Inter Press ServiceGlobalisation – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 23 May 2018 13:07:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Despite Setbacks, Africa Viewed as Continent of Hope, Promise & Vast Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 11:29:02 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155650 Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges. And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.” Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent. Far […]

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By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges.

And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.”

Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent.

Far too often, he said, the world views Africa through a prism of problems. “But when I look to Africa”, he predicted last month, “I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.”

According to UN projections, Africa is expected to account for more than half the world’s population growth over the next 35 years. More than 30 per cent of Africa’s population is between the age of 10 and 24, and will remain so for at least the next 20 years.

“With the right investments, these trends could be the region’s greatest asset,” said former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

NAI Director Iina Soiri. Credit: NAI

With 55 years of study and research, the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), based in Sweden, has an equally positive view of Africa.

In an interview with IPS, NAI Director Iina Soiri and NAI head of research and governance specialist Victor Adetula, provided an assessment on the current situation in Africa.

Adetula told IPS the UN Secretary-General was right when he expressed the view that Africa has a vast potential for success.

“We are happy that world leaders are beginning to appreciate Africa in positive terms. We at the Nordic Africa Institute have always pointed out that there is hope for Africa despite all the challenges. Our knowledge production processes and outcomes, as well as other forms of intellectual engagement on the continent, run against the Afro-pessimism that is chanted in some quarters. For us, our knowledge of Africa makes us to have hope for Africa.”

Soiri pointed out that diversification of Africa’s image and promotion of the notion that Africa is “so much of everything” rather than just reduced to one image, this is our mission at NAI.”

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: Do you think that most African countries would succeed in achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including hunger and poverty alleviation, by the 2030 deadline? What would be the reasons if they falter in their goals?

NAI Head of Research Victor Adetula. Credit: African Peace Building Network

Adetula: First, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not exclusively for Africa. Admittedly, the risks are far more for African countries due to a number of challenges. It is interesting however that the lessons of MDGs are being addressed in the SDGs, and there is hope there would be significant improvement in the performance of the African countries, particularly those that have made concerted efforts to synchronise the SDGs goals with their national development plans.

Soiri: The SDGs are global goals that oblige the whole global community. I would also like to point out that Africa on the continental level has its own Vision 2063, as well as national SDG plans. It is important that all countries are given support to enable implementation of the SDGs using their own strengths and analysis.

IPS: What is the biggest single political problem facing African nations? Lack of good governance or lack of financing for development?

Adetula: It is not so much a good idea to reduce the challenge of African countries to two issues, or to label them as political, economic, social etc. based on the historical experiences of other regions. However, it suffices to point out that the challenges in Africa have their causes in both the internal systems in the various African countries that are not supporting good governance, and the international environment which has become increasingly unfavourable to Africa.

Soiri: Again, countries in Africa differ greatly when it comes to governance systems in place. We again need to go into national level and address specific challenges. But as regards to financing for development, that is a problem shared by many African countries, as well as the whole global community.

IPS: Has there been a failure on the part of Western nations to fulfil their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa?

Adetula: The ability of Western nations to meet up with their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa cannot be the root cause of Africa’s development challenge. New knowledge has proved this assumption to be wrong that aid can produce autonomous development in Africa. Of course, we should admit that effective global partnership a way to go to promote global development. This needs to be influenced and driven by positive values of equality, fairness, and justice.

Soiri: At the moment, it is clear that financial commitments to match with the requirements of SDG agenda are still lacking drastically behind. Here, I would like to point out that instead of focusing only on ODA and other financial flows to Africa, more effort needs to be done curb illicit financial flows out of Africa and support domestic resource mobilisation. We need to rethink the whole structure of financing for development which has been dominated by ODA reported to OECD-DAC and open up the debate on all financial flows and transactions, to continue the so called Beyond Aid –debate.

IPS: Guterres recently warned that while poverty elimination is a shared priority across two agendas—the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – there are “significant gaps that persist”, particularly with regard to industrialization, water, energy, infrastructure and the environment. Do you agree with this assessment?

Soiri: It is no news that huge gaps persist. What is most important is to facilitate knowledge and analysis capacity, strengthen countries’ own systems and capacity to own the development processes and allow national debate on the priorities. When a lot of things are missing, we need to first decide where we start to look for and for what – thus national consensus is essential how to go about national development plans.

And reach quick results to keep people satisfied and engaged. Global challenges in sustainable resource utilisation –water, energy, clean air, land, minerals – are huge and connected to sustainability of the whole planet.

And as there exist wide sentiments of grave inequality in how the resources have been used and overused until now, Africa needs to get more say when the future agreements on resource utilisation are made.

IPS: The UN says the majority of undernourished people in Africa live in conflict-affected countries, where hunger is almost twice as high when the crisis is protracted – advocating for stronger commitment by governments, the AU and the UN to promote peace, human rights and sustainable development? Any thoughts?

Adetula: The world is witnessing increase in violent conflicts and some new forms of violence, including those associated with globalisation processes. At the individual country level, good governance in terms of effective service delivery can help scale down the level of violence in Africa. Global governance and global partnership such as cooperation between the AU and the UN is a useful way to go.

Soiri: Many research has shown that there is a strong causality between conflicts and underdevelopment. Therefore most important is to solve the conflicts in order to create conducive environment for development efforts. But how conflicts are solved and peace agreements signed has a paramount importance for how the post-conflict development will succeed. Most important is to allow inclusive peace process which translates to inclusive long lasting state building.

IPS: What key role can the Nordic Africa Institute play in helping advance the political and economic transformation of Africa?

Soiri: During its 55 year of existence, the Nordic Africa Institute has been both the sign of and key for Nordic countries continued engagement in development of Africa. We embody our societies’ interest to continue investing in betterment of African peoples. Via our research and knowledge production and dissemination, we enlarge understanding of African key development challenges and their solutions and deepen decision-makers’ knowledge on best practices to contribute successfully for the development and conflict resolution.

We also build Africa’s own knowledge production capacity with our guest research programs, partnerships and joint research and conference activities, and translate and disseminate African aspirations and analysis for Nordic audiences. We are the only Africa research center in the whole world that surpasses national borders and bring together the whole Nordic region to study, analyse and develop Africa with a specific policy relevant mission – to contribute for the improvement of African people’s lives and educate our own citizens on importance on Africa.

Our library is the biggest resource hub for African social sciences literature in Northern Europe, and by using modern technology some of its resources can be accessed almost everywhere in the world, alleviating the chronic lack of academic and development related resources in the African continent.

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Kenya- Overcoming Rivalry & Conflict Through Cultural Diplomacyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 12:54:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155510 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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First Lady Margaret Kenyatta (centre) with host Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok (second right) and Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki (second left). Credit: Jared Nyataya | NATION

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

Cultural diplomacy is a soft power that promotes the exchange of ideas, information, art, and culture to strengthen friendship and cooperation among nations and communities.

One of the best examples of such cultural diplomacy is the American education airlift programme of the early 1960s – a programme now considered a good example of successful cultural diplomacy – which benefited many young Kenyans, including a young Kenyan scholar who married an American. Their son went on to become the father of the 44th President of the US.

The son of this Kenyan scholar, – US President Barack Obama, presided over a fundamental shift towards public and cultural diplomacy, that was credited with milestones such as limiting Iran’s nuclear energy programme, in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Barack Obama, 10, and his father, also named Barack Obama. Obama’s father left the family to study at Harvard. Credit: The Associated Press

He often defended this approach as a successful diplomatic mission “committed to increasing people-to-people contacts and paying more attention to differences in cultures and values”. Unlike previous administrations, President Obama chose to persuade others through values and ideas, as opposed to flaunting military might.

A similar approach is being used in Kenya’s northern frontier, where the charm of soft power is slowly replacing the aggressive and violent conflicts among traditional adversaries. For a long time, a recurrent and perennial conflict has existed, especially during dry seasons. Neighbours in the arid region have continued to clash over access to key water and grazing resources.

In the meantime, the proliferation of small arms and ammunition trafficked into the country have escalated cultural practices such as cattle raids, turning them into deadly confrontations, while the re-drawing of administrative and electoral boundaries have provided more flashpoints for ethnic conflicts.

Now leaders in the area are taking a cue from history, with the interaction of peoples, the exchange of cultural practices, language, religion, ideas and arts being identified as a pathway towards improved relations between the ethnic groups. Through the annual Turkana Cultural Festival, former enemies are bonding relationships and realising that their differences are simply artificial.

The Turkana cultural festival, is a colourful 3-day event showcasing the region’s art, sports and music. Among the regular visitors to the festival are governors, minister and members of legislative assemblies from the neighbouring counties, a positive move not just towards building cultural bridges, but finding common ground and shared desires for the region’s economic prosperity and national cohesion.

This year on 19 April 2018, the border communities and their leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, which was branded Tobong’u Lore(Turkana for welcome home) by the county government.

“I was honored by the presence of Her Excellency The First Lady of Kenya Ms Margaret Kenyatta and the Deputy President of Kenya, Mr William Ruto. Their presence gave a very special touch to the event” said Turkana County Governor Honorable Josphat Nanok.

Recent discourse from leaders has noticeably moved from belligerence, to forging of trade relationships, and unifying the region’s populations. No less than seven Governors, elders, ministers, some from counties previously seen as rivals of the Turkana, attended this year’s edition of the Turkana Festival.

“This festival is to celebrate peace. These are neighbors who have been fighting over pasture for their livestock and boundaries, but since we started this festival we have seen peace gradually return,” added Governor Nanok.

The festivals are providing the communities with a forum to embrace the different values and needs of diverse cultures. Gradually, each festival is seen as a peace-building and soft power tool in communities previously marked by ethnic conflict and isolationism.

There is also another crucial initiative, which is drawing former foes together in the border region between Kenya and Ethiopia. The Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia have a shared vision of turning this once violent and fragile region into a prosperous & peaceful area. Moyale-07 Dec 2015. Credit: UNDP Kenya

The populations in Marsabit County, and the Borana/Dawa are largely pastoralists and their movement transcends national and international boundaries. This movement has often led to clashes over resources, pitting people who share a common cultural background against each other.

