Inter Press ServiceGlobal Governance – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Illicit Trade in Oil & Fuel: an Emerging Global Policy Challengehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/illicit-trade-oil-fuel-emerging-global-policy-challenge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=illicit-trade-oil-fuel-emerging-global-policy-challenge http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/illicit-trade-oil-fuel-emerging-global-policy-challenge/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 12:02:06 +0000 Jeffrey Hardy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155440 Jeffrey Hardy is Director General, Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade*

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There is a broad spectrum of potential avenues for the illegal skimming from or shifting of profits in developing countries, carried out by criminal entities, corrupt officials and dishonest corporations. Credit: epSos .de/cc by 2.0

By Jeffrey Hardy
NEW YORK, Apr 24 2018 (IPS)

Illicit trade in any of its forms—alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, diamonds, timber, ivory and oil—sits at the nexus of two social-economic disorders that challenge global stability.

Firstly, the global economy remains on unsteady footing, and governments are scrambling to stimulate growth, employment and investment in infrastructure and other public programs.

Secondly, the upswing in criminal activity and lawlessness—in some cases punctuated by terrorist acts—has left us all questioning our security for this generation and the next.

Illicit trade exacerbates both problems and presents governments with an immediate challenge to address their pervasive and significantly negative impacts on our economy and our civil society.

Economic Impacts Deriving from Illicit Trade in the Petroleum Sector

Every year, an estimated $133 billion of fuels are illegally stolen, adulterated, or defrauded from legitimate petroleum companies. Roughly 30% of Nigeria’s refined fuel products are smuggled into neighboring states and pipeline fuel theft in Mexico is at record levels.

This illegal activity creates an enormous drain on the global economy, crowds out billions from the legitimate economy and dislocates hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Equally significant are associated fiscal losses from tax evasion and subsidy abuses that deprive governments of revenues for vital public services and force higher burdens on taxpayers—especially in developing countries where petroleum industry royalties and tax payments finance development.

For example, Philippines loses $750 million annually in tax revenue from fuel adulteration and smuggling. Dakila Cua, Chairman of the Philippines House Committee on Ways & Means, told me that fuel smuggling is a vicious practice that deprives his country of precious revenues for investment in infrastructure. He confirmed that the problem is deeply embedded in the Philippine economy and throughout ASEAN economies. The value of the illegal fuel trade in Southeast Asia ranges from $2 to $10 billion a year.

Links to transnational Organised Crime and Terrorism

The links between illicit trade and organized crime are well established. The global economic value of oil and fuel theft ranks amongst the highest of transnational crimes. Research shows connections between oil theft and drug cartels in Mexico; insurgents and human traffickers in Thailand; human smugglers in Libya; terrorists in Ireland; militant groups in Nigeria; rebel movements in Mozambique, and of course, ISIS.

This activity significantly threatens national and regional stability, and creates significant deterrents for business investment, which thrives in stable, peaceful environments.

Notably, the criminal connection is not limited to oil and fuel theft. Transnational organized crime is involved in all forms of illicit trade, from human trafficking networks and tobacco smuggling, to the involvement of the Mafia and Camorra in the trade of counterfeit goods. Moreover, profits from one illegal activity are frequently used to finance a different type of illicit trade.

Illicit Trade and Environmental Degradation

Illicit trade in the petroleum sector perpetuates extensive ripple effects across global markets, including undercutting sustainable development and hastening environmental degradation. The process of illegal tapping, bunkering and ship transfers, for example, carry a higher probability for oil spills and blown pipelines, potentially causing significant damage to soil fertility, clean water supplies and marine life.

Consequently, fighting fuel fraud is a global responsibility, as well as a prerequisite for the achievement of the UN SDGs.

Solutions

Despite these severe negative effects, the global problem of oil and fuel theft so far has been largely unchecked and remains mostly hidden from international attention.

Any long-term solution will be dependent on sustained collaboration between governments and the private sector.

Business will contribute by continuing to develop technical solutions, such as fuel markers and GPS tracking. Modern fuel-marking programs allow governments to identify stolen or diverted fuel and reduce fuel losses, while delivering improved integrity in fuel supply chains, mitigating tax evasion and subsidy abuses, and plugging revenue drains.

Business also can share intelligence, data, resources and measures that effectively control this illicit activity. And Business is willing to work with partners to convene stakeholders, improve awareness, expand the knowledge base, and energize the global dialogue.

Governments, however, need to improve regulatory structures, set deterrent penalties, rationalize tax policies, strengthen capacity for more effective enforcement and educate consumers. This is a matter of urgency and government efforts to fight illicit trade should be considered investments that pay tangible dividends to economic development and global security.

The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (www.TRACIT.org) is responding to this challenge by leading business engagement with national governments and intergovernmental organizations to ensure that private sector experience is properly integrated into rules and regulations that will govern illicit trade.

Our specific engagement in the petroleum sector stems from the shared understanding that a united industry voice is required to track, report and stop fuel fraud – from extraction to production to distribution to consumers.

The geographic diversity and wide-ranging methods of oil and fuel theft and fraud require a comprehensive global approach to mitigating the problem. All stakeholders have an interest in stamping out illicit trade; and all benefit from collective action.

*The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) is an independent, business-led initiative to mitigate the economic and social damages of illicit trade by strengthening government enforcement mechanisms and integrating supply chain controls across industry sectors.

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Excerpt:

Jeffrey Hardy is Director General, Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade*

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What’s Changing As Countries Turn INDCs into NDCs?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/whats-changing-countries-turn-indcs-ndcs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=whats-changing-countries-turn-indcs-ndcs http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/whats-changing-countries-turn-indcs-ndcs/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 11:39:28 +0000 Mengpin Ge and Kelly Levin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155409 Mengpin Ge is a Research Analyst and Kelly Levin, a Senior Associate at World Resources Institute

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UN talks on climate change agreement in Geneva in 2015. Credit: UN Photo

By Mengpin Ge and Kelly Levin
WASHINGTON DC, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

In the lead up to the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted in 2015, more than 160 countries and the European Union submitted their own plans to address climate change, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

According to the global climate pact, a country’s INDC is converted to a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) when it formally joins the Paris Agreement by submitting an instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, unless a country decides otherwise.

NDCs present countries’ efforts to reach the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goal of limiting warming to well below 2°C (3.6°F), with efforts to stay below 1.5°C (2.7° F).

Even if current commitments are fully implemented, warming is on track to reach 2.7°C to 3.7°C over the course of the century, setting the world on course for dangerous sea level rise, intensified extreme events and other impacts.

Fortunately, several features in the Paris Agreement can help strengthen national commitments over time. For example, Parties to the Paris Agreement must communicate or update their NDCs by 2020 and continue to do so every five years thereafter to enhance ambition.

Some countries aren’t waiting until 2020 to make changes to their national climate commitments. As countries ratify the Paris Agreement, some have decided to revise their INDCs and communicate the changes as part of their first NDCs.

So far, of the 169 countries that have communicated an NDC, 15 offered a plan that differs from their INDC: Argentina, Benin, The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, France1, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Mali, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan2, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In addition, three countries that have joined the Paris Agreement requested that their INDCs not be converted to NDCs upon ratification: Brunei Darussalam, Ecuador and the Philippines.

What does this mean for global climate action? Encouragingly, many of the revisions go beyond countries’ previous submissions, shifting to more stringent targets, increasing transparency, and reflecting recent developments in knowledge and technology.

Some countries, however, have lowered their ambition or made tweaks that make their commitment less clear. Here are some of the changes countries have made when converting INDCs to NDCs.

Three Countries Adopted More Stringent Targets

Argentina changed its GHG target type to a fixed-level target in its NDC, specifying that it will not exceed net emissions of 483 MtCO2e by 2030, with conditional measures that could bring emissions further down to 369 MtCO2eq for 2030. The switch of target type presents a strengthened target by removing the uncertainties associated with baseline projections needed for the previous INDC target. Although mostly the result of an improved GHG inventory methodology, the NDC target also results in a lower level of emissions in 2030 when compared to the 569.5 MtCO2e implied by the INDC target (a 15 percent reduction below business-as-usual levels of 670 MtCO2e).

Indonesia, while sticking to the same target of reducing emissions 29 percent unconditionally (up to 41 percent conditionally) from business-as-usual levels, revised its baseline emissions level from 2,881 MtCO2e in the INDC to 2,869 MtCO2e in NDC. Thus, its GHG target now translates to a lower level of absolute emissions in the target year.

Morocco strengthened its target by stating further reductions, moving from an unconditional 13 percent reduction from business-as-usual emissions levels by 2030 (and a 31 percent conditional reduction) in its INDC to a 17 percent unconditional reduction (41 percent conditional) in its NDC.

Six Countries Announced New Commitments and Actions

Morocco now presents a detailed portfolio of 55 unconditional and conditional mitigation actions, along with cost estimates and emissions-reduction potential for 2030. Examples with the highest emissions-reduction potential include: putting in place multiple wind farms, thermodynamic concentrated solar power and photovoltaic power plants in multiple areas by 2020; importing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and use of LPG for electricity generation in combined cycle power plants to reach 3,550 MW by 2025; and recycling household waste through co-incineration and mechanical biological treatment; among others.

Nepal added to its list of 14 contributions a target to expand the share of renewable energy in its energy mix by 20 percent by 2020 and diversify its energy consumption pattern to more industrial and commercial sectors.

Pakistan added a conditional GHG target to reduce emissions 20 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2030, along with lists of mitigation options for energy supply, energy demand and agricultural sectors.

Sri Lanka added a seventh contribution for the energy sector related to converting existing fuel oil-based power plants to LNG, and added more details in its NDC on other sectoral mitigation strategies in transport, waste, industry and forestry sectors.

Uruguay added non-GHG targets for several sectors, including energy, transport, agriculture, land use, land-use change and forestry, accompanied by detailed measures including increasing capacity of renewable energy, adoption of biofuel in gasoline and diesel, and maintenance of 100 percent of the native forest area by 2025, among others.

Venezuela introduced the Ley de Semillas (2015) (Law of Seeds) for enhanced seed management as part of its series of actions and programs addressing climate change.

Many Countries Increased Their References to Adaptation

Almost all updated NDCs put more focus on adaptation as part of their contribution. For example:

Argentina elaborated its adaptation needs by including a full “adaptation component” in its NDC, including discussion on national circumstances, vulnerability and impacts, current efforts and adaptation needs. This information will lay the foundation for its National Adaptation Plan.

Belize expressed intention to provide information on adaptation at a later stage in its INDC. In its NDC, an adaptation chapter describes, among others, Belize’s vulnerability, near-term adaptation actions and co-benefits, and main actions to be implemented to build resilience in priority sectors, such as coastal and marine resources and agriculture.

Benin includes a detailed table of sectoral objectives for adaptation for 2020, 2025 and 2030, and provides further details in an annex table of adaptation measures.

Canada’s NDC recognizes the importance of building climate resilience.

Indonesia moved discussions around its climate resilience strategy from an annex in the INDC to the main text in the NDC.

Mali’s NDC now includes discussions on adaptation needs and action plans with cost estimates through 2020-2030, in addition to the 2015-2020 period previously included in the INDC.

Morocco included a detailed section on its vulnerability to climate impacts in sectors such as water, agriculture and maritime fisheries. The NDC also elaborated its quantified sectoral adaptation goals for 2020 and 2030, as well as sectoral strategies, action plans, programs and initiatives that will enable the implementation of those goals.

Sri Lanka’s NDC elaborated its adaptation contributions for its most vulnerable sectors, such as health, food security (agriculture, livestock and fisheries), water and irrigation, coastal and marine resources, biodiversity, urban infrastructure and human settlements, and tourism and recreation.

Pakistan identified its adaptation actions and priorities in its NDC.

Uruguay elaborated on its adaptation measures, and identified measures that have effects on both mitigation and adaptation.

None Countries Improved Their Transparency

Argentina, Canada, Morocco and Uruguay have now specified the level of emissions that will result if their NDCs are achieved. This transparency is critically important because it provides an indication of where emissions are headed.

Belize communicated the anticipated emissions reductions from its actions.

• Countries including Benin, Morocco, Pakistan and Sri Lanka presented more information on how their NDCs will be implemented and monitored.

Some Countries Weakened Their Commitments or Decreased Clarity

While the number of countries that strengthened their climate efforts while converting their INDCs to NDCs is encouraging, we also found examples of NDCs that indicate lowered ambition or less clarity about efforts. Such changes run counter to the Paris Agreement and could make it more challenging to rapidly curb emissions and close the emissions gap.

Some countries also removed targets from their NDC. For example, New Zealand removed references to sectoral targets and a long-term target; however, since then, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has committed the country to zero out its carbon footprint by 2050.

The Bahamas kept its target to reduce emissions 30 percent below a business-as-usual scenario by 2030, but removed the description translating this target as 30 percent below 2002. Removing this figure poses more uncertainty given that the emissions in the target year are no longer as clear.

Other countries revised their NDCs, likely as a result of groundtruthing earlier NDCs that were prepared ahead of the Paris COP. Benin’s revised NDC, for example, includes measures that would result in slightly greater reductions from the energy and agricultural sectors between 2021 and 2030, but would see higher cumulative emissions overall.

Mali remains a net sink of emissions in 2030, given that its land sector will continue to absorb more emissions than the country will emit; however, Mali’s new NDC presents a less ambitious unconditional net sequestration target of -12.7 MtCO2e in 2030, compared to its previous pledge of -33.6 MtCO2e in 2030.

None of these changes compare to the negative message sent by the United States. In July 2017, President Trump indicated that the country would “immediately cease implementation of its current nationally determined contribution.” Domestically, the Trump administration has systematically unraveled much of the United States’ domestic climate policies, and President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

Step Up for Climate Action

Addressing climate change requires decisive leadership from all countries to step up their efforts as quickly as possible – and to make sure they align with the long-term emissions reductions required to avoid the worst impacts. Countries that have already strengthened their efforts should serve as a model for others to follow.

A core pillar of the Paris Agreement requires that countries scale up their national climate efforts every five years. Countries took the first step in 2015 by submitting their INDC, and in 2020, they must take the next. By the UN climate negotiations in Poland this December, the world is looking for countries to announce that they will enhance their NDCs by 2020.

By making this commitment in 2018, countries signal to their ministers, mayors and business leaders that the journey to building a zero-carbon, climate-resilient future is underway.

The link to the original article:
http://www.wri.org/blog/2018/04/insider-whats-changing-countries-turn-indcs-ndcs-5-early-insights

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Excerpt:

Mengpin Ge is a Research Analyst and Kelly Levin, a Senior Associate at World Resources Institute

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We Are Migrants: Teasing Italian Taste Budshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/migrants-teasing-italian-taste-buds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-teasing-italian-taste-buds http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/migrants-teasing-italian-taste-buds/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 05:12:09 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155397 Atik and Said have many things in common. They are both from Bangladesh, both are about the same age, in their thirties and, they are both migrant workers in an Italian restaurant in the heart of Rome, a stone’s throw from Saint Peter’s Basilica. They are not the only migrants working in the food service […]

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By Maged Srour
ROME, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

Atik and Said have many things in common. They are both from Bangladesh, both are about the same age, in their thirties and, they are both migrant workers in an Italian restaurant in the heart of Rome, a stone’s throw from Saint Peter’s Basilica. They are not the only migrants working in the food service industry in Italy, where most of the pizza makers today are Egyptians and most of the Chefs are either Bangladeshis or North Africans. This is an interesting phenomenon in a country known for its cuisine where many of the Chefs today are not locals but foreigners.

The “culinary melting pot” Italy, after several years of decline in the food sector, has become a trendy sector for many young people who are attracted to food preparation as an art where talented young Chefs are commanding handsome wages amidst a growing sense of excitement about learning how to cook delicious, healthy dishes as highly qualified Chefs do. Not surprising at all, considering the importance of food in Italian culture. It is surprising though that despite increased interest of the younger generation of Italians in the art of cooking, restaurant kitchens are seeing greater numbers of migrant workers as Chefs and sous Chefs and helpers, considering especially that these are not “undesirable” jobs any longer, such as that of a farmer (mainly because the latter is considered to be more labour intensive).

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) estimates that there are 132,397 Bangladeshi migrants regularly residing in Italy (January 2017). Among these migrants, the rate of employment is 63.8%, which is definitely a positive asset for them and for the Italian economy, that is still suffering from the financial crisis of the past recent years.

This IPS correspondent sat down with Atik and Said at the restaurant where they work, near the Vatican. The two Bangladeshis opened up and shared their stories about how they entered Italy, a typical day at work for them, what they like and what they don’t like in their new country of residence and about their families they left behind.

In response to most questions both Atik and Said had similar views . When asked if they wish to open up their own businesses like several returning migrants have done in Bangladesh or in Italy, Atik and Said said almost in chorus, “It depends on if we are able to reach a certain level of expertise to run a restaurant on our own. If we can we would certainly consider that” said Atik. Both of them stressed that they would need a lot of financial resources to do that and, since they are regularly sending money back to their families in Bangladesh and they also have their own expenditures in Italy, they cannot think of investing in their own entrepreneurial projects now, but maybe in five to ten years from now after they have saved substantial sums, the idea could be feasible. Indeed, many Bangladeshis in Italy have set up small and medium sized enterprises such as grocery shops, internet points and cafes which are sustainable and profitable at the same time.

“I always miss my family even though I hear from them every single day” stated Said. “I speak to them at least two or three times a day” he added. “When I have a call with my family” said Atik “either with a video call on Skype or not, they always cry, always”. When asked if he cries as well, he hessitated for a moment and said “In front of them, I compose myself and I don’t cry, but when I am alone, it turns to be ‘heart-wrenching’ for me”. Atik added that being the only child it is very difficult for his patents not to have him with them especially during the many festivities.

Said spoke about his wife and a one year old child who live with his parents back home. While they are well looked after, it is not an ideal situation to be so far away from his dear ones. However, he emphasized that he is fortunate, unlike many others without jobs . His job is enabling him to build a sustainable future for his family and he thinks it is worth the sacrifice. And, after so many years in this country he has come to like living in Italy and says that he doesn’t have any complaints. Atik stated that he is grateful for what he has learned and that every day, he learns the best aspects of Italian cooking that is renowned for its healthy aspects. Both Atik and Said could not find anything negative to say when asked what they did not like about living in Italy. They expressed concern for their other country folks in Italy who are without jobs and hoped that they would soon find employment as it is very hard to live without any income especially when their families back home are relying on their remittances.

Both Atik and Said entered Italy from France where they arrived about a decade ago on tourist and student visas. Once in italy, both were able to find jobs with help and guidance from other Bangladeshis who were already here and as a result of them being employed, their documents to live in Italy were processed in a reasonable amount of time.

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) estimates that there are 132,397 Bangladeshi migrants regularly residing in Italy (January 2017). Among these migrants, the rate of employment is 63.8%, which is definitely a positive asset for them and for the Italian economy, that is still suffering from the financial crisis of the past recent years.

At a recent event on the occasion of the 47th year of independence celebration in Rome, the Ambassador of Bangladesh to Italy, Abdus Sobhan Sikder, highlighted the contribution of Bangladeshi migrants in Italy and thanked the Italian government for accommodating the large numbers, adding that their contribution to Italian society as a group of hard working people is well recognised and respected by the Italians.

These migrants send substantial remittances to their home country while at the same time they contribute significantly as migrant workers in the host country, where many job fields are not attractive to Italian youth. It is therefore a win win for both countries. It is undeniable that the Bangladeshi migrants have become a pillar for the Italian economy.

Valerio Mattaccini, head Chef at the restaurant where Atik and Said work states, “These are two people of great moral substance and integrity. Anyone would love to have them in their team; their contribution is measured not only in terms of the day to day regular activities they are involved in, such as preparing the ingredients for the day’s menu or setting up everything for the service, Atik and Said are incredibly dedicated and work with others demonstrating respect for all. They are very appreciative of the opportunity to learn through work and have deep esteem for the society they have embraced to live in. They are key pillars of the restaurant. I am so pleased to see how quickly they have learned, especially all the secrets of Italian cuisine ! I should thank them for their commitment and the collaboration they extend every single day”.

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Authoritarian Govts Tighten Grip on Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/authoritarian-govts-tighten-grip-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=authoritarian-govts-tighten-grip-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/authoritarian-govts-tighten-grip-press-freedom/#respond Sun, 22 Apr 2018 11:39:30 +0000 Sopho Kharazi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155386 The 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day will be led by UNESCO and the government of Ghana in Accra on May 2-3. The theme is “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law,” covering the issues of media in respect to the judicial system and transparent political processes. At the same time, […]

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Journalists in Peshawar protest an attack on Dawn News near the Peshawar Press Club in November 2016. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Journalists in Peshawar protest an attack on Dawn News near the Peshawar Press Club in November 2016. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Sopho Kharazi
ROME, Apr 22 2018 (IPS)

The 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day will be led by UNESCO and the government of Ghana in Accra on May 2-3. The theme is “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law,” covering the issues of media in respect to the judicial system and transparent political processes.

At the same time, the conference will discuss state institutions’ accountability towards their citizens.

• Politicians in democratic states launched or escalated efforts to shape news coverage by delegitimizing media outlets, exerting political influence over public broadcasters, and raising the profile of friendly private outlets.

• Officials in more authoritarian settings such as Turkey, Ethiopia, and Venezuela used political or social unrest as a pretext to intensify crackdowns on independent or opposition-oriented outlets.

• Authorities in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Asia extended restrictive laws to online speech, or simply shut down telecommunications services at crucial moments, such as before elections or during protests.

• Among the countries that suffered the largest declines on the report’s 100-point scale in 2016 were Poland (6 points), Turkey (5), Burundi (5), Hungary (4), Bolivia (4), Serbia (4), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (4).

• The world’s 10 worst-rated countries and territories were Azerbaijan, Crimea, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Turkmenistan, and

The day takes place in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, which includes 17 goals for achieving sustainable development for all, including ending inequalities between men and women. Among the goals, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 focuses on promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

Peace, justice and strong institutions allow for good governance as well as other sustainable development efforts to thrive, facilitated further by an independent and enabling media environment.

Today, the number of countries with right to information laws is steadily increasing. The international normative framework regarding the safety of journalists, and particularly women journalists, has been significantly bolstered through the adoption of resolutions at the UN General Assembly, Security Council, Human Rights Council and UNESCO, and there is greater recognition of the right to privacy.

Still, according to Freedom House, a free press is accessible to only 13% of the world population and a partly free press to 42% of the world population. The remaining 45% lives in countries where a free press is non-existent (“New Report: Freedom of the Press 2017”). Political and economic transformations of some countries alongside their technological developments place new restrictions on press freedom.

Governments of these countries tend to implement restrictive laws and censorship on freedom of press, usually justifying these actions as a necessary tool for national security against terrorism. Apart from violating the right of freedom of expression, these restrictions place higher risks of violence, harassment and death on journalists.

According to the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, violence and restrictions against media freedom has risen by 14% in the time period of 2012-2017. At the same time, since 2016, media freedom in countries where it was ranked as “good” decreased by 2.3%.

The level of restriction on press freedom has been one of the highest in MENA countries such as Syria. Even though article 43 of Syria’s Constitution guarantees freedom of the press while a 2011 media law bans monopolistic media alongside with “the arrest, questioning, or searching of journalists,” these laws are not practiced in the government-held areas of the country. According to the media law, publication of any information on armed forces and spread of information that might affect national security and provoke “hate crimes” is forbidden in Syria. In case of violating this law, journalists are held accountable and fined with 1 million Syrian pounds ($4,600).

At the same time, despite the fact that article 3 of the media law guarantees freedom of expression as stated in the Syrian Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 4 of the same law declares that the media must practice this freedom with “awareness and responsibility”.

Consequently, this broad wording allows the Syrian government to restrict press freedom in multiple ways and in case of disobedience, punish journalists for anti-state crimes. For instance, in December 2016, the government imprisoned seven Syrian journalists through security-related legislation and used torture to receive their confession.

From the political perspective, Syrian authorities spread propaganda and false information while forcefully restricting publication of news in the government-controlled areas. Distribution of “all printed material” has been led by the General Corporation for the Distribution of Publications, responsible for censorship in Syria. This, alongside the economic problems caused by war, has decreased media diversity in the government-controlled area, leaving only a few dozen print publications which rarely deal with the political issues.

From the economic perspective, most of the print publications are owned by the government-allied businessmen who also control editorial policy. This, on the other hand, intensifies the problem of the non-existent free press in Syria.

However, despite this fact, in the opposition-controlled territory new print and broadcast outlets have emerged, funded by volunteers and some of them based abroad. For instance, the opposition TV channel – Orient TV owned by Ghassan Aboud, an exiled Syrian entrepreneur – broadcasts from Dubai while having correspondents in Syria.

According to Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, “when politicians lambaste the media, it encourages their counterparts abroad to do the same…[undermining] democracy’s status as a model of press freedom.”

The case of Syria demonstrates how the absence of press freedom and an independent judiciary triggers development of authoritarian governments. The “just, effective and independent judiciary” is a base for an effective rule of law which builds a strong democratic system, guaranteeing the right of freedom of information, expression and safety of journalists.

This, on the other hand, provides free press that is compulsory for representing political will and needs of people, and for establishing good governance. Press freedom allows journalists to monitor and report about the on-going events taking place in different sectors of the state. As a result, this makes it possible to hold governments accountable towards their people and helps to accomplish the 2030 agenda of Sustainable Development Goals.

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Child Soldiers Released, But Risk Remainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-soldiers-released-risk-remains http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:22:15 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155369 More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency. The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed. Both releases are part […]

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Child soldiers released by armed groups in Yambio, South Sudan. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency.

The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed.

Both releases are part of a series, supported by the UN’s children’s agency (UNICEF), that will see 1,000 children freed from armed groups.

“No child should ever have to pick up a weapon and fight” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan.

“For every child released, today marks the start of a new life. UNICEF is proud to support these children as they return to their families and start to build a brighter future,” he said.

Laying Down of the Guns

During a ceremony, known as the ‘laying down of the guns,’ the released children were formally disarmed and given civilian clothes.

The 112 boys and 95 girls that were disarmed were from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

“UNICEF, UNMISS and government partners have negotiated tirelessly with parties to the conflict so as to enable this release of children. But the work does not stop here.” Mdoe said.

“The reintegration process is a delicate one and we must now ensure the children have all the support they need to make a success of their lives.”

Counselling and Psychological Services

UNCIEF says that the priority will now be medical screenings, counseling and psychosocial services.

Recent research from Child Soldiers International, a rights group that aims to stop and end all child recruitment, illuminated some of the horrific realities that children face when they fall in with armed groups.

The report, based on interviews with ex-child soldiers, detailed everything form forced murders, spying on neighbors and family members, denial of education and healthcare to forced cannibalism.

For girls, the trauma can be even deeper. It was found that a majority suffered sexual abuse and violence. Rapes, forced marriages and pregnancy are all common for girls caught in armed groups.

Such experiences for girls, CSI reported, are compounded when they return home, as many are ostracized by their families and labelled ‘prostitutes’ by their communities.

“Every effort will be made to ensure the correct psychological services. There will be immense trauma to overcome.” Mdoe said.

Families will also need support in order to facilitate reintegration.

Other reintegration services

The children involved in this release will also have access to vocational training as well as age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centers.

Their families will also be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support reintegration.

The South Sudanese Government has committed to halt child recruitment by armed groups in the country.

Child recruitment ‘far from over’ in South Sudan

Yet despite their commitment and the U.N’s tally of releasing 2,000 children in the country, advocacy groups say that some 19,000 children remain caught in South Sudan’s armed forces and groups.

As peace talks resume, the UNICEF has called on all parties to the conflict to end the use of children and to release all children in their ranks.

But with conflict lingering into its sixth year in the world’s youngest nation, the risk that children will be used in fighting remains.

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Improving Our Anti-money Laundering Operations Will Help Prevent Great-Power Warhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/improving-anti-money-laundering-operations-will-help-prevent-great-power-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=improving-anti-money-laundering-operations-will-help-prevent-great-power-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/improving-anti-money-laundering-operations-will-help-prevent-great-power-war/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 12:32:47 +0000 Clay R. Fuller http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155364 Clay R. Fuller is a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)*

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Clay R. Fuller is a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)*

By Clay R. Fuller
WASHINGTON DC, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

Interest is growing in illicit finance because great-power competition is playing out in boardrooms, stock markets, trade wars, and compliance departments. The US anti-money laundering (AML) regime needs an update that enhances national security and sets an example for the rest of the world.

Clay R. Fuller

The US leads in crafting and enforcing global standards of financial integrity and accountability. However, like most US economic regulations, the current AML regime is a haphazard, ad hoc patchwork riddled with loopholes and inefficiencies.

An illicit finance bill should encourage communication between and within compliance and law enforcement, safeguard individual privacy rights, and help smaller businesses and financial institutions. It has been 17 years since the last AML overhaul. It is time to address the clear and present danger — dirty money.

National security concerns

For the past thirty years Western democracies have actively and passively sought out economic integration with authoritarian states. Westerners hoped (and many still do) that modernization would create middle classes that demand rights. Investors and businesses simply saw new markets as opportunities to turn a profit.

Profits came to fruition, but economic integration morphed into a sort of messy imbroglio, or a rules-based liberal order entangled with opaque, violent, and kleptocratic authoritarians eager to bend the rules in their favor.

Currently, kleptocrats and their ilk can store and move wealth in the US anonymously. Some profit from breaking drug laws, others evade taxes, and many set up simplistic fraud schemes. Dastardly agitators use anonymous capital to support political and economic espionage, nationalistic violence, and religious zealotry.

The absence of clear and transparent rules in non-democracies (and among thieves) breeds instability, uncertainty, and violence. A simple first step toward protecting the US from these negative externalities is to require legal entities to register and verify their beneficial ownership (BO) at the time of incorporation.

Two examples

The General Services Administration apparently cannot identify the ultimate beneficial owners of up to a third of high security leases. This means that unidentified Russians can, and might, own the buildings that the FBI leases to investigate Russian activities.

