Inter Press Service » IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 10 Feb 2016 10:44:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 CTBTO’s Verification System Thwarts Nuclear Testshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ctbtos-verification-system-thwarts-nuclear-tests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ctbtos-verification-system-thwarts-nuclear-tests http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ctbtos-verification-system-thwarts-nuclear-tests/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 21:52:23 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143839 Dr. Lassina Zerbo is Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO). Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Dr. Lassina Zerbo is Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO). Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) – a 24-hour international watchdog body – is known never to miss a beat.

The Organization’s international monitoring and verification system has been tracking all nuclear explosions -– in the atmosphere, underwater and underground –- including all four nuclear tests by the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) – the only country in the world to test nuclear weapons in the 21st century.

“The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System has found a wider mission than its creators ever foresaw: monitoring an active and evolving Earth,” says Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of CTBTO, an Organization which also monitors earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, large storms and drifting icebergs.

He said some compare the system to a combined giant Earth stethoscope and sniffer that looks, listens, feels and sniffs for planetary irregularities.

It’s the only global network which detects atmospheric radioactivity and sound waves which humans cannot hear, said Dr. Zerbo.

Asked how effective the CTBTO’s verification system is, Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association told IPS since the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature 20 years ago, national and international test ban monitoring and verification capabilities have improved immensely and they now far exceeds original expectations.

He said there have been significant advances in the U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System capabilities across all of the key verification technologies deployed worldwide to detect and deter nuclear test explosions, including seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, radionuclide, and satellite monitoring, as well as on-site inspections — “as demonstrated in the November 2014 integrated field exercise in Jordan, which I observed directly.”

With the combined capabilities of the International Monitoring System (IMS), national technical means (NTM), and civilian seismic networks, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of any military utility would escape detection.

By detecting and deterring clandestine nuclear-explosion testing, the CTBT and its monitoring systems effectively inhibit the development of new types of nuclear weapons, Kimball said.

“With the option of short-notice, on-site inspections, as allowed under the treaty once it enters into force, we would have even greater confidence in detecting evidence of a nuclear explosion,” he added.

According to CTBTO, the verification regime is designed to detect any nuclear explosion conducted on Earth – underground, underwater or in the atmosphere, and the purpose of the verification regime is to monitor countries’ compliance with the CTBT which bans all nuclear explosions on the planet.

Michael Schoeppner, Programme on Science and Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, told IPS the verification system of the CTBT relies on diplomatic and technical means.

The technical verification aims at the physical proof whether a nuclear explosion has occurred or not, he said.

“The CTBTO has built an efficient and effective system to monitor the Earth around the clock for underground, underwater and atmospheric nuclear explosions. It delivers data to all member states and thus enables a sound decision-making of the international community,” he added.

The CTBT and its verification regime establish an international norm for countries to refrain from developing and testing new nuclear weapon types, Schoeppner said.

Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, told IPS the effectiveness of the verification system provided by the CTBTO demonstrates that similar real-time global verification required for nuclear disarmament is indeed possible.

He said the CTBTO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors nuclear reactors to ensure there is no diversion of fissile materials into nuclear weapons programmes, could meet some of the verification tasks for nuclear disarmament.

However, there would also need to be verification of the destruction of existing stockpiles and the destruction or conversion of delivery vehicles, he noted.

The United States has launched an International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification which is exploring the technologies and systems required, Ware said.

“The experience of the CTBTO shows that such verification systems can begin operating even before disarmament agreements are fully ratified and operational.”

In addition, Ware pointed out, the CTBTO provides additional benefits beyond the verification of nuclear tests.

Real-time information from the CTBTO network of seismic and hydro-acoustic monitoring stations is now available for the tsunami warning centres – providing warning time for tsunamis when there are earthquakes in ocean regions.

“The CTBTO network of radionuclide monitoring stations provides information which can be useful in time of a nuclear accident, such as the Fukushima disaster. It is likely that additional verification systems developed to monitor nuclear disarmament agreements could also provide spin-off benefits,” he pointed out.

According to CTBTO, the verification regime consists of the following elements: International Monitoring System International Data Centre; Global Communications Infrastructure Consultation and clarification; On-Site Inspection and Confidence-building measures.

The International Monitoring System (IMS) consists of 321 monitoring stations and 16 laboratories world wide. These 337 facilities monitor the planet for any sign of a nuclear explosion.

Asked whether there was even a remote possibility of a nuclear test circumventing the verification system, Kimball told IPS: “No monitoring system is one-hundred percent foolproof, but only a foolish leader would try to conduct a clandestine nuclear weapon test explosion because the likelihood of detection today is extremely high and the cost would be particularly severe.”

Unfortunately, he said, Pyongyang’s Jan. 6 blast is an uncomfortable reminder that 20 years after the conclusion of the CTBT, the door to further nuclear testing remains ajar.

Kimball said formal entry into force has been delayed by the failure of seven other states—China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States—to ratify the treaty.

Some states, including Egypt and Iran, have not completed the monitoring stations in their territory or are not allow data from stations to be sent to the CTBTO.

Responsible states can do more to reinforce it pending CTBT entry into force this year, he noted.