Early successes include the strengthening of peace communities with members from across the two countries, which have gained wide legitimacy.

As the Cross Border Programme activities gain traction and the communities engage in legitimate business, their inter-dependence will slowly erode the temptation to fall back on the safety of tribal enclaves.

Advances in communication continue to render physical barriers irrelevant, there is no better opportunity to move cultural diplomacy out of the periphery, and into the forefront of diplomacy. As the true window to the soul, culture must now be the premier option for solving conflict around the globe.

The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta underscored the need to preserve the diversity of the country’s rich cultural heritage, saying it enhances Kenya’s identity at the global arena. She said in promoting culture, focus must be placed on positive values that boost peace and harmony.

Kenya is showing the way.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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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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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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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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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!

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Excerpt:

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

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For Many Migrants, No Land Is Sweeter Than Homehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 05:36:01 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155200 Most migrants to Europe, Australia and the United States from Rangpur in northern Bangladesh leave home at a young age and return when they have just passed middle age. Intensely connected and immersed in family bonds and Bangladeshi cultural values, they tend to return to their birthplace despite obtaining citizenship from a second country. For […]

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I Am a Migrant: Integrating Through Syrian ‘Hummus’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/migrant-integrating-syrian-hummus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-integrating-syrian-hummus http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/migrant-integrating-syrian-hummus/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 07:45:46 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155140 Khaled left Syria in 2015, when his country was already in its fourth year of war. He is 27 years old and can clearly remember what his life was like then in Damascus: a happy life, with a happy family, in a happy country. Despite coming from a land now devastated by war, Khaled does […]

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Working Together Is Key to Meeting Water Targets by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 21:44:52 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154996 Mutual collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders are tools to accelerate the actions necessary to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, which states the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all. The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international network created in 1996 to promote integrated […]

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A crowd, mainly of students, has filled the Citizen Village, the building where the new generations are educated in environmental and water issues, with cinema, facilities, toys and talks, every day during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A crowd, mainly of students, has filled the Citizen Village, the building where the new generations are educated in environmental and water issues, with cinema, facilities, toys and talks, every day during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 22 2018 (IPS)

Mutual collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders are tools to accelerate the actions necessary to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, which states the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all.

The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international network created in 1996 to promote integrated water resources management (IWRM), calls for working and thinking together as a key to fulfilling SDG number 6, of the 17 goals that make up the Agenda, agreed in 2015 by the world’s governments within the framework of the United Nations.

To this end, on Mar. 20 it launched the campaign “Act on SDG 6” in Brasilia, during an event emphasising the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships to promote water security, in the context of the Eighth World Water Forum, hosted by Brasilia Mar. 18-23.

“To integrate the different sectors and organisations at the national and regional levels, to implement solutions and improve water indicators” is what we are seeking in order to advance towards the targets, said Joshua Newton, senior GWP network officer in charge of coordinating the work of SDG 6 and global water political processes, governance and stakeholder engagement.

“We facilitate, through partnerships, the search for funds for projects, connecting governmental actors, international organisations, and leaders,” he told IPS.

The campaign is close to concluding an initial phase of monitoring indicators to identify “where we are” in relation to SDG 6, Newton explained.

The second phase, which “is about to begin” is to “design responses, how to act to meet the goals,” followed by the third, the implementation phase, which requires financing: “the most difficult part,” he said.

Nor is it easy to drum up political will, integrate human beings and sectors with different interests, reconcile different uses of water, such as for agriculture, energy and human consumption, but “we try to bring people together to address water problems,” he added.

Another difficulty arises from the diversity of conditions: “IWRM is not present in all countries and water governance varies greatly between countries, and these are things that we seek to harmonise,” concluded Newton, an expert in international relations who has been dedicated to water issues since 1995, when he was living in Argentina.

For the GWP, the 5th of the six specific targets included in SDG 6 is of particular importance, as it states the need to “implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate,” by 2030, coinciding with the mission of the network, which has more than 3,000 members worldwide.

Gladys Villarreal, in charge of the care of water basins in Panama’s Environment Ministry, believes that water unites people despite their diversity and helps them to understand each other. She believes it will not be difficult for Panama to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make access to clean water and sanitation universal by 2030. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Gladys Villarreal, in charge of the care of water basins in Panama’s Environment Ministry, believes that water unites people despite their diversity and helps them to understand each other. She believes it will not be difficult for Panama to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make access to clean water and sanitation universal by 2030. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The GWP is made up of governmental and intergovernmental institutions, international, non-governmental and academic organisations, companies and public service providers.

“I do not think it is difficult to reach SDG 6 in my country, we have already collected a great deal of information about our water and we started to implement IWRM in surface and underground sources,” said Gladys Villarreal, director of Hydrographic Basins at Panama’s Environment Ministry, at the launch of the GWP campaign.

In addition, “we have a 2015-2050 Water Security Plan,” with five strategic goals to guarantee water for domestic use, sanitation, healthy basins, with monitored water quality, all of which are sustainability targets, she told IPS.

But there is much to be done, she admitted. Of the 51 basins in Panama, there are organised water committees in only 14, and groundwater resources have hardly been studied. However, Villarreal pointed out that Panama has a Water Law, in force since 1965, and in the process of being updated.

Guatemala, on the other hand, does not have a specific law and has been facing water conflicts since 2016, between local communities, the government and private companies.

But “the tension is decreasing” and solutions are moving forward with technical committees oriented by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the creation of committees in micro-basins, said Álvaro Aceituno, head of the Department of Water Resources and Watersheds.

There are 38 basins in Guatemala, with numerous sub-basins and micro-basins. For the latter, community-based monitoring has begun, with complaints filed in the Ministry, in the attempt to ensure quality water for the communities, he told IPS.

The country also has a Basin Authority in the existing 38 basins, which works together with the micro-basins committees, establishing a monitoring system in the headwaters. The National Forestry Institute also works to prevent deforestation, requiring permits for logging, and protecting endemic plant species.

Chilean Aldo Palacios, who chairs GWP South America, takes part in the launch of the "Act on SDG 6" campaign by the World Water Partnership (GWP) in Brasilia, in the context of the eighth World Water Forum. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Chilean Aldo Palacios, who chairs GWP South America, takes part in the launch of the “Act on SDG 6” campaign by the World Water Partnership (GWP) in Brasilia, in the context of the eighth World Water Forum. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“In Guatemala, indigenous culture has considerable weight. In indigenous areas, forests are protected and we know that taking care of them means caring for water,” which favours agriculture, said Aceituno.

In this respect, he noted that there are communities where indigenous pressure benefits the water and the environment, but added that they also generate problems because their communities are independent “and follow their own laws.”

Villarreal and Aceituno consider the campaign beneficial for promoting actions to fulfill SDG 6. “Some countries, including Panama, seek to stand out,” and obtain incentives and support to achieve the goals, said Villarreal.

In South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru are the countries that have shown the greatest progress with regard to SDG 6, said Aldo Palacios, president of GWP South America.

However, there are still major challenges. “There are cities where the drainage systems stopped working four or five decades ago, leading to heavy floods. In Chile, the loss of drinking water is close to 48 percent. We must accelerate management mechanisms, there are ideas but the answers are slow in coming,” he told IPS.

Climate change aggravated everything, with extreme weather events, such as more intense, longer droughts, excessive rainfall in short periods, and water-borne diseases.

“Many are entrenched, irreversible problems, against which reactions or attempts to adapt have fallen short. That is why we propose changing the mindset in our countries and adopting a resilience approach,” said Palacios.

That means ongoing, rather than isolated actions, with a medium to long-term – and preventive if possible – focus, with the aim of recovering or maintaining good living conditions.

As an example, he cited the actions taken by Germany and the Netherlands against the rising ocean level, which coastal cities around the world must undertake before they are flooded due to global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps.

He anticipated that resilience, at the core of IWRM, is a concept that goes beyond risk management, insofar as the risks are permanent. That, as well as the decentralisation of approaches, are ideas that the region intends to take to the GWP, as part of a reflection process.

“We are the region with the most rivers and the greatest water reserves, which is a distinctive factor to enhance, through shared leadership,” Palacios concluded.

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Deported Salvadorans in Times of Trumphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/deported-salvadorans-times-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deported-salvadorans-times-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/deported-salvadorans-times-trump/#comments Fri, 16 Mar 2018 18:34:08 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154862 Carrying a red plastic bag containing an old pair of shoes and a few other belongings, David Antonio Pérez arrives to El Salvador, deported from the United States. David Antonio, 42, is a divorced father of two who has lived in the U.S. for a total of 12 years. He has spent five years in […]

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Has Trump Just Launched a Global Trade War?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/trump-just-launched-global-trade-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-just-launched-global-trade-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/trump-just-launched-global-trade-war/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 15:41:32 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154815 Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

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Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Malaysia, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

Last week’s action by President Donald Trump has ended the United States’ leadership on liberal trade and may trigger a global trade war with major damaging consequences.

On 8 March, Trump signed a proclamation to raise tariffs of steel by 25% and aluminium by 10%.

It sent shockwaves across the world not only because of the losses to metal exporters, but due to what it could well signify:  the start of a global trade war causing economic disruption in many countries, and that may also damage if not destroy the multilateral trade system.

The United States, joined by Europe, has been the anchor of the global free trade system, ever since the end of the Second World War.  In practice this rhetoric of free trade was hypocritical because the developed countries continue to practise very high protection of their agriculture sector which cannot compete with many developing countries if there really was “free trade”.

When a new global financial crisis strikes, the developing countries will be more damaged than in the last crisis as they have become less resilient and more vulnerable. They thus need to prepare from being overwhelmed, says Martin Khor

Martin Khor

Moreover, the developed countries introduced and continue to champion mandatory high intellectual property rights standards through an agreement in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), under which their companies create monopolies, set high prices and make excessive profits.  This is against the free competition touted by free-trade advocates.

In manufactures and metals, the developed countries have pressed the others to join them in cutting or removing tariffs and expand trade, through negotiations in the WTO and its predecessor the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

They have argued that poorer countries can best grow richer by cutting their tariffs, which would benefit their consumers and force their producers to become more efficient.