An investigative report recently uncovered thousands of planes in the US registered to companies known to use secrecy tactics to provide services to non-US citizens. Planes transport drugs — and, post 9/11, well.

New reporting and securing individual privacy rights

Thresholds for currency transaction reports (CTRs) and suspicious activity reports (SARs) are not adjusted for inflation. The estimated 55,000 SARs that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) receives every day are not being efficiently communicated or leveraged with simple, cheap, and powerful data science tools.

Legislation should ensure that reporting data (BO, SARs, and CTRs) will never be made public. But data sharing within and between financial institutions and law enforcement needs to be increased and modernized.

The problem is that privacy is now protected by effectively deputizing the financial sector. In the current threat environment, this puts a massive amorphous burden on compliance departments. That cost is ultimately passed on to the consumer and hamstrings the effectiveness of law enforcement.

One solution is for FinCEN to host a basic BO dataset (such as name, address, ID) that compliance departments can access and search, verifying their own due diligence findings. This allows FinCEN to leverage big data analytical tools to easily find trends in CTRs and SARs. Also, more sensitive information remains in private hands.

How legislation can help smaller competitors

A small American shipping company has to turn a profit in order to pay its employees and stay open. A drug cartel-owned shipping company in the same town has no need to turn a profit. All it has to do is not get caught. It can and does swallow up fair competitors by seeking out legit accounts to cover its illegitimate activity.

Second, large government contracts have “set asides” for small businesses. Shell companies defraud the government by underbidding fairly competing small businesses for these set asides and then providing shoddy product or engaging in other schemes. Congress could also make it cheaper and easier for businesses to become a publicly-traded company.

Bottom Line: Updating the AML regime for the explicit purposes of creating a better business environment strikes a pragmatic balance between the duty of government to provide the public good of national security and the privacy necessary for free enterprise. Doing it before great-power competition turns into great-power war might just be what prevents that calamity and ushers in a brighter future.

The link to the original article in the AEI policy blog:
https://www.aei.org/publication/anti-money-laundering-and-great-power-war/

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Excerpt:

Clay R. Fuller is a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)*

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Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Democratic Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/boutros-boutros-ghali-democratic-multileralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=boutros-boutros-ghali-democratic-multileralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/boutros-boutros-ghali-democratic-multileralism/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 11:26:10 +0000 Federico Mayor Zaragoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155359 Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Former Director-General of UNESCO (1987-1999) and president of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace

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Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaks at the unveiling of his official portrait as Secretary-General Kofi Annan, his successor, listens. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaks at the unveiling of his official portrait as Secretary-General Kofi Annan, his successor, listens. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By Federico Mayor Zaragoza
Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

“If we don’t do everything possible to democratize globalization, globalization will pervert national democracies”, said the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, as President of the “International Panel on Democracy and Development” set up by UNESCO and chaired by the man who had worked so hard, at a global scale, in favour of giving voice to the peoples -as required in the first sentence of the Charter of the United Nations- to allow constant participation from citizenship as should be the rule in a genuine democracy.

He also mentioned how risky it was to exchange “trade for aid” because it led to put an end to foreign aid for the sake of integral, sustainable and human development, leaving initiative in the hands of major trade corporations.

“Globalization is not governed by democratic principles, and decisions taken are neither the result of a process of free expression of opinion… I think the essential philosophy for the proper operation of global democracy is the same as for national democracy: promoting a countervailing power, listening to everyone’s opinion, in particular the opinion of the members of the opposition and of the weakest, in order to reach agreements that make everyone feel duly represented”.

“Globalization is not governed by democratic principles, and decisions taken are neither the result of a process of free expression of opinion... I think the essential philosophy for the proper operation of global democracy is the same as for national democracy: promoting a countervailing power, listening to everyone’s opinion, in particular the opinion of the members of the opposition and of the weakest, in order to reach agreements that make everyone feel duly represented”
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, UN Secretary-General, 1992-1996

This was Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s (1922 – 2016) way of thinking, those were the ideas he clearly expressed in his Agendas for Peace, Development and Democracy, the ideas that led many rich countries -in particular United States Republican Party- to feel prejudiced against a second mandate from a Secretary-General that had so openly and convincingly expressed his opinion against globalizing neoliberalism.

His book “En Attendant la Prochaine Lune…” (1997-2002) starts with the reflections he made on 1 January 1997 about the reasons that prevented him from being nominated for a second term in such a high-level position, as was normally the case.  The relevance of this book lies in the memories that the former Secretary-General recalls about this painful period. In the first place, he mentions the moment when he was replaced by the new Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

I had the opportunity to personally attend this event. The Secretary-General that had made the greatest contributions to the democratization of United Nations was forced to quit his job because President Clinton was a weak president, confronted to the influential Republican Party that dominated the power scenario in the United States, under the leadership of Senator Jesse Helms.

And that is why, disregarding the support of a vast majority, Boutros Boutros-Ghali gave yet another lesson of common sense and sense of timing when he accepted to be replaced by a civil servant from the United Nations who met all terms and conditions due to his recognized undertaking of the tasks that he was trusted with and to his personal and family background. He wrote: “I don’t really regret leaving behind a job, a way of living, a house, friends… but rather to have to start from scratch at 74, under a new sky, new responsibilities, in an environment that is still completely odd to me”…

On 1 January 1997 he flew to Paris on board of a Concorde with his wife Lea, a woman with an unusual personality, very much up to the standard of his well-known husband.  When they arrived to the Hotel Meurice, “as if everything was the same… the scenery that had remained unchanged was a great relief and it helped me start a new life after having left the UN behind”…

On 10 January he was greeted by President Chirac at the Élysée “with the cordiality, simplicity and true friendship that were one of his best kept secrets”.  We had both lost a battle… because he had been in the last period my strongest pillar, my floating log, when other Nations had decided to abandon me pressed by the American hurricane…

In another one of his “diaries” he had written: “I knew that he republicans and the Zionists would oppose my re-election”.  During this meeting he was “introduced” by Chirac to the position of General Secretary of “La Francophonie, an organisation whose aim was “to protect multilingualism and cultural diversity…”, and which had to be elected for the first time during the Summit Meeting of Heads of State and Government to be held in Hanoi in November 1997.  The French President suggested that starting from May he should travel around Africa and Asia to ensure the success of his candidacy.

He describes the occasion when on 4 March -during the presentation of the “Amicorum Liber” from Héctor Gros Espiell-  Karel Vassak invited him, with my persistent support, to prepare his own. Lea was very pleased with this project. Boutros seemed somehow reluctant to accept the proposal, but he finally did.  On 12 May he recalls we had lunch together and I asked him to chair the International Commission on “democracy and development”.

He explains: “Federico Mayor had previously created a Commission chaired by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar on “culture and development”, and he had entrusted Jacques Delors with the responsibility of yet another Commission on “education and development”…

On 18 May he told me who were the 22 members of the Panel, amongst them well-known international personalities such as Nadine Gardiner, from South Africa, Basma Bint Talal from Jordan, Mohammed Charfi, Tunisia, Abid Hussain, India, Attiya Inayatullah, Pakistan, Robert Badinter, France, Bruce Russet, U.S.A., Juan Antonio Carrillo Salcedo, Spain, Rosario Green, Mexico”… “This will be -he says- a new and wide-scope academic adventure .  I am fully aware of the challenge I will be faced with”.

But there is no doubt that he had a great experience in this particular area.  In fact, in December 1986, when the 51st session of the General Assembly of the United Nations was about to end, as was his term as Secretary-General, Boutros-Ghali submitted his third Agenda within one of the issues for discussion entitled “Support by the United Nations system to efforts made by Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies” .

Amongst the six sections it includes, the most important and timely is certainly the one devoted to “Democratization at an international scale”. Once again Boutros Boutros-Ghali was running ahead of events, because he was familiar with the ins and outs of oligarchic groups supported by neoliberalism. He names the “new actors” in the international scenario that shall thereafter be taken into account: “regional organizations, NGOs, members of the Parliament, local authorities, academic and scientific circles, companies… and, in particular, mass media”.

According to him: “A culture for democracy leads to the promotion and reinforcement of a culture for peace and to development by means of an adequate governance”.

Despite being fair and universal, the United Nations cannot promote democratization movements.  But it can, however, help every country to find its own way towards democracy. Boutros was the first Secretary-General who, despite reaffirming United Nations neutrality, overtly declared himself in favour of the democratic system, a declaration that reflected a change in what had been up to then the traditional position.

“Democracy contributes to preserve peace and security, to protect justice and human rights and to promote economic and social development”.  As a matter of fact Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s perspective and action duly completes the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The different “Summits” that were held since 1992 also highlight the need to finally give a voice to “We the peoples…”: they were allowed to speak about environment in Rio de Janeiro, 1992; about population in Cairo, 1992; about human rights in Vienna, 1993; about women in Pekin, 1995; about the habitat in Istanbul, 1995 about social development in Copenhagen, 1995…

The next meeting was the Millennium Forum that gathered together, in May 2000 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, 1350 representatives of NGOs, civil society organisations, associations representing new actors… It was, therefore, urgent to make an assessment of the meetings held during the first part of the nineties so that attention was finally paid to the specific directives that were required to allow implementation -at a national, regional and international scale- of suitable actions for the 21st century and the third millennium.

The Forum concluded with the Final Declaration from the Civil Society -”We the peoples”-and the Agenda for Action (“Strengthening the United Nations for the Twenty-First Century”) that included specific proposals such as: transforming the Security Council; reshaping the International Court of Justice… all of which have been ignored up to now, although they remain at the disposal of mankind, once we will no longer be distracted and subjugated by the gigantic media power, and we will realize that there are essential changes that must be made without delay.

 

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was appointed by acclamation by the General Assembly as the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations, for a five-year term beginning 1 January 1992. Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was appointed by acclamation by the General Assembly as the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations, for a five-year term beginning 1 January 1992. Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac.

 

The titles of the extensive work written by Boutros Boutros-Ghali are an unusual and extraordinary reflect of his life as a politician and as a human being: “The Problem of the Suez Channel”, 1957; “General Theory of Alliances”, 1963; “The African Union Organization”, 1969; “The Egyptian Path to Jerusalem”, 1997; “My Life in the Glass House”, 1999; “Peace, Development, Democracy: Agendas for the Management of our Planet”, 2001; “Democratizing Globalization”, 2002…

19 November 1997 was the 20th anniversary of the wise and courageous visit of President Anwar el-Sadat to Jerusalem, “the most important event in my political and diplomatic career… 20 years have elapsed: history will recall this exceptional visit as one of the greatest moments of the 20th century.

In my contribution to his “Amicorum Disipulorumque Liber” on “The Human Right to Peace” I wrote in the prologue “Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s term occurred at the same time as a series of radical changes in international affairs”.  The “post-Cold War” had indeed nothing to do with “previous post-wars”. And yet Boutros Boutros-Ghali knew which the priorities were. And which were the main references and recommendations raised during the most relevant meetings of the United Nations.

We had the raw materials… but we lacked the ability to use them in a hostile environment headed by United States Republican Party. In my paper I told the following story: “My granddaughter asked me recently why we hadn’t kept the promises we made during the Earth Summit.  I told her that to take action one needs to feel involved, responsible, one needs to recall, to compare… She is still waiting for that to happen. Everyone, men and women are still waiting. I hope we will not deceive them. I hope the United Nations will have the support they need to put into practice the Plans to promote tolerance, dialogue, cultural exchange, peace”.

Boutros-Ghali’s friends and pupils unveiled -in his book Amicorum– an extraordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, I felt satisfied that the UNESCO, a “thinking” organisation within the United Nations family, had been at the root of this book. Some of the contributors worthwhile mentioning were the following: Jacques Delors, Mikhail Gorbachev, Juan Antonio Carrillo, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Enrique Iglesias, Robert Badinter, Shimon Peres, Ismail Serageldin…

Finally I would like to mention how vividly I still recall the proposal made by Karel Vasak, Bernard Kouchner and myself to the Secretary-General of The United Nations concerning the “humanitarian interference”, a concept that should prevent atrocities such as those committed in Cambodia and Rwanda from ever happening again with no reaction from the international community.

The UN blue helmets should only intervene in two specific cases: general violation of human rights and genocide. But the “duty to intervene” due to humanitarian reasons was overtly at odds with the sacred sovereignty of Nations -despite massacre? How many victims are hiding behind the term “sovereignty”? Could Pol Pot really claim that he had legal powers that justified his atrocious insanities?

If the United Nations were “re-democratized”, they would be in the position to rely on article 42 of the Charter that allows an armed intervention in case of massive violations of human rights or in case of “clear menace against peace and international security”.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was overthrown… but he reappeared as leader of La Fancophonie, as President of the Council of the European Centre for Peace and Development; he, therefore, made his re-entry into the international scene, and he shall remain there forever as a beacon thanks to the audacious and truthful messages he conveyed about peace, justice, development and democracy, all of which demand the implementation of multilateralism he so much yearned for.

 

This story was originally published on 28 July 2017, reminiscing Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Roberto Savio, Founder of IPS retrieved this story and we are republishing.

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Excerpt:

Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Former Director-General of UNESCO (1987-1999) and president of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace

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Argentina Aims for a Delicate Climate Balance in the G20http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/argentina-aims-delicate-climate-balance-g20/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-aims-delicate-climate-balance-g20 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/argentina-aims-delicate-climate-balance-g20/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 00:10:12 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155356 As president this year of the Group of 20 (G20) developed and emerging nations, Argentina has now formally begun the task of trying to rebuild a consensus around climate change. It will be an uphill climb, since the position taken by the United States in 2017 led to a noisy failure in the group with […]

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The Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, speaks during the opening of the Group of 20 (G20) Sustainability Working Group in Buenos Aires. Argentina, which chairs the Group this year, has the difficult task of seeking consensus on this thorny issue. Credit: Ministry of Environment of Argentina

The Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, speaks during the opening of the Group of 20 (G20) Sustainability Working Group in Buenos Aires. Argentina, which chairs the Group this year, has the difficult task of seeking consensus on this thorny issue. Credit: Ministry of Environment of Argentina

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

As president this year of the Group of 20 (G20) developed and emerging nations, Argentina has now formally begun the task of trying to rebuild a consensus around climate change. It will be an uphill climb, since the position taken by the United States in 2017 led to a noisy failure in the group with regard to the issue.

The G20 Sustainability Working Group (CSWG) held its first meeting of the year on Apr. 17-18 in Buenos Aires, in the middle of a balancing act.

Argentine officials hope a full consensus will be reached, in order to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2017 in Germany, when the final document crudely exposed the differences between the U.S. standpoint and the views of the other 19 members, with respect to climate change.

“Since the United States does not recognise the Climate Action Plan agreed in Hamburg (where the last G20 summit was held), we did not formally table it. But what we are doing is addressing the contents of that plan,” Carlos Gentile, chair of the G20 Sustainability Working Group, told IPS.

“Today the United States is participating and we are confident that this time a consensus will be reached for the G20 document by the end of this year,” added Gentile, who is Argentina’s secretary of climate change and sustainable development.

The official stressed, as a step forward for the countries of Latin America and other emerging economies, the fact that the main theme of the Working Group this year is adaptation to climate change and extreme climate events, with a focus on development of resilient infrastructure and job creation.

“We know that mitigation is more important for the developed countries, which is why it is a victory that they accepted our focus on adaptation,” said Gentile.

The Working Group commissioned four documents that will be discussed at the end of August at the second and last meeting of the year, which will be held in Puerto Iguazú, on the triple border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

Two of the papers will be on adaptation to climate change and will be produced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and UN Environment.

The other two will be about long-term strategies, prepared by the World Resources Institute, an international research organisation, and how to align funding with the national contributions established in the Paris Agreement on climate change, by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

One of the highlights of the two days in Buenos Aires was that the countries that have already finalised documents on their long-term strategies (LTS) shared their experiences. Among these countries are Germany, Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Mexico and France.

The LTS are voluntary plans that nations have been invited to present, by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, about their vision of how it is possible to transform their productive and energy mix by 2050 and beyond.

While the national contributions included in the Paris Agreement, established at COP 21 in December 2015, are included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and are to be reviewed every five years, the LTS look much further.

“Each of the countries designed their LTS in their own way. Some countries said they used it as a way to send a signal to the private sector about what kinds of technologies are foreseen for the climate transition and others spoke about job creation,” said Lucas Black, climate change specialist for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The UNDP collaborates with the Global Resources Institute in its document on the LTS and it also plays a role in the agenda of issues related to the development of the G20, as an external guest.

What does not seem clear is where such ambitious transformation plans towards 2050 will find the resources needed to turn them into reality.

In this respect, Black acknowledged to a small group of journalists that for emerging economies it is particularly difficult to find the funds necessary for carrying out in-depth changes.

“The private sector, particularly in infrastructure, really needs long-term certainty. That is a crucial part of its decision to invest,” said the international official, who arrived from New York for the meeting.

For her part, María Eugenia Di Paola, coordinator of the UNDP Environment Programme in Argentina, said the financing for the transition must come from “a public-private partnership” and that “the incorporation of adaptation to climate change in the G20 agenda is mainly of interest to developing countries.”

This year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit will take place Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Buenos Aires and will bring together the world’s most powerful heads of state and government for the first time in South America.

By that time, which will mark the end of the presidency of Argentina, this country hopes to reach a consensus on climate change, an issue that was first addressed in the official G20 declaration in 2008.

Black believes it is possible.

“Obviously, the G20 countries have different views. During the German presidency there was no consensus on all points. But all G20 members have a strong interest in the issues discussed this week: adaptation to climate change and infrastructure, long-term strategies and the need to align financing with national contributions,” he said.

The Working Group meeting in Buenos Aires was opened by two ministers of the government of President Mauricio Macri: Environment Minister Sergio Bergman and Energy and Mining Minister Juan José Aranguren.

Before joining the government, Aranguren was for years CEO of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell in Argentina.

Argentina launched a programme to build sources of generation of renewable energy, which is almost non-existent in the country’s electricity mix but drives the most important projects in other areas of the energy sector.

Thus, for example, it was announced that in May Aranguren will travel to Houston, the capital of the U.S. oil industry, in search of investors to boost the development of Vaca Muerta, a gigantic reservoir of unconventional fossil fuels in the south of the country.

The minister has also been questioned by environmental sectors for his support for the construction of a gigantic dam in Patagonia and the installation of two new nuclear power plants.

“Latin America has a series of opportunities to build a more sustainable energy system, to improve infrastructure and to provide safe access to energy for the entire population,” Aranguren said in his opening speech at the Working Group meeting.

Bergman, meanwhile, said that “we have all the resources to address the challenge of climate change to transform reality and open the door to a secure and stable future for all.”

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Homebound: Hardship Awaits Internally Displaced Iraqishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/homebound-hardship-awaits-internally-displaced-iraqis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=homebound-hardship-awaits-internally-displaced-iraqis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/homebound-hardship-awaits-internally-displaced-iraqis/#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 19:28:13 +0000 Ann-Kathrin Pohlers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155335 With upcoming elections in May, the Iraqi government is urging Internally Displaced People (IDPs) to return home. After the defeat of ISIS in December 2017, an increase in security and number of returnees to their region of origin is expected; however, many IDPs see no way to leave the camps just yet. While two million […]

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Civilians leaving old Mosul. This boy is going to fall of exhaustion just after this picture is taken. Credit: Herve Jakubowicz

By Ann-Kathrin Pohlers
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 18 2018 (IPS)

With upcoming elections in May, the Iraqi government is urging Internally Displaced People (IDPs) to return home. After the defeat of ISIS in December 2017, an increase in security and number of returnees to their region of origin is expected; however, many IDPs see no way to leave the camps just yet.

While two million people have returned to their homes, three million people farther remain displaced. The eruption of ISIS in January 2014 and the following years of violence have led to a humanitarian disaster; on top of that, the number of IDPs displaced between 2006 and 2007 is still at approximately one million.

Nearly 9 million Iraqis require humanitarian assistance of which 5 million are in critical need of safe drinking water, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A drastic reduction in armed conflict is anticipated for this year, however, the complex pattern of second displacements may continue to occur even though Iraq expects an increase in returns, according to UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children Report.

“There is an impetus for people to return to their area of origin ahead of elections in May,” Melany Markham, media coordinator for the Norwegian Refugee Council, told IPS. The May elections were originally scheduled for September 2017, but were delayed by six months due to the Iraqi civil war.

The Muttahidoon, the Uniters for Reform Coalition and Iraq’s largest Sunni political alliance, called for a further six months’ delay to allow enough time for IDP voters to return home, however, Iraq’s Supreme Court ruled a second delay unconstitutional.

In camps east of Mosul, the numbers of arrivals after their second or even third displacement now surpass the number of departures of returnees. “We cannot go back to Mosul without guarantees and international guarantees to be safe and to be some people to protect us,” an unidentified IDP told NPR correspondent Jane Arraf.

A similar development can be witnessed in Anbar Province. “At least one in five of the displaced people who left the Kilo 18 camp in Anbar Province in December returned back to the camp because they couldn’t go home. Sometimes it’s an issue of safety and sometimes they return because their homes have been destroyed or they are occupied by others,” said Melany Markham.

“In our consultations, it doesn’t seem to be ISIS that is posing the threat. The threat is of tribal violence or retribution towards people who have proven or suspected affiliations with ISIS. Other people are afraid or unexploded ordinances,” stated the spokesperson for the Norwegian Refugee Council. “In order to mitigate these threats, land needs to be decontaminated or cleared before people can go home. Those who fear violence from the community will need to be able to settle in other places – more permanent solutions for these people must be found.”

On April 3, Iraq’s Ministry of Justice published the country’s 2018 federal budget. After voting in favor of the $88 billion draft on March 3, President Fuad Masum ordered to publicly share the document after previous weeks of dispute over the reduction of Iraq’s Kurdish region’s share from 17 percent to 12 percent.

A girl at a refugee camp in Erbil doing daily chores. Credit: Giulio Magnifico

The tense relations between Baghdad and the regional government in Erbil worsened after Kurdistan’s September referendum with 93 percent overwhelmingly endorsing the secession from Iraq. The budget cuts will affect the region around Erbil and Mosul, where ISIS caused a tremendous devastation and a surge of refugees.

In retaliation, Iraqi forces closed Erbil International Airport, took disputed territories, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, from Kurdish control, and shut down border crossings with Iraq’s neighboring countries. At Baghdad’s request, Iran closed seven unofficial border crossings with Kurdistan in support of the measures taken to isolate the Kurdish region.

The effects of Iraq’s political and financial crisis in retaken areas like Erbil and Mosul impact the establishment of a stable, safe environment for IDPs to return to. About $30 billion were pledged for the rebuilding of infrastructure at a recent reconstruction conference in Kuwait. Yet, the World Bank estimated that a total $88 billion dollars of damage has been caused.

Outside of refugee camps, Iraq’s public services such as water networks and health systems, essential but costly, remain overburdened in the war-affected regions, struggling to provide service to returnees. It will take time to restore Iraq’s infrastructure.

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Another Debt Crisis for Poor Countries?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/another-debt-crisis-poor-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=another-debt-crisis-poor-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/another-debt-crisis-poor-countries/#comments Wed, 18 Apr 2018 13:27:50 +0000 Masood Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155329 Masood Ahmed is President of the Center for Global Development*

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Masood Ahmed is President of the Center for Global Development*

By Masood Ahmed
WASHINGTON DC, Apr 18 2018 (IPS)

When the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors assemble in Washington later this month for their semi-annual IMF meeting, they will no doubt set aside time for yet another discussion of the lingering debt problems in the Eurozone or how impaired bank debt could impact financial stability in China.

Masood Ahmed

They would do well to also focus on another looming debt crisis that could hit some of the poorest countries in the world, many of whom are also struggling with problems of conflict and fragility and none of which has the institutional capacity to cope with a major debt crisis without lasting damage to their already-challenged development prospects.

Nearly two decades ago, an unprecedented international effort—the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt initiative—resulted in writing off the unsustainable debt of poor countries to levels that they could manage without compromising their economic and social development.

The hope was that a combination of responsible borrowing and lending practices and a more productive use of any new liabilities, all under the watchful eyes of the IMF and World Bank, would prevent a recurrence of excessive debt buildup.

Alas, as a just-released IMF paper points out, the situation has turned out to be much less favorable. Since the financial crisis and the more recent collapse in commodity prices, there has been a sharp buildup of debt by low-income countries, to the point that 40 percent of them (24 out of 60) are now either already in a debt crisis or highly vulnerable to one—twice as many as only five years ago.

Moreover, the majority, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, have fallen into difficulties through relatively recent actions by themselves or their creditors. They include, predictably, commodity exporters like Chad, Congo, and Zambia who have run up debt as they adjusted (or not) to revenue loss from the collapse in oil and metals prices.

But they also include a large number of diversified exporters (Ethiopia, Ghana, and the Gambia among others) where the run-up in debt is a reflection of larger-than-planned fiscal deficits, often financing overruns in current spending or, in a few cases, substantial fraud and corruption (the Gambia, Moldova, and Mozambique).

The increased appetite of sovereign borrowers has been facilitated by the willingness of commercial lenders looking for yield in a market awash with liquidity, and by credit from China and other bilateral lenders who are not part of the Paris Club.

It is striking that between 2013-16, China’s share of the debt of poor countries increased by more than that held by the Paris Club, the World Bank and all the regional development banks put together.

Nor do traditional donors come out entirely blameless. Concessional funding for low-income countries from the (largely OECD) members of the DAC fell by 20 percent between 2013–16, precisely the period in which their other liabilities increased dramatically.

As for the IMF and World Bank, while it may have been wishful thinking to hope they could prevent a recurrence of excessive debt, it was not unreasonable to expect that they would have been more aware as this buildup was taking place and sounded the alarm earlier for the international community.

There is also a plausible argument that excessively rigid rules limiting the access of low-income countries to the non-concessional funding windows of the IMF and World Bank left no recourse but to go for more expensive commercial borrowing, with the consequences now visible.

How likely is it that these countries are heading for a debt crisis, and how difficult will it be to resolve one if it happens? The fact that there has been a near doubling in the past five years of the number of countries in debt distress or at high risk is itself not encouraging.

And while debt ratios are still below the levels that led to HIPC, the risks are higher because much more of the debt is on commercial terms with higher interest rates, shorter maturities and more unpredictable lender behavior than the traditional multilaterals.

More importantly, while the projections for all countries are based on improved policies for the future, the IMF itself acknowledges that this may turn out to be unrealistic.

And finally, the debt numbers, worrying as they are, miss out some contingent liabilities that haven’t been recorded or disclosed as transparently as they should have been but which will need to be dealt with in any restructuring or write-off.

The changing composition of creditors also means that we can no longer rely on the traditional arrangements for dealing with low-income country debt problems. The Paris Club is now dwarfed by the six-times-larger holdings of debt by countries outside the Paris Club.

Commodity traders have lent money that is collateralized by assets, making the overall resolution process more complicated. And a whole slew of new plurilateral lenders have claims that they believe need to be serviced before others, a position that has yet to be tested.

It is too late to prevent some low-income countries from falling into debt difficulties, but action now can prevent a crisis in many others. The principal responsibility lies with borrowing country governments, but their development partners and donors need to raise the profile of this issue in the conversations they will have in Washington.

There is also an urgent need to work with China and other new lenders to create a fit-for-purpose framework for resolving low-income country debt problems when they occur.

This is not about persuading these lenders to join the Paris Club but rather about evolution towards a new mechanism that recognizes the much larger role of the new lenders, and demonstrates why it is in their own interest to have such a mechanism for collective action.

Traditional donors also need to look at their allocation of ODA resources, which face the risk of further fragmentation under competing pressures, including for financing the costs in donor countries of hosting refugees.

Finally, the assembled policymakers should urge the IMF to prioritize building a complete picture of debt and contingent liabilities as part of its country surveillance and lending programs, and to base its projections for future economic and debt outcomes on more realistic expectations.

They should also commission a review to examine the scope for increased access to non-concessional IFI funding for (at least) the more creditworthy low-income borrowers.

It is the poor and vulnerable that pay the heaviest price in a national debt crisis. They have the right to demand action by global financial leaders to make such a crisis less likely.

*Masood Ahmed previously led the World Bank’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries debt relief initiative, which has to-date brought relief from debt burdens to 36 of the world’s poorest nations.

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Excerpt:

Masood Ahmed is President of the Center for Global Development*

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A Child of War Dedicates Herself to Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-war-dedicates-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-war-dedicates-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-war-dedicates-peace/#comments Tue, 17 Apr 2018 15:22:06 +0000 Mary de Sousa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155315 UNESCO Courier*

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Dalia Al-Najjar, Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace. Credit: Vilde Media

By Mary de Sousa
PARIS, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

“I was so angry, I felt like I wanted to blow up the whole world, but I didn’t. I decided I wouldn’t be pushed to become evil. I would choose peace.”

Dalia Al-Najjar has crammed a great deal into her short life. At 22, the Palestinian refugee has already lived through three wars and has spent every spare moment between siege and ceasefire studying, volunteering, working, blogging, on the daily struggle to live in Gaza – and planning how to change the future.

A good deal of her energy goes into her role as Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace, a non-partisan children’s charity dedicated to building trust, friendship and reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian children, aged 4 to 17, and their communities.

Dalia says she is fuelled by anger and hope, but also that she draws heavily on a family culture that values education. She has consciously used learning as a means to realize her dreams, the greatest of which is to find solutions to violence and hatred.

“My family has always made me aware that education is hugely important,” she said.

Dalia experienced her first siege when she was just 12, followed by two major conflicts.

“I was in ninth grade when the first war started, and everything fell apart. I didn’t understand: why were people killing each other? I thought it would last only a few weeks,” she said.

She continued to study throughout, finally graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Islamic University of Gaza, her life reduced to the intermittent bursts of electricity in the city.

“In those days I never went to school without watching the news first, and everything depended on the power schedule. So I woke up when there was electricity, or studied by candlelight, which destroyed my eyes. I would often fight with my brother and sister to get the candle.”

“Wars and Peace”, from the Cartooning for Peace international network of editorial cartoonists, supported by UNESCO.

The 2014 war proved a turning point for Dalia. “After the war, my ideas became much clearer. I didn’t want anybody else to have to live like this. I chose to be optimistic, because if not, I don’t live. Not living wasn’t a choice for me,” she said.

Dalia was invited on a short scholarship to the United States, and began a blog and YouTube show. She is also a member of the World Youth Alliance, a New York-based international coalition, which works with young people worldwide to build a culture that nurtures and supports the dignity of the person – through advocacy, education and culture.

But it is Dalia’s work as a Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace that has changed her most profoundly.

“It is easy to stay on your own side and demonize the other. Now I have Israeli friends and we realize we have been given different narratives, and we have to find our way through that together, using critical thinking,” she explained.

“Being on one side of a conflict makes it much easier to dehumanize someone than to accept that there is trauma on both sides.”

Now studying for her Master’s degree in Human Resources in Sakarya, Turkey, Dalia has an exciting new project. She attended the Young Sustainable Impact (YSI) conference in Oslo in 2017, as an ‘earthpreneur’ (someone who uses entrepreneurship to work towards a sustainable planet), where she was tasked with proposing a startup that addressed one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

When she learned that more people die as a result of waterborne diseases than from conflict, she co-founded Xyla Water Filtration Technologies. The company aims to commercialize a filter made from plant tissue that costs less than $10 and can provide clean water for a family of seven for a year.

And she has another goal. “I want to be prime minister,” she said, matter-of-factly.

*Available online since March 2006, the UNESCO Courier serves readers around the world in the six official languages of the Organization (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish), and also in Esperanto and Portuguese. A limited number of issues are also produced in print.

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Excerpt:

UNESCO Courier*

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Keeping Power in Check – Media, Justice and the Rule of Lawhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/keeping-power-check-media-justice-rule-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=keeping-power-check-media-justice-rule-law http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/keeping-power-check-media-justice-rule-law/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 14:02:58 +0000 Alison Small http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155311 Alison Small is a communications expert and a former United Nations official.

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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Newspaper kiosk in Istanbul's Kadiköy district. Credit: Joris Leverink/IPS

By Alison Small
NAPIER, New Zealand, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

Rarely has the press been as powerful as it is today. Thanks to the advent of social media, the use of which has grown exponentially, the combination of the formal press, newspapers, television and radio is now strengthened, and itself even kept in check by social media. Jo and Joanne citizen have found a voice, not infrequently with the power of a political and social tsunami.

Alison Small

What does this mean for the greater good? Is this helpful to governments to have so much feedback, so quickly?

The role of global policeman has changed from one powerful government or several governments to what used to be called the Fourth Estate, the press frequently on the back of social media.

In many developed and developing countries public opinion has rarely been so vocal, gone are the days of the so called silent masses.

From the Arab spring to the near independence of Catalonia, the plight of Rohingha refugees to name just a few, the negative effects of climate change, the driving force has been the voices of ordinary people, fleshed out by effectively 24-hour analysis by news agencies, newspapers, blogs and just about anyone with access to the internet.

This new role of public opinion is weighty, often meaning that the weight of opinion can condemn before due process has had a chance to examine both sides of an argument.

At this point it is up to the media to step in and to try to analyse with some objectivity the groundswell from so many voices pronouncing on an event or events. It means that only the most determined governments, those determined to censor or limit both traditional and social media, can make laws without the huge onslaught of public opinion holding sway.

We need the media to raise awareness to help governments create, regulate and enforce laws but we also need to ensure that uninformed opinion does not dominate and cause as much if not more harm than is already possible at the government level.

That said, the latest scandal that has hit social media giant Facebook and the abuse of data provided by users, whether voluntary or involuntary, means that the integrity of social media platforms is now heavily in question.

On the other hand, the formal media come into their own at this point as newspaper, TV and radio revel in a blow by blow analysis of the problems facing the governance and security of social media, thus the press versus the informal press creates a degree of self regulation.

Facebook is now obligated by the US and other governments to provide more security to users. Thus even the social media has its own checks and balances. Whether they will be sufficient to self-regulate in the future will depend on how vigilant users are themselves and the ethics of the platform administrators, owners and big business which through advertising keeps social media alive.

The fact remains that despite actual and potential abuses of press freedom to influence voters and the public in general or governments to change policies or address issues, we have effectively gone too far to turn back.

More to the point, with political parties everywhere dependent on their ability to influence voters through their appeal to the media and more lately social media, or for that matter, the public to lobby governments and or the private sector to raise awareness about anything from politics to environmental, social and health issues, we rely on the media to convey information, whether the traditional media or social media platforms.

The real issue is whether or not the media at large has sufficient ability to self-regulate or has it already spiralled out of control in terms of influencing opinion, be it about the evils of unlimited plastic consumption or mass migration, to bringing down governments and major private interests.

We need the media to raise awareness to help governments create, regulate and enforce laws but we also need to ensure that uninformed opinion does not dominate and cause as much if not more harm than is already possible at the government level.

If we limit the power of social media, we are limiting citizens’ rights to make their voices heard and yet in all things a degree of control is needed. Can we therefore trust those who would undertake such controls not to go too far so that social media, as has happened with the traditional media, is not used as a weapon in itself. This is the dilemma that Facebook is confronting, the outcome of that debate will be the ultimate litmus test for scial media, and in a sense for traditional media as well.

The post Keeping Power in Check – Media, Justice and the Rule of Law appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Alison Small is a communications expert and a former United Nations official.

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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Middle East: a Threat to World Peace & Security, Warns UN Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/middle-east-threat-world-peace-security-warns-un-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-east-threat-world-peace-security-warns-un-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/middle-east-threat-world-peace-security-warns-un-chief/#comments Fri, 13 Apr 2018 16:47:38 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155274 UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an address to the Security Council

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an address to the Security Council

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 2018 (IPS)

The situation in the Middle East is in chaos — to such an extent it has become a threat to international peace and security.

The region is facing a true Gordian knot – different fault lines crossing each other and creating a highly volatile situation with risks of escalation, fragmentation and division as far as the eye can see with profound regional and global ramifications.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

We see a multiplicity of divides. The first is the memory of the Cold War. But to be precise, it is more than a simple memory.

The Cold War is back — with a vengeance but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present.

Second, the Palestinian-Israeli divide. Third, the Sunni-Shia divide, evident from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. It is important to note that apparent religious divides are normally the result of political or geo-strategic manipulations.

Finally, a wide range of different factors — from opposing attitudes in relation to the role of the Muslim Brotherhood or the status of the Kurds, to the dramatic threats to communities that have been living in the region for millennia and are part of the rich diversity of Middle Eastern societies.

This multiplicity of divides is reflected in a multiplicity of conflicts with different degrees of interconnection, several of them clearly linked to the threat of global terrorism. Many forms of escalation are possible.

We see the wounds of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict deepening once again. The recent violence in Gaza has resulted in many needless deaths and injuries.

I repeat my call for an independent and transparent investigation into these incidents.
I also appeal to those concerned to refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties and, in particular, any measures that could place civilians in harm’s way.

This tragedy underlines the urgency of revitalizing the peace process for a two-state solution that will allow Palestinians and Israelis to live in two democratic states side by side in peace and within secure and recognised borders. I reaffirm the United Nations’ readiness to support these efforts.

In Yemen, we are witnessing the worst humanitarian disaster in today’s world. There is only one pathway to ending the Yemeni conflict and addressing the humanitarian crisis – a negotiated political settlement through inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue.

My Special Envoy Martin Griffiths is doing everything possible to facilitate that political settlement — and he will brief the Council next week.

In Libya, I encourage all parties to continue to work with my Special Representative Ghassan Salamé, as he engages in the political process with a broad range of Libyan interlocutors across the country to implement the UN Action Plan. It is high time to end the Libyan conflict.

Iraq demonstrates that progress is possible with concerted local, regional and global commitment. With the defeat of Daesh, and after overcoming the risk of fragmentation, the Government of Iraq must now focus on reconstruction, reforms and reconciliation. I hope the upcoming elections will consolidate this progress.

At the recent Paris and Rome conferences, the international community reaffirmed its support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability and state security institutions.

It is absolutely essential to avoid a new Israel-Hezbollah conflict that could inevitably result in many more victims and much greater destruction than the last war.

I reiterate the critical importance to act on key principles and commitments on Lebanon, including Security Council resolutions such as 1701, and the policy of disassociation. The dangers of the links to the Syrian conflict are evident in the recent confrontations between Iran and Israel in Syria.

Syria indeed today represents the most serious threat to international peace and security.

In Syria, we see confrontations and proxy wars involving several national armies, a number of armed opposition groups, many national and international militia, foreign fighters from everywhere in the world, and various terrorist organizations.

From the beginning, we have witnessed systematic violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international law tout court — in utter disregard of the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.

For eight long years, the people of Syria have endured suffering upon suffering. I reiterate: there is no military solution to the conflict.

The solution must be political through the Geneva intra-Syrian talks, as stipulated in resolution 2254 of the Security Council, in line with the consistent efforts of my Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.

Syrians have lived through a litany of horrors: atrocity crimes, sieges, starvation, indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, the use of chemical weapons, forced displacement, sexual violence, torture, detention and enforced disappearances. The list goes on.

In a moment of hope, the Security Council adopted resolution 2401 demanding that all parties cease hostilities without delay for a durable humanitarian pause.

Unfortunately, no such cessation of hostilities ever really took place. That is the bleak panorama of Syria today.

In this panorama, I am outraged by the continued reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

I reiterate my strong condemnation of the use of chemical weapons by any party to the conflict and under any circumstances. Their use is abhorrent and a clear violation of international law.

The seriousness of the recent allegations requires a thorough investigation using impartial, independent and professional expertise.

In this regard, I reaffirm my full support for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – the OPCW — and its Fact-Finding Mission in undertaking the required investigation into these allegations.

The Fact-Finding Mission should be granted full access, without any restrictions or impediments to perform its activities. I take note that the Syrian government has requested it and committed to facilitate it.

The first team of the OPCW is already in Syria. A second is expected today or tomorrow. But we need to go further.

In a letter to the Council two days ago, I expressed “my deep disappointment that the Security Council was unable to agree upon a dedicated mechanism to attribute responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in Syria”, following the end of the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, or JIM.

I want to repeat today that the norms against chemical weapons must be upheld.

As I wrote in the same letter: “Ensuring accountability for a confirmed use of chemical weapons is our responsibility, not least to the victims of such attacks.

A lack of accountability emboldens those who would use such weapons by providing them with the reassurance of impunity. This in turn further weakens the norm proscribing the use of chemical weapons and the international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture as a whole.

I urge all Member States to act responsibly in these dangerous circumstances.

I appeal to the Security Council to fulfil its duties and not give up on efforts to agree upon a dedicated, impartial, objective and independent mechanism for attributing responsibility with regard to the use of chemical weapons. I stand ready to support such efforts.”

Increasing tensions and the inability to reach a compromise in the establishment of an accountability mechanism threaten to lead to a full-blown military escalation.

In my contacts with you — especially with the Permanent Members of the Security Council — I have been reiterating my deep concerns about the risks of the current impasse and stressed the need to avoid the situation spiralling out of control.

This is exactly the risk we face today – that things spiral out of control. It is our common duty to stop it.

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Excerpt:

UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an address to the Security Council

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UN Cracks Down on Peacekeeping Troops over Human Rights Abuseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses/#respond Fri, 13 Apr 2018 15:48:18 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155272 The United Nations, whose peacekeepers have come under increased scrutiny because of widespread charges of sexual abuse and human rights violations, claims it is now committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the “highest standards of conduct, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights.” And there are […]

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MINUSMA peacekeepers patrolling the village of Bara in northeastern Mali. It is one of the most dangerous UN peacekeeping missions. Credit: UN Photo/Harandane Dicko

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations, whose peacekeepers have come under increased scrutiny because of widespread charges of sexual abuse and human rights violations, claims it is now committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the “highest standards of conduct, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights.”

And there are no exceptions to this rule, which applies to over 100,000 civilian, military and police personnel currently deployed in 14 UN peacekeeping operations and 23 special political missions around the world.

Nick Birnback, UN Peacekeeping spokesperson, told IPS “member States that provide personnel to UN peacekeeping operations have the responsibility to certify that all these personnel have not been involved, by act or omission, in violations of international humanitarian law or human rights law, and have not been repatriated on disciplinary grounds from a UN operation.”

The most recent test case under investigation is the deployment of 49 Sri Lankan troops to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) who did not undergo the required vetting process, this time by the local Human Rights Commission based in Colombo.

Taking a tough stand, the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has requested that “the Sri Lankan government immediately prioritize the completion of the screening for the 49 officers already deployed to UNIFIL”.

“If concerns arise regarding the 49 personnel already deployed to UNIFIL, DPKO may request that they be repatriated and replaced at the Government’s cost,” Birnback warned.

“In the case of Sri Lanka where there are specific human rights concerns”, he pointed out, the UN has put in place additional screening measures in 2016 to help ensure that deployed personnel meet our standards.

Prior to their deployment to UNIFIL, he said, the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations provided an attestation certifying that the contingent had not been involved in any violations.

“However, in February 2018, we learned that the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission — which the Government of Sri Lanka had agreed it would undertake human rights screening of all Sri Lankan personnel — had not yet completed the screening when the rotation of the unit in UNIFIL started. UN Peacekeeping immediately raised this with the Sri Lankan authorities and the deployment was stopped.”

“Meanwhile, we’ve asked the government of Sri Lanka to formalize the screening arrangements with the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission. Compliance with these arrangements will be required before the UN can receive any further deployments or rotations from Sri Lanka. The government is cooperating with us in this regard,” Birnback said.

According to DPKO, the United Nations Charter requires that all UN personnel must maintain the highest standards of integrity and conduct. The UN is committed to ensuring that all its personnel deployed globally serve with professionalism, courtesy and dignity.

The UN Standards of Conduct apply to all categories of personnel deployed in UN missions. There is a three-pronged strategy to address misconduct: prevention, enforcement of the UN Standards of Conduct, and remedial action.

In July 2008, the Department of Field Support (DFS) launched the Misconduct Tracking System (MTS), a global, restricted-access database and confidential tracking system for all allegations of misconduct.

The UN Standards of Conduct are based on three key principles: highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity; zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and accountability of those in command and/or leadership who fail to enforce the standards of conduct, according to DPKO.

Meanwhile, as sexual abuse and paternity claims continue to rise against UN peacekeepers, the United Nations is actively collaborating with troop contributing countries in collecting DNA samples: a protocol introduced back in 2014.

The number of paternity claims – or potential paternity claims – has increased significantly: from 12 each in 2013 and 2014, to 15 in 2015, 33 in 2016 and 56 in 2017.

These are victims of “sexual exploitation and abuse,” according to the United Nations.

Providing an update on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system– in line with the Secretary-General’s initiative on increasing transparency on ongoing allegations– UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters February 22 that from 1 October to 31 December 2017, “we have received 40 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners. Not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase.”