“We are calling for a new, high-level diplomatic effort to encourage key states such as Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan to condemn North Korea’s test, reaffirm their support for the global testing moratorium, and promptly consider the CTBT.”

In addition, Kimball said, they could pursue the adoption of a new UN Security Council resolution and a parallel UN General Assembly measure calling on all states to refrain from testing, declaring that nuclear testing would trigger proliferation and undermine international peace and security, and recommending that the treaty’s Provisional Technical Secretariat and Preparatory Commission, including the International Monitoring System, be considered essential institutions because of their critical role in detecting and deterring nuclear testing.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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UN Seeks Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-seeks-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-seeks-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/un-seeks-zero-tolerance-for-female-genital-mutilation/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:07:26 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143836 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

The United Nations says it is determined to end female genital mutilation (FGM) – a ritual practiced mostly in Africa, the Middle East, parts of Asia and even among some migrant communities in Europe.

And the world body’s determination is being backed with facts, figures — and a global campaign by a Joint Programme against FGM initiated by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

As the world body commemorated International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “I am proud to be among so many champions in the cause of eliminating female genital mutilation.”

Since 2007, more than a dozen countries have enacted measures to tackle FGM and more than 950 legal cases have been prosecuted.

“And today, nearly all countries where it is prevalent outlaw the practice. We are working to extend that legal protection everywhere,” he said.

As of now, more than 110,000 doctors, nurses and midwives have received training on the need to eliminate the practice.

The number of women benefiting from valuable services supported by the UN’s Joint Programme more than doubled over the past year — to over 820,000.

And over the last ten years, budgeting to fight FGM has increased by 600 percent, according to the United Nations.

By 2011, the African Union led the way calling for a General Assembly resolution to eliminate FGM. By 2012, UN established an International Day (Feb 6) for Zero Tolerance for FGM.

The New York Times said last week that FGM – also described as female circumcision of mostly young girls — is not just an African problem but also a growing practice in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population.

Virtually all countries that practice FGM say it is either a cultural or a religious ritual handed down over many generations.

But Rena Herdiyani, vice chair of Kalyanamitra, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Indonesia, thinks it’s a myth.

She is not only lobbying against FGM but also wants the government to punish those who perform female circumcision.

“They think it’s a family or a cultural tradition, and an Islamic obligation, yet they can’t name any verses in the Quran about female circumcision,” she was quoted as saying.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. “But the procedure has no health benefits for girls and women”.

Ban said that in his 9-year tenure as Secretary-General, he has helped achieve impressive results.

“In my first year, 2007, we held a first-of-its-kind global consultation on FGM. Experts took a hard look at the problem – and came up with effective solutions.”

The next year, 2008, 10 UN agencies signed a statement on eliminating FGM. The Commission on the Status of Women and the World Health Assembly also took action.

At the same time, the UNFPA and UNICEF launched the Joint Programme to help communities quickly abandon this practice.

In 2009, Ban’s report to the General Assembly on the Girl Child called for social change to drive FGM abandonment.

The next year, the UN established a global strategy against harmful medicalization. “I also launched my ‘Every Woman Every Child’ movement which has mobilized partners who are getting concrete results,” Ban said.

And more than 15,000 communities where some 12 million people live are committed to ending FGM.

According to UNICEF’s new statistical report, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries.

The report says half of the girls and women, who have been cut, live in three countries — Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Moreover, girls aged 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut. In most of the countries the majority of girls were cut before reaching their fifth birthdays
Ban thanked the many religious leaders joining this cause. More and more men and boys are speaking out. Somali Men Against FGM has its own Facebook page. One wrote: “We say collectively: Don’t Do it FOR US”.

Let us make a world where FGM stands for Focus on Girls’ Minds, he said and posted the question: “How about this: FGM stands for Focus on Girls Minds.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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After 20 Years, Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Still in Political Limbohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/after-20-years-nuclear-test-ban-treaty-still-in-political-limbo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=after-20-years-nuclear-test-ban-treaty-still-in-political-limbo http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/after-20-years-nuclear-test-ban-treaty-still-in-political-limbo/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:58:05 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143792 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS , Feb 4 2016 (IPS)

After nine years in office, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will step down in December perhaps without achieving one of his more ambitious and elusive political goals: ensuring the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

“This year marks 20 years since it has been open for signature,” he said last week, pointing out that the recent nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – the fourth since 2006 — was “deeply destabilizing for regional security and seriously undermines international non-proliferation efforts.”

Now is the time, he argued, to make the final push to secure the CTBT’s entry into force, as well as to achieve its universality.

In the interim, states should consider how to strengthen the current defacto moratorium on nuclear tests, he advised, “so that no state can use the current status of the CTBT as an excuse to conduct a nuclear test.”

But how close – or how further away– are we from the CTBT coming into force?

Jayantha Dhanapala, a member of the Group of Eminent Persons appointed by the Executive Secretary of the Provisional Technical Secretariat of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), told IPS: “The CTBT was widely acclaimed as the litmus test of the sincerity of nuclear weapon states in their commitment to nuclear disarmament. The concrete promise of its conclusion was among the causes that led to the permanent extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1995 under my Presidency.”

He said the fact that this important brake on the research and development of the most destructive weapon invented is not in force is ominous as relