneficial for Colombia to diversify its energy mix with other sources of clean energy, with some policy changes and regulations in the wholesale energy market.

Colombia currently lags behind in terms of the production of non-conventional renewable energy resources, compared to neighboring Latin American countries like Chile. However, Colombia has a strong potential for generation of solar, wind and biomass energy, and those can also serve as alternative off-grid solutions.

We believe that renewable energy projects should be carried out by entities that have the right technical and financial strengths required to develop, operate and maintain this type of projects.

IPS: What does the GGGI think of fracking?

JK: Fracking, like any other exploitation technique, has associated risks in its implementation and management, as it is known for generating many environmental impacts, such as potential contamination of ground and surface aquifers, methane emissions, air pollution, etc. In addition, it also has a potential for increasing oil spills, which can harm soil and surrounding vegetation.

In general, as an institute dedicated to green growth, we promote the development of alternative renewable energy sources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. As mentioned above, it would be expected that the government make some efforts to diversify their economy to generate new sources of economic development while taking care of the environment and social impact.

IPS: According to environmental analysts, when the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) withdrew from the territories it controlled, it became evident that the guerrillas had played a role as forest rangers in those areas, because thousands of hectares have been razed since then. What is your take on the situation and what do you think can be done?

JK: Although the presence of guerrillas in many forested zones of the country prevented the entry of agricultural expansion and exploration for natural resources in some sense, it is probably not that simple to say that they played a role as forest rangers, because they also supported the production of illicit crops that generated deforestation.

In brief, understanding the reasons for the increase in deforestation in the country is not simple math at all. And finding solutions is not simple as well.

It seems that the post-conflict process has been generating a change in the territorial dynamics, in some cases through an absence of control arguably provided by guerrillas in the past, in other cases through a high-level of speculation associated with unproductive land use, with false hope embedded for some people wanting to be awarded land titles if they put any type of activities in the land, and sell their land at a better price in the future.

The playing field must be levelled. The abovementioned situation prevents rural producers and entrepreneurs from accessing land with adequate support for productive activities and conservation incentives, such as credits (i.e. financial instruments), access to markets, financial incentives for conservation (e.g. payment for ecosystem services), and so on.

In fact, the whole landscape should be properly planned in an integrated way – i.e. sustainable landscapes approach, which promotes economic gains but minimising environmental impact and increasing social returns.

For instance, productive zones for local economic development should be set up, but it is not wise to set them in the biological corridor. Also, financial instruments designed to promote sustainable agriculture methods, such as agroforestry, can be a driver for making a sustainable transition.

Also, Colombia has defined an Integrated Strategy for the Control of Deforestation and Forest Management, which sets clear guidelines on how to address this issue. However, having this strategy is not enough if there is no tight alliance among Colombian society as a whole.

In addition, the public authorities have an important role to play to implement the vision for conservation of forests (i.e. command and control) – e.g. functions of the prosecutor offices, judges and many other actors, committed to reduce illegality.

The post Q&A: Greening Colombia’s Energy Mix appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Constanza Vieira interviews JUHERN KIM, GGGI acting representative in Colombia

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Renewed Crises in Emerging Economies and the IMF ‒ Muddling Through Again?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/renewed-crises-emerging-economies-imf-%e2%80%92-muddling/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=renewed-crises-emerging-economies-imf-%25e2%2580%2592-muddling http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/renewed-crises-emerging-economies-imf-%e2%80%92-muddling/#respond Tue, 05 Jun 2018 14:02:06 +0000 Yilmaz Akyuz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156062 Yilmaz Akyüz is chief economist, South Centre, Geneva and former Director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, UNCTAD, Geneva

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A group of demonstrators protest in the Argentine city of Rosario against the wave of lay-offs of public employees since President Mauricio Macri took office. Credit: Courtesy of Indymedia.org

A group of demonstrators protest in the Argentine city of Rosario against the wave of lay-offs of public employees since President Mauricio Macri took office. Credit: Courtesy of Indymedia.org

By Yilmaz Akyüz
GENEVA, Jun 5 2018 (IPS)

It is now more than a decade and a half since the last severe currency crisis in a major emerging economy ‒ that was in Argentina in 2001-2002 following a series of crises in Russia, Turkey and Brazil.  It is now common knowledge that such crises generally occur when countries fail to manage surges in capital inflows so as to prevent build-up of fragility including currency appreciations, large and persistent current account deficits, increased leverage and currency and maturity mismatches in balance sheets.  

The absence of a major crisis in the Global South since the early years of the new millennium owes not so much to judicious management of the surge in capital inflows that had begun in the early 2000s and continued with full force after the global financial crisis, as to persistently benign global financial conditions resulting from exceptional monetary policies in the US, Europe and elsewhere in advanced economies and favourable global risk appetite.

Even though there has been no fundamental reversal of these policies, the arrival of Minsky moment appears to be imminent with markets, in expectations of normalization of monetary policy in the US, getting nervous about the risks they have taken by investing heavily in emerging economies with poor economic fundamentals in search for yield in conditions of low global interest rates and ample supply of liquidity.

Yilmaz Akyüz, chief economist of the South Centre, Geneva.

The first serious signs have appeared in Argentina with the recently elected government of Macri knocking on the doors of the IMF. But Argentina is perhaps only the tip of an iceberg. Several other emerging economies are equally and even more susceptible to sudden stops and reversals of capital flows and currency and balance of payments crises.

In typical IMF interventions in previous crises, liquidity support was provided mainly to keep debtor countries current on their payments to international creditors and to maintain the capital account open.  As a result, obligations to private creditors were translated into debt to the IMF. Simultaneously, austerity was imposed on debtors by means of hikes in domestic interest rates, fiscal retrenchment, cuts in employment, wages and pensions in order to achieve a sharp turnaround in the current account, primarily through import compression, and to restore confidence among international creditors and investors.

This approach to crisis management was widely criticised on several grounds.  A strong case was made that the combination of debtor austerity and creditor bailout would lead to inequality between debtors and creditors in the incidence of the burden of the crisis, create moral hazard by allowing creditors to avoid the full consequences of the risks they have taken and are paid for, and endanger the financial integrity of the Fund.

Inequalities could also be created among creditors; in the event of a default and restructuring, those who exit first could escape without haircut, leaving the others to take the full brunt of debt write-offs. Profit opportunities are also created for vulture funds, at the expense of genuine creditors as well as the debtor, as seen in the case of Argentina.

Considerable scepticism was also expressed within the Fund about the wisdom of using public money to bail out private creditors and investors.  During the earlier episodes of crises, the IMF Board recognized the need for involving the private sector in forestalling and resolving financial crises, but insisted on voluntary mechanisms, notably collective action clauses (CACs) and automatic rollover clauses in debt contracts and informal negotiations between debtors and creditors.

However, as these proved ineffective and some advanced economies started to oppose bailouts, the IMF Board agreed that in extreme circumstances, if it is not possible to reach agreement on a voluntary standstill, members may find it necessary, as a last resort, to impose one unilaterally, and that since there could be a risk that this action would trigger capital outflows, a member would need to consider whether it might be necessary to resort to the introduction of more comprehensive exchange or capital controls.

No protection against litigation was offered, but it was suggested that the Fund could signal its acceptance of a standstill imposed by a member by lending into arrears to private creditors.  The Fund staff went further and proposed a formal Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism (SDRM) to facilitate sovereign bond workouts.  However, this did not elicit adequate support and had to be abandoned. The issue was soon forgotten with a rapid recovery of capital inflows to emerging economies and bounce back of economic activity in crisis-hit countries.

However, private sector involvement in crisis resolution was back on the agenda again with the onset of the Eurozone crisis.  The Fund turned its attention to sovereign debt restructuring after misjudging the sustainability of the Greek debt, very much in the same way as it had done with Argentina about a decade earlier, pouring in money to bail out private creditors.

It restarted searching ways and means for involving the private sector in crisis resolution so as to “limit the risk that Fund resources will simply be used to bail out private creditors” and to ensure that private creditors made some concessions and took some losses on their holdings as a condition for Fund lending.

Subsequently it was suggested that the sovereign approaching the Fund for assistance were to be asked to find ways of rolling over all bonds and commercial loans falling due within the life of the Fund programme.  This would be necessary whether external payments difficulties are perceived to be as one of liquidity or solvency which is often difficult to identify with a reasonable degree of precision ex ante.

This so-called “reprofiling” was again to be market-based and voluntary.  However, no statutory mechanism was proposed for bailing in the private creditors in the event of failure of a voluntary agreement.  In such an event, as long as the IMF stood firm in refusing lending without private sector involvement, the debtor would have had no option but to impose unilateral standstills on its obligations to private creditors, but without any statutory protection against litigation.  Although various proposals were made outside the Fund to address the holdout problem and protect debtors against litigation, the matter was once again put aside without being resolved.

The stakes are now getting higher because of massive amounts of external liabilities that emerging economies built up in the past ten years.  These are not only in debt contracted in reserve currencies, notably by private corporations, but also unprecedented amounts of foreign holdings in local deposit, bond and equity markets.

Furthermore, most emerging economies have eliminated or significantly reduced restrictions over capital outflows by residents. Consequently, exit of nonresidents from local markets and capital flights by residents now constitute bigger sources of potential drain on reserves of emerging economies than external debt contracted in reserve currencies.

Emerging economies are widely commended for large amounts of international reserves they have accumulated in the new millennium.   However, in the large majority of cases these came from capital inflows rather than current account surpluses. Cumulatively, all G20 emerging economies except China and Russia have registered current account deficits since the beginning of the millennium, at a total amount of some $2 trillion while their external labilities have increased by over $4 trillion.

Reserves accumulated is less than a quarter of the increase in total liabilities while the rest of capital inflows (new liabilities) has been used for financing current account deficits or private acquisition of assets abroad – assets that would not necessarily return at times of interruption and reversal of non-resident capital inflows.

As of end 2016, on average, the reserves of deficit G20 emerging economies were less than one-third of their total non-FDI external liabilities including debt issued internationally and non-resident holdings in local deposits, bonds and equities.   In many cases these holdings plus short-term forex debt reach or exceed international reserves. In most cases reserves would be totally inadequate to provide a reliable buffer against a generalized exit of non-residents and a widespread capital flight by residents.

Given the dismal record of the IMF in crisis intervention and management, many emerging economies are loath to go back to the IMF in the event of a severe currency and liquidity crisis, except those such as Argentina whose neo-liberal policies are strongly supported by the IMF.  In any case at some $800 billion, the lending capacity of the IMF would be too small to take on the task. The level of liquidity that may be needed by many emerging economies in the event of capital reversals exceed by a large margin what the IMF could provide under exceptional financing.

Most emerging economies would also be highly reluctant to resort to unilateral debt standstills and exchange controls in view of their exposure to creditor litigation and chronic dependence on international lenders and investors.  On the other hand, not much relief could be expected from South–South multilateral arrangements for liquidity provision, notably the Chiang-Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM) of East Asian countries and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) of BRICS.

These are not only small in size but also have design problems. The CMIM has never been called upon, even during the global crisis. It does not include a common fund but a series of promises to provide liquidity, with each country reserving the right not to contribute to the specific request by a member.  Its size is $240 billion and access beyond 30 per cent of quotas is tied to an IMF program.

The CRA is also designed to complement rather than substitute the existing IMF facilities. Its size is even smaller, $100 billion, and access beyond 30 per cent is also tied to the conclusion of an IMF programme. Thus, these regional arrangements do not provide escape from IMF conditionality and surveillance.

That leaves bilateral swaps among central banks and bilateral lending by governments of reserve-currency countries, notably the US, and surplus emerging economies with ample international reserves such as China.  A very large part of bilateral swaps established by the US Federal Reserve is with other advanced economies.

Those with emerging economies (Brazil and Mexico) are too small to provide much relief.   In the words of the former chair of the US Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, expanding the swap lines to serve as a safety net for countries encountering balance of payments pressures is not within the Fed’s mandate and therefore is a complete non-starter.  China has swaps with over 30 countries. But these are mostly with advanced economies and designed to support trade and investment and to promote the international use of renminbi rather than boost reserves.

To sum, as recognised by the IMF, the global financial safety net including international reserves, Fund resources, bilateral swap arrangements, regional financing arrangements is “fragmented with uneven coverage” and “too costly, unreliable and conducive to moral hazard”.

