Inter Press ServiceGlobal Governance – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 18 Jan 2019 20:26:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Quenching Humanity’s Freshwater Thirst Creates a Salty Threathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/quenching-humanitys-freshwater-thirst-creates-salty-threat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quenching-humanitys-freshwater-thirst-creates-salty-threat http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/quenching-humanitys-freshwater-thirst-creates-salty-threat/#respond Fri, 18 Jan 2019 15:09:54 +0000 Edward Jones http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159704 Vladimir Smakhtin is Director, and Manzoor Qadir is Assistant Director, of the UN University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) in Canada, hosted by the Government of Canada and McMaster University. Edward Jones, who worked on the paper at UNU-INWEH, is now a researcher at Wageningen University, The Netherlands

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Desalination plant, UAE: http://bit.ly/2Rbco3H

By Edward Jones, Manzoor Qadir and Vladimir Smakhtin
HAMILTON, Canada, Jan 18 2019 (IPS)

Starting from a few, mostly Middle Eastern facilities in the 1960s, today almost 16,000 desalination plants are in operation in 177 countries, producing 95 million cubic meters of freshwater every day – equal to about half the flow over Niagara Falls.

Falling economic costs of desalination and the development in membrane technologies, particularly reverse osmosis, have made desalination a cost-competitive and attractive source of freshwater around the globe.

The increase in desalination has been driven by intensifying water scarcity due to rising water demands associated with population growth, increased water consumption per capita, and economic growth, coupled with diminishing water supplies due to climate change and contamination.

Worldwide, roughly half a billion people experience water scarcity year round; for 1.5 to 2 billion people water resources are insufficient to meet demands for at least part of the year. Desalination technologies can provide an unlimited, climate independent and steady supply of high quality water, predominantly used by the municipal and industrial sectors.

In particular, desalination is an essential technology in the Middle East and for small island nations which typically lack renewable water resources. In coming decades, according to predictions, the number of desalination plants will increase to quench a growing thirst for freshwater in homes, industrial facilities, and on farms.

This fast-growing number of plants, however, creates a salty dilemma: how to deal with all the chemical-laden leftover brine?

We analyzed a newly-updated dataset — the most complete ever compiled — to revise the world’s badly outdated statistics on desalination plants. Most startling was our finding that the volume of hypersaline brine produced overall is about 50% more than previously estimated.

Globally, plants now discharge 142 million cubic meters of hypersaline brine every day — enough in a single year (51.8 billion cubic meters) to cover Florida under 1 foot (30.5 cm) of brine.

Considered another way, the data shows that for every unit of freshwater output, desalination plants produce on average 1.5 units of brine (though values vary dramatically, depending on the feedwater salinity, the desalination technology used, and local conditions).

Some two-thirds of desalination plants are in high-income countries, with capacity concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa. And over half — 55% — of global brine is produced in just four countries: Saudi Arabia (22%), UAE (20.2%), Kuwait (6.6%) and Qatar (5.8%).

Middle Eastern plants, which largely operate using seawater and thermal desalination technologies, typically produce four times as much brine per cubic meter of clean water as plants where river water membrane processes dominate, such as in the US.

Brine disposal methods, meanwhile, are largely dictated by geography but traditionally include direct discharge into oceans, surface water or sewers, deep well injection and brine evaporation ponds.

Desalination plants near the ocean (almost 80% of brine is produced within 10km of a coastline) most often discharge untreated waste brine directly back into the marine environment.

Brine raises the salinity of the receiving seawater, and brine underflows deplete dissolved oxygen needed to sustain life in the marine environment. This high salinity and reduced levels of dissolved oxygen can have profound impacts on marine ecosystems and organisms, especially those living on the seafloor, which can translate into ecological effects observable throughout the food chain.

Furthermore, the oceans are polluted with toxic chemicals used as anti-scalants and anti-foulants in the desalination process (copper and chlorine are of major concern).

There is a clear need for improved brine management strategies to meet this rising challenge. This is particularly important in countries producing large volumes of brine with relatively low efficiencies, such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.

In fact, we can convert this environmental problem into an economic opportunity. Brine has many potential uses, offering commercial, social and environmental gains.

It has been used for aquaculture, with increases in fish biomass of 300% achieved. It has also been successfully used to irrigate salt tolerant species, to cultivate the dietary supplement Spirulina, to generate electricity, and to irrigate forage shrubs and crops (although this latter use can cause progressive land salinization).

With improved technologies, a large number of metals, salt and other minerals in desalination plant effluent could be mined.

These include sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bromine, boron, strontium, lithium, rubidium and uranium, all used by industry, in products, and in agriculture.

The needed technologies are immature, however; recovery of these resources is economically uncompetitive today.

UNU-INWEH is actively pursuing research and ideas related to a variety of unconventional water sources, all of which need to be scaled up urgently to meet the even greater deficit in freshwater supplies looming in much of the world.

In particular, we need to make desalination technologies more affordable and extend them to low-income and lower-middle income countries.

Thankfully, costs are falling from continued improvements in membrane technologies, energy recovery systems, and the coupling of desalination plants with renewable energy sources.

At the same time, we have to address potentially severe downsides of desalination — the harm of brine and chemical pollution to the marine environment and human health.

The good news is that efforts have been made in recent years and, with continuing technology refinement and improving economic affordability, we see a positive and promising outlook.

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Excerpt:

Vladimir Smakhtin is Director, and Manzoor Qadir is Assistant Director, of the UN University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) in Canada, hosted by the Government of Canada and McMaster University. Edward Jones, who worked on the paper at UNU-INWEH, is now a researcher at Wageningen University, The Netherlands

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Davos, Inequality & the Climate Emergencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/davos-inequality-climate-emergency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=davos-inequality-climate-emergency http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/davos-inequality-climate-emergency/#respond Fri, 18 Jan 2019 14:39:54 +0000 Daniel Mittler http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159702 Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International and is on the steering committee of the global Fight Inequality alliance.

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Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International and is on the steering committee of the global Fight Inequality alliance.

By Daniel Mittler
BERLIN, Jan 18 2019 (IPS)

Four of the top five most impactful threats in this year’s World Economic Forum´s Global Risks report are related to climate change. The report warns that we are “sleepwalking to disaster” . But that is not true.

The disaster is already here, it´s not something we are still walking towards. Climate change is no future threat, it´s a current one. We have entered a new phase, one in which the impacts are coming faster, with greater intensity.

Already this year, Thailand has seen its worst storm in 30 years rip through coastal areas. In the Alps, just east of Davos, extreme weather is causing snow chaos.

The climate crisis also isn´t caused by sleep or ignorance. The rich and powerful gathered in Davos brought us to the existential brink wide awake. The “profit first” neoliberal economic model has dominated policy making around the world for too long.

It has resulted in national laws, trade and finance rules that drive our current overconsumption of resources, lead to climate disruption – and bring about more and more inequality.

The world’s richest 1% took home an obscene 82% of all new wealth last year and, according to the World Bank, almost half of all people worldwide are one medical bill or crop failure away from destitution. Inequality continues to rise as the world warms and the causes of both are linked.

As Oxfam has shown, the richest 10% are responsible for almost half carbon emissions caused by consumption. And yet all around the world it’s the poor and marginalised that are most at risk from the devastating effects of climate change.

The failure by governments to prioritize climate action and the fight against inequality is caused by state institutions and decision-makers – in South as well as North – being captured by specific corporate interests.

Statue of Justice Activity in Davos

The report Justice for People and Planet, for example, showcases 20 examples of how the rules that govern our global economy (and sometimes the lack thereof) result in environmental destruction and corporate human rights abuses.

The sad truth is, that those cases are just the tip of the iceberg. They merely illustrate the systemic problem we face.

Because the crises we face are the result of our current economic and political rules, neither the climate emergency nor inequality can be fixed by public private partnerships, as Klaus Schwab, the founder and director of the World Economic Forum tries to make us believe.

To the contrary. We only have a chance to stop walking towards catastrophe if we force our governments to adopt new rules – nationally and globally – that have ending climate pollution and inequality at their heart.

This is certainly possible. At the global level, we do have some regulations with teeth. The World Trade Organisation, for example, can sanction countries that break its rules.

Those very rules have prevented many positive laws and changes – because the threat of the WTO overruling a social or environmental measure always looms.

We need similarly strong rules to counter the climate emergency and to fight inequality. Environmental and social bodies should be able to impose sanctions and fines. Corporate accountability and liability needs to extend to all corporate impacts on people and the environment around the world. Trade rules, similarly, need to be revamped to put people and planet first.

At the national level, we need binding targets to at least halve global emissions by 2030, and we need tax rules that ensure that the corporations and the rich pay their fair share. We can take heart in some rules that are already on the statute books.

France, for example, requires corporations to identify potential risks to people and the environment as a result of their activities, and act to prevent harm to people and the environment.

The UK’s Modern Slavery Act meanwhile require businesses to tackle slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains – one extreme part of the inequality crisis.

We need more such laws, in more countries. Urgently. And that´s, luckily, what grassroots movements are demanding around the world.

As the World Economic Forum gathers in Davos, January 22-25, people are mobilizing in many countries to put an end to inequality as part of the Fight Inequality alliance week of action.

Feminists, workers, environmentalists and many more movements have come together in this alliance in the knowledge that we do not need nice words or acts of charity from the Davos elite but fundamentally different rules for our global economy if we are to survive.

As the global Fight Inequality alliance manifesto says: “We stand together to build a world of greater equality – where all people’s rights are respected and fulfilled, a world of shared prosperity, opportunity and dignity, living within the planet’s boundaries.”

That world is possible. Via collective mobilization around the world we are making it a little bit more real every day.

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Excerpt:

Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International and is on the steering committee of the global Fight Inequality alliance.

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Q&A: 17 Percent of the Problem, but 30 Percent of the Solutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/qa-17-percent-problem-30-percent-solution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-17-percent-problem-30-percent-solution http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/qa-17-percent-problem-30-percent-solution/#respond Fri, 18 Jan 2019 10:46:56 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159697 IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage interviews United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Coordinator of Freshwater, Land, and Climate Branch TIM CHRISTOPHERSEN

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If forest loss continues at the current rate, it will be impossible to keep warming below two degrees Celsius as pledged in the Paris Agreement. Credit: José Garth Medina/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 2019 (IPS)

From expansive evergreen forests to lush tropical forests, the Earth’s forests are disappearing on a massive scale. While deforestation poses a significant problem to the environment and climate, trees also offer a solution.

After a series of eye-opening reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) were published in 2018, it was clear that international action is more urgent than ever to reduce emissions and conserve the environment.

Deforestation and forest degradation account for approximately 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector.

Tropical deforestation alone accounts for 8 percent of the world’s annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. If it were a country, it would be the world’s third-biggest emitter, just behind China and the United States of America.

In fact, according to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the land-use sector represents between 25 to 30 percent of total global emissions.

If such forest loss continues at the current rate, it will be impossible to keep warming below two degrees Celsius as pledged in the Paris Agreement.

While forests represent a quarter of all planned emissions reductions under Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, there is still a long way to go to fulfil these goals.

The United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) is among the international groups working to reverse deforestation. It supports countries’ REDD+ processes, a mechanism established to promote conservation and sustainable management of forests.

IPS spoke with UNEP’s Coordinator of Freshwater, Land, and Climate Branch Tim Christophersen about the issues and solutions surrounding deforestation. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): What is the current state of deforestation globally?