Trump’s move upends the ideology of free trade.  If cheaper imports displace local steel and aluminium producers, they must be stopped because a country must make its own key products, according to the Trump philosophy of America First.

Since the United States has been the flag-bearer of the free-trade religion, this has profound effects on other countries.  If the leader has changed its mind and now believes in protecting its industries, so too can other countries.  The basis for liberal trade is destroyed and the old rationale for protectionism is revived.

...This rhetoric of free trade was hypocritical because the developed countries continue to practise very high protection of their agriculture sector, which cannot compete with many developing countries if there really was “free trade”

The WTO rules allow countries adversely affected by imports to take certain measures, but they have to prove that the producers of exporting countries unfairly receive subsidies, or that they set lower prices for their exports compared to the same goods sold domestically.  Or they can take “safeguard” measures of raising tariffs if they can show that domestic firms have been adversely affected, but only for a limited period to help affected local producers to adjust.

Trump however made use of a little-used national security clause (Section 232) in the U.S. trade laws to justify his big jump in steel and aluminium tariffs.  The clause allows the President to take trade action to defend national security.  The WTO also has a security exception in GATT Article XXI but it has also been rarely if ever used by countries to justify tariff increases.

What constitutes national security is not clearly spelt out either in the US or the WTO laws and because of the ambiguity and lack of clarity, this clause can be abused. The US and other countries can claim it is imposing higher import duties because it is necessary to protect their national security, but in reality this could be a disguise or excuse to protect their economies from other countries’ more efficient producers.

The Trump administration tried to justify invoking the security factor by saying steel and aluminium are needed to make tanks, fighter planes and other weapons of war.  But this was undercut by giving exemptions from the increased duties to Canada and Mexico due to their membership of NAFTA, a trade agreement that includes the United States. These exemptions for reasons unrelated to security exposes the security rationale as fake.

Other countries are angry and preparing to retaliate. The European Union has drawn up a list of American products on which its countries will raise tariffs.  China warned it would make an appropriate and necessary response.

At the WTO General Council on 8 March, the United States action was attacked. Many countries condemned the US measures being unilateral and for misusing the national security rationale.  Canada said the security issue “may be opening a Pandora’ Box we would not be able to close.”

Brazil expressed deep concern about an elastic or broad application of the national security exception.  India said the national security exception under GATT should not be misused and unilateral measures have no place in the trade system. China argued the over-protected domestic industry will never be able to serve its problems through protectionism.

Many WTO member states will most likely take the US to a dispute panel, and how it will rule will have strong consequences.   If it rules for the US, then other countries will view it as allowing all countries to take protectionist measures on the same ground of national security.

If it rules against the US, it will embolden the anti-liberal trade faction in the Trump administration and strengthen their argument that the US should ignore or even leave the WTO.  The US would then be much more unrestrained to undertake further protectionist measures.

In either case, there is a danger that the rest of the world, or significant parts of it, would also feel they should not be constrained by WTO’s generaltrade rules.  Over time, trade protectionism would gain ground.

The next big protectionist move from the US may come in a few weeks when Trump decides what action, if any, to take against China after considering a report on China’s trade and intellectual property practices issued by the Commerce Department.

If, as expected, big action against China is announced, China will almost certainly take equally strong retaliatory action.

That will escalate the trade war that is already on the way.

 

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Excerpt:

Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

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It’s the War, Stupidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/its-the-war-stupid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=its-the-war-stupid http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/its-the-war-stupid/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 14:28:19 +0000 Joaquin Roy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154811 Joaquín Roy is Professor Jean Monnet and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami

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Joaquín Roy is Professor Jean Monnet and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami

By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

It is revealing that a ruler who did not serve in the military, nor enjoys any experience in war affairs, has a special inclination to use a vocabulary more typical of bloody clashes between states than in diplomatic relations.

Donald Trump, both in his electronic messages and in his television addresses, adores the use of military terminology to illustrate his plans. He likes the word “war” to label his government program.

Curiously, almost as a prelude to the surprising and apparent truce that can be put in place with North Korea, Trump has made a declaration of war “Urbi et Orbi”. The first salvo has been the announcement of the imposition of tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. In addition, he has presumed the qualification that trade wars are good.

The alarm that has generated this decision has been widespread, with the threat of widening the ground to other products. The statements of response from the rest of the planet oscillate between perplexity and the start-up of protective measures of their business partners, friends and foes.

Joaquín Roy

Joaquín Roy

Although Trump announced that his close neighbors, Canada and Mexico are forgiven, neither Trudeau nor Peña Nieto  trust him at all.

If mutual reluctance on both shores of Rio Grande is a permanent dressing of history, the apparent loyalty between Washington and Ottawa suffers from question marks that only the permanently installed courtesy barely manages to mask.

Trump has succeeded in having the Mexicans pass on to the Canadians the lamentation attributed to Porfirio Díaz: “Poor Mexico (Canada), so far from God and so close to the United States.”

The tottering NAFTA alarmed both partners and not even the promise of an improvement in conditions have managed to clear the threat of its disappearance.

That is why the Canadians have endeavored to solidify the agreement with the European Union, just as the Mexicans have reinforced their own alliance with the EU, the strongest between Brussels and the Americas.

The truth is that Trump’s tactic has confirmed his personal refusing of trade agreements and regional block alliances, stressing the option of unilaterality as a primordial strategy, presided by the claim of “America, first.”

And not only is that such decision is obvious, but the language used is the one of confrontation, as a springboard to victory, cemented on the argument of superiority.

If the European Union and China opt for retaliation with the imposition of tariffs on US products, consumers in Alabama, Ohio, and North Dakota, in addition to the classic Trump voters in Appalachia, will need to adjust the shopping cart. Perhaps this matters little to his family and wealthy Fortune 500 owners who have populated his administration, but those who depend on a salary at the end of the week will not be happy. They'll thank him in the election

But the arsenal of the American president’s decision is not reduced to his personal conception and ill-disguised arrogance, but also hides a weakness and fear of losing re-election.

In spite of the opposition of his wife Melania, Trump is not resigned to disappearing from the reduced political map to enjoy a solitary four-year mandate.

It would be like descending to the level of Carter and Bush Sr, who were ousted by their opponents. Trump needs more help than his millionaire donors.

He needs the little people who raised him to victory. He needs those who believe in the imposition of tariff rates and the construction of walls, more convincing than the one that seeks to raise before Mexico.

They naively will vote again under the promise of job creation. In the event that he succeeds in his strategy, Trump will probably be slapped by history.

He will remember that among the failures of the imposition of tariffs, executed as the simple squeezing of the trigger in a Western, often results in a shot on the foot.

Historians still explain the case of the Smoot-Hawley decision, imposed in 1930. Instead of softening the effects of the Great Depression of the late 1920 ‘s, it reduced US exports by 61%.

In an effect on the other side of the Atlantic, some experts even argued that the unfortunate decision helped the emergence of Nazi Germany and other Fascist niceties, in some countries hit by the growing economic war that preceded the bloody confrontation.

If the European Union and China opt for retaliation with the imposition of tariffs on US products, consumers in Alabama, Ohio, and North Dakota, in addition to the classic Trump voters in Appalachia, will need to adjust the shopping cart.

Perhaps this matters little to his family and wealthy Fortune 500 owners who have populated his administration, but those who depend on a salary at the end of the week will not be happy. They’ll thank him in the election.

While it may be true that some practices of US partners and competitors are not exactly fair, the method that the most reasonable advisers suggest is negotiation and brokering within the World Trade Organization (WHO).

Although Trump has heard that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, Carl von Clausovitz himself could remember with the logic of realism that in the end no one wins the wars and that many lose them. Trump may be a collateral casualty of “friendly fire.”

The author can be reached at jroy@miami.edu

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Excerpt:

Joaquín Roy is Professor Jean Monnet and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami

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I Am a Migrant and I Work in Romehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/migrant-work-rome/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-work-rome http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/migrant-work-rome/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 20:07:31 +0000 Jordan McCord http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154603 – Mika, age 35, arrived in Italy five years ago from Bangladesh, and actually came to Rome on a flight in search of work for a better life. He now works alongside other Romans in the outdoor food market in Piazza San Cosimato in Trastevere, selling food products, such as pasta, olive oil, spices and […]

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A stall selling regional food specialties on a Piazza in Rome. Credit: Jordan McCord

By Jordan McCord
ROME, Mar 2 2018 (IPS)

– Mika, age 35, arrived in Italy five years ago from Bangladesh, and actually came to Rome on a flight in search of work for a better life. He now works alongside other Romans in the outdoor food market in Piazza San Cosimato in Trastevere, selling food products, such as pasta, olive oil, spices and after dinner liquors, mostly from southern Italy. He is well versed in their ingredients, origins in Puglia and preparation process. He is there every day and feels good about the life he has created here.

Migrants from Bangladesh are on nearly on every corner in the center of Rome. They work in alimentari (small grocery shops), trinket shops, restaurants or in outdoor markets like Mika does. Some walk around the city selling hand held gadgets, umbrellas or jewelry. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) the stabilization of the Bangladeshi population is ongoing and as of 2016, nearly 54 percent of the 142,403 Bangladeshi migrants in the country hold EU long term residence permits.

“Although my name is Mika, in Italy my name is Michele,” he says, adding “ I am a migrant and I work in Rome”. He attended Italian language school when he first arrived and lives near the Piazza with several other workers from Bangladesh in a three-bedroom apartment.

One stall away is one of his compatriots who is still learning Italian. His Roman co-worker corrects his grammar as he loads mandarins into a basket. They take turns serving customers from all angles of the open stall as the market fills up during its late morning rush.

“There is no work for me in Bangladesh, but here there is,” Mika says.

Uddin, 33 has found it too, at a Korean restaurant near Piazza Vittorio where he works six days a week. He has been in Rome for nearly four years and hopes to move his wife and two young children here from Comilla, Bangladesh, within the next few years. He manages to put aside about 500 euros per month from the money he earns at his job to send to them at the end of each month.