Out of the 40 allegations, 15 are reported from peacekeeping operations. These 15 are not new allegations — they have all been uploaded on the Conduct and Discipline database as they have come in. And that is a publicly available website.

The remaining 25 allegations are reported from agencies, funds and programmes, and include 8 allegations relating to implementing partners.

Of the 40 allegations, 13 are categorized as sexual abuse, 24 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature. The 40 allegations involve 54 victims — 30 are women, 16 are girls (under the age of 18), the ages of 8 others are unknown; 12 of the 40 allegations occurred in 2017, 7 in 2016, 3 in [2015] or prior, and the dates are unknown for 18 of them, Dujarric said.

With regard to the status of the 40 allegations, two have been substantiated by an investigation; three are not substantiated; 15 are at various stages of investigation; 18 are under preliminary assessment; two are under review with limited information provided to the investigating entity, he added.

Currently, there are 14 UN peacekeeping operations worldwide, seven of them in Africa. The more than 100,000 troops and civilian personnel come from 123 countries, with the five largest troop-contributing countries (TCC) being Ethiopia (8,326 troops), India (7,471), Pakistan (7,161), Bangladesh (6,772) and Rwanda (6,146).

The approved budget for UN peacekeeping operations for the fiscal year of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 was $7.87 billion, which is slightly smaller than its previous fiscal year’s budget.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pointed out that UN’s peacekeeping budget – “less than one half of one per cent of global military spending — is money well spent.”

“It is a fraction of the cost of allowing conflict to spread and erode the gains of economic development. The investment is multiplied by the economic growth and prosperity that follow from stability and security after successful peacekeeping missions,” he declared last March.

He also said “UN peacekeepers are often under-equipped, under-prepared and unready [and] there are gaps in command and control, in culture, in equipment and in training.”

Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council, he declared: “Our peacekeepers are vulnerable, and they are targeted for attack,” he added.

Last year, he said, 59 peacekeepers lost their lives as a result of malicious act – highest number ever and a sharp increase over the year before when the figure was 34.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Caribbean Eyes Untapped Potential of World’s Largest Climate Fundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/caribbean-eyes-untapped-potential-worlds-largest-climate-fund/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 00:01:25 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155243 The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their […]

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Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

Deputy Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region's resilience to the effects of climate change. Credit: Zadie Neufville

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 12 2018 (IPS)

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their ideas into successful projects that are in line with their country’s national priorities to build resilience to climate change.

The 5Cs, the agency with responsibility for coordinating climate action in the Caribbean, has doubled its efforts in wake of the 2017 Hurricane Season which saw the devastation of several islands and which exacerbates the need for climate proofing critical infrastructure a building resilience.

“We welcome proposals from all areas and industries,” said, Dr. Kenrick Leslie executive director of the Centre, noting that as an accredited entity: “We are able to assist organisations to access Green Climate Fund (GCF) grants for climate adaptation and mitigation projects of up to 50 million dollars per project”.

The GCF has approved a couple hundred million in preparation funding for several countries across the region, but the 5Cs boss is particularly proud of the achievements of his tiny project development team.

On March 13, the Bahamas became the second of the four countries for which the Centre is the Delivery Partner, to launch their GCF readiness programme. In 2017, three countries – the Bahamas, Belize, and Guyana, and more recently St. Lucia – were approved for grants of 300,000 to build in-country capacities to successfully apply for and complete GCF-funded projects that align with their national priorities, while simultaneously advancing their ambitions towards becoming Direct Access Entities (DAEs).

Each ‘readiness’ project is expected to run for between 18-months and 2 years and include developing operational procedures for Governments and the private sector to engage effectively with the GCF; providing training about its processes and procedures, how to access grants, loans, equities and guarantees from the GCF; and the development of a pipeline of potential project concepts for submission to the Fund. These activities are not one-off measures, but will form part of an ongoing process to strengthen the country’s engagement with the Fund.

Guyana’s ‘readiness’ project began in October 2016 and is expected to end in April this year; while the Bahamian Ministry of Environment and Housing and the Centre’s recent hosting of a project inception workshop, marked the start of that programme. The Belize project is expected to begin next month and St Lucia’s will kick-off in May, and run for two years. The readiness projects are being funded by the GCF at a cost of approximately 300,000 dollars each.

Aside from these readiness grants, the Centre secured 694,000 dollars in project preparation facility (PPF) grants for a public-private partnership between the Government of Belize and the Belize Electricity Company.

The project is intended to enable Belize to utilise the indigenous plant locally known as wild cane (scientific name Arundo donax) as a sustainable alternative source of energy for electricity generation. The grant will provide the resources needed to conduct the necessary studies to ascertain viability of the plant, with the intention of facilitating large-scale commercial cultivation for energy generation purposes.

In addition, the Centre partnered with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to develop the proposal for the Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project (WSRN S-Barbados) for which the GCF announced 45.2 million dollars in funding – some of which is in counterpart funding – at the 19th meeting of the Board in Korea in March this year.

BWA’s Elon Cadogan noted that the project would directly impact 190,000 people on an island which has been described as “one of the most water stressed” in the Caribbean. The frequency of lock-offs has been costly for the country.

“Schools have had to close due to lack of water and the potential unsanitary conditions are likely to increase health treatment costs. In addition, there have been some cancellations of tourist stays and bookings,” Dr Cadogan, who is the project management officer at the BWA said.

Because of its unique operating structure, the Centre is able to call on its many partners to speedily provide the required skills to complete the assessments required to bring a project to the submission stage for further development or full project funding. In the case of the Arundo donax project, the Centre provided several small grants and with the help of the Clinton Foundation, completed a range of studies to determine the suitability of the grass as an alternative fuel.

For the Barbados project, the 5Cs worked with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and South Florida University (SFU) and the BWA to complete the submissions on time.  With the Centre’s own GCF accreditation completed within six months, the 5Cs is turning its attention to assisting countries with their own.

Head of the Programme Development and Management Unit (PDMU) and Assistant Executive Director at the Centre Dr. Mark Bynoe said that even as the Centre continues its work in project development and as a readiness delivery partner, the focus has now shifted.

“We are now turning our attention to aiding with their GCF accreditation granting process and the completion of their National Adaptation Plans (NAPS). Each country has an allocation of 3-million-dollar grant under the GCF window for their NAP preparation,” he said.

The GCF is the centrepiece of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) efforts to raise finance to address climate change related impacts. It was created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenges posed, and opportunities presented, by climate change through a network of National Designated Authorities (NDAs) and Accredited Entities (AEs).

As a readiness delivery partner, the Centre will provide the necessary oversight, fiduciary and project management, as well as monitoring and evaluation of these ‘readiness’ projects, skills that are critical to ensuring that those projects are speedily developed and submitted for verification and approval.

Every success means the Centre’s is fulfilling its role to deliver transformational change to a region under threat by climate change.

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The UN tells private enterprise leaders that “Business as Usual Won’t Work”.http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2018 17:42:20 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155241 As global citizens face an array of issues from unemployment to discrimination, affecting their livelihoods and potential, a UN agency called upon businesses to employ a new, sustainable, and inclusive model that benefits all. Business leaders from around the world convened at the United Nation’s 2018 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) partnership forum to hear […]

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By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11 2018 (IPS)

As global citizens face an array of issues from unemployment to discrimination, affecting their livelihoods and potential, a UN agency called upon businesses to employ a new, sustainable, and inclusive model that benefits all.

2018 ECOSOC Partnership Forum. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Business leaders from around the world convened at the United Nation’s 2018 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) partnership forum to hear how the private sector can work with governments to improve global economic opportunities.

“The private sector is an indisputable partner in reducing global inequalities and improving employment opportunities for all” the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the audience.

Mohammed stressed that the private sectors contribution to development was essential if the world is to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, in order for this to happen Mohammed said that “business as usual simply won’t work.”

Instead, leaders were challenged to commit to align their business goals with the SDGs by investing in sustainable business models.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to challenge the business leaders present here today to make bold commitments to a more inclusive future for all,” said Marie Chatardova, president of the ECOSOC.

Chatardova reminded the leaders of the UN’s Business and Sustainable Development Commissions recent research that found that investment in sustainable models could create some $12 trillion dollars in economic opportunities by 2030.

“Investing in sustainable development goals – it’s a ‘win-win partnership,” she said.

Calling for Inclusion

Today, 192 million people are unemployed. Eight per cent of the global population live in poverty. There is a mounting youth unemployment crisis. Women, indigenous and disabled persons continue to face barriers to equitable and meaningful employment.

Attendees highlighted the importance of sustainable business models that prioritize diversity and inclusivity by getting women, youth, indigenous and disabled persons into the workforce.

In panel discussions, many business leaders spoke of their companies’ ongoing diversity programs.

Sara Enright, director of the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC), pointed to Impact Sourcing – an example of inclusive business practice.

Impact sourcing, Ms Enright told the forum is: “when a company prioritises suppliers who are hiring and providing career development to people who otherwise have limited prospects of formal employment.”

The GISC is a global network of 40 business that include – Google, Microsoft, Aegis, and Bloomberg – that have committed to impact sourcing.

In March, GISC members were challenged to hire and provide training to over 100,000 new workers by 2020. Enright said so far ten companies have responded to the challenge, pledging to hire over 12,000 workers across Kenya, Nepal, Cambodia and the United States.

Enright said she expected many more companies to sign up and stressed that the GISC would monitor and measure the outcomes.

The UN applauded GISC’s work as an inspiring example of the private sector working collaboratively and inclusively to meet the SDGs vision.

Curb Your Corruption

Another issue that arose during the forum was corruption in development.

Last year global development funding reached $143 trillion dollars, of which the UN estimates that over 30 percent of funds failed to reach their intended destinations.

The UN told business leaders that if they commit to using technology that better tracks where money goes in development, then it will help curb corruption.

Bob Wigley, chairman of UK Finance, encouraged businesses to invest in technologies like ‘Block Chain’.

Block-chain, or Distributed Ledger Technology, is a digitized public record book of online transactions that was developed in 2008 with the rise of online currency ‘bitcoin’.

It is an entirely decentralized means of record keeping, meaning it is operated on a peer-to-peer basis rather than one central authority.

Wigley said the technology allows the direct tracking of online payments, ensuring that it is delivered correctly.

“If I was the recipient of state aid or wanting to know where my funds are going exactly then I’d be using block-chain systems, not the antiquated bookkeeping that gives rise to potential corruption every time a payment trickles from one set of hands to another,” he said.

“Think of how embracing and enhancing block chain technology could ensure accountability and transparency – things that are critical to meeting the SDGs,” Wigley continued.

A Race to the Top

Whilst many businesses are committing to the SDGs and implementing sustainable initiatives, more still needs to be done to unlock the full potential of the sector.

Kristine Cooper from United Kingdom insurance company Avia said it is a question of creating ‘competition’ between business by tracking them in their commitment and delivery.

“Lots of companies are doing great things in diversity and SDG commitments and how they do business to meet these goals, but it’s hard to know who’s doing really well, there is no consistency with reporting,” Cooper said.

“The system lacks the incentives to make right decisions and make organizations live up their responsibility.”

Ranking companies and holding them accountable, Cooper said, would create a “race to the top” and in the process, truly unleash “the power of the corporate and private sector in meeting development goals”.

Discussion points from this meeting will be further discussed in ECOSOC meetings held in May 2018, as well as at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2018.

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UN’s Zero Hunger Goal Remains a Daunting Challengehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-zero-hunger-goal-remains-daunting-challenge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uns-zero-hunger-goal-remains-daunting-challenge http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-zero-hunger-goal-remains-daunting-challenge/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2018 05:29:11 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155232 The United Nations, which is battling some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, still remains focused on one of its equally daunting undertakings: how to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. But the latest figures released in a joint study by the European Union (EU), the Food and Agriculture […]

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By IPS World Desk
ROME, Apr 11 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations, which is battling some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, still remains focused on one of its equally daunting undertakings: how to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.

UN’s zero hunger challenge.

But the latest figures released in a joint study by the European Union (EU), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) highlight the gravity of the situation just last year alone when some 124 million people in 51 countries faced acute food insecurity — 11 million more than in 2016 (even while the number of people living on the edge of starvation and hunger remains at 815 million worldwide).

The 2017 increase, according to the ‘Global Report on Food Crises’, is largely attributable to new or intensified conflicts and insecurity in Myanmar, north-east Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Yemen.

Prolonged drought conditions have also triggered poor harvests in countries already facing high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, both in eastern and southern Africa.

And UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres warned last January that hunger is on the rise the world over, with Africa registering the highest rates.

The Secretary General said agricultural and livestock productivity in Africa was under threat largely due to conflict and climate change. He added, “climatic shocks, environmental degradation, crop and livestock price collapse and conflict are all interlinked”.

Still, the United Nations seems determined to work towards its targeted goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. But how feasible is this?

Asked about the impediments facing that goal, Dr Marta Antonelli, Research Programme Manager at the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN), told IPS reducing the number of chronically undernourished people in Africa is one of the most urgent challenges that the world needs to face.

She pointed out that food insecurity, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, is related to a variety of interconnected factors, such as extreme poverty, un-diversified livelihoods, weak institutions and governance, and, especially, adverse climatic conditions and social conflicts.

“Climate change and severe extreme weather events could have a tremendous impact on crop yields, livestock, fish stocks and therefore affect farmer’s incomes (especially subsistence smallholder farmers) who become more vulnerable to food insecurity.”

Dr Antonelli said measures to tackle hunger in Africa include the harmonisation of governance of food security, sustainability and nutrition; building institutional responses to reduce extreme poverty and inequalities; supporting more efficient agricultural systems; ICTs and technology innovation.

Additionally, it also includes supporting farmers to diversify livelihoods and reduce vulnerability; restoring land and increasing integrated land and water management to improve harvests; identification of strategies for building resilience to shocks through adaptation to climate change, institutional response mechanisms; and finally monitoring and reporting of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through generation and sharing of reliable data.

The BCFN Foundation, a non-profit, independent think tank working for food sustainability, addresses today’s major food related issues with a multidisciplinary approach — from the environmental, economic and social perspective. That goal is to secure the wellbeing and health of people and the planet.

Asked what role BCFN can play, as part of its contribution to a resolution of the food crisis, Dr Antonelli said the coexistence of hunger and obesity, the overexploitation of natural resources and food loss and waste: these are the three paradoxes identified by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation.

According to BCFN, it recognises three imbalances that beset the global food system: food waste (nearly 1/3 of world food production), hunger in the face of epidemic levels of obesity (2.1 billion people impacted), and unsustainable agricultural systems (1/3 of world grain production is used for animal feed, foodstuffs are used for first generation biofuels instead of feeding people.

Dr Antonelli said: “Since 2009, we use a multidisciplinary approach to study and analyse the relationship between food and scientific, economic, social and environmental factors. Through research, dissemination and public engagement, our contribution to shift towards more sustainable food systems includes the Nutritional and Environmental Double Pyramid, the Milan Protocol, the publication of Eating Planet.”

Moreover, in 2016, BCFN launched the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition. The FSI analyses, ranks and maps 34 countries worldwide on a range of indicators, from food waste per capita to agricultural biodiversity and CO2 emissions from agriculture, to determine the sustainability of their food systems.

“We fund young research through the ‘BCFN YES!’, a contest open to PhD candidates and young research fellows around the world. The award is given in recognition and support of innovative projects on food and sustainability. We also believe that involving media and journalists is also pivotal to shed a light simultaneously on local and global food sustainability, inform people on supply chains and inform their choices.”

For this reason, the BCFN launched in 2016 the Food Sustainability Media Award, which invites journalists, bloggers, freelancers and individuals to submit work, either published or unpublished, on food safety, sustainability, agriculture and nutrition. (www.goodfoodmediaaward.org).

BCFN has also developed a series of educational programmes for school children and the MOOC on “Sustainable Food Systems: a Mediterranean Perspective” realised in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Mediterranean with SDG Academy and The University of Siena, with a major educational purpose.

It consists of a series of pre-recorded lectures, readings, quizzes, discussion forums and deals with environmental and climate-related challenges basing upon Mediterranean experience, how sustainable farming systems is being utilized as a roadmap for positive action and implementation of Sustainable Development Goals.

Asked about the importance of food sustainability– including eliminating waste and reducing obesity – as a key factor in reaching the 2030 goal, Dr Antonelli said the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs establish a global set of objectives for all countries in the world to be achieved by the year 2030.

SDGs range from the eradication of poverty and hunger, to the need to act for climate mitigation, to the promotion of education and gender equality, to preserving natural resources such as water in sufficient quantity and quality for human needs.

Food access, utilisation, availability, quality and sustainability are at the core of all SDGs and represent a pre-requisite to implement the 2030 Agenda in all countries in the world.

Agriculture accounts for one third of global GhG emissions, cover 38% of the world’s land surface (an area still in expansion), accounts for 70% of water withdrawals and 80% of desertification.

The number of hungry people, she pointed out, is rising again and exceeded 815 million in 2016; overweight and nutrition challenges affect two billion people both in the North and the South of the world; and about one third of the food produced for human consumption gets lost or is wasted.

“We cannot transform our world without fixing the food system first.”

Asked about the countries making the most progress in the Food Sustainability Index, she said the FSI Index shows that, when defining food sustainability by looking at country’s performance in sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges and food loss and waste, the top scoring countries are France, Japan, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, South Korea and Hungary.

The presence or absence of sound and well-implemented policies is fundamental in shaping the score of the countries analysed. Generally speaking, high human development is moderately correlated with higher sustainability of food systems.

The analysis performed in 2017 on the Mediterranean countries revealed that the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries are those struggling the most in achieving sustainable food system, especially in the area of food loss and waste, whereas they perform relatively better across the nutritional challenges indicators.

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International Community Ramps Up Action on Venezuela Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/international-community-ramps-action-venezuela-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-community-ramps-action-venezuela-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/international-community-ramps-action-venezuela-crisis/#comments Tue, 10 Apr 2018 21:13:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155223 One year into the most recent series of protests and a humanitarian crisis with no end in sight, international groups have called for action to help protect Venezuelans. A complex political and economic crisis in Venezuela has left millions without access to basic services and resources, prompting UN agencies and human rights groups like Human […]

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Venezuelans arrive in Pacaraima, border city with Venezuela, and wait at the Federal Police, the entity responsible for receiving Venezuelans seeking asylum or special stay permits in Brazil, 16 February 2018. Credit: UNHCR/Reynesson Damasceno

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

One year into the most recent series of protests and a humanitarian crisis with no end in sight, international groups have called for action to help protect Venezuelans.

A complex political and economic crisis in Venezuela has left millions without access to basic services and resources, prompting UN agencies and human rights groups like Human Rights Watch to speak up and urge action.

“Venezuela needs help to tackle and overwhelming crisis,” said singer Ricardo Montaner alongside Human Rights Watch at the launch of the #TodosConVenezuela, or Together with Venezuelans, campaign.

“Join me. It’s not just my job or yours, it’s something we should all do. Tell your friends—let’s do this together,” he continued.

The campaign, launched ahead of the Summit of the Americas where world leaders will discuss the situation in Venezuela, asks the public to tweet at Latin American presidents to confront Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro about government abuses.

Such abuses include the suppression of dissent as government critics are often arbitarily detained and prosecuted in military tribunals.

An estimated 700 civilians have been prosecuted in military courts for offenses such as rebellion and treason.

Numerous UN Special Rapporteurs also found “excessive and indiscriminate use of force” during anti-government protests.

“Protests must not be criminalized,” they said.

Meanwhile, Venezuela has been facing a severe economic crisis since global oil prices plummeted in 2014.

The South American nation now has the highest inflation rate in the world which now exceeds 6,000 percent, making it nearly impossible for Venezuelans to access medicine and food and causing a health crisis.

In one year alone, maternal mortality and infant mortality increased by 65 percent and 30 percent respectively. Over 80 percent of the country now live in poverty.

Driven by the lack of access to basic services as well as political tensions, almost two million Venezuelans have left the country, causing the humanitarian crisis to spill over.

Carlos Miguele Machado told Human Rights Wach that he left his home country because he could not find medicine that his wife needed after undergoing thyroid surgery.

“I had to travel far, go from pharmacy to pharmacy looking for the medicine, and I could not find it—and it is very expensive in the black market,” he said.

Both Colombia and Brazil have seen the largest numbers of migrants crossing their borders in recent months. To date, over 1 million Venezuelans have reached Colombia while Brazil estimates that over 800 enters its country every day.

“As the complex political and socio-economic situation in their country continues to worsen, arriving Venezuelans are in more desperate need of food, shelter, and health care. Many also need international protection,” said UN High Comissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson William Spindler.

As public services in Brazil become more and more stretched in response to the inflows, UNCHR has ramped up its efforts to help register and house Venezuelans. The agency has opened up new shelters for vulnerable Venezuelans which are already almost at capacity.

In order to implement its regional response plan, UNCHR made an appeal of $46 million to donors. So far, it is only four percent funded.

Similarly, the International Organizaation for Migration (IOM) launched a regional action plan to strengthen response to the large-scale of flows of Venezuelans.

“IOM’s Regional Action Plan…represents a call for the international community to contribute to and strengthen the government efforts to receive and assist Venezuelans, so that those efforts may be sustained,” said IOM’s Regional Director for South America Diego Beltrand, encouraging host countries to adopt measures to help regularize Venezuelans’ stay.

World Food Programme Director David Beasely also urged the international community step up international donor funding in order to prevent the “humanitarian catastrophe” unraveling at the Colombian border.

“This could turn into an absolute disaster in unprecedented proportions for the Western Hemisphere,” Beasely said while visiting Colombia.

“I don’t think people around the world realize how bad the situation is and how much worse it could very well be,” he continued, pointing to the case of Syria’s crisis which began with a minor food emergency.

The upcoming presidential vote in May in Venezuela could determine the future of the country and its citizens.

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Ten reflections on today’s crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/ten-reflections-todays-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ten-reflections-todays-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/ten-reflections-todays-crisis/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 18:51:49 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155221 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, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

It is now clearly evident that w e are in a period of transition, even though we remain uncertain as to its outcome.

The political, economic and social system that has accompanied us since the end of the Second World War is no longer sustainable.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The exponentially growing inequalities have, according to Amnesty International, taken us back almost to levels seen in Victorian times – albeit now at a global level. Ten years ago, 652 people had the same wealth as 2.3 billion people. Now there are eight.

Today’s eighteen-year-olds, according to projections of the International Labour Organization, will retire with an average pension of 632 Euros a month.

Despite official warnings, we are, with great indifference, breaching the 2 degrees centigrade temperature limit beyond which our planet will undergo irreversible changes.

Our financial system today operates largely disentangled from the economy in a parallel world privy of international controls, and where financial transactions on any given day are forty times higher than the production of goods and services around the planet.

The main banks have paid, since 2009, over $800 billion in fines for illegal operations. We must also note that political participation (voting in elect ions) has declined, from an average of 86% in 1960, to 63.7% today.

A profound analysis is very complex and involves all aspects of our life. But it is possible to identify important points for reflection and debate and on which we can jointly explore.

Hopefully they will also lead us to reflect on other points, since the theme of the crisis is in fact holistic and touches on all aspects of our lives. Reflect ions such as these are always subjective. What follows are facts that this writer experienced personally.

REFLECTION NO. 1: The crisis has distant roots.

It was in 1973 that the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a global governance plan, which aimed at reducing inequalities among its members: it was called the New International Economic Order. This plan was born with the support of the United States (even though originally launched by Mexico and Algeria).

The post-war international system, including the United Nations, was put together on the initiative of the United States, by the principal victors of the Second World War.

They were keen on preserving peace and pursuing development, after a war in which they lost about half a million soldiers out of a total population of 140 million people (in comparison, Germany lost more than 15 million out of 78 million inhabitants, and more than two million civilians, against none in t he United States and twenty million in the Soviet Union).

The United Nations was therefore born with Washington’s commitment to contribute 25% of its budget (contrast this with the present day when the T rump administration threatens US withdrawal).

But until the Cancun Summit in 1981, which brought together the twenty-two most important heads of state in the world (communist countries excluded), we lived with the illusion of the end of inequality, based on a world democracy, where the majority of countries decide the course to follow for the common good.

At Cancun, the newly elected US President Ronald Reagan announced that the United States no longer accepted to be subject to the rules of an abstract world democracy.

The United States was an exceptional country, and on this basis would decide her foreign and economic policy.

Attending the same meeting was the UK Premier, Margaret Thatcher, who would become Reagan’s most important European ally.

In Cancun, a different vision of the world was born: society does not exist – only individuals (Thatcher). It is not the factories polluting, but the trees (Reagan). Poverty produces poverty: wealth produces wealth. As such, the rich should be taxed as little as possible because they distribute wealth.

REFLECTION NO. 2: Shortly after Cancun, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and with it, the end of ideologies, the straitjackets that gave us both Nazism and Communism.

The driving idea that followed was that we must be pragmatic. Politics must solve concrete problems, not pursue utopias. But the solution of a given problem without consideration for the final vision of the society (right or left, does not matter) is actually called utilitarianism; and politics aimed at administration and not at ideas reduces political participation and increases corruption.

Without programs driven by ideals, the politician’s personality (possibly telegenic), measured on TV and not in the streets, became the main tool for electoral campaigns supported by marketing campaigns, not ideas or programs.

REFLECTION NO. 3: At the same time, neoliberal globalization became the single most powerful guiding thought – think of Thatcher’s TINA “There is n o alternative”.

It was based on the socioeconomic and political model of the so-called Washington Consensus, the development paradigm imposed by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the US Treasury. It envisaged the adoption of the following reforms: macroeconomic stabilization, liberalization (of trade, investment and finance), privatization and deregulation.

It eliminated the barriers of national protection everywhere, reduced non-productive expenditure (education, health, social assistance), and promoted free competition among states.

Known as Kissinger’s dictum: “the new paradigm of American supremacy”, developing countries were forced to submit to the economic rules imposed by the North.

Kissinger did not see that once free trade was imposed, China and other countries would emerge as winners.

It is interesting to note that before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the term globalization does not appear in the media.

REFLECTION NO. 4: The reaction of the left to this “pensee unique” was the “Third Way” which was successfully proposed and promoted by Tony Blair.

In substance, it argued that it was time to abandon the old ideas of the le ft and ride the wave of globalization, accepting the lack of alternatives.

Social democracy, from Blair (in UK) to Renzi (in Italy), sought to transform itself into a transversal party, one that embraced the center, with an active policy on concrete facts stripped of outdated ideological cages.

The result? The parties of the left were abandoned in droves by their voter s, and the 2008 crisis, largely due to the absence of controls on American banks and subsequently those in Europe (and with left-leaning governments in power in most Western countries), eliminated its ability to redistribute surpluses.

Blue-collar workers and middle classes in crisis, all victims of globalization, sought new defenders who promptly appeared in the form of Le Pen, Farage, Wilders and so on, and today will still vote for Salvini and the 5 Star Movement (in Italy).

REFLECTION NO. 5: Numerous historians believe that greed and fear were amongst the main engines of change in history.

Riccardo Petrella, in his latest book “In the Name of Humanity”, believes t hat these engines were made using three traps: In the name of God, in the name of the nation and in the name of profit.

There is no doubt that since the fall of the Wall, the values of globalization (competition, profit, individualism, exaltation of wealth), together with t he disappearance of social justice, solidarity, transparency, equity, etc. from political debate have created an ethics based on greed.

And twenty years later, in 2009, the economic and financial crisis, first in the United States with the sub-prime collapse, and then in Europe with sovereign bonds, gave way to a second cycle – that of fear.

REFLECTION NO. 6: The cycle of fear, in whose grip we are fully now (without having abandoned that of greed, and the traps of God, the Nation and Profit are once again being put to good use) has led to the emergence of a new right – which is not based on ideas, but emotions.

Brexit and Trump are easy-to-see phenomena. But the phenomenon is much deeper. We are in a liquid society, not structured around ideologies or class. And in such societies, it is easy for leaders, riding the waves of fear and greed, to easily rise to the forefront.

The 2009 crisis kicked off the massive immigration from countries invaded b y the West, to depose dictators and automatically introduce democracy (but the disintegration of Yugoslavia, a modern and European country, after Tito’s death, should have warned us).

Democracy did not immediately take over – rather we have seen chaos, civil war, bloodshed and destruction. In 2003, George W Bush began the invasion of Iraq.

In 2011, civil war broke out in Syria and rapidly became a confrontation between Arab, European, American and Russian forces (leading to over six million displaced persons and over half a million dead).

In 2013, Sarkozy pushed for an invasion of Libya ostensibly to depose Gaddafi.

From the ruins of Iraq we have seen the emergence of ISIS, terrorism in the name of God, for a return to original Islam (Wahhabism, financed by Saudi Arabia in excess of 80 billion dollars in the last twenty years).

All of this took place fifteen years after the veterans of the US-funded war against the Russian occupation in Afghanistan gathered together as Al-Qaeda under B in Laden to launch the first attack in history on American soil.

As the famous cartoonist El Roto in El Pais remarked, “we send bombs and they send us refugees”. The resultant refugees are caught in the jaws of two traps: in the name of God and of the country.

Today in Europe, the identity and sovereignty parties are the second largest political force, outnumbering the socialists. If European elections were held today, the radical right would have forty million votes.

It is in government in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, but it also plays a key role in the governments of the Netherlands and now, Germany, since the AFD won 92 seats in the last elections.

Viktor Orban of Hungary has launched the so-called “illiberal democracy”, Poland denounces the secularism of the European Union and has called for a great m arch with the populists and sovereigns of all Europe, to the cry of “In the name of God”.

The Visegrad Group (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and now Austria) denounces the capitulation of Europe to Islam and is creating an East-West fracture of a Europe, which joins the North-South fracture on the vision of economy: austerity or solidarity.

But there is something new. The United States is intervening in Europe, openly supporting nationalist and xenophobic right-wing parties, which at the same time look not only to Trump but also to Putin (who is also intervening in Europe an elections), as a point of reference.