Given the aversion of emerging economies to the IMF and unilateral debt standstills and exchange controls, the next crisis is likely to be even messier than the previous ones. Some countries may seek and succeed in getting bilateral support from China or some reserve-currency countries according to their political stance and affiliation.

For instance, one of the most vulnerable emerging economies, Turkey, is likely to approach China, Russia or some Gulf states with strong reserve positions rather than the IMF if its currency goes into a free fall. In such cases, crisis intervention would become even more politicised than in the past and a lot less reliant on multilateral arrangements.

By failing to establish an orderly and equitable system of crisis resolution, the IMF may very well find its role significantly diminished in the management of the next bout of crises in emerging economies. In other words, multilateralism, however imperfect, could face another blow in the sphere of finance after trade.

 

The post Renewed Crises in Emerging Economies and the IMF ‒ Muddling Through Again? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Yilmaz Akyüz is chief economist, South Centre, Geneva and former Director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, UNCTAD, Geneva

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‘Don’t Try to Be a Superwoman’: An Interview With Michelle Bachelethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/dont-try-superwoman-interview-michelle-bachelet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dont-try-superwoman-interview-michelle-bachelet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/dont-try-superwoman-interview-michelle-bachelet/#respond Mon, 04 Jun 2018 17:30:58 +0000 Dulcie Leimbach http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156051 Dulcie Leimbach, PassBlue*

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In one of her last public appearances as president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet visits Lo Prado, a community in Santiago, the capital, on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2018. Her advice to women and girls who want to lead an exemplary life in our chaotic times? Don’t try to be perfect.

By Dulcie Leimbach
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 4 2018 (IPS)

Michelle Bachelet ended her second term as president of Chile on March 11, 2018. Her first term, from 2006 to 2010, was marked by an ambitious social and economic agenda advancing women’s rights and better health care. Her cabinet of ministers, for example, was composed of an equal number of men and women, as she vowed to do during her campaign.

During her second presidency, Bachelet, 66, aimed higher in reducing inequalities but met more resistance. Nevertheless, her achievements included free education at the university level, especially for poor students; creating a Ministry of Women and Gender Equality; and decriminalizing abortion.

Her tax-reform measures helped subsidize her social reforms, although some experts contend that higher taxes on the rich and corporations have stifled the economy.

Bachelet’s history of being imprisoned and tortured in Chile is well known. In 1973, her father, Brig. Gen. Alberto Bachelet Martínez, was locked up and tortured after the Sept. 11 coup ousting President Salvador Allende, aided and abetted by the CIA.

Her father died in prison from a heart attack in 1974; soon after, Bachelet and her mother, Ángela Margarita Jeria Gómez, a famous archeologist, were imprisoned and tortured by the Pinochet regime.

Bachelet and her mother sought and won exile first in Australia and then moved to East Germany, where Bachelet worked on her medical degree, married and had her first child.

She and her family returned to Chile in 1979, where she delved into politics a few years later (and separated from her husband). When she first ran for president, she was a single mother of three children.

That’s not all: besides being a pediatrician, Bachelet is a military specialist, having served as the country’s health minister and then defense minister before winning the presidency in 2006.

Bachelet, who between her presidencies was the first executive director of UN Women, is said to be a shortlisted candidate for the next United Nations high commissioner for human rights, though she would not confirm that status.

In an email interview with Bachelet, who has been traveling since March from Chile to Washington, D.C., to Geneva, India and back to Chile, she answered questions about her immediate post-presidential life, which appears to be just as active — if equally public — as her job running one of South America’s most democratic countries.

When Bachelet left office, she was the last female president standing in the continent.

In the interview, she touches on her new role in the World Health Organization; how her role as the first female defense minister of Chile, from 2002 to 2004, enabled her to garner the respect from that sector that she needed to run the country; how her mother has supported her emotionally throughout her life; what advice Bachelet gives to girls and women in our chaotic times; and whether she prays (she is an agnostic, she answered). — DULCIE LEIMBACH

Q. You’ve just become a private citizen after your recent four-year presidential term ended in mid-March; how does that feel and what is a routine day for you now? Are you based in Santiago, Chile’s capital?