“I came to Italy for a better future and I plan to stay,” he said.

Before relocating to Rome, Uddin lived in South Korea where he studied, and then in England where he worked for a short time. He recently obtained his stay permit in Italy.

The communities of these migrants are especially tightly knit at the outdoor market in one of the most vibrant and historically important areas of the city, Campo de Fiori square. Some migrants work for other Italians, managing the stalls for them.

Known as ‘angels’, the migrants from Bangladesh spring to action to protect Romans from the first drops of rain. Credit: Jordan McCord

Many mentioned having tight working relationships with the Italian owners who entrust them with a great deal of responsibility in running their business. This is a well-known characteristic of Italian culture, the importance of interpersonal relationships in work life. This interdependence between migrants and Italians favors both parties and might not prove as easy to find in other European cultures.

Here, Romano, also from Bangladesh, has lived in Rome for 19 years. Now in his fifties, he runs his own stall where he sells Italian food products that arrive from Milan and Torino. He has studied these products meticulously over the years which has been the key to his success.

Romano lives just outside of the Italian capital and likes the day to day life in the city.
“I like Italy, especially Rome, not so much for the history but for its culture, habits and its people. Life and the people in Rome are just fine” he says.

Being here for nearly two decades, he is able to follow the Italian model in entrusting another close friend to work for him, Jewel, 30. He arrived in Rome just two years ago and works at Romano’s stall, pouring samples of oils and liquors for tourists to taste. His daily work and interaction with customers is steadily improving his knowledge of the Italian language and his expertise on the products he sells.

Jewel came to Italy alone from the town of Brahmanbaria in eastern Bangladesh. His parents as well as sister and brother are still living there. Working at the market he earns 35 euros per day, six days a week.

Many migrants from Bangladesh also take on unusual working shifts that wouldn’t normally attract Italian workers. These migrants occupy shifts on Sundays or throughout the whole month of August when locals go on vacation for the Italian holiday of Ferragosto.

Arif, who arrived in Rome six years ago works in a tourist shop in the centre of the city, Trastevere. The shop sells postcards, figurines and other trinkets. Although he claims to earn less than seven euros an hour, which is the standard minimum salary determined by unions in Italy, he works daily just to keep an income coming to him.

“I felt very good and happy when I arrived in Rome, he said. “I always see the light in the city, along the streets which is different than in my country. Even if there is chaos with trams, buses and traffic, I always see the light.”

He doesn’t have any family back in Bangladesh and plans to continue building his life here. He lives with several roommates nearby in an apartment in the Monteverde area.

While Arif is an employee in the shop, just down the street, Tanzil owns a stall that sells Italian and Roman items. His parents helped him to purchase the stall nearly 20 years ago where they now sell items like handbags and t-shirts, marketing these in areas with a lot of pedestrians like Via Lungaretta in Trastevere.

Like Tanzil, long term residence in Italy have helped other migrants to be independent of their Italian employers and facilitated intra-EU mobility (IOM) which is a bonus that these migrants seek.

“We are open every day until about 10p.m., even on Sundays,” he said. “I’ve been here since I was little, so now Rome is my home.”

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Robots, Unemployment … and Immigrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/robots-unemployment-immigrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=robots-unemployment-immigrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/robots-unemployment-immigrants/#comments Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:28:26 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154381 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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For every industrial robot introduced into the workforce, six jobs are eliminated.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Feb 19 2018 (IPS)

Amazon has recently introduced Amazon Go, a shop where the customer enters, chooses a product from the shelves, charges the price on a magnetic card and swipes it on the way out, transferring the charge to the customer’s bank account . No queues, no cashiers, fast and easy, and the first shop in Seattle has been a roaring success.

Putting products back on the shelves will soon be fully automated, with robots doing the work previously done by humans. Floor cleaning is already done by a robot, and the aim is to have a fully automated shop, where no human can make mistakes, fall ill, go on strike, take holidays or bring their personal problems to work.

The US petrol industry calculates that the staff required at each well will be reduced from 20 to five within three years. Also within three years it is expected that small hotels will have a fully automated reception – guests arrive, swipe their credit card and a machine supplies the room.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

We are already accustomed to automated telephone for bookings and reservations, and we ourselves now do tasks at an airport which were previously done by clerks, such as checking in.

Contrary to what many think, self-drive vehicles are just around the corner, and car makers think they will be on the market by 2021.

In the United States, according to the ABI Research company, the number of industrial robots will jump nearly 300 percent in less than a decade. The National Economic Research Bureau has reported that for every industrial robot introduced into the workforce, six jobs are eliminated.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has released a “policy brief” indicating what this robotic revolution would mean in Africa, Asia and Latin America. “If robots are considered a form of capital that is a close substitute for low-skilled jobs, then their growing use reduces the share of human labour in production costs. Adverse effects for developing countries may be significant.”

In May 2016, the World Bank’s Digital Dividend Report, calculated that replacing low-skilled workers with robots in developing countries would affect two-thirds of jobs.

China is destined to become the biggest user of robots. China is aiming to become the global leader in high-tech. To take just one example, Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, reduced its workforce last year from 110,000 to 50,000 in Kunshan, thanks to the introduction of robots. The time of cheap imitations is gone, with China now registering more patents than the United States.

Economists call this wave of automation the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The first started, at the end of the 18th century, with the introduction of machines to do handicraft work, such as in textiles. Its impact become visible in 1811, when the followers of a fictional Ned Ludd started to destroy textile equipment because it left thousands of weavers jobless.

The second industrial revolution occurred in the middle of the same century, when science was applied to production, introducing engines and other inventions, creating the real Industrial Revolution. That meant rural populations migrating to towns to work in the factories. The third revolution in the middle of the last century is considered to be the introduction of the Internet, which once again changed forms of production. Gone were the jobs of secretaries in companies, lino typist in newspapers, accounting, documentation, libraries, archives and other hundreds of professions made obsolete by the ‘net’.

We see the Fourth Industrial Revolution in our daily life. But it is like climate change – we all know it exists, it is before our eyes. We have all the data showing an increase in hurricanes, disappearing glaciers, extreme weather conditions, hotter summers than have been recorded since we began measuring temperatures.

Yet, the outcome of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference means that the world is now geared to producing an increase of three degrees centigrade, while scientists unanimously agree that exceeding 1.5 degrees centigrade would be extremely dangerous.

We even have a president of the United States who withdrew from a non-binding Paris Agreement, declaring that climate change is a “Chinese hoax”. Then his appointment of Scott Pruitt – a person who says that global warming is “positive” – as Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank.

The political approach to automation is similar. The 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos was dedicated to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The founder and director of the Forum, economist Klaus Schwab, even went to to the effort of writing a book on the subject for the meeting: it is a book in which he expresses his concern.

Previous industrial revolutions had liberated humankind from animal power, made mass production possible and brought digital capabilities to billions of people. This Fourth Industrial Revolution is, however, fundamentally different. It is characterised by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, affecting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.

We need to take a concerted global approach in the world, to make the positive override the negative impacts. The theme was practically ignored at Davos 2016, because politicians now only discuss themes in the short term: what has to be dealt with during their period in office.

At Davos in 2016, Schwab called for leaders and citizens to “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people.”

Clearly, that goes against the tide of nationalism, the new vision for the United States, India, Japan, China, Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Great Britain, Turkey and so on.

Well, like it or not, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is here. Today automation already accounts already for 17 percent of production and services. It will account for 40 percent within 15 years, according to World Bank projections.

But we should also take into account the surprising seeds of development of artificial intelligence (AI) – also known as machine intelligence (MI) – which is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence (NI) displayed by humans and other animals.

We already have robots which can be reprogrammed and their functions changed. Without going into the vitally important relationship between AI and societies, it is important to note the most vibrant debate today concerns how our economy is mutating into an economy of algorithms and data and how this is impacting on politics.

Austrian economist and thinker Karl Polany saw this coming when he made a simple observation: capitalism, without controls and regulations, does not create a market economy but a market society where whatever is necessary for survival has a price, and that is submitted to the laws of the market.

In that kind of society, the state has no alternative but to sustain the system with laws, courts and police to protect private property and to secure good functioning of the market.

The explosion of social injustice, privatisation of common goods and fiscal support for the richest are all consequences of Polany’s analysis. Add to this monopolisation of data by a few giant companies, like Facebook or Amazon, and their impact in the social, cultural and economic sphere, and you can see where we are going. We have become data ourselves, and we are on the market.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will further reduce the centrality of the human being, who has already been replaced by the market ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall…

All this opens up another crucial issue. Labour was once considered an important cost factor in production, and it was the extent to which workers had rights to the resulting benefits that sparked the creation of trade unions, the modern Left and the adoption of universal values such as social justice, transparency and participation, which were the basis of modern international relations.

The relationship between machines and distribution of the benefits of production has inspired several thinkers, philosophers and economists over the last centuries. It was generally assumed that a time would come in which machines would eventually do all production and humankind would be free of work, maintained from the profits generated by machines.

This was, of course, more a dream than a political theory. Yet today, all managers of artificial intelligence and robotic production argue that the superior productivity of robots will reduce costs, thereby enabling greater consumption of goods and services, and this will generate new jobs, easily absorbing those displaced by machines.

The data we have do not show that at all. According to the Economic Report of the President of the United States, there is an 83 percent chance that those who earn 20 dollars an hour could have their job replaced by robots. This proportion rises to 31 percent for those who earn 40 dollars per hour.

Given that the new economy is an intelligence economy based on technical knowledge, people have a future if they are able to adapt to that kind of society, and the new generations are much more attuned to this. But what will a taxi driver who has had no technical education do to recycle himself?

The statistics show that today, when people lose their jobs at a certain age, any new job they may find will almost always be for a lower remuneration. So robotisation will affect the lower middle class above all, and a new generational divide will be created.

Over the years, a number of economists and influential people have expressed the idea of a universal basic income (UBI), arguing that there is a need to cushion society from tensions, instability and unemployment by giving all citizens a fixed income in order that they would be able to have a dignified life. In addition, by spending their UBI, they would generate wealth and increase demand, which would therefore stimulate growth and make for a just and stable society.

Martin Luther King was an early proponent, like neoliberal economist Milton Friedman. Now the billionaires of Silicon Valley like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, venture capitalist Mark Andreessen and Democratic Party senator Bernie Sanders have all expressed support for the UBI idea.

Meanwhile, Andrew Yang, an American entrepreneur and founder of Venture for America, is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate running on a UBI platform. Yang notes that in the 2016 presidential elections, Donald Trump did particularly well in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states which have lost four million jobs because of automation: “The higher the concentration of robots, the higher the number of disgruntled people who vote for Trump.”

Yang plans to cover the two trillion dollars that UBI would cost (half of the US budget) with a new VAT tax and taxation on the companies who profit from automation. Of course, in the United States the idea that people who do not work should receive public money is the closest thing to communism, and UBI faces formidable cultural obstacles. But Yang says that otherwise in a few years there will be “riots in the streets: just think of the one million truck drivers, who are 94 percent male with an average high school education, suddenly all jobless.”

The above leads to a few considerations and a concrete proposal.

The first consideration is that Trump and all the other politicians who want to restore a past glorious future totally ignore this debate (unfortunately, it is not part of any political debate). Calling for restoring jobs in mines and fossil fuels, for example, fails to recognise that technological developments have already led to the loss of many jobs, and will continue to do so. So, the rallying of disgruntled people, as was the case in Britain with Brexit, is a consequence of the poverty of the political debate, where traditional political parties (especially on the Left), instead of explaining clearly the world in which we now are, and the one in which we are heading, are trying to piggyback on the feelings of the victims of neoliberal globalisation, often taking up the banners of nationalists.

The second political consideration is that migration has become a major theme in elections. Trump was elected on a strong anti-immigrant platform, which continues in his administration. Governments in Hungary, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia are based on refusal of immigrants. All over Europe, from the Nordic countries to France, Netherlands and Germany, anti-immigrant feelings are conditioning governments.

In order to take votes away from the xenophobic Matteo Salvini (leader of the right-wing Lega Nord) in the Italian elections (scheduled for March 2018), the old fox of Silvio Berlusconi (former Italian prime minister) has promised that he will expel 600.000 immigrants if he wins the election.

The fear is that immigrants are stealing jobs and resources from citizens in the countries in which they live. However, statistics from the European Union tell us otherwise. The number of non-EU citizens living in Europe (some for a long time) is now 35 million, of whom about eight million are Africans, and seven million Arabs out of a total of 400 million. Those figures also include illegal immigrants.

All statistics show that more than 97 percent of immigrants are totally integrated, that they pay on average more taxes than locals (of course, they worry about their future) and to date those who do not have a job are about 2.3 million people who are still awaiting a decision on their juridical status.

There is not a single study claiming that immigrants have taken the jobs of Europeans in any significant way. It was the same story with the entry of woman into the labour market. An increasing proportion of women have joined the labour force over the last 30 years, but these increases have not coincided with falling employment rates for men. A study on Brexit demonstrated that immigrants had helped to increase GDP, and that the increase in productivity meant a global increase in employment. But we have reached a point where nobody listens any longer to facts, unless they are convenient…

And now the concrete proposal. It is clear that the real threat to employment for the large majority of citizens comes from robotisation, not immigration. No employed person has been fired to be replaced by an immigrant, unless we talk of non-qualified jobs that Europeans do not want in any case.

Truck drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers and school drivers, to take some examples, do not fear for their jobs because of immigration. Within a very few years, their jobs will become obsolete in any case, and there will be no plans or preparations for that. When the problem explodes, politics might start looking at it.

Perhaps the more responsible thing to do – rather than stoking fear with populism and xenophobia – is that we start to come to terms with the real problem that our society is facing: automation.

And here is a simple proposal: somebody who takes a robot is making money because of its superior productivity, and he is firing somebody. After having paid the robot during usually a couple of years, he might be imagined to have a 100 percent benefit from the firing of a human being. Well, he will not have 100 percent but 60 percent because he will continue to pay the social costs of the human being fired: pension, taxes and health insurance.

That is not as costly as UBI, it is easy to organise and administer, and it will be a way to realise in part the old utopian dream that machines will work for humankind. Can a political debate be started?

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

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Tackling Inequality – The Myth that Davos Can Change the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/myth-davos-can-change-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myth-davos-can-change-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/myth-davos-can-change-world/#comments Mon, 29 Jan 2018 18:00:58 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154041 When the World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded in Davos, Switzerland last week, the outcome of the annual talk-fest was seemingly predictable—plenty of unrestrained platitudes but, surprisingly, less of the American populist, protectionist rhetoric. The presence of President Donald Trump was a political side-show as he proudly declared that America was “open for business”— even as […]

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For years now, Davos has listed inequality as a major concern, and yet has also noted that it keeps increasing. (Don’t these leaders have any influence?)

US President Donald Trump at the Davos Forum

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 29 2018 (IPS)

When the World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded in Davos, Switzerland last week, the outcome of the annual talk-fest was seemingly predictable—plenty of unrestrained platitudes but, surprisingly, less of the American populist, protectionist rhetoric.

The presence of President Donald Trump was a political side-show as he proudly declared that America was “open for business”— even as standup comedian Jimmy Kimmel wisecracked: “And who better to make that declaration than a man who declared bankruptcy six different times” (when he was a self-declared “billionaire” businessman before he ran for the US presidency.)

Trump, who has increasingly opted for bilateralism over multilateralism — while pulling out of the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and threatening to do the same with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada– appeared more restrained before the world’s business elites, even though he arrived in Davos immediately after he slapped tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines.

But then appearances, as they say, can be frighteningly deceptive.

Implicitly taking a shot at Trump, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Davos Forum that “forces of protectionism are raising their heads against globalization.” Their intention is not only to avoid globalisation but also reverse its natural flow, he warned.

Ben Phillips, Launch Director at the Nairobi-based Fight Inequality Alliance, told IPS: “Davos is over. This is not merely to say that the private helicopters have taken their charges back to private airstrips for their onward journey home. This year, 2018, was the nail in the coffin for the idea that Davos could change the world.”

He described the Davos Forum as a “speed-dating club for plutocrats and politicians”. But the idea that it will be a force for a more equal society is dead, he added.

Last week, WEF boss Klaus Schwab embraced Trump, complaining that Trump’s “strong leadership” had suffered “misconceptions and biased interpretations”.

Schwab, went further, praising Trump’s rushed and irresponsible tax giveaway to billionaires that is cutting services, increasing debt and widening inequality: “On behalf of the business leaders here in this room, let me particularly congratulate you for the historic tax reform package passed last month, greatly reducing the tax burden of US companies”.

According to the New York Times, some in the audience booed at Schwab’s remarks praising Trump.

Davos is now Trump-Davos: the racism and cruelty of Trump is forgiven, said Phillips.

“And Trump became Davos-Trump: his claimed revolt against globalization is now exposed as merely an attack on poor migrants and not a challenge to the global elite. Goldman Sachs – once the target of Trump’s rhetoric but now the source of his key cabinet picks, was clear. They “really like what he’s done for the economy”, Phillips added.

Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International, told IPS she saw no evidence that the corporate or government leaders in Davos really understood the urgent need to provide justice for the people or the planet.

“While they speak of inclusive growth and climate action, they fail to investigate or challenge their own role in propping up and benefitting from the underlying system that has created the fractured world we live in,” she added.

However, she said, she was inspired by many of the young global shapers, particularly women, whom she met, leading the way with big ideas and collective leadership.

Morgan pointed out that climate risk and climate action were more present in discussions at Davos this year, but not at the speed or scale required when measured against the scale of the challenge we face.

“Climate disruption is the new norm, which means a transformation of our energy and land-use systems is the only way forward,” she noted.

Phillips told IPS it has not just the embrace of Trump, however, that has ended the myth of Davos as an equalizing force. It is the consistent failure of Davos to deliver.

“For years now, Davos has listed inequality as a major concern, and yet has also noted that it keeps increasing. (Don’t these leaders have any influence?)”, he asked.

As the world’s foremost expert on inequality trends, former World Bank economist Branko Milanovic, concluded last week, Davos has “produced 0 results” in lessening inequality – while the economy has been further adjusted by inequality-exacerbating policies that have returned us to the “early 19thcentury”.

For students of history, noted Phillips, this should all be unsurprising: never, at any time or place, have great strides been made in tackling the concentration of power and wealth by a few by literally concentrating together those powerful and wealthy few.


"All major equalizing change has involved a process of those outside the elite gathering together, building confidence and strength, and pushing for a fairer share. Greater equality has never been freely given, it has always been won through collective struggle."

Ben Phillips, Fight Inequality Alliance

Indeed, all major equalizing change has involved a process of those outside the elite gathering together, building confidence and strength, and pushing for a fairer share.

Greater equality has never been freely given, it has always been won through collective struggle, declared Phillips.

Even the usually-restrained United Nations expressed concern over Trump’s call for countries to pursue their own self-interest – in this age of globalisation and multilateralism.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the outspoken Zeid Raad al-Hussein, declared: “It’s the script of the 20th century. He urged all countries to pursue their own interest, almost without reference to the fact that if you do all of that, if each country is narrowly pursuing its agenda, it will clash with the agendas of others and we will take the world back to 1913 once again.”

Striking a different perspective to Davos, Phillips said “happily, last week was a week when that process of people organizing together for change also took a step forward. But not on the Davos mountain, but on very different mountains.”

As the media summarized it “Forget Davos – Dandora is the key to tackling inequality.”

Dandora in Nairobi is a slum situated on top of a garbage mountain, and it was there, not at the World Economic Forum, that NGOs, social movements and trade unions who have come together in the global Fight Inequality Alliance centred their organizing.

Dandora played host to an Usawa Festival (“Equality Festival”) pulled together by Kenya’s greatest hiphop star Juliani along with grassroots groups working to build up strength from the ground up.

Across the world, similar festivals and rallies brought people together to demand change and build their power. Attendees at Davos complained of being trapped in fog, stuck in ditches, and almost buried by heavy snow.

At the Dandora garbage mountain, in contrast, the sun shone, the participants sang in joyful defiance and people took the initiative for change into their own hands, said Phillips.

“We are the people we’ve been waiting for!” they shouted.

It will take time, they said, but from the garbage mountain top they felt, in an echo of Dr King and of the captives who ran from the Pharaoh, that they could see the promised land, declared Phillips.

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Wealth Concentration Continues to Increasehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/wealth-concentration-continues-increase/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wealth-concentration-continues-increase http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/wealth-concentration-continues-increase/#comments Tue, 23 Jan 2018 10:10:43 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153974 As the ‘masters of the universe’ gather for their annual retreat at Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has just published its Inclusive Development Index (IDI) for the second time. After moderating from the 1920s until the 1970s, inequality has grown with a vengeance from the 1980s as neoliberal ascendance unleashing regressive reforms on various […]

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A man pushes a cartful of garbage near a busy intersection in Yangon. The 56-billion-dollar economy is growing at a steady clip of 8.5 percent per annum, but the riches are obviously not being shared equally. Credit: IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 2018 (IPS)

As the ‘masters of the universe’ gather for their annual retreat at Davos, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has just published its Inclusive Development Index (IDI) for the second time.

After moderating from the 1920s until the 1970s, inequality has grown with a vengeance from the 1980s as neoliberal ascendance unleashing regressive reforms on various fronts.

Sensing the growing outrage at earlier neo-liberal reforms and their consequences, as well as the financial sector bail-outs and fiscal austerity after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, politicians and business leaders have expressed concerns about inequality’s resurgence.

The record is more nuanced. While national level inequalities have grown in most economies over the last four decades, international income disparities between North and South have actually narrowed, largely due to growth accelerations in much of the latter.

But while income inequality trends have been mixed, wealth concentration has picked up steam, recently enabled by the low cost of credit, thanks to ‘unconventional monetary policies’ in the North.

According to the World Inequality Report 2018, the top 1% in the world had twice as much income growth as the bottom half since 1980. Meanwhile, income growth has been sluggish or even flat for those with incomes between the bottom half and the top 1%. Oxfam’s new Reward Work, Not Wealth report reveals that the world’s wealthiest 1% got 82% of the wealth generated in 2017, while the bottom 50% saw no increase at all!

The world’s 500 richest, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, became US$1 trillion richer during 2017, “more than four times” the gain in 2016, as their wealth increased by 23%, taking their combined fortunes to US$5.3 trillion. According to the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2017, there are now 1,542 US dollar billionaires in the world, after 145 more joined their ranks in 2016.

Mozambique’s capital city Maputo has street names after socialist and communist leaders, however, the country has a huge wealth disparity. Credit: IPS


Worsening wealth inequality

Meanwhile, the latest Credit Suisse Report found that the world’s richest 1% increased their share of total wealth from 42.5% at the height of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis to 50.1% in 2017, or US$140 trillion.

It shows that the bottom half together owned less than 1% of global wealth, while the richest 10% owned 88% of all wealth, and the top 1% alone accounted for half of all assets. Thus, global household debt rose by nearly 5% in 2017 despite total wealth increasing by US$16.7 trillion, or 6.4%.

The Report attributes this to uneven asset price inflation with financial asset prices growing much faster than non-financial asset values. Recent unconventional monetary policies of the world’s major central banks contributed to such asset price inflation.

The European Central Bank has acknowledged that quantitative easing (QE) has fuelled asset price inflation. Kevin Warsh, a former US Federal Reserve Board member, has argued that QE has only worked through the ‘asset price channel’, enriching those who own financial assets, not the 96% who mainly rely on income from labour.

An IMF study found that ‘fiscal consolidation’, typically involving austerity, has significantly worsened inequality, depressed labour income shares and increased long-term unemployment.

Another IMF research report shows that capital account liberalization — typically recommended to attract foreign capital inflows without due attention to the consequences of sudden outflows — has generally significantly and persistently increased national-level inequalities.

The World Inequality Report 2018 also observed that rising income inequality has largely been driven by unequal wealth ownership. Privatization in most countries since the 1980s has resulted in negative ‘public wealth’ — public assets minus public debt — in rich countries, even as national wealth has grown substantially. Over recent decades, countries have become richer as governments have become poorer, constraining governments’ ability to address inequality by increasing public provisioning of essential services.

An earlier IMF study also noted that the neoliberal reforms — promoting privatization, cutting government spending, and strictly limiting fiscal deficits and government debt — have also increased economic inequality.

On average, net private wealth in most rich countries rose from 200–350% of national income in 1970 to 400-700% recently as marginal tax rates for the rich and super-rich have fallen. The Oxfam report identifies tax evasion, corporate capture of public policy, erosion of workers’ rights and cost cutting as major contributors to widening inequalities.

The IMF’s recent Fiscal Monitor acknowledges that regressive tax reforms have caused tax incidence to be far less progressive, if not regressive, while failure to tax the rich more has increased inequality. Besides new tax evasion opportunities and much lower marginal income tax rates, capital gains are hardly taxed, encouraging top executives to pay themselves with stock options.

Misleading

It is quite remarkable how increasing wealth concentration has been described and presented to the public. For example, the Allianz Global Wealth Report 2016 has described the trends as ‘inclusive inequality’, claiming a growing global middle class even as inequality has been rising.

Similarly, the Credit Suisse Report argues that wealth distribution is shifting as the world becomes wealthier, thus lowering barriers to wealth acquisition. Increasing wealth and income inequality are thus merely reflecting faster asset accumulation, including the pace at which new millionaires are being created.

Josef Stadler, UBS head of global ultra-high net worth and lead author of the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2017, decries “the perception that billionaires make money for themselves at the expense of the wider population” as incorrect, attributing billionaires’ fortunes to the strong performance of their companies and investments.

Besides their philanthropic contributions and patronage of the arts, culture and sports, 98% of billionaires’ wealth are said by him to contribute to society as the world’s super-rich employed 27.7 million people. Rather than making money from their employees’ efforts, billionaires apparently make private welfare payments to them out of the goodness of their hearts!

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The Data Revolution Should Not Leave Women and Girls Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/data-revolution-not-leave-women-girls-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=data-revolution-not-leave-women-girls-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/data-revolution-not-leave-women-girls-behind/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 16:20:56 +0000 Jemimah Njuki http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153800 Jemimah Njuki is an expert on agriculture, food security, and women’s empowerment and works as a senior program specialist with IDRC. She is an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.

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Most African farmers are women. Credit: IPS

By Jemimah Njuki
OTTAWA, Canada, Jan 9 2018 (IPS)

If there is one political principle that has been constant throughout the history of human civilization it is the fact that land is power. This is something that is particularly true, and often painfully so, for women who farm in Africa.

Though women in Africa are far more likely to farm than men, they are also much less likely to have secure rights to the land where they cultivate crops and they typically hold smaller plots of inferior quality.

As a researcher who studies the role of gender in agriculture, I want to do my part to address this injustice, because when women have stronger rights to land, their crop yields increase and they have higher incomes and more bargaining power within the household. Research has shown that stronger land rights leads to other benefits such as better child nutrition and improved educational attainment for girls.

But as I delve deeper in to the issue, I frequently encounter another political constant, which is the fact that information is power. And one manifestation of the chronic neglect of women in agriculture is the lack of data that would help illuminate and address their plight.

For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched the Goal Keepers Initiative, which is making a concerted effort to track progress toward achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Examining the first ever report on the program launched just a few weeks ago, the first thing I did was scroll down to the section on Goal 5, “Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls.” When examining the indicators related to gender, which include tracking the percentage of women who have secure land rights, I kept encountering the phrase, “Insufficient data” in big, bold red capital letters!

Without data, it is impossible to track progress or identify policies and interventions that are achieving gender equality. In order to develop solutions—whether around land rights or the many other challenges women and girls face–we need data that highlights current problems and assesses their impact.

A good example of how sex-specific data fosters progress is in financial inclusion. Sex-specific data gives us information about who is accessing which kind of products, which channels they use and what the gaps are. Being aware of these gaps is essential to overcome them, and this is impossible without data sets for both men and women. In Rwanda, use of sex-specific data has led to the targeting of groups who are excluded from the financial system, raising the financial inclusion index rise from 20 percent in 2008 to 42 percent in 2012.

A report by Data2X, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation, indicates that although close to 80 percent of countries globally regularly produce sex-specific statistics on mortality, labor force participation, and education and training, less than one-third of countries separate statistics by sex on informal employment, entrepreneurship (ownership and management of a firm or business) and unpaid work, or collect data about violence against women. This leads to an incomplete picture of women’s and men’s lives and the gaps that persist between them, which constrains the development of policies and programs to address these gaps.

A key challenge to collecting these data sets is investment. We need financial investments to collect data on the situation of women and girls at different levels –local, national and international. A study carried out by the UN Statistics Division in collaboration with the UN regional commissions in 2012, showed that out of 126 responding countries only 13 percent had a separate budget allocated to specific gender statistics, 47 percent relied on ad-hoc or project funds and the remaining 39 percent had no funds at all.

In 2016, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation invested US $80M to improve the collection of sex specific data. In Uganda, the World Bank Living Standards Measurement Study is collaborating with the United Nations Evidence and Data for Gender Equality initiative and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics to collect and analyze asset ownership by different members of households.

It would help to know for example what assets women own so as to develop programs and policies that benefit both men and women and that close persistent gender gaps. At Canada’s International Development Research Centre, we are supporting sex-specific reporting and registration of vital and civil events—including births and deaths to help track progress on such indicators as women’s reproductive health and child mortality.

Globally, there is still no available data on how many women own customary land. One challenge is that the rules, norms, and customs which determine the distribution of land and resources are embedded in various institutions in society—family, kinship, community, markets, and states. For example, when I was visiting Mali in 2012, I attended a village’s community meeting where I witnessed the village chief grant a local women’s group a local deed so they could farm together and raise their incomes. But there was no formal document or record.

Without this data, when land is privatized or formalized, women often lose control of customary land. For example in post-independence Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, during the land registration and formalization experience, lack of data and consideration of women in customary land rights led to the documentation of land in the name of the head of the household only, often a man. This gave the man authority to use, sell, and control the land, with women losing the customary access and rights that they had previously enjoyed.

International agencies and governments must commit to investing in collecting more data on women and girls. Closing this gender data gap is not only useful for tracking progress of where we are with the SDGs, but it can also point to what interventions are working, and what needs to be done to accelerate progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

What gets measured matters, and what matters gets measured. Women and girls matter.

The post The Data Revolution Should Not Leave Women and Girls Behind appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jemimah Njuki is an expert on agriculture, food security, and women’s empowerment and works as a senior program specialist with IDRC. She is an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.

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Tourism Should Be Regulated, Before It Is Too Late…http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tourism-regulated-late/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tourism-regulated-late http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tourism-regulated-late/#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 16:19:12 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153779 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 8 2018 (IPS)

This year, we will have 3 million tourists each day wandering the world. This massive phenomenon is without precedent in human history and is happening (as usual), with only one consideration in mind: money. We should pause and take a look at its social, cultural and environmental impact and take remedial measures, because they are becoming seriously negative if things are left as they are.

Roberto Savio

Sameer Kapoor listed for Triphobo Trip Planner a list of 20 places that have been ruined, due to excess of tourism. Antarctica is getting an alarming level of pollution. The famous Taj Mahal, a monument of love from the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to the memory of his wife, Mumtaz, has changed its shining milky white marble into a yellow shade. Mount Everest is strewn with trash from invading visitors.

The Great wall of China has been so mistreated by the massive invasion of tourists that it has begun to crumble in places The famous beaches of Bali are littered with trash; traffic is in a gridlock and roads and footpaths are in a dangerous state of disrepair.

Macchu Picchu has a such large number of visitors that archaeologists are worried about preservation of the site. Once there was a train to a small village, Aguas Calientes, to then continue by foot or mules. Now you can reach the enigmatic and sacred Inca citadel by air conditioned bus, and Aguas Calientes is now a town of 4.000 people with five star hotels. The famous Australian Coral Reef Barrier, has lost already one third of the corals.

The Galapagos islands, where Charles Darwin conceived his famous theory of natural selection, has so many visitors impinging on his fragile eco balance that in 2007 UNESCO placed it on the list of endangered World Heritage Sites but to no avail. The Parthenon has many visitors taking pieces of rocks and ruins, and drawing or carving on ancient pillars, that special police squad had to be created.

The wonders of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, is suffering the same fate, together with the Colosseum in Rome, where every week somebody gets caught for chipping away pieces of columns, or graffiting the pillars.

But maybe the best example of the negative impact of tourism is Venice. The town has now officially 54.000 residents. They were 100.000 in 1970. Every year 1.000 residents leave for the mainland, because rents and cost of life keeps going up, and the hordes of tourist make life impossible for the residents. The number of sweepers and cleaners employed by the city has to go up continuously. Giant ships continue to go over the delicate microsystem of the lagoon and their lobby is very strong. They insist that without their megaships landing at the centre of the town, 5.000 jobs would be in danger.

There is now a clear conflict between those who live off tourism and those who have other jobs. Like in Barcelona, residents now stage demonstrations against mass tourism. Venice will become a ghost town, like the village of Mont Saint Michel, the medieval village in Normandy, jammed by thousands of visitors, to see the famous high-speed sea tide. At night, 42 people sleep there.

What is impressive is the speed of the phenomenon since 1950 when the total tourist numbers were 25 million, two thirds to Europe meant 29.76%of the tourists , Africa a mere 1.98% and the Middle East 0.79%, like Asia and Pacific. 66 years later, tourist numbers rose to 1.2 billion, Europe is down to 50%, Americas to 16.55%, Africa is at 4.52%, while the Middle East is at 4.7%. And Asia Pacific? It is now at 24.2%.

What is more impressive is to look further – at 2030, for which we have all the data (from the United Nations World Tourism Organization). Well, in a short time, we will go up to 1.8 billion: 5 million tourists every day. Europe is again down, to 41%, Americas down to 14%, Asia up to 30%, Africa to 7% and Middle east to 8 %. A totally inverted world in respect to 1950.

Tourism is already today the largest employer in the world: 1 person every 11. China has surpassed the US as the largest nationality. In 2016, they have spent 261 billion US dollars, and they will spend 429 billion in 2020.

UNWTO points to the fact that in 2025, China will have 92.6 million families with an income between 20.000 and 30.000 dollars per year; 63 million with an income between 35.000 and 70.000 dollars per year; and 21.3 million, with an income between 70.000 and 130.000 dollars. A large part of them is expected to travel and spend money. How many people speak Chinese and know anything about their idiosyncrasis ?

But any other consideration beside money, is totally absent in this debate. For instance, a large part of the jobs is in fact only seasonal, and poorly paid. Most of the money does not stay in the place where it is spent, but goes back to big companies and food imported for the tourist’s habits.

It is calculated that in the Caribbean, a full 70% goes back to US and Canada. Culture and traditions are influenced as outsiders come. Local culture and traditions become just a show for foreigners, and can lose roots. Hotels are built just for tourism in the most beautiful spots, degrading habitat and nature.

Price increases in local shops, because tourists are often wealthier than the local population. It is sufficient to go to a town which is out of the tourist’s circuits, to see the difference. In fact, now there is a growing search for “intact” places, different from “tourist’s places.

Tourist restaurants have become synonymous with poor food and high prices. And a tourist place is one that has lost its identity to conform with the demands of tourists. It has been the proliferation of Mc Donalds, Pizza Huts and other fast food joints, often in the most beautiful parts of towns, that pushed Petrini, in an old village with gastronomic tradition, Bra in Piedmont, to start a movement called Slow Food movement. The movement defends the freshness of materials, that must be local, preserving the original and traditional cuisines, and defending local products form the ongoing homogenization. It has now over 100.000 members in 150 countries, which defends identity against globalization.

Florence can well be a good example of how tourism is uprooting the locals’ identity and tradition. It was since the Renaissance, a place of art and culture. It was a must for cultured tourists and the forebearers of today’s tourists: German, British and French visitors, until the Second World War. A city of elegance, antique dealers, art shops, handcrafts and a very recognized Florentine cuisine.

Now it is full of tourist’s shops, jeans places, cheap standardized handcraft, a lot of pizzeria and tourist restaurants. The concierge of the classical Hotel Baglioni, when questioned about the decay of the town, had a simple answer: “Sir, we are a town of merchants. We did create the letter of change, the banks, and the international trade. Here come people who looked for art and antiques. Today we are awash with people who want to buy blue jeans and cheap stuff. We provide with what people want.” And for those living, in Rome, the main street via del Corso has suffered the same transformation.

It is scary to think what will happen when in the not so far 2020, 100 million Chinese will travel worldwide, with Europe as their first destination. Anybody who had a Chinese visitor (or from a different culture),knows how difficult it is for him to understand what he sees.

One of the main artistic European buildings are churches, and for a totally different religion they are strange places. It makes no sense to a Chinese what is Romanesque or Baroque, as they do not have any equivalent at home. And the classical tourist tour is now for about a week, in which they see at least 5 towns. This is the equivalent for a European to visit the temples in Tibet, without having studied Tibetan Buddhism, which is very different from other branches of Buddhism. Or, for that matter, visit the Egyptian temples without some knowledge at least of the Egyptian cosmology, the reigns of death, and the Pantheon of Gods. What will be remembered is the size of the pyramids, the smell of the incense in Buddhist temples, and other mere esthetical impression. That has nothing to do with culture and art.

To talk about the negative impacts of tourism, opens inevitably the question of classism. The more cultured you are, the more you can get from your travels. Does that mean that only cultured people (that until the second world war, also meant affluent: today the two concepts have split, may be for ever), should travel? Is tourism not a way to enrich and educate, so it should be on the contrary an important tool for the less cultivated?

I do not think that there is an easy answer to this issue. What I know, is that only a small minority of those visiting the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, or the Potala Palace in Lhasa, or the valley of the kings in Egypt, have a book in their hands, that they have bought to prepare themselves. They depend on their tour guides, who confess that they do not even try to teach, but only to show what their tourists can all understand. That means that when you are in the Sistine Chapel, you are nearly unable to move, while the custodians try to move people on, so to make space for the waiting line of visitors. Among that crowd, there are some people who can place the difference between Michelangelo and Matisse, and would certainly benefit from some more time, while this is irrelevant for others.

It is clear that we cannot let 1.8 billion people wander in the world, without introducing some global regulations on how to limit the negative aspects of tourism, and relating it not only to money, but to education, culture and personal development.

To come in touch with different cultures, civilizations, foods, habits and realities should be an occasion that should not be left only to money. A paradox is that we are fighting against immigrants, because of different cultures, but we accept gladly the same people if they come as tourist and not as refugees. And the other paradox is the two parallel words which coexist: one, the real, about poverty and violence that we read in newspapers; and another of the same place, which exists only for tourists, about the beautiful beaches, wonderful nature, and fantastic hotels.

Right now, you can visit the Vatican after its closing, with a modest fee of 100 Euro per person, in quiet and small numbers. Is the future of tourism made with two tracks, where money will be the dividing factor ?

It is obvious that we should link tourism to education and culture. A proposal is simply to ask every tourist, when he buys a tour, an airline ticket, or asks for a visa, to buy and read a very simple and schematic book (they do not exist until now), which can be read and understood in no more than 10 hours about what he or she is going to visit.

A small commission formed by one teacher of history, one of geography, and one of art, is established in any small or large cities, where now lives the large majority of the population. In all of them there are schools with these studies. They conduct a small exam, and charge a small fee for a certificate, to justify their extra work.

Tourists can choose to go to the commission or not. Few extremely simple questions such as – which is the capital of the countries you are going to visit ? Is the country independent ? Is it a monarchy or a republic ? How does it makes its money ? Its monument and art have different moments in history? The commission would give two certificates. One would give access to museums and monuments for the first two hours of the day, and only those with the certificate could then enter. After those two hours , everybody with the two certificates can enter. But this would enable those who can understand and enrich themselves, to have some time in peace and quiet.

This would make two tracks of tourism, not based on money. And this could generate a demonstration effect, where tourists would probably dedicate sometime to prepare themselves. I asked one former director general of UNESCO what he thought of a such proposal. His answer was – it is a great idea, but where is the political will to support this or, for that matter any international agreement ?

The post Tourism Should Be Regulated, Before It Is Too Late… appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

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

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Uncertainty Surrounds Renegotiation of NAFTA and Its Consequences for Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/uncertainty-surrounds-renegotiation-nafta-consequences-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uncertainty-surrounds-renegotiation-nafta-consequences-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/uncertainty-surrounds-renegotiation-nafta-consequences-mexico/#comments Wed, 03 Jan 2018 16:32:20 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153721 The first few months of 2018 will be key to defining the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), whose renegotiation due to the insistence of U.S. President Donald Trump has Mexico on edge because of the potential economic and social consequences. After five rounds of ministerial negotiations, which began in August, the […]

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Billionaires, Fiscal Paradise, the World’s Debt, and the Victimshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/billionaires-fiscal-paradise-worlds-debt-victims/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=billionaires-fiscal-paradise-worlds-debt-victims http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/billionaires-fiscal-paradise-worlds-debt-victims/#comments Tue, 02 Jan 2018 14:22:59 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153702 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Money, coins and bills. Credit: IPS

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jan 2 2018 (IPS)

Among Bloomberg’s many profitable activities is a convenient Bloomberg Billionaires Index that has just published its findings for 2017. It covers only the 500 richest people, and it proudly announces that they have increased their wealth by 1 trillion dollars in just one year. Their fortunes went up by 23% to top comfortable 5 trillion dollars (to put this in perspective, the US budget is now at 3.7 trillion). That obviously means an equivalent reduction for the rest of the population, which lost those trillion dollars. What is not widely known is that the amount of the circulation of money stays the same; no new money is printed to accommodate the 500 richest billionaires!

In fact, Forbes, the magazine for the rich, states that there are over 2.000 billionaires in the world, and this number is going to increase and increase fast. China has now overtaken the US, by having 594 billionaires as compared to the US’s 535 – and every three days a new millionaire is born. There is even an exclusive club of billionaires, the China Entrepreneur Club, which admits members only by the unanimity of its 64 members at present. Together they have 300 billion dollars, the 4.5% of the Chinese GNP. As a norm, the Chinese wealth is a family affair, which means that in 10 years they will leave a heritage of 1 trillion dollars, most probably to their sons; and the amount of inherited wealth is going to rise to three trillion dollars in 20 years.

We know from a large study by the French economist Thomas Piketty covering 65 countries during modern times, that the bulk of wealth comes from inherited money. That because, as we all know, money begets money. And Reagan started his campaign: “Misery brings misery, wealth brings wealth”: therefore, we must tax rich people less than poor people. But Trump’s tax law just adopted in the US, cuts taxes to companies, increasing the US deficit by 1.7 trillion dollars over ten years. Nobody is noticing that the US deficit is already at $18.96 trillion or about 104% of the previous 12 months of the Gross Domestic (GDP).

This tax reform will have a deep impact on Europe, by shifting there many of the costs of the reform, through balance of payments and trade. The five most important ministers of finance of Europe, UK included, have written a letter of protest, obviously much to the glee of President Trump, who perceives only the US as winner, and all others as losers.

Roberto Savio

All this staggering amount of money in a few hands (8 people have the same wealth as 2.3 billion people), brings us to three relevant considerations: a) what is happening with the world debt b) how are governments helping the rich to avoid taxes; c) the relation between injustice and democracy. None of those perspectives gives space for hope, and least of all trust in our political class.

Let us start with the world’s debt. I do not remember to have seen a single article on that in the closing year. Yet the International Monetary Fund has alerted: gross debt of the non-financial sector has doubled in nominal terms; since the end of the century to 152 trillion dollars. This is a record 225% of the world GDP. Two thirds come from the private sector, and one third from the public sector. But this increased from below 70% of the GDP last year now to 85%, a dramatic rise in such a short time.

In fact, the respected Institute for international Finance estimates that at the end of this year the global debt, private and public added, would have reached a staggering 226 trillion dollars, more than three times global annual economic output… This doesn’t seem to interest anyone. But let us take the state of the American economy, and a proud President boasting about the index of growth, now estimated at 2.6%. Well, this shows the inadequacy of the GDP as a valid indicator. Growth is a macroeconomic index. If 80% goes to a few hands, and the crumbs to all the others, who pay most of taxes, it is not an example of growth, it is just a problem waiting to explode.

What is more, nobody is thinking about the increase in deficit. The total private debt at the end of the first quarter of 2017 was 14.9 trillion, with an increase of 900 million dollars in three months. While salaries increased from 9.2 billion dollars in 2014 to 10.3 billion dollars in the second quarter of 2017, the debt of families rose from 13.9 billion dollars to 14.9, an increase of one billion dollars, in just four months.

Which growth are we talking about? In fact, we have 86% of the population facing an increasing debt, but poorer at the same time, because of the concentration of wealth in just 1% of the population’s hands. This should be a cause of concern for any administration, left wing or right-wing: in fact, it is not surprising that the 400 richest men of the US, led by Warren Buffet, have written to Trump telling him that they are doing fine and that they do need a tax rebate; and that he should worry about the poorest part of the population.

Now a favourite way of avoiding taxes, is to place money in tax havens, where between 21 and 30 trillion dollars are ensconced. The Tax Justice Network reports that this system is “basically designed and operated” by a group of highly paid specialists from the world’s largest private banks (led by UBS, Credit Suisse, and Goldman Sachs), law offices, and accounting firms and tolerated by international organizations such as Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the OECD, and the G20.

The amount of money hidden away has significantly increased since 2005, sharpening the divide between the super-rich and the rest of the world. And this is why there was a lot of pressure to oblige banks to open their accounts to fiscal inspector, and pressure on the Bahamas, Hong Kong, Panama and other third world countries.

Now, another good example of the reigning hypocrisy: The last meeting of the Ministers of Finance of the European Union (Ecofin), has not been able to take a decision on something heinous: several member countries (Luxemburg, UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Malta and Cyprus), host tax havens on their territories. The Queen of England has invested 10 million pounds in an English tax heaven. And two US states, in particular Delaware, have tax havens that are impenetrable even to the CIA and FBI. Tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the Bahamas were far less permissive, researchers found, than states such as Nevada, Delaware, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and New York. “[Americans] discovered that they really don’t need to go to Panama”, said James Henry of the Tax Justice Network. Ecofin has decided that they will continue to bang Third World countries, until they decided what to do at home.

So, the West proclaims principles of transparency and accountability, as long as it can impose these on others. But there is a paradox for the western governments: if those tax havens were closed, as the majority of the deposit comes from the West, they would be able to get much more taxes. To take just the case of the US: Reed College economist Kim Clausing estimates that inversions in tax havens and other income-shifting techniques reduced Treasury revenues by as much as $111 billion in 2012. And, according to a new Congressional Budget Office projection, the corporate base erosion will continue to cut corporate tax receipts over the next decade. It must be clear therefore that if governments let their revenues from the corporations and high earners shrink, they are not acting in the interest of the average citizen.

So, let us draw our conclusions. Nobody is paying attention to the world debt. It is increasing beyond control, but we are leaving the problem to the next generations, hoping that they will address it. We are mortgaging them with debt, with climate change, and whatever else is possible, to avoid any sacrifices on our part now. Our motto seems to be: Let us protect the riches, and expect less from them and more from the others. In 1952, corporate income taxes funded about 32 percent of the US government. That shrank to 10.6 percent by 2015. While tax havens aren’t the sole cause of this shift, it’s worth noting that the share of corporate profits reported in tax havens has increased tenfold since the 1980s. And now comes from Trump the giant tax gift for companies.

This policy, hidden to citizens, and never legitimized by any formal act of law, is now becoming evident because of the giant increase of inequality, which has no precedence in history. According to Oxfam, Great Britain will have more social injustice in 2020, that at the times of Queen Victoria. The world is moving faster to financial investments and transactions, and not the production of goods and services, which do not fetch instant rewards. It is estimated that with one trillion dollars you can buy the world production of a day of goods and services. That same day, the financial transactions reach 40 trillion dollars. That means, that for every dollar generated by human hands, there are 40 dollars created by financial abstractions.

Globalization is obviously rewarding capitals, not human beings. Well, this is having an impact in politics, and not the best one. There is everywhere an increasing number of losers, especially in rich countries, also because of technological development, and shift in consumption. A classic example are the coal mines that Trump wants to resurrect, to make America great again. But coal is inexorably being phased out because of climate concerns (even if not fast enough), and automatization reduces considerably the number of workers to be employed. Robots will in 2040 be responsible for 42% of production of goods and services, up from the present 16%. Which means around 86 million of new unemployed, in the West alone, according to the International Labour Organization. Those left out from the benefits of globalizations look at the winners, whom they see well connected to the system. This results in the globalization of resentment and frustration, which in a few years has led to the rise of the rightist parties in all European countries, triggered Brexit, and Trump. Once upon a time, the left was the banner-bearer of the fight for social justice. Now it is the right!

Finally, globalization has lost its shine – but not its power. Now, the debate is about how to de-globalize, and what is worrying is that the debate is not about how to bring the process to the service of humankind, but how to deploy populism and nationalism, and xenophobia, to “let us make US great again”, to the increase in clashes and conflicts.

International organizations like the IMF and the World Bank – who have been claiming for two decades that market is the only basis for progress, that once a totally free market is in place, the common man and woman would be the beneficiary – have switched the reverse gear. Now they are all talking about the need for the state to be again the arbiter for regulations and social inclusion, because they have found out that social injustice is a brake not only for democracy, but also economic progress. But despite all the mea culpa, they are rather late in the day. The genie is out of the bottle, and the powers that be do not even try to put it back. Utter hypocrisy, vested interests, and the lack of vision have regrettably replaced policy.

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Excerpt:

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

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