Tim Christophersen: The rate of deforestation has slowed since 2000 globally. At some point, it had even slowed by about 50 percent. We still have a lot of deforestation—it’s just that the rate has gone down so that’s partially good news.

The good news side is we see a lot of restoration and reemergence of forests on deforested land. But often those forests of course cannot replace the biodiversity or ecosystem values that they once had.

The bad news is that in some countries, deforestation has accelerated.

This picture is mixed but it is not all gloom and doom.

IPS: Where have you seen improvements and what cases are most concerning to you? 

TC: In general, the picture is quite positive in Europe where forest area is increasing by a million hectares per year.

In Asia and the Pacific, the picture is quite mixed with China investing heavily in restoration and planting millions of hectares of new forests and other countries such as Myanmar where the pace of deforestation is accelerating.

Recently, an area of concern is of course Brazil with changes in leadership there that will probably weaken protections of the Amazon rainforest. We expect they might not be able to keep their positive track record that they had especially in the years between 2007-2012 where deforestation of the Amazon dropped by 70 percent.

IPS: What has UN-REDD and REDD+’s role in this issue? What are some successful case studies or stories that REDD had a direct role in? 

TC: REDD has, for example, put the issue of indigenous rights front and center to the entire debate about forests and land use.

That is largely thanks to the strong role of indigenous communities in the climate discussions and the strong safeguards that were part of the REDD+ package. So these safeguards have triggered, also across other infrastructure projects, the knowledge and awareness of indigenous communities that they have rights, that they can determine national resource use within their jurisdictions—that was not so much the case before.

For example in Panama, we have worked together with indigenous communities to map forest cover and priority areas for REDD+ investments. In Ecuador, indigenous communities have been involved from the start in the design of the REDD+ framework.

There are [also] other potential buyers that are out there and willing to invest in verified and clearly demonstrated reductions in deforestation.

We have not seen the amount of funding flow into REDD+ that we had anticipated to date but it is picking up now. We also hope that more countries will come online with their emissions reductions that they properly verify with the UNFCC process.

The issue is that land use and forests are about 30 percent of the climate problem and solution—it is a problem that can be turned into a solution. It is currently causing 25 percent of emissions and it could absorb as much as one-third of all the emission sequestration that we need.

But it has only received about 3 percent of climate finance so there’s a huge mismatch between the opportunity that natural solutions provide and the funding that goes into it.

IPS: Over the last year including during the recent COP, many have brought up and discussed nature-based solutions. What are these, and what could such solutions look like on the ground? 

TC: Nature-based solutions are solutions to climate change or other challenges we face where we use the power of nature to restore or improve ecosystem services.

An example would be using forests for flood prevention or purification of drinking water for cities. This is quite widespread in fact but it is not always recognised. About one-third of all major cities in developing countries receive their drinking water from forested watersheds.

If we lose those forests, that would have detrimental impacts on a lot of people’s drinking water supply. It can often be cheaper or at least more cost-effective for cities, provinces or nations to invest in keeping and restoring their forests rather than other solutions for water purification or drinking water supply.

Another example that is often cited is the role of mangroves in storm protection in coastal areas. Again, this can be cheaper to invest in planting and conserving mangroves than building sea walls or other grey infrastructure projects that we have to increasingly invest in for climate adaptation.

IPS: There are many initiatives around the world that involve planting trees as a way to address climate change and land degradation and many have received mixed reviews in terms of its usefulness. Is it enough just to plant trees?

TC: Planting trees is never enough because trees are a bit like children—it’s not enough to put the in the world, you also have to make sure they grow up properly. That’s often overlooked that you cannot just plant trees and then leave them to their fate.

Because often the reasons for landscape degradation, for example overgrazing, will very quickly eliminate any trees that you plant. So it’s more about a longer-term, better natural resource management.

Planting trees can be one activity in a longer process of restoring degraded forests and landscapes.

There are other ecosystems that are also very important—peatlands, wetlands—but forests and trees will play a major role in the next decade. I am convinced there will be more and more investments into this area because if trees are planted and properly looked after, it is a huge opportunity for us to get back onto the 2 degree target in the Paris Agreement.

IPS: Since the planet is still growing in terms of population size and food needs, is there a way to reconcile development and land restoration? And do wealthier countries or even corporations have a responsibility to help with land restoration?

TC: Absolutely. I would even say land restoration on a significant scale is our only option to reconcile the need for increasing food production and meeting the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well most notable goal 13 on climate action.

Without restoration, we are probably not going to achieve the Paris Agreement. That part of nature-based solutions, massive investments in ecosystem restoration is absolutely essential and we see that more and more corporations are recognising that.

The aviation industry is one of those potential buyers with their carbon reduction offset scheme which is called CORSIA.

It certainly is an option to channel financing for forest protection but there are of course limits as to how much emissions we can realistically offset.

Offsets are absolutely no replacement for very drastic, highly ambitious emission mitigation measures. We have to very drastically and quickly reduce industrial emissions.

Offsets can maybe tip the balance in favour of offsetting only those emissions that can otherwise not be reduced or avoided but they are not a replacement for strong action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all industrial sectors including agriculture.

The biggest part of corporate interest we see in restoration is from large agri commodity investors and food systems companies because they want to secure their supply chains and that’s quite encouraging.

*Interview has been edited for length and clarity

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage interviews United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Coordinator of Freshwater, Land, and Climate Branch TIM CHRISTOPHERSEN

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A New Spectre is Haunting Europehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/new-spectre-haunting-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-spectre-haunting-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/new-spectre-haunting-europe/#respond Thu, 17 Jan 2019 10:16:26 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159673 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 17 2019 (IPS)

After Theresa May’s defeat in the British parliament it is clear that a new spectre is haunting Europe. It is no longer the spectre of communism, which opens Marx’s Manifesto of 1848; it is the spectre of the failure of neoliberal globalisation, which reigned uncontested following the fall of the Berlin Wall, until the financial crisis of 2009.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

In 2008, governments spent the astounding amount of 62 trillion dollars to save the financial system, and close to that amount in 2009 (see Britannica Book of the Year, 2017), According to a US Federal Reserve study, it cost each American 70,000 dollars.

Belatedly, economic institutions left macroeconomics, which were until then used to assess GNP growth and started to look at how growth was being redistributed. And the IMF and the World Bank, (also because of the prodding of civil society studies, foremost those of Oxfam), concluded that there was a huge problem in the rise of inequality.

Of course, if the 117 trillion dollars had gone to people, that money would have led to a jump in spending, an increase in manufacturing, services, schools, hospitals, research, etc. But people were totally absent from the priorities of the system.

Under the Matteo Renzi government in Italy, 20 billion dollars went to save four banks, while in the same year total subsidies for Italian youth could be calculated at best at 1 billion dollars.

Then after the crisis of 2008-9, all went haywire. In every country of Europe (except for Spain, which has now caught up), a populist right-wing party came to life, and the traditional political system started to crumble.

The new parties appealed to the losers of globalisation: workers whose factories has been delocalised for the cheapest possible place to maximise gains; small shop owners displaced by the arrival of supermarkets; those made redundant by new technologies, by Internet like secretaries; retired people whose pensions were frozen to reduce the national deficit (in the last 20 years public debts have doubled worldwide). A new divide built up, between those who rode the wave of globalisation and those who were its victim.

Obviously, the political system felt that it was accountable to the winners, and budgets were stacked in their favour. Priority went to towns, where over 63% of citizens now live. The losers were more concentrated in the rural world, where few investments were made in infrastructure. On the contrary, in the name of efficiency, many services were cut, railway stations closed, along with hospitals, schools and banks.

In order to reach work, people often had to go several kilometres from home by car. A modest increase in the cost of petrol fuelled the rebellion of the ‘yellow jackets’. It did not help that out of the 40 billion that the French government obtains from taxes on energy, less than one-quarter went back into transportation infrastructure and services.

Universities, hospital and other services in towns suffered much less, were points of excellence, public transportation was available, and a new divide arose between those in towns and those from the rural world, those with studies and education and those who were far away and atomised in the interior.

A new divide had come about, and people voted out the traditional party system, which ignored them. This device brought Trump to power and led to the victory of Brexit in the United Kingdom. This divide is wiping the traditional parties, and bringing back nationalism, xenophobia and populism. It is not bringing back the ideological right wing, but a gut right and left with little ideology …

All this should be obvious.

Now, for the first time, the system is turning its attention to the losers, but is too late. The left is paying the dramatic illusion of Tony Blair who, considering globalisation inevitable, decided that it would be possible to ride its wave. So, the left lost any contact with the victims, and kept the fight on human rights as its main identity and difference with the right.

That was good for towns, where gays and LGBTs, minorities (and majorities like women), could congregate, but it was hardly a priority for those of the interior.

Meanwhile, finance continued to grow, become a world by itself, no longer linked to industry and service, but to financial speculation. Politics became subservient. Governments lowered taxes on the who stashed the unbelievable amount of 62 trillion dollars in tax havens, according to the Tax Justice Network. The estimated yearly flow is 600 billion dollars, double the cost of the Millennium Goals of the United Nations.

And the Panama Papers, which revealed just a small number of the owners of accounts, identified at least 140 important politicians among them from 64 countries: the prime minister of Iceland (who was obliged to resign), Mauricio Macri of Argentina, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, a bunch of close associates of Vladimir Putin, David Cameron’s father, the prime minister of Georgia, and so on.

No wonder that politicians have lost their shine, and are now considered corrupt, or useless, or both.

In the current economic order, Emmanuel Macron acted rationally by lowering the tax on the rich people to attract investments. But he totally ignored that for those French who have difficulty in reaching the end of the month, this was proof that they were being totally ignored. And sociologists agree that the real ‘Spring’ of the yellow jackets was their search for dignity.

Ironically, British parties, and especially the Conservative and Labour parties, should be thankful to the debate on Brexit. It is clear that the United Kingdom is committing suicide, in economic and strategic terms. With a ‘hard’ Brexit, without any agreement with the European Union, it could lose at least seven percent of its GDP.

But the divide which makes Brexit win with all towns, the City, the economic and financial sector, academics, intellectuals and all institutions has confirmed the fear of those of the interior. Belonging to the European Union was profitable for the elites, and not for them. Scotland voted against, because it has now a different agenda from England. And this divide is not going to change with a new referendum.

That the cradle of parliamentarian democracy, Westminster, is not able to reach a compromise is telling proof that the debate is not political but a clash of mythologies, like the idea of returning to the former British Empire. It is like Donald Trump’s idea of reopening coal mines. We look at a mythical past as our future. This is what led to the explosion of Vox in Spain, by those who believe that under Franco life was easier and cheaper, that there was no corruption, woman stayed in their place, and Spain was a united country, without separatists in Catalonia and the Basque Country. It is what Jair Bolsonari in Brazil is exploiting, presenting the military dictatorship at a time when violence was limited. Our future is the past …

So this divide – once in one way or another the United Kingdom solves its Brexit dilemma – will pass into normal politics, and will bring about a dramatic decline, like elsewhere, of the two main traditional parties. Unless, meanwhile, populist, xenophobe and nationalist parties take over government and show that they do not have the answer to the problems they have rightly identified.

In that sense, the Italian experience could be of significant help … look how the government has performed with the European Union.

The post A New Spectre is Haunting Europe appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Acts of Terror Will Not Undermine Our Resolvehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/acts-terror-will-not-undermine-resolve/#comments Wed, 16 Jan 2019 14:29:49 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159666 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Kenyatta addresses the Nation on 16 Jan 2019. “I also commend the civilians who looked after one another. For every act of evil that led to injury yesterday, there were a dozen acts of compassion, overflowing patriotism and individual courage,” Credit: KBC

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

On 15 January 2019, terror struck Nairobi’s 14 Riverside Drive.

Kenya is in mourning following a senseless act on innocent and defenseless civilians by individuals preoccupied with contemptible and misplaced ideology; who hope to intimidate others through violent acts of terror. Like in their other past attempts, they have failed, and Kenya remains unbowed.

As President Kenyatta has noted in his address; “We will allow no one to derail or frustrate our progress….We have prevailed and shall always prevail over evil. Let us now go to work without fear and continue with our work of building our nation.”

Our thoughts are with all the affected and families who are experiencing the most inconsolable pain and trauma of this heinous act. The UN Country Team in Kenya stands in solidarity with the families who are suffering the most inconsolable pain and will live for a long time with the trauma of this terrible attack.

As the intelligence and security apparatus continue with investigations, our message to Kenyans remains that, we cannot give in to fear or the temptation to define the attack as a war between races or religions. That has always been the narrative that the perpetrators of terror would wish to spread.

Fortunately, they have always been on the losing side of history. The attack on 14 Riverside Drive should not deter Kenya’s resolve, but should further strengthen the country’s determination to overcome adversity and challenges that threaten its social fabric.

We applaud the work of Kenya’s security emergency rescue services and first responders, who mobilised in remarkable timeliness, demonstrated exceptional professionalism and heroism, thereby keeping the number of fatalities to a minimum. We also commend Kenyans for their heroic acts and solidarity for one another during this time.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his message “has strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Nairobi and extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes those injured a swift recovery. The Secretary-General expresses his solidarity with the people and Government of Kenya(GoK)”.

Terrorism remains a global threat and presents a challenging test for intelligence and law enforcement agencies worldwide. No country is immune. Kenya has done remarkably well in preventing numerous other attacks.

The reality is that a multitude of stresses impact vulnerable populations around the world, leaving many disproportionately susceptible to extremist ideologies — driven by factors such as surging youth unemployment — which terror groups take advantage as a considerable reservoir for recruits. There is a need for concerted efforts to weaken the terror groups’ narrative and win the battle of ideas.

The UN remains steadfast in its support to Kenya’s development agenda, including commendable initiatives by the government based on a long view of the prevention of violent extremism in line with the UN Development Assistance Framework.

Together we can pursue smart, sustainable strategies that augment security with what the UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner describes as the triple nexus, “Achieving the 2030 Agenda and ensuring no one is left behind requires a pro-active, evidence-based and holistic approach to risk, resilience and prevention across humanitarian, development and peace effort.” This approach will be a long-term antidote to terrorism and the key to preventing violent extremism.

Already our partnership is underway with several local initiatives that are bearing fruit. Previously characterized by belligerence based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa are slowly changing the narrative, replacing aggression with dialogue and socio-economic transformation.

A stand-out initiative is the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. This initiative is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

Such initiatives represent determination and hope. They are a declaration that the soul of those on the right side of humanity can never be destroyed or prevented from living freely by terrorists.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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A Salty Dilemmahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/a-salty-dilemma/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-salty-dilemma http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/a-salty-dilemma/#comments Wed, 16 Jan 2019 11:57:16 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159655 As the threat of water scarcity increasingly grows, many have turned to the Earth’s plentiful oceans for a solution. However, this has created a new risk threatening public and environmental health: brine. In a new study, the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment, and Health (UNU-INWEH) assessed the state of desalination around the world […]

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A desalination plant. Across 177 countries, there are now 16,000 desalination plants, many of which are concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa where water scarcity is already a reality.As desalination plants continue to pop up, so does a hypersaline, chemical by-product known as brine. Credit: RoPlant

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

As the threat of water scarcity increasingly grows, many have turned to the Earth’s plentiful oceans for a solution. However, this has created a new risk threatening public and environmental health: brine.

In a new study, the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment, and Health (UNU-INWEH) assessed the state of desalination around the world as countries increasingly convert sea water into freshwater for its citizens.

“There is an increasing level of water scarcity across the globe, but there are hot spots of water scarcity like those in the Middle East and parts of Africa. They really need an additional supply of water that they can use to meet the requirements of their population,” one of the report’s authors Manzoor Qadir told IPS.

Across 177 countries, there are now 16,000 desalination plants, many of which are concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa where water scarcity is already a reality.

As desalination plants continue to pop up, so does a hypersaline, chemical by-product known as brine.

In fact, for every litre of freshwater a plant produces, 1.5 litres of brine is produced, a figure that is 50 percent more than previously estimated.

Globally, desalination plants produce enough brine in one year to cover all of Florida in one foot of the waste.

“Historically what we used to see was the equal volumes of brine versus desalinated water—that is not true…there is more brine produced than desalinated water. It really needs efficient management,” Qadir said.

Countries are increasingly turning to the oceans as a solution to water scarcity. Pictured here is Sri Lanka’s southern coast near Hikkaduwa town. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The study, which is the first to quantify brine production across the world, found that just four countries are responsible for 55 percent of global brine: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar.

Almost 80 percent of brine is produced in plants near the ocean and are often discharged back into the ocean, posing major risks to ocean life and marine ecosystems.

According to the UNU-INWEH report, untreated brine increases both the temperature and salt concentration of sea water. Together, these conditions decreases the water’s oxygen levels, impacting sea organisms and the food chain.

The desalination process also uses toxic chemicals such as copper and chlorine, polluting oceans when released.

As desalination plants are predicted to increase in number, the assessment highlighted the need for improved brine management strategies to avoid further and future environmental damage.

The report’s authors pointed to the various economic opportunities to use brine including in the irrigation of salt tolerant crops,  electricity generation, and even aquaculture.

“Using saline drainage water offers potential commercial, social and environmental gains.  Reject brine has been used for aquaculture, with increases in fish biomass of 300 percent achieved,” Qadir said.

“”There is a need to translate such research and convert an environmental problem into an economic opportunity,” he added.

But first and foremost, countries need to minimise the volume of brine produced including the adoption of more efficient modern technologies, Qadir noted.

“[Middle Eastern countries] especially need to take concrete action just to make sure that there is an environmentally feasible management of brine,” he told IPS, while also acknowledging the importance of desalination.

UNU-INWEH found that eight countries including the Maldives, Singapore, Antigua and Barbuda and Qatar can meet all their water needs through desalination. And it is predicted that more and more countries will rely on such plants for their water needs.

“We need to raise the importance of global water scarcity and the key contributions of desalinated water, but at the same time we should not just ignore the other part of desalinated technology which is brine production,” Qadir concluded.

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Honduran Crisis Produces New Caravanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/honduran-crisis-produces-new-caravan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=honduran-crisis-produces-new-caravan http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/honduran-crisis-produces-new-caravan/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 10:34:52 +0000 Jan Egeland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159650 Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), visited Honduras in December 2018.

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The first caravan of Central American migrants reached the town of Matías Romero in Oaxaca state on November 1, 2018. The Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs estimates that 4,000 people spent the night there. Credit: IOM / Rafael Rodríguez

By Jan Egeland
OSLO, Norway, Jan 16 2019 (IPS)

A new caravan heading towards Mexico and the United States was reportedly set to leave San Pedro Sula in Honduras on 15 January. The large number of people expected to leave Central America is a true testimony to the desperate situation for children, women and men in this poor and violence affected region.

Instead of talking about a crisis at the US-Mexican border, North Americans must wake up and address the real humanitarian crisis in Central America. The long walk north will be extremely dangerous and exhausting for the thousands of families from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala that will join the caravans planned in 2019.

Obstacles on the way are likely to increase, as there is fatigue and frustration from communities who supported migrants during last year’s exodus. There is rising xenophobia in both the United States (US) and Mexico and increasingly tough border regulations in every country on the way.

Border controls, guards or walls will never stop people who are hunted by gang violence and flee for fear for their lives. Youth who have lost all hope for a better future in Central America will try repeatedly to reach a better life in the US, Canada or Mexico.

To tackle the current crisis, the more affluent American nations need to understand their own neighborhood and invest much more in bringing hope, security and good governance for people who currently see no other option than to flee.

Having spoken to many desperate Honduran families who have been or will be on the caravans, I am convinced that the current policies from the US through Mexico and Central America will only deepen the crisis, the desperation and the exodus. Investment in education, livelihoods and violence prevention are better alternatives to detention and deportation back to places where there is only misery and violence.

Hondurans who have managed to reach Mexico during previous journeys have told NRC staff that they were held in shelters, forced to sign deportation papers and deported without a fair hearing of their asylum claims. In spite of the hardships and the dangers many are still planning on leaving again even though they know of the slim chances of reaching the US.

“Dying here or dying there, it doesn’t make much difference. At least there I have a small chance to see that my life improves,” said one person who is planning to leave again for the north with the caravan.

If a gang is extorting you, if you are a witness to a crime or if your neighborhood is taken over by organized crime you may have no other option than to flee. People will only stay if they are protected from violence, lawlessness and crime and provided with education and livelihood opportunities.

Thousands of people remain stranded and blocked on the border between Mexico and the US where processing is extremely slow. The US and Mexico recently signed the agreement ‘Remain in Mexico’ in which the US will be able to send people back to Mexico while they go through the refugee status determination process.

This process can take years due to a backlog in the system. The agreement comes on top of President Trump’s attempts to build a wall, migrant children dying in US custody and last summer’s family separations crisis. 75,279 people were deported from Mexico and the US in 2018, according to a Honduran centre for migration: Observatorio Consular y Migratorio de Honduras (CONMIGHO).

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Excerpt:

Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), visited Honduras in December 2018.

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Bridging the Infrastructure Financing Gap in the Asia Pacific Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/bridging-infrastructure-financing-gap-asia-pacific-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bridging-infrastructure-financing-gap-asia-pacific-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/bridging-infrastructure-financing-gap-asia-pacific-region/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 15:33:03 +0000 Tientip Subhanij and Daniel W. Lin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159647 Tientip Subhanij is Chief, Financing for Development, Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development Division, ESCAP & Daniel W. Lin is Consultant, Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development Division, ESCAP

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Credit: Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

By Tientip Subhanij and Daniel W. Lin
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jan 15 2019 (IPS)

Infrastructure development is undoubtedly critical for a country’s long-term economic growth and competitiveness as it impacts economic activities by increasing productivity, facilitating trade, and promoting innovation.

Across the Asia Pacific region, however, economic growth as well as broader development goals are hindered by a shortage of roads, mass rapid transit systems, telecommunications, power plants, water and sanitation and other basic infrastructure.

The Asian Development Bank estimates that the average infrastructure requirement for a representative group of 24 developing countries in the region for 2016 to 2020 is 8.2 per cent of the GDP when China is excluded.

However, their current investments average only 3.2 per cent of GDP, leaving the financing gap as large as 5 per cent of GDP. Notably, of the 3.2 per cent of GDP currently invested in infrastructure on average, only 1 per cent of GDP comes from the private sector.

Adding to this challenge, private sector participation in infrastructure investment in emerging markets dropped by 37 percent between 2015 and 2016 globally, reaching the lowest level in 10 years.

Understanding the decline in private investment and how countries can encourage more private sector participation will, therefore, be important in achieving sustainable infrastructure development in the region.

The most recent successful example of engaging private sector financing is from Thailand, where the government has launched a new way to raise private capital through Thailand Future Fund (TFF). Traded on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, the TFF is a 44.7 billion Baht infrastructure mutual fund that aims at raising capital from institutional and private retail investors for the country’s infrastructure development.

The fund invests in value-enhancing state agencies’ infrastructure assets and projects to create long-term distribution growth potential, including expressways, railways, electricity generation and distribution, airports, and deep seaports.

An IPO was made from October 12 to 19 with prices set at 10 Baht each. Since then, major local institutional investors have shown great interest in TFF.

The TTF has the advantage of reducing the government’s burden on public finance by providing fund raising alternative. This is expected to accelerate the Thai government investment in infrastructure projects, which can be injected into TFF in the future, thus, providing institutional and retail investors the opportunity to invest in high performing and stable income infrastructure projects.

The Fund also promotes the development of Thailand’s capital markets by facilitating private sector investment in infrastructure development, which is considered a low risk long-term investment, allowing greater diversification for private investors.

The mobilization of private resources, including through public-private partnerships (PPP) has indeed been attracting strong interest from governments in Asia and the Pacific.

Recognizing this potential, the Regional Road Map for Implementing the 2030 Agenda, endorsed by ESCAP member States in May 2017, highlights the need to undertake research, analysis and consensus-building initiatives to enhance regional knowledge of infrastructure financing, including PPP.

Subsequently, in December 2017 the Committee on Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction and Financing for Development, requested the ESCAP secretariat to consider developing a network on PPP and infrastructure financing to provide a regular platform where member States can exchange their experiences, disseminate knowledge, engage private sector and build consensus regarding good practices on infrastructure financing.

To this end, ESCAP took the initiative to serve member States’ needs and successfully organized the first meeting of PPP and infrastructure financing network with support from the China Public Private Partnerships Center at the City of Guiyang, Guizhou Province, China on 12 and 13 September 2018.

This was the first regional event, among many more to come, that leverages on the fact that countries in the region are increasingly accumulating experience in engaging private sector for their infrastructure investment.

It gathered the heads of PPP units, infrastructure specialists and capital market experts from 22 countries in the region to enhance knowledge and capacity of PPP units on the effective use of PPP mechanisms as well as other infrastructure financing strategies to support the pursuit of sustainable infrastructure development.

Given that the Asia-Pacific region’s infrastructure investment requirement is immense and public resources are limited, it is important to carefully design financing strategies to fill the existing gaps and meet future infrastructure demand.

As highlighted by the recent Thai example, this can be supported by mobilizing more resources from institutional investors by further deepening capital markets in the regions as well as increasing the availability of investable assets.

Moving forward, member States in Asia and the Pacific would greatly benefit from sharing established good practices with other countries and engaging the private sector in addressing their infrastructure financing challenges, with ESCAP playing an enabling role in such endeavours.

The post Bridging the Infrastructure Financing Gap in the Asia Pacific Region appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Tientip Subhanij is Chief, Financing for Development, Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development Division, ESCAP & Daniel W. Lin is Consultant, Macroeconomic Policy and Financing for Development Division, ESCAP

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Building Mongolia’s Green Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/building-mongolias-green-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-mongolias-green-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/building-mongolias-green-future/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 08:59:05 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage and IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159633 A country that has contributed least to global climate change now has to cope with and adapt to the very real effects they are faced with.

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January 2018 alone saw temperatures drop to -50 degrees Celsius. This has had vast impacts on Mongolia’s herders. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage and IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 2019 (IPS)

The landlocked country of Mongolia sparks certain images in the mind—rolling hills with horses against a picturesque backdrop.

However, the East Asian country is facing a threat that will change its landscape: climate change.

“Climate change isn’t affecting everyone around the world evenly. Small island states is an example and another example is people who live in more norther climates like Mongolia,” United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment John Knox told IPS.

“The problem for Mongolia is, with respect to climate change, is that it contributes almost nothing to greenhouse gasses…so that means instead Mongolia has to be concerned with adaptation,” he added.

According to the Mongolian Ministry of Environment, the mean air temperature increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius between 1940 and 2014, more than twice the global average.

This has increased the frequency of natural disasters such as what is locally known as “dzud”—a summer drought followed by a severe winter, a phenomenon that has increased over recent years.

January 2018 alone saw temperatures drop to -50 degrees Celsius.

This has had vast impacts on the country’s herders.

Almost 50 percent of the Mongolia’s 3 million population are employed in animal husbandry. They produce 35 percent of agricultural gross production and account for 30 percent of the country’s export.

At the same time, 28 percent of the population live at or below the poverty line, making them dependent on this trade.

Almost 50 percent of the Mongolia’s 3 million population are employed in animal husbandry. They produce 35 percent of agricultural gross production and account for 30 percent of the country’s export. Credit: Michelle Tolson/IPS

“Any adverse impact of a changing climate on pasture availability would threaten forage yield, livestock productivity, and, ultimately, local and national food production capacity. Hence, environment and climate condition play a key role in the sustainable development of the country,” said Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)’s Mongolia representative Romain Brillie.

Approximately 70 percent of grassland in the country is impacted by desertification while the area of barren land expanded 3 times between 1992 and 2006.

While overgrazing has contributed to the changes in the environment, climate change has exacerbated the impacts.

Without sustainable livelihoods, many have poured into the country’s cities including Ulaanbaatar where they live in informal settlements without basic facilities such as running water or sanitation.

And to cope with the long and harsh winters, families use coal-fired stoves, contributing to air pollution.

In fact, Ulaanbaatar has one of the highest rates of air pollution in the world, increasing the risk of acute and chronic respiratory issues.

According to U.N.’s Children Agency (UNICEF), the three diseases that have resulted in the most lost life-years in the East Asian countries are related to air pollution.

But steps are being taken to mitigate the crisis, Brillie noted.

“Mongolia has been very active in establishing a conducive policy environment for climate change mitigation and adaptation…for instance, Mongolia is one of the countries that has been the most successful in accessing the Green Climate Fund,” he told IPS.

In 2017, the government adopted a new law which aims to increase the country’s share of renewable energy in total primary energy sources to 25 percent by 2025, and 30 percent by 2030.

Mongolia has already started investing in wind power, establishing its first wind farm in 2013.

GGGI has also been working with the government to support its green development targets in energy and green finance.

In 2018, GGGI helped secure 10 million dollars from the Government of Mongolia and Mongolian commercial banks to invest into the Mongolia Green Finance Corporation, a vehicle to leverage investments by the financial sector.

Knox highlighted the importance of such civil society in efforts towards climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“I think it’s at the individual and community level that we really see sustainable development take hold,” he said.

Brillie also pointed to the much needed role of the private sector, stating: “Financing Mongolia’s NDC’s alone would require 6,9 billion dollars and public investment alone cannot match the extent of the challenge…policy, regulatory and financial incentives and guarantees need to come together to help private companies invest into green projects.”

While there are now standards in place, Knox noted the need to implement and enforce them including in efforts to cut back on coal energy.

Currently, only seven precent of Mongolia’s energy production is renewable energy, and they will have to ramp up action if they are to reach their 2030 target.

And the Paris Agreement should be the light forward.

“In many ways, the threat of climate change in Mongolia can only be addressed by collective action by the major emitters of the world…The parties to the Paris Agreement need to surmount up their commitments as quickly as possible and they need to take more effective actions to implement the commitments they have already undertaken,” Knox told IPS.

Brillie spotlighted the role youth can and will play in the country’s sustainable, green future as GGGI works with Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment to promote green education.

“Young people are already driving change across the world. We must provide the skills to create new and green lifestyle,” he said.

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Excerpt:

A country that has contributed least to global climate change now has to cope with and adapt to the very real effects they are faced with.

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Gloom Ahead of World Economic Stormhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/gloom-ahead-world-economic-storm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gloom-ahead-world-economic-storm http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/gloom-ahead-world-economic-storm/#respond Tue, 15 Jan 2019 07:50:43 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159629 In light of the uncertainty caused by the US-China trade war, the IMF expects the US economic growth to slow from a three-year high of 2.9 per cent in 2018 to 2.5 per cent in 2019, while China’s expansion has already slowed in recent years, albeit from much higher levels. Trump stimulus dissipates US President […]

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By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY & KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 2019 (IPS)

In light of the uncertainty caused by the US-China trade war, the IMF expects the US economic growth to slow from a three-year high of 2.9 per cent in 2018 to 2.5 per cent in 2019, while China’s expansion has already slowed in recent years, albeit from much higher levels.

Trump stimulus dissipates
US President Trump and the previous GOP-controlled US Congress claimed to be breathing new life into the US economy with generous tax cuts. The US economy is now overheating, with inflation rising above target, causing the Federal Reserve to continue raising the federal funds rate to dampen demand.

Anis Chowdhury

As most families hardly gained from the tax changes, US purchases of houses and consumer durables continued to decline through 2018. Instead of investing in expanding productive capacity, US companies spent much of their tax savings on a $1.1 trillion stock buy-back spree in 2018.

Hence, the positive impacts of tax cuts were not only modest, but are also diminishing. Nearly half of 226 US chief financial officers recently surveyed believe that the US will go into recession by the end of 2019, with 82 per cent believing that it will have begun by the end of 2020. Wall Street’s biggest banks, JP Morgan and Bank of America, are also preparing for a slowdown in 2019.

As if to confirm their concerns, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 had their worst ever December performance since 1931, when stocks were battered after the Great Crash.

European recession
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank is expecting sluggish 1.7 per cent regional growth in 2019. Europe is close to recession with the collapse of industrial output in Germany, France, UK and Italy.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Germany’s industrial output fell by 1.9 per cent month-on-month in November 2018, and was in negative territory in 5 of the 6 months before December. Its GDP fell by 0.2 per cent in the 3rd quarter of 2018. France’s industrial production fell 1.3 per cent in November 2018, reversing a 1.3 per cent growth recovery in October from a 1.7 per cent decline in September. Italy, Europe’s third largest economy, recorded negative growth in the 3rd quarter of 2018 as GDP fell by 0.1 per cent in July-September 2018 with weaker domestic demand.

As the UK remains mired in its Brexit mess, GDP growth was dragged down to 0.3 per cent in the three months to November with the biggest industrial output contraction since 2012. 2018 final quarter growth is expected to be 0.1 per cent, i.e., negligible.

Not preparing for the inevitable?
David Lipton, the first deputy managing director of the IMF, warned in early January 2019, “The next recession is somewhere over the horizon, and we are less prepared to deal with that than we should be . . . [and] less prepared than in the last [crisis in 2008].”

Although the IMF had projected 3.7 per cent global economic growth for 2019 in October 2018, Lipton’s statement suggests that the IMF is likely to revise its 2019 growth forecast downward.

There have also been growing concerns over the continued efficacy of unconventional monetary policy since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis (GFC). Undoubtedly, countries now have less fiscal space than in 2009, and overall borrowing, including public debt has risen since.

Reaping what you sow
The policy blunders since the GFC have only made things much worse. The ideologically driven case for fiscal consolidation did not boost investor confidence for a robust recovery, as promised.

Despite acknowledging false claims cited to justify fiscal consolidation, including the IMF’s admission that its early advice was based on faulty calculations, there was no recommended change in policy course.

Instead, all responsibility for recovery was put on the monetary authorities who resorted to unconventional policies, especially ‘quantitative easing’ (QE). However, the global economic recovery since then has remained tepid and easily reversible.

Additional liquidity, made available by QE, has largely been used to buy financial assets and for speculation, amplifying the financial vulnerability of emerging market economies, which have experienced increased volatility.

Governments also failed to take advantage of historically low, even negative real interest rates to borrow and invest to boost productive capacity in the longer term.

By mainly benefiting financial asset holders, QE has exacerbated wealth concentration. Meanwhile, cuts in public services and social spending have worsened social polarization, as tax cuts for the rich have failed to generate promised additional investments and jobs growth.

The failure to achieve a robust recovery has not only worsened the debt situation, but also made lives harder for ordinary people. Growing polarization has also worsened resentments, eroding trust, undermining solidarity and progressive alternatives.

Ethno-populist jingoism undermines cooperation
But lack of preparedness can hardly be due to ignorance as there have been many such predictions recently, certainly more than in 2007-2008, before the GFC.

The cooperation that enabled co-ordinated actions to prevent the Great Recession from becoming a depression has not only waned, but major countries are now at loggerheads, preventing collective action.

National political environments are also more hostile. In Europe, the rise of ethno-populist nationalism is making it harder to pursue EU-level policies and to act together to prevent and mitigate the next financial crisis and downturn.

The “new sovereigntists” and false prophets of American exceptionalism are undermining multilateral cooperation when needed most. Thus, a recession in 2019 may well elevate geo-political tensions, exacerbating the negative feedback loop for a ‘perfect storm’.

Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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UN Lambasted on High-Level Appointmentshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/un-lambasted-high-level-appointments/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-lambasted-high-level-appointments http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/un-lambasted-high-level-appointments/#respond Mon, 14 Jan 2019 11:15:11 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159611 The world’s developing countries, comprising over two-thirds of the 193 UN member states, are complaining they are not being adequately represented in the higher echelons of the world body –- despite competent candidates with strong professional and academic qualifications vying for these jobs. The 134-member Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing countries, […]

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António Guterres takes the oath of office for his five-year term as UN Secretary-General. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14 2019 (IPS)

The world’s developing countries, comprising over two-thirds of the 193 UN member states, are complaining they are not being adequately represented in the higher echelons of the world body –- despite competent candidates with strong professional and academic qualifications vying for these jobs.

The 134-member Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing countries, says “persistent imbalances in equitable geographic representation in the UN Secretariat are a major concern.”

While the UN is being commended for ensuring equitable representation of women in recent years, it still stands accused of neglecting qualified nationals of developing countries, including from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The high-level jobs go mostly to nationals of either Western nations, big donors or the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P-5), namely, the US, UK, France, Russia and China.

“Every Secretary-General, with no exception, caves into the demands of big powers,” one Asian diplomat told IPS, “These countries think high-ranking UN jobs are their political birthright”.

Addressing the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (Fifth Committee), and speaking on behalf of the G77 and China, Karim Ismail of Egypt, told delegates last November that equitable geographic representation is key to ensuring the Organization’s international character and its Member States.

Urging the Secretariat to expedite efforts in this direction, including the representation of troop- and police-contributing countries (TCCs/PCCs), he called for more transparency in how geographical representation is measured and the basis for such assessment.

“The Assembly needs more complete and easily understandable information on how gender parity and geographical representation are reflected in the 38,000 posts across the Secretariat,” he added.

The high-level posts include Under Secretaries-Generals (USGs), Assistant Secretaries-Generals (ASGs), Directors (categorized as D-1s and D-2s), heads of UN peacekeeping missions overseas, mostly based in Africa, and Special Envoys of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

According to a system of geographical balance, when the secretary-general is from a Western nation, the deputy secretary-general is from the developing world, and vice versa. Currently, Amina Mohammed from Nigeria, holds the second highest ranking job in the world body, next in command to Guterres, a former Prime Minister of Portugal.

Ian Richards, president of the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of the UN’s International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA), told IPS: “The current situation in which staff from developing countries are less likely to make it to the top is unacceptable and unfortunately mirrors political and financial influence in the system.”

An organization cannot talk about putting performance at the heart of human resources management and selection, if nationality continues to be a key consideration at senior levels, he pointed out.

Linked to this, he said, is the ongoing revolving door between the General Assembly and senior staff positions, for which there is no cooling-off period, and which undermines the independence of the UN.

“Guterres needs to have a frank discussion on this,” declared Richards. Otherwise, he warned, the UN’s much-touted reforms will be an exercise in futility—
and will not mean much.

The biggest contributors to the UN’s regular budget, who stake their claims for top jobs, include: the US, China, Japan, Germany, France, UK, Italy and Russia. Amongst Asian countries, China (a member of the G77) and Japan (although Asian, but not a G77 member, still wielding economic clout as a major donor) are both favoured in senior UN appointments.

But Asia is not merely China, Japan or India, one of the world’s most populous nations.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, told IPS it is widely known that the UN adopts a pro-active policy towards recruiting Japanese by sending head-hunting teams to Japan acknowledging the major financial contribution Japan makes.

“This needs to be done with others too so that talent can be spotted. There are major gaps in Human Resource recruitment within the UN, with the West getting the plum jobs, although progress has been made with regard to the recruitment of women redressing the imbalances of the past”, he added.

Asked who should be blamed for the continued under-representation—whether it should be Guterres or member states, former UN Assistant Secretary-General Dr Ramesh Thakur, emeritus professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, told IPS: “Both– but mainly member states”.

He said Asian countries need to do two things. (1) lobby for their own nationals, and, (2) lobby for the Asian group as a whole.

For example, he said, they could demand that, as the UN University is the only part of the UN system that has its global headquarters in Asia, the Rector (USG rank) must always be an Asian.

In point of fact, only one Rector has been Asian, one Latin American, zero African, and four from West European and Other States (as categorized by the UN).

Dr Thakur said there should be a demand by member states for a report, every two years, by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on regional representation in the ranks of USG, ASG and D2.

“The very fact of having to provide this documentation will make the Secretary-General and the UN system much more sensitive to the inequitable representation,” he declared.

Samir Sanbar, a former Assistant Secretary-General and one-time head of the Department of Public Information, told IPS that “equitable geographical representation by developing members –as required by the U.N. Charter– has been eroding consistently over the last two decades, despite the availability of qualified candidates.”

In the current unusual situation, he pointed out, two UK citizens now head two Secretariat Departments (Humanitarian Affairs and Global Communications) while a citizen of New Zealand heads Management, Portugal heads the office of legal affairs, France keeps heading the Peacekeeping Department (since 1996) and China holds Economic/Social Affairs. The US traditionally heads the Department of Political Affairs, and Russia heads the UN office in Vienna, after earlier heading the office in Geneva.

Initially, appointments from key countries were made selectively by the Secretary-General based on the merit of presented candidates.

Sanbar also pointed out there were some illustrious USGs—irrespective of their nationalities—- because of their superlative credentials.

For example, he said, Brian Urquhart was the most distinguished head of the Peacekeeping Department regardless of his solid U.K. citizenship. So was Bernard Miyet of France.

Similarly, were other heads of departments from developing countries like Sergio Vieira de Mello (Brazil), Jayantha Dhanapala (Sri Lanka) and Nitin Desai (India), said Sanbar, who served under five different secretaries-general during his career at the UN.

So is Guterres’ highly regarded Chef de Cabinet

“Our inspiring Dag Hammarskjold reportedly quipped: The U. N. needs the big powers to survive and small powers to succeed,” declared Sanbar.

Meanwhile, the 53-member Asia Pacific Group accounts for about 27 percent of UN member states and over half the world’s population– but still constitutes only around 17 per cent of the Secretariat’s international staff.

Pointing out these discrepancies, Mahesh Kumar of India told the Administrative and Budgetary that while the UN Charter puts equitable geographical representation at the heart of human resources management, challenges continue to persist.

He said out of a total UN Secretariat staff of 38,000, less than 10 per cent are covered by the system of desirable ranges. Even for these 3,600 posts, 64 countries are listed as un-represented or under-represented and 50 of these 64 are developing countries.

Further, the number of member states in the category of un-represented or under-represented continues to increase since 2014.

In addition, nearly 60 more developing countries are close to the lower level of their desirable range of representation and remain at risk of slipping into the under-represented category, he said.

“These numbers paint a very stark picture of the current inequitable representation,” he said.

He complained that regional disparity remains especially stark at senior level positions, adding that in peacekeeping positions too, the regional disparity is glaring.

Nearly half of the Force commanders — six out of 14 – are from Western European and Others Group, comprising only 14% of total member states.

Currently, the five biggest troop-contributors to the 90,000-strong UN peacekeeping force overseas include: Ethiopia (7,597 troops), Bangladesh (6,624), Rwanda (6,528), India (6,445) and Nepal (6,098).

In contrast, among the P-5 countries, China is the 10th largest troop contributor with 2,515 troops, France ranks 31 with 729, UK ranks 36 with 618, Russia ranks 68 with 85 and the US ranks 77 with 51 troops.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Shedding Light on Forced Child Pregnancy and Motherhood in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/shedding-light-forced-child-pregnancy-motherhood-latin-america/#respond Mon, 14 Jan 2019 08:35:45 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159601 Research and campaigns by women’s rights advocates are beginning to focus on the problem of Latin American girls under the age of 14 who are forced to bear the children of their rapists, with the lifelong implications that entails and without the protection of public policies guaranteeing their human rights. The Latin American and Caribbean […]

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A Closer Look at the World Bank’s Sizable China Portfoliohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/closer-look-world-banks-sizable-china-portfolio/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=closer-look-world-banks-sizable-china-portfolio http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/closer-look-world-banks-sizable-china-portfolio/#respond Thu, 10 Jan 2019 09:56:38 +0000 Scott Morris and Gailyn Portelance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159577 Scott Morris is a senior fellow and director of the US Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development  
Gailyn Portelance is an MA candidate at Stanford University.

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Scott Morris is a senior fellow and director of the US Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development  
Gailyn Portelance is an MA candidate at Stanford University.

By Scott Morris and Gailyn Portelance
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 10 2019 (IPS)

China continues to borrow an average of $2 billion a year from the World Bank, making it one of the Bank’s top borrowers—despite being the world’s second-largest economy and itself a major global lender, according to our study released today.

By doing a project-level analysis of recent World Bank loans to China, we found that the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)—which offers loans to middle-income and credit-worthy lower-income countries—has loaned more than $7.8 billion to China since the country surpassed the bank’s “graduation” income threshold for lending in 2016. The World Bank’s current threshold to trigger IBRD country graduation discussions is $6,895 in gross national income (GNI) per capita.

Lending to countries above this threshold has been controversial, with the United States particularly critical of ongoing lending to China. Critics have pushed for strict graduation standards that would make wealthier borrowers ineligible for bank loans (i.e., “graduation”). Under the 2018 agreement, World Bank shareholders agreed to limit loans to countries above the threshold to only projects that focus on:

• global public goods (projects that benefit the world at large); and,
• capacity-building (projects that help the countries “graduate” away from World Bank lending).

 

China continues to borrow an average of $2 billion a year from the World Bank, making it one of the Bank’s top borrowers—despite being the world’s second-largest economy and itself a major global lender

 

 

As shown in the figure above, less than half of China’s lending has gone to either of the approved categories, by strict definitions of these categories, since China crossed the income threshold in 2016. Capacity-building projects contribute to only 5 percent of its portfolio, and global public goods make up 38 percent of China’s borrowing portfolio.

However, a broader conception of capacity-building, which focuses on the allocation of resources to the poorest provinces within China improves that picture. Fifty-eight percent of lending to China has been directed to provinces with per capita incomes below the graduation income threshold.

And with a third of the portfolio supporting the reduction of carbon emissions in the country, the bank is meeting a clear global public good mandate. As the world’s largest polluter, China will need to make sizeable investments in climate-friendly finance if we are to make meaningful progress on this critical agenda.

The world has a lot to gain from a sustainable and productive China-World Bank relationship. To lower political heat from the United States and other critics, the Bank should request more from China in terms of interest charges on loans and ensure that all project lending adheres to the 2018 standards.

You can read the full study here.

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Excerpt:

Scott Morris is a senior fellow and director of the US Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development  
Gailyn Portelance is an MA candidate at Stanford University.

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Walking Miles In Their Shoeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/walking-miles-shoes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=walking-miles-shoes http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/walking-miles-shoes/#respond Thu, 10 Jan 2019 09:42:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159574 In light of the millions of refugees escaping persecution in search of a safer, more prosperous future, a new campaign aims to raise awareness of the difficult journeys such populations take around the world. Launched by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety raises awareness of the long, precarious journeys […]

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A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature's Park, Bangladesh. Some refugees had to walk 60 miles on foot to reach the safety of Bangladesh Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 10 2019 (IPS)

In light of the millions of refugees escaping persecution in search of a safer, more prosperous future, a new campaign aims to raise awareness of the difficult journeys such populations take around the world.

Launched by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety raises awareness of the long, precarious journeys that many refugees take and calls on the public to amp up support.

“Every day, we are inspired by the acts of kindness from people who are doing their very best to improve life for refugees: the activists, the communities hosting refugees, businesses, donors, volunteers,’” said UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly T. Clements.

“This campaign will encourage people to support refugees through something they are already doing – walking, cycling, running,” she added.

According to UNHCR, people who are forced to flee travel approximately 2 billion km every year to reach the first point of safety.

In 2016, South Sudanese refugees travelled over 400 miles to reach Kenya while Rohingya refugees in Myanmar travelled up to 50 miles in search of safety in Bangladesh.

Later aided by the U.N. agency, Alin Nisa and her family were forced to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh after an armed group attacked the village and abducted community members.

Crossing mountains and rivers, Nisa carried her two young children while her husband carried his mother who could not walk.

They travelled 60 miles on foot, finally reaching the Kutupalong refugee settlement in Bangladesh.

Similarly, Zeenab and her family fled Syria after their home was destroyed and travelled over 90 miles to Jordan’s za’atari refugee camp.

“We’re grateful. Winter here is difficult, but it’s still better than Syria,” she told UNHCR.

And how better to understand refugees’ plight than actually walking in their shoes and covering the same distance?

Clements highlighted the importance of remembering refugees’ very real and dangerous journeys, especially as misconceptions continue to be spread about them.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed similar sentiments upon the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) in December, stating: “There are many falsehoods about the world’s migrants. But we must not succumb to fear or false narratives. We must move from myth to reality.”

Such narratives have been most apparent in the United States which has seemingly shut the door on refugees.

The Trump administration first implemented a 120-day refugee ban, followed by a ban on refugees from “high-risk” countries including South Sudan and Syria.

In January 2017, the U.S. government cut the refugee quota by more than half, which led to only 22,000 refugees being resettled in the country in 2018, the lowest rate since 1980.

Most recently, the administration has deployed troops at the U.S.’ southern border in an effort to prevent refugees and migrants who have travelled across Central America from entering the country or seeking asylum.

Anti-refugee rhetoric has also been on the rise in Europe, including Belgium which has seen violent riots against the country’s participation in the GCM.

People across 27 countries will take part in the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety campaign, and UNHCR hopes to raise over 15 million dollars to support refugees with registration, food, water, shelter, and healthcare.

UNHCR’s funding requirements for 2019 amount to a record 8.5 billion dollars and has thus far received 926 million dollars in pledges.

Though the GCM is a stepping stone towards awareness and action, there is still much left to do.

U.N. Special Representative for International Migration Louise Arbour expressed such views in her closing remarks at the GCM conference, stating: “To the millions who have left their homeland, either recently or a long time ago, most of them in full compliance with the law, we have much more to offer: whether an opportunity to return home, after years abroad, taking back with them their skills and the fruits of their labour, or whether an increased chance to see their children having a better future in a country that they will be proud to call their home.”

Globally, over 68 million have been forcibly displaced. Of this, 25 million are refugees, a figure that has increased by almost 3 million within just one year.

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Preventing a New Euro-Missile Racehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/preventing-new-euro-missile-race/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preventing-new-euro-missile-race http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/preventing-new-euro-missile-race/#comments Wed, 09 Jan 2019 15:00:15 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159564 Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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Russia's 9M729 missile reportedly has been tested using a mobile launcher system similar to that used by the 9K720 Iskander-M pictured here on September 18, 2017. Credit: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 9 2019 (IPS)

Next month, it is very likely the Trump administration will take the next step toward fulfilling the president’s threat to “terminate” one of the most far-reaching and most successful nuclear arms reduction agreements: the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which led to the verifiable elimination of 2,692 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe.

The treaty helped bring an end to the Cold War and paved the way for agreements to slash bloated strategic nuclear arsenals and to withdraw thousands of tactical nuclear weapons from forward-deployed areas.

On Dec. 4, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Russia had fielded a ground-launched missile system, the 9M729, that exceeds the INF Treaty’s 500-kilometer range limit. He also announced that, in 60 days, the administration would “suspend” U.S. obligations under the treaty and formally announce its intention to withdraw in six months unless Russia returns to compliance. Suspension will allow the administration to try to accelerate the development of new missiles currently prohibited by the treaty.

Noncompliance with the treaty is unacceptable and merits a strong response. But Trump’s public declaration that he will terminate the treaty and pursue new U.S. nuclear capabilities will not bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty. Worst of all, blowing up the INF Treaty with no substitute plan in place could open the door to a dangerous new era of unconstrained military competition with Russia.

Without the treaty, already severe tensions will grow as Washington considers deployment of new intermediate-range missiles in Europe and perhaps elsewhere and Russia considers increasing 9M729 deployments and other new systems.

These nuclear-capable weapons, if deployed again, would be able to strike targets deep inside Russia and in western Europe. Their short time-to-target capability increases the risk of miscalculation in a crisis. Any nuclear attack on Russia involving U.S. intermediate-range, nuclear-armed missiles based in Europe could provoke a massive Russian nuclear counterstrike on Europe and on the U.S. homeland.

In delivering the U.S. ultimatum on the treaty, Pompeo expressed “hope” that Russia will “change course” and return to compliance. Hope that Russia will suddenly admit fault and eliminate its 9M729 system is not a serious strategy, and it is not one on which NATO leaders can rely.

Instead, NATO members should insist that the United States and Russia redouble their sporadic INF Treaty discussions, agree to meet in a formal setting, and put forward proposals for how to resolve issues of mutual concern about the treaty.

Unfortunately, U.S. officials have refused thus far to take up Russia’s offer to discuss “any mutually beneficial proposals that take into account the interests and concerns of both parties.” That is a serious mistake. Failure by both sides to take diplomatic engagement more seriously since the 9M729 missile was first tested five years ago has bought us to this point.

Barring an unlikely 11th-hour diplomatic breakthrough, however, the INF Treaty’s days are numbered. Doing nothing is not a viable option. With the treaty possibly disappearing later this year, it is not too soon to consider how to head off a dangerous and costly new missile race in Europe.

One option would be for NATO to declare, as a bloc, that none of them will field any INF Treaty-prohibited missiles or any equivalent new nuclear capabilities in Europe so long as Russia does not field treaty-prohibited systems that can reach NATO territory. This would require Russia to remove those 9M729 missiles that have been deployed in western Russia.

This would also mean forgoing Trump’s plans for a new ground-launched, INF Treaty-prohibited missile. Because the United States and its NATO allies can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten key Russian targets, there is no need for such a system. Key allies, including Germany, have already declared their opposition to stationing new intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

In the absence of the INF Treaty, another possible approach would be to negotiate a new agreement that verifiably prohibits ground-launched, intermediate-range ballistic or cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads. As a recent United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research study explains, the sophisticated verification procedures and technologies already in place under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) can be applied with almost no modification to verify the absence of nuclear warheads deployed on shorter-range missiles.

Such an approach would require additional declarations and inspections of any ground-launched INF Treaty-range systems. To be of lasting value, such a framework would require that Moscow and Washington agree to extend New START, which is now scheduled to expire in 2021.

The INF Treaty crisis is a global security problem. Without serious talks and new proposals from Washington and Moscow, other nations will need to step forward with creative and pragmatic solutions that create the conditions necessary to ensure that the world’s two largest nuclear actors meet their legal obligations to end the arms race and reduce nuclear threats.

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Excerpt:

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association

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The Rohingya – The Forgotten Genocide of Our Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/the-rohingya-the-forgotten-genocide-of-our-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-rohingya-the-forgotten-genocide-of-our-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/the-rohingya-the-forgotten-genocide-of-our-time/#respond Wed, 09 Jan 2019 12:56:44 +0000 Leila Yasmine Khan and Daud Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159560 The Rohingya are a minority community living in Rakhine State in Myanmar. The Muslim Rohingya are considered intruders into Buddhist Myanmar – illegal immigrants from bordering Bangladesh. They have been always discriminated against, looked down upon, ostracized, and denied any civil and judicial rights. In August of 2017, a small group of Rohingya militants launched […]

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A Rohingya girl goes to fetch water in Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

A Rohingya girl goes to fetch water in Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

By Leila Yasmine Khan and Daud Khan
AMSTERDAM/ROME, Jan 9 2019 (IPS)

The Rohingya are a minority community living in Rakhine State in Myanmar. The Muslim Rohingya are considered intruders into Buddhist Myanmar – illegal immigrants from bordering Bangladesh. They have been always discriminated against, looked down upon, ostracized, and denied any civil and judicial rights.

In August of 2017, a small group of Rohingya militants launched an attack against local police forces. This incident triggered the worst ever reaction against the Rohingya in which the local non-Rohingya population, Buddhist monks and the local police participated.

The official security forces then took over and undertook mass killings, abuses and abductions. Most of the Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh where about 900,000 refugees now live in camps where they receive essential assistance and basic medical care.  Efforts are being made to negotiate their return to Myanmar but these appear to have little chance of success.

The violence towards the Rohingya, and their displacement from their homes and villages, is likely to wipe out their traditions, culture and lifestyle as well as their mental and cultural constructs. This combination of physical and psychological violence is likely to lead to the elimination of the Rohingya’s identity.

These acts against the Rohingya constitute genocide as set out in the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide passed by the United Nations in 1948 – which define genocide as actions taken to “destroy, in whole and in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.

The violence towards the Rohingya, and their displacement from their homes and villages, is likely to wipe out their traditions, culture and lifestyle as well as their mental and cultural constructs. This combination of physical and psychological violence is likely to lead to the elimination of the Rohingya’s identity.

The Rohingya Crisis has been subject to attention at international level; the international press has given the matter considerable coverage; and the UN Human Rights Council has recommended that the commanders responsible for the violence be brought to trial.

However, much more needs to be done given the number of people affected, the fact that the Rohingya, always a poor and vulnerable group, are being pushed into inhuman suffering; and that the brunt of refugee burden is being borne by a single country (Bangladesh).

Logistic and financial help is needed to address immediate needs, and political and diplomatic pressure is needed to help the Rohingya to return to their homes and to bring to justice those responsible for criminal acts.

This relative lack of attention reflects different factors in developed and developing countries. The rich countries, particularly the USA and European countries, are currently grappling with their own immigration and refugee crisis which largely emanates from problems in the Middle East, Africa and Central America.

Among the increasingly sovereignist governments in many countries, there is a limited appetite for addressing crisis that do not directly affect their economic or social interests. Another possible factor is that the Rohingya crisis, which involves Buddhists as oppressors and Muslims as victims, does not fit well with the current dominant narrative where Muslim fundamentalists are the root cause of terror and violence in the world and provide the political justification for repressive laws and large spending on security and on the military.

Given the lack of interest by the developed world, much responsibility falls on developing countries, especially large neighbors such as China, India, Pakistan and Thailand. These countries should be helping Bangladesh cope with the economic burden of dealing with the refugees and pressurizing Myanmar to take back the Rohingya, grant them civil rights and bring press charges against those that have committed crimes and atrocities.

However, little is being done and this reflects a misguided sense of solidarity among developing countries which results in a reluctance to criticize each other on human rights matters. This is unfortunate.

Bangladesh and its neighbors have experienced rapid economic growth that has raised average incomes and reduced poverty.  However, development is about much more than just increased economic wellbeing. It is also about upholding values, allowing citizens to lead dignified lives free from arbitrary violence, and having access to speedy and reliable justice systems.  This needs to be done domestically and internationally.

Some progress has been made on the domestic front. In India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the judiciary has taken the lead in establishing religious, personal or political rights. Recently high profile judgements by Supreme Courts in these countries include the case of Asia Bibi – a Christian lady accused of blasphemy in Pakistan where the Supreme Court threw out the baseless allegations against her; the ruling by the Supreme Court in India that stated that discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation was against the Constitution and those that felt discrimination could seek redress from a court of law; and the ruling by the Supreme Court in Sri Lanka against the recent constitutional coup and the dissolving of parliament.

In other countries, such as China and Viet Nam, social media activists are taking the lead on rights and justice issues addressing issues such as corruption, cronyism and human rights abuses.

These steps are excellent and timely.  However, there is a moral void in the global system with the traditional upholders of the rule-based international order – particularly northern Europe and the USA- taking a less proactive role.

The most glaring recent example relates to the limited political and economic fallout of the Kashoggi murder. As developing countries, especially in Asia, account for an increasing share of global GDP, they should also take up an increasing share of the task of creating a better and more just world.

Given the nature of what needs to be done, NGOs, social media or the national judicial systems which have played a critical role in the domestic sphere, cannot take the lead. The responsibility for this falls squarely on the shoulders of Governments – they must not fail.

Leila Yasmine Khan is an independent writer and journalist based in the Netherlands. She has Master’s Degrees in Philosophy and in Argumentation and Rhetoric from the University of Amsterdam; and a Degree in Philosophy from the University of Rome (Roma Tre).

Daud Khan has more than 30 years of experience on development issues with various national and international organizations. He has degrees in economics from the LSE and Oxford; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Imperial College of Science and Technology.  

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Recorded Increase in Human Trafficking, Women and Girls Targetedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/recorded-increase-human-trafficking-women-girls-targeted/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=recorded-increase-human-trafficking-women-girls-targeted http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/recorded-increase-human-trafficking-women-girls-targeted/#respond Wed, 09 Jan 2019 08:03:42 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159551 Human trafficking is on the rise and it is more “horrific” than ever, a United Nations agency found. In a new report examining patterns in human trafficking, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that the global trend has increased steadily since 2010 around the world. “Human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions […]

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Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 9 2019 (IPS)

Human trafficking is on the rise and it is more “horrific” than ever, a United Nations agency found.

In a new report examining patterns in human trafficking, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that the global trend has increased steadily since 2010 around the world.

“Human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions as armed groups and terrorists use it to spread fear and gain victims to offer as incentives to recruit new fighters,” said UNODC’s Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

Asia and the Americas saw the largest increase in identified victims but the report notes that this may also reflect an improved capacity to identify and report data on trafficking.

Women and girls are especially vulnerable, making up 70 percent of detected victims worldwide. While they are mainly adult women, girls are increasingly targeted by traffickers.

According to the 2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, girls account for 23 percent of all trafficking victims, up from 21 percent in 2014 and 10 percent in 2004.

UNODC also highlighted that conflict has increased the vulnerability of such populations to trafficking as armed groups were found to use the practice to finance activities or increase troops.   

Activist and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad was among thousands of Yazidi women and girls who was abducted from her village and sold into sexual slavery by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, a tactic used in order to boost recruitment and reward soldiers. 

Murad recently received the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, dedicating it to survivors of sexual violence and genocide.

“Survivors deserve a safe and secure pathway home or safe passage elsewhere. We must support efforts to focus on humanity, and overcome political and cultural divisions. We must not only imagine a better future for women, children and persecuted minorities, we must work consistently to make it happen – prioritising humanity, not war,” she said.

“The fact remains that the only prize in the world that can restore our dignity is justice and the prosecution of criminals,” Murad added.

Sexual exploitation continues to be the main purpose for trafficking, account for almost 60 percent, while forced labor accounts for approximately 34 percent of all identified cases.

Three-quarters of all female victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation globally.

The report also found for the first time that the majority of trafficked victims are trafficked within their own countries of citizenship.

The share of identified domestic victims has more than doubled from 27 percent in 2010 to 58 percent in 2016.

This may be due to improved border controls at borders preventing cross-border trafficking as well as a greater awareness of the different forms of trafficking, the report notes.

However, convictions have only recently started to grow and in many countries, conviction rates still remain worryingly low.

In Europe, conviction rates have dropped from 988 traffickers convicted in 2011 to 742 people in 2016.

During that same time period, the number of detected victims increased from 4,248 to 4,429.

There also continue to be gaps in knowledge and information, particularly in certain parts of Africa, Middle East, and East Asia which still lack sufficient capacity to record and share data on human trafficking.

“This report shows that we need to step up technical assistance and strengthen cooperation, to support all countries to protect victims and bring criminals to justice, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” Fedotov said at the report’s launch.

Adopted in 2015, the landmark SDGs include ambitious targets including the SDG target 16.2 which calls on member states to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children.

SDG indicator 16.2.2 asks member states to measure the number of victims of human trafficking per 100,000 population and disaggregated by sex, age, and form of exploitation, reflecting the importance of improving data recording, collection, and dissemination.

“The international community needs to…stop human trafficking in conflict situations and in all our societies where this terrible crime continues to operate in the shadows,” Fedotov said.

“I urge the international community to heed Nadia [Murad]’s call for justice,” he added.

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40 Years Since the Khmer Rouge Regime Came to an End in Cambodiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/40-years-since-khmer-rouge-regime-came-end-cambodia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=40-years-since-khmer-rouge-regime-came-end-cambodia http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/40-years-since-khmer-rouge-regime-came-end-cambodia/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 14:16:53 +0000 Kris Janssens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159541 Forty years ago, on the 7th of January 1979, the Vietnamese army overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime.
Between April 1975 and January 1979 about 1,5 to 2 million Cambodians died, a quarter of the population. 

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Excerpt:

Forty years ago, on the 7th of January 1979, the Vietnamese army overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime.
Between April 1975 and January 1979 about 1,5 to 2 million Cambodians died, a quarter of the population. 

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Time for a new Paradigmhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/time-new-paradigm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-new-paradigm http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/time-new-paradigm/#respond Tue, 08 Jan 2019 10:42:40 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159534 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 8 2019 (IPS)

The person most qualified to write the foreword for the latest work by Riccardo Petrella, In the Name of Humanity, would actually be Pope Francis, who, using other words but speaking of values and making denouncements, has often argued what the reader will find in its pages.

I quote him, because words like “solidarity”, “equality”, “social justice” or “participation” – now used only by Pope Francis I – have now disappeared from today’s political vocabulary. I was called to this task because I have spent my life in favour of information that would give citizens the tools to be conscious actors. But the reason why from a “professional” I have become an “activist” in the campaign for world governance is precisely because I see information as directly responsible for the drift in which we find ourselves.

Roberto Savio

Riccardo Petrella is a central point of reference for those who have not yet given up on seeing the governance of globalisation in terms of values and ideals. Riccardo has behind him a long series of struggles for a different economy and has denounced the dangers of neoliberal globalisation from the outset.

We owe it to him if the theme of “commons” began to be debated, in particular that of water as a public good, at a time when the Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi was pushing for its privatisation.

He did so in an era – the period immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall – which today seems distant but which was of exceptional intellectual and political violence. Anyone who did not blindly adhere to the “single thought” introduced by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the U.S. Treasury (the so-called Washington Consensus) was seen as either a nostalgist of the Soviet era or a dangerous subversive.

Petrella, with few other economists, had the strength to oppose the Washington Consensus, deriding the general inebriation which reached levels that today seem impossible. I still remember a conference held by IPALMO in May 1991 in Milan, where the then director general of the World Trade Organization, Renato Ruggiero, described the world as still blocked by the concept of nation or regional agreements (such as the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement) now overtaken by the course of history.

Globalisation was to have eliminated all frontiers, we were to have had a single currency, there were to be no more wars and the benefits of globalisation were to have rained down on all the citizens of the world, something that the theory of development and redistribution had failed to do. It took a generation of disappointed and marginalised people for the truth to become evident.

This book is the result of forty years of study, research, and social and academic engagement by Riccardo, gathered here in an organic way. It is a holistic engagement, with a humanist vision of the economy, of society and of the consequences of the crisis that dominates us.

Reading it, faced with the wealth of data and reflections it offers, the African proverb comes to mind: “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground”. But beyond the contents, what makes the book stimulating is that it communicates a moral engagement and a human empathy rare in this era of transition from a world that is unsustainable to one that is inevitable, but which we cannot yet see well. In his Letters from Prison, Antonio Gramsci wrote that “in the interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”.

Petrella analyses these symptoms in a meticulous but clear way, and they are symptoms for which today’s politics and finance certainly have no answer. The book is an organic work, analysing each symptom on the basis of data and proposals, helping us to walk in the shadow evoked by Gramsci.

Finally we see that there are alternatives to the drift of a world of finance which – in the search for profit – comes into collision with the very productive economy of which it was only to have been a lubricant. And in turn politics, like the productive economy, is subject to the world of finance. Today, the production of goods and services, that is, the sphere in which men and women play a role, accounts for one-fortieth of financial transactions. Greed has led banks to engage in more and more criminal actions: since the Great Crisis of 2008, major banks have paid a total of 220 billion dollars in fines …

According to numerous historians, the course of history has been changed above all by two factors: Greed and Fear. After the fall of the Berlin Wall it even came to be said that history had ended, as Francis Fukuyama wrote, and that we were entering a post-ideological world.