As Italy’s Salvini shouted at an electoral campaign rally at Piazza del Popolo in Rome “good work Putin and Trump”.

As a result, in a rapidly aging Europe (for example, in Italy young people between 18 and 25 years are only 3% of those entitled to vote), immigration has become a great flag of the populist and xenophobic right wing.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has launched a warning: Europe needs to rapidly absorb 20.5 million immigrants, to support its pension system and productivity.

Statistics show that immigrants contribute to the system more than they cost; they constitute the great majority of the new small businesses; that their dream is to be quickly integrated into the system. But there is no debate on migration, and what kind of immigrants to welcome.

They are now all seen as dangerous invaders, intent on destroying European identity, on crime, and taking work away from European citizens, the latter victims of intense unemployment.

Even Trump, in a country made up of immigrants, has made immigration control one of his battle cries. A tragic phenomenon is that young people, much les s so than pensioners, are no longer politically active.

Since time immemorial, young people burst onto the political scene to change the world they found. Had they voted, Brexit would not have happened.

But the political system, by and for the elderly, ignores them. In Italy, t he Renzi government allocated 30 billion Euros to save four banks. In the same year the total in the budget for Italian youth was a paltry two billion.

From the creation of the United Nations in 1945, we have gone from a global population of 2.5 billion people to 7.5 billion people today.

The growth will stop only in 2050, when we will be 9.5 billion people. In the period to 2050, Africa will double her population. Either we are able to find accords to govern mobility flows according to needs, or we will have to shoot on immigrants, as some already propose.

REFLECTION NO. 7: Intellectuals and political scientists are increasingly surprised by the passivity of citizens who seem completely anaesthetized and no longer react to anything, even if politics goes against their interests. The history of Brexit, for instance, has been the subject of many analyses.

How is it possible that the most depressed areas, which received so much from Europe, voted to leave Europe?

How is it that Poland, the largest recipient of European funds (three times the Marshall plan) votes against Europe?

How is it possible that Trump, who promised to drain the swamp from the special interests in favour of the people ignored by the same special interests and government, now is a firm ally of big capital and the military (not excluding his family interests) and the voters remain faithful?

Today 92% of those who voted for him say they are ready to re-elect him.

There are many possible interpretations to this paradoxical situation. But as Talleyrand said, every people has the government it deserves.

And we should recognize that since the 2009 crisis, the political class has lost the most credit. We should be examining the impact of reality shows like “Big Brother” TV since 1989: the feeling of extraneousness from political power.

Like the shelter of a virtual space, like the Internet, it has contributed to an individualism that is the result of frustration and the lack of debate on ideas.

The macroscopic example of this anesthesia is climate change. Citizens see it every day in their daily lives: impressive photos of disappearing glaciers, snowfall in the Sahara, hurricanes, forest fires, storms …

They also have all the data of the scientific community, which in Paris, obliged the world’s governments to sign an insufficient agreement without controls. But they do not need to study, to know.

They can also see how governments speak, but do not act. They continue to spend to finance the fossil (fuel) industry three times what they invest in the renewable energy industry.

Italy even called a referendum to continue exploiting the oil fields in the South. The Spanish government is fighting its electricity producers, who want to c lose their coal-fired power stations.

In the same Spain, pensioners have organized an impressive march to defend their pensions: but no country has announced a march to raise awareness on the climate peril we face.

On the surprising absence of citizens’ reactions to vital problems, one could write a lot. And this is the basis of the epochal change in which we find ourselves.

REFLECTION NO. 8: The impact of technology: Let us consider the impact of the imminent fourth industrial revolution.

Let us recall: the first was at the beginning of the 1800s, when mechanization replaced the individual work, with mechanical looms taking over. It was easy to recycle the workers, who passed from the frame of the house to that of the factory.

The second was at the end of the 1800s, thanks to the use of machines powered by mechanical energy and the use of new energy sources such as the use of steam which led to the birth of, and development of railway networks, the construction of steam ships and faster means of communication, to important discoveries in the chemical and medical fields, to the assembly line, electricity, telephone, etc.

Even here, thanks to the transfer from the fields to the factories, humans remained vital for production. And the political battles born out of the desire for a fair recognition of work done gave way to what we now consider modern politics.

The Third Revolution began after the end of the Second World War, where technology increasingly changed the way people work, culminating in the internet revolution today.

And we are now on the cusp of the fourth revolution, which is based on Artificial Intelligence and robotics.

Today this accounts for 17% of the production of goods and services but it is estimated that this will be 30% by 2030.

The automation of the transportation sector will lay waste to six million jobs as taxi drivers, truck drivers, drivers of public transport in Europe find their services no longer needed. This automation will totally change the transport system, the automotive industry, insurance companies, etc.

But this time, will the taxi drivers be able to recycle themselves in a society that will privilege technological knowledge over traditional work?

We are rushing headlong towards a structural problem, which politics, with its short-term horizons, seems determined to ignore.

Will this transition risk increasing unemployment, fear, social and political tensions? It is just an example of how large the gap between politics, technology, finance and globalization has become.

REFLECTION NO. 9: The crisis of multilateralism: From the ruins of the Second World War, the conscience was born that only through multilateral cooperation could one seek lasting peace, after the tragedies provoked by nationalism and the idea of domination over others.

International organizations such as the United Nations, with all its agencies and funds, from UNICEF to FAO, from the World Health Organization to the International Atomic Energy Agency, were born; and in Europe the great project of the European Community, together with all the regional projects, from ASEAN to the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of American States, Mercosur, etc.

Today, the whole multilateral system is in crisis. Trump’s trade wars are destroying the multilateral trade system.

From Roosevelt’s world democracy to Reagan’s free trade and competition, we have moved on to American interests only, America first.

Next on the horizon are monetary wars. The idea of competing and not cooperating, greed as a value to replace the value of cooperation, which helps the weak and controls the powerful is ending.

But just as Kissinger did not see that free competition would one day turn against the United States, Trump does not see that opening a politics of confrontation could turn against the United States one day. Russia, China and the United States are returning to the era of gunboat policy, which seemed to have disappeared.

The present and the immediate future seem a dangerous re-enaction of the Thirties, which resulted in the Second World War.

Are those who vote for nationalism aware of this? As Pope Francis says, we are already in a fractional Third World War … we have exceeded the number of refugees at the time. To wars in the name of the homeland in Africa, we are adding those in the name of God, from Rohingya to Burma, to Islamic terrorists … we have spent decades breaking down walls, and we are creating more than before …

The future seems to go against the interests of humanity, which now knows planetary threats that did not exist in the 1930s, from climate to nuclear, in a process of social and economic Darwinism whose outcome we can only imagine.

REFLECTION NO. 10: It is evident that the final reflection is the need to find a governability of globalization and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is not true that we lack ideologies.

Neoliberal globalization is an ideology of an unprecedented force, which ha s produced new phenomena, such as global finance, a multinational system stronger than governments, where the example of the use of Facebook to use citizens as merchandise, to influence political and commercial choices, shows us how profound the crisis of democracy is.

We are entering a dystopian world described by the pioneers of science fiction: the world of Orwell and Clark, based on the machines and power of the few.

Only ten years ago, the ascent to total power like Xi in China, Erdogan in Turkey or Putin in Russia was unthinkable. Both Brexit and Trump were unthinkable.

It was unthinkable that tax havens could amass the colossal figure of 80 trillion dollars. It was unthinkable that eight people could have the same wealth as 2.3 billion people. It was unthinkable that Norway would see a winter whose temperatures would be close to those of spring.

Ten years ago, the financial crisis opened a period of deep and dramatic transformations. With this rhythm of the acceleration of history, as Toynbe e called it, where will we be in ten years?

We must immediately find a dialogue between everyone, which can only be based on the rediscovery of common values, on the construction of peace and cooperation, on international law as a basis for relations between states, and rediscover the sense of sharing, peace and social justice as the basis for cohabitation, which brings man back to the center of society – not capital, finance or greed, and which frees us from fear.

Will we be able to find the way to do it?

In these 10 reflections, I have found it useful to consider where we have come from and contemplate as to where we are headed.

We are called upon to reflect keenly as to our fate: ours is a society that is increasingly becoming barbaric, one in which we read and dialogue less.

We spend twice as much on advertising as we do on education; the average voter is today lost and without a compass to guide them.

The reader is not obliged to agree with me. You are welcome to your own views and reflections. After all, what matters is that we reflect!

The post Ten reflections on today’s crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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Africa Lags Behind in Bridging Inequalitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 13:09:31 +0000 Richard Munang and Robert Mgendi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155213 Dr. Richard Munang is UN Environment’s Africa regional climate change programme coordinator and Robert Mgendi is UN Environment’s adaptation policy expert.

The post Africa Lags Behind in Bridging Inequalities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Effect of climate change. A dead tree in Namibia’s Namib desert.
Credit: World Bank/Philip Schuler

By Richard Munang and Robert Mgendi
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

“If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today”—so goes an African proverb, crystallising the solutions to the continent’s socio-economic inequalities.

Africa is second only to Latin America in economic inequalities. Dollar millionaires in Africa doubled to 160,000 between 2000 and 2015, while people living on less than $1.25 a day—the poverty threshold—increased from 358 million to 415 million between 1996 and 2011, according to the Brookings Institution, a US-based research group and think tank. Brookings Institution adds that by 2024 the number of African millionaires will rise 45%, to approximately 234,000.

The effects of climate change compound Africa’s worsening inequality, constricting productivity in economic sectors that are critical to inclusive growth. Climate experts therefore posit that a first step in denting inequality is for governments to channel investments into sectors that can create socio-economic opportunities, enhance ecosystems’ resilience and combat climate change by offsetting carbon emissions.

African governments agree with climate experts on the sectors to target for investments. Meeting in Libreville, Gabon, last June, under the auspices of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the continent’s environment ministers identified two sectors requiring investments to bridge the inequality gap: energy and agriculture driven by ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA).

An EBA-driven agriculture relies on biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to climate change effects. The ministers said that both sectors can boost agricultural productivity through value addition and curtail postharvest losses, which are currently about $48 billion per annum.

In addition to the huge postharvest losses is the $35 billion African governments spend annually on importing food. Reversing postharvest losses would mean recovering lost food while saving billions that could be invested in other sectors.

Labour productivity on the continent is currently 20 times lower than in developed regions, notes the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016. An optimised agro-value chain and its ancillary chains of clean energy and logistics could create high-value jobs and increase labour productivity.

Deploying clean energy to power EBA-driven agriculture will achieve the twin goals of combating climate change and creating economic opportunities.

An example of such an integrated approach can be found in Cameroon’s Jakiri municipality, where UN Environment, based on its EBA for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) policy-action framework, is supporting efforts to use an off-grid micro-hydro power to support the processing of EBA-produced cassava and Irish potato into varied product lines. The farmers subsequently use a mobile app to link these products to markets and supply chains.

The off-grid micro-hydro power offsets carbon emissions in energy generation, incentivizes EBA use for climate adaptation and creates income opportunities along the agriculture, clean energy and ICT value chains—all enhancing socio-economic resilience.

Studies show that EBA-driven agriculture increases production by 128%. For instance, in Jakiri, 10 youth groups of 700 each were engaged in ICT, clean energy and marketing since 2016. They created many green jobs for young people, while giving over 5,000 women access to value addition services.

The youth groups reduced postharvest losses and enhanced income stability and food security.

A growing middle class

The 350 million Africans in the middle class could potentially enhance ongoing efforts to achieve a single market. Minimizing postharvest losses in a consolidated agro-market dominated by raw commodity exports could rake in an extra $20 billion annually, according to the World Bank.

Experts project the raw commodity value added, currently $150 billion, to increase to $500 billion by 2030. Such a market could significantly boost agricultural industries. At 12% of its total trade, Africa has the lowest rate of intra-regional trade for any region. (Europe’s rate is 65%, North America’s 45% and Southeast Asia is 25%).

Forty countries have so far adopted an EBAFOSA initiative known as a compliance standard in their energy and agriculture sectors. The initiative guarantees quality control along the value chain, in addition to consolidating the markets of all 40 countries, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

The compliance standard builds on the acclaimed International Organization for Standardization standards and other national standards already in use in different countries to ensure that certified products can be exported to other markets. For example, under EBAFOSA’s standard, attiéké, a Côte d’Ivoire staple food made from processed cassava, is to be marketed in Kenya and the rest of East Africa.

Africa’s development experts anticipate the consolidation of a continental food market in the coming years, hoping that Africa’s 54 countries will eventually adopt the compliance standard.
Plans for a consolidated African food market may face headwinds, including restrictive intra-Africa air travel. Although in 2002, 44 countries signed the Yamoussoukro Decision to promote seamless intra-Africa air travel, many countries still restrict their air services markets to protect local airlines, especially state-owned carriers.

Climate change effect

Also, African countries have some of the strictest visa requirements in the world. Only 11 of Africa’s 54 nations offer 100% access to other Africans. This contrasts with the European Union, where member states’ citizens enjoy 100% freedom of movement within the EU countries.

Strict visa requirements constrict deployment of continental labour and complicate efforts to create income opportunities and combat poverty. The poor are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change, as they lack the resources to adapt to, or quickly recover from, climate shocks, reports the World Bank.

The African Union’s plan for a visa-free continent for Africans by 2020, if fully implemented, will foster human capital flow for income generation and, by extension, increased climate resilience.

To address development needs, Africa cannot rely only on traditional public assistance, including the rapidly dwindling official development assistance (ODA), according to the African Development Bank. Currently ODA accounts for only 3% of the continent’s GDP, which accentuates the need for innovative approaches to financing development projects.

In its 2015 African Adaptation Gap report, UN Environment proposed domestic and innovative financing approaches, suggesting among other things that African central banks leverage the continent’s cash reserve to strengthen their lending capacity and adopt a unitary credit policy that guarantees commercial loans are issued to enterprises whose operations mitigate carbon emissions and enhance ecosystem resilience. EBA-driven agriculture like Jakiri’s will boost food security and create income opportunities.

What should be Africa’s next steps in tackling inequalities?

Another African proverb sets the tone: “To get lost is to learn the way.” While Africa lags behind other regions in bridging inequalities, it has also demonstrated that it can learn.

Many landmark policy frameworks, such as the AU Agenda 2063, the Yamoussoukro Decision on open skies, the Sirte Declaration on the African Central Bank and recently the 16th AMCEN Decision on Innovative Environmental Solutions, coupled with practical policy implementation frameworks such as EBAFOSA, prove that the continent is making the right choices.

For these policies to work, however, Africa must start lifting the stones of implementation. In other words, Africa must begin to implement strategies that create incomes out of its catalytic sectors while combating poverty and its accompanying climate vulnerabilities.

These are the authors’ views, not necessarily those of the institution they represent.

The link to the original article follows:
Africa Renewal
https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2017-march-2018/tackling-inequality-%E2%80%98lifting-stones%E2%80%99

The post Africa Lags Behind in Bridging Inequalities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr. Richard Munang is UN Environment’s Africa regional climate change programme coordinator and Robert Mgendi is UN Environment’s adaptation policy expert.

The post Africa Lags Behind in Bridging Inequalities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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