MICHELLE BACHELET: I’ve enjoyed going back to my everyday life! However, I haven’t stayed home resting. I’m based in Santiago, I moved back to my house — I lived in another house during my Presidency — and I’ve also been busy opening up my new foundation, which will serve as a space for dialogue and political reflection, without partisan divisions, and that will take on the challenge of articulating a common project with civil society.

Q: Tell us about your new role as co-chair of the High-Level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child and chairman of the board of the World Health Organization’s Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health? What do women and girls need the most globally, health-wise? And what is your strategy for attaining these needs? Will it require politicking?

BACHELET: I am very excited about [my] new role in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. I’ve been working on this issue since the mid-1990s at a national level, and hopefully, will continue to contribute in an international sphere.

The health inequities that prevail all around the world, particularly among women and girls, are not only unjust, they also threaten the advances we have made in the last decades, and they endanger economic growth and social development.

I believe that each country needs to develop an integrated health program for women and girls, strengthening components of the United Nations’ global strategy [Sustainable Development Goals] in early childhood development; the health and well-being of adolescents; the improvement in quality, equity and dignity in health services; and sexual and reproductive rights as a way to empower women and girls worldwide and without leaving anyone behind.

The global strategy establishes ambitious but achievable goals, and I look forward to discussing with states and stakeholders about the required actions needed to ensure that people realize their right to the highest attainable standard of health.

Q. Do you think it helped in your two presidencies that you had been a defense minister of Chile, that you had the trust of the military, especially since you are a woman?

BACHELET: Yes, of course. My family has always been linked to the military world. My father was a general in Chile’s air force and I studied defense issues, focusing on military strategy and Continental defense.

When I was appointed the first woman to occupy the position of Minister of Defense in Chile and in Latin America, my academic and military background was considered an asset and that led to very good relationships with this institution during my time as Minister and during my Presidency.

Q. How did you navigate barriers to your ambitious social and economic agenda in your second term as president of Chile? What personal trait or support did you rely on to deal with barriers in your way?

BACHELET: Since the return of democracy in 1990, Chile has experienced sustained economic growth at an annual average of 5 percent, and became the first South American country to join the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development]. However, this strong growth has not meant the end of inequality in access to health or education.

That is why, when I returned in 2013 to run for my second term, I was determined to carry out the kind of social, economic and political reforms that I believed were necessary to make people’s lives better. In order to do that, we have risked political capital and I believe it was worth it, because we had the courage to put Chile in motion, and with it, we have seen Chile change.

Q. Your mother, Ángela Margarita Jeria Gómez, an archeologist, reportedly lives with you; how has her presence helped you as president? Did she keep your spirits up in such a demanding, round-the-clock role?

BACHELET: Although I am very close with my mother, at 91 years old, she continues to be very independent and does not live with me! She is an inspiring, strong, dignified and resilient companion, but also a very affectionate and supportive presence, especially during the harder parts of being president. I am thankful for her companionship me during these past years.

Q. Chile is a predominately Catholic country; do you practice that religion? Do you use your faith to manage your life and the political obstacles? Do you pray?

BACHELET: Chile is a diverse society with different religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic realities. I, however, am agnostic and believe in the diversity of opinions and worldviews, respecting people’s freedom of worship. During my government, we protected religious freedom based on equality and respect.

For example, we supported the Chilean Association of Interreligious Dialogue for Human Development, made up of various organizations, including the plurality of religions found in Chile. We also worked on an interreligious code of ethics for dialogue for democratic coexistence. I am certain that the respectful expression of convictions is good for our country, and enriches us as a society.

Q. It’s relatively easy to advise women and girls to persevere in seeking the life they want — in education, work and as a person — but what is the most important thing for women and girls to remember in trying to lead an exemplary life, especially in our chaotic times?

BACHELET: I get asked this question often and my answer is always the same: don’t try to be a superwoman or a super girl, because it will only bring frustrations. Instead, seek the help of someone you can count on. Be assertive but also learn the art of dialogue, learn to communicate. And, of course you should have a sense of humor!

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

The post ‘Don’t Try to Be a Superwoman’: An Interview With Michelle Bachelet appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dulcie Leimbach, PassBlue*

The post ‘Don’t Try to Be a Superwoman’: An Interview With Michelle Bachelet appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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