The unification of the world into a single winning ideology, capitalism, was to have led to the end of clashes, in a united international reality dedicated to economic growth. What Fukuyama did not see is that capitalism without controls was to take the world back in time.

On this Petrella offers incontrovertible data and echoes Oxfam when it says that in 2020 social inequalities in Britain will be equal to those of the era of Queen Victoria, when an unknown German philosopher was writing some chapters of Das Kapital in the Reading Room of the British Museum … The statistics on inequality are known to all: in the last two decades, capital has become increasingly concentrated in a few hands and a large part of humanity sees its level of life, health and education decrease, to the point that the International Monetary Fund is even beginning to whisper that inequality is a brake on growth.

As for Fear, it took the Brexit to start seeing the rapidly growing nationalist, xenophobic and populist drift in European countries (and also in the United States with Donald Trump). Fear has transformed countries that once were a symbol of civic-mindedness and tolerance – like the Netherlands and the Nordic countries – into racist countries that even confiscate the few personal jewels of refugees (Denmark).

In just two years, the advance of the extreme right in Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – until now considered a series of local coincidences – is finally creating a debate in traditional parties that have no concrete response to the causes of Fear.

Also because, as Petrella says, we are faced with a system that is a factory of poverty, which is not a natural phenomenon but a creation of the system itself. The challenges to be solved all derive from wrong answers.

Peace is being tackled with an increase in military engagement, the environment with ecological devastation, democracy with the privatisation of political power. Justice is witnessing an increase in injustice, the economy is in a financial and speculative drift, and the sense of life of citizens – who have lost the value of solidarity and accept the commodification of all that surrounds them – is crumbling. No concern is voiced that more is being spent per person on marketing in the world than on education …

The drift in which we find ourselves is affecting democracy, which has become a formal process, devoid of the conscious and active participation of citizens. In the Name of Humanity observes what should now be clear to all and is certainly not to the system in power: we are at a global impasse that no one, with the paradigms in place, is able to solve.

In an analytical but communicative way, this is the starting point for the list of Gramsci’s shadows: the lack of representation of humanity, the use of God, Nation and Money to transform into destroyers those who are still convinced of being constructors; and the data of the global impasse. Herein lies the importance of the book.

The analysis of the transitional era in which we find ourselves is roughly divided into two schools of thought. The first is that of those who believe that the current system is perhaps in crisis but that the answer may come from politicians – perhaps new ones – who, in every country, are able to give concrete and efficient answers with bold reforms. The second, and growing, school of thought argues that the current system is the cause of the problems to be solved and that without deep changes in vision and strategies the drift will continue.

This latter school of thought – which, moreover, is followed only by a small number of victims, many of whom are on the margins of society or are so frustrated as to take refuge in individual pessimism without hope – is a school strong in analysis and denunciation but poor in proposals.

And it is here that the book offers its own positive originality: an organic and holistic plan of proposals which invoke a pact for Humanity as the basis for the re-foundation of society. A re-foundation that declares poverty illegal, that leads to disarmament and the end of speculative finance … However, in order to achieve this re-foundation, it is necessary to return to talking about values and finding a consensus and world participation around them, because without common values it is not possible to build together and without a global response national or local actions serve little. This book, as well as being an analysis, is also a manual for action.

In this sense it is important that In the Name of Humanity sees the light in a moment of generational sacrifice. My generation, overwhelmed by Greed and Fear, by selfishness and the decline of politics, lives parameters of retirement and security that young people can only dream of.

The British referendum clearly demonstrated how the older generations are above all self-referential and feel no inter-generational responsibility. The elderly voted 65% for Brexit, deciding the future of young people, who were 75% in favour of Remain. This is the result of the absence of common values and the dramatic lack of policies for engaging young people, while those of fiscal rigour and priorities for the survival of the financial system abound – the most emblematic demonstration of current priorities.

To save banks from the 2008 crisis, it is estimated that so far the contribution to finance has amounted to eight trillion dollars. Youth policies do not exceed 500 million dollars.

It is no wonder that young people take refuge in a pessimistic individualism, creating their own communities only virtually on the Internet; that they lack representation and participation and, above all, for the first time in modern history, idols and points of reference.

Petrella’s book is an important instrument for young people because it transmits a message of hope that does not exist today. It is not inevitable that the world will continue like this. We have the instruments to change it. But to do that we have to go back to talking about values and going back to speaking with and understanding each other. In the Name of Humanity should be distributed free in schools …

Fifteen years have passed since the first meeting of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, where we – protagonists of different stories – gathered to denounce the unsustainability of neoliberal globalisation.

The scepticism and rejection that accompanied the WSF process have not prevented the Washington Consensus from today being just a discredited instrument of the past and the proponents of globalisation from admitting that the denunciations of the WSF had a real basis. As Petrella says, we can only emerge from the crisis with bold measures.

This book will be received as a utopia, or rather a chimera, by the beneficiaries of the current system. In 15 years time, it will be interesting to see how many will have been forced to admit that the analyses and the actions that Petrella proposes were not so far from the course of history.

Those who shoot at the stars can take heart from a Sri Lankan legend … there was a young boy who shot an arrow at the stars every night and was laughed at until one day the king organised an archery contest and that boy won because he was the one who shot furthest!

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Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Stopping Criminals from Laundering Their Trillionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/stopping-criminals-laundering-trillions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stopping-criminals-laundering-trillions http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/stopping-criminals-laundering-trillions/#comments Mon, 07 Jan 2019 14:33:25 +0000 Rhoda Weeks-Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159523 Rhoda Weeks-Brown is general counsel and director of the Legal Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Rhoda Weeks-Brown is general counsel and director of the Legal Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

By Rhoda Weeks-Brown
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 7 2019 (IPS)

Al Capone had a problem: he needed a way to disguise the enormous amounts of cash generated by his criminal empire as legitimate income. His solution was to buy all-cash laundromats, mix dirty money in with clean, and then claim that washing ordinary Americans’ shirts and socks, rather than gambling and bootlegging, was the source of his riches.

Rhoda Weeks-Brown

Almost a century later, the basic concept of money laundering is the same, but its scale and complexity have grown considerably. Were Capone alive today, he would have to run his washers and dryers around the clock to keep pace with demand; the United Nations recently estimated that the criminal proceeds laundered annually amount to between 2 and 5 percent of global GDP, or $1.6 to $4 trillion a year.

Money laundering is what enables criminals to reap the benefits of their crimes, including corruption, tax evasion, theft, drug trafficking, and migrant smuggling. Many of these crimes pose a direct threat to economic stability. Corruption and tax evasion make it difficult for governments to deliver sustainable and inclusive growth by diminishing the resources available for productive purposes, such as building roads, schools, and hospitals. Criminal activity undermines state authority and the rule of law while squeezing out legitimate economic activity. And money laundering may create asset bubbles in markets like real estate, a common vehicle.

A recent example illustrates the point. A Guinean minister helped a foreign company obtain important mining concessions in exchange for $8.5 million in bribes. Falsely reporting that money as income from consulting work and private land sales, the minister transferred it to the United States and bought a luxury estate in New York. But his effort to turn ill-gotten gains into a seemingly legitimate asset was ultimately unsuccessful; last year, he was convicted of money laundering.

In some ways, expensive homes are the modern mobster’s collection of laundromats. A public advisory issued by US authorities last year indicated that over 30 percent of high-value, all-cash real estate purchases in New York City and several other major metropolitan areas were conducted by individuals already suspected of involvement in questionable dealings. The governments of Australia, Austria, Canada, and other countries have concluded that their own real estate markets could also be used to invest and launder dirty money.
More worrying still, dirty money—along with clean—may be a source of funding for terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Terrorist groups need money, lots of it, to compensate fighters and their families; buy weapons, food, and fuel; and bribe crooked officials. Similarly, proliferation does not come cheap. For example, North Korea has reportedly devoted a substantial portion of its scarce resources to developing nuclear weapons.

Countries with weak anti–money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes could be called out by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global standard-setting organization. Once countries come to be viewed as vulnerable to illicit financial flows, their banks may face long-term reputational damage, costly demands for additional documentation on the part of international business partners, and the loss of correspondent banking relationships. This may marginalize already fragile economies, threaten remittance channels and foreign direct investment, and drive financial flows underground. So ignoring AML/CFT or delaying related reforms is no longer an option.

Thankfully, this message is starting to resonate. Under the leadership of the FATF, and with the support of the IMF, United Nations, World Bank, and other stakeholders, almost every country has criminalized money laundering and terrorism financing and established a legal framework to freeze terrorist assets.

But this work is far from finished. Whether because of lingering legal and institutional loopholes or innovation on the part of criminals (or both), there is no shortage of money laundering scandals in the news. As a case in point, investigators are currently probing the possibility that the better part of $233 billion in payments was laundered through the Estonian branch of Danske Bank from 2007 to 2015.

Rapidly developing financial technology has further complicated the picture. Mobile money transfers, distributed ledgers, and virtual currencies have legitimate and productive uses but can also be used to conceal or facilitate criminal activity. Put another way, nearly cost-free consumer payments and nearly untraceable ransom payments are two sides of the same (Bit)coin.

So how should countries prioritize their response to this evolving and globalizing challenge?

First, they should heed the FATF’s call to understand and address the threats that stem from changing technology, but should do so without stifling financial innovation and inclusion. The objective should be to increase transparency—to know who is behind financial transactions, where, and for what purpose—without unduly increasing transaction costs or driving financial flows underground.

Second, they should remove legal and practical barriers to international cooperation. Detecting money laundering and terrorism financing requires both safeguarding and sharing financial intelligence, and deterring criminals requires following the trail of dirty money or money intended for nefarious purposes, wherever it leads.

Finally, they should continue to strengthen the effectiveness of their efforts to mitigate identified risks. Whether national AML/CFT laws are perfect or not, beyond laws on the books, consistent (and persistent) implementation is critical to achieving durable results.

Given its mandate to preserve economic stability and financial integrity, the IMF maintains an extensive AML/CFT program, which includes active participation in international efforts to raise awareness of the threat and generate effective responses, along with the provision of advice and know-how to over 100 of its members—and counting.

What are some examples of these efforts? To name just a few, in Ukraine, we are working with national authorities to prevent banks from being misused by corrupt officials. As a result, regulatory sanctions for AML/CFT violations are increasing and the reporting of suspicious transactions is on the rise, yielding a significant number of corruption investigations and prosecutions of high-level public officials.

In Libya, we helped the authorities craft a new AML/CFT law that criminalized terrorism financing and established the legal basis for the imposition of sanctions against recognized terrorists.

And in the Caribbean, where the withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships is a critical concern, we convened international banks and their local counterparts to foster bilateral cooperation in addressing information gaps and meeting regulatory expectations. One global bank that had left the region has now decided to reestablish ties with some local banks.

The IMF is committed to helping its members identify today’s dirty money laundromats—and close them down. The stakes have never been higher.

The link to the original article: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/12/imf-anti-money-laundering-and-economic-stability-straight.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

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Excerpt:

Rhoda Weeks-Brown is general counsel and director of the Legal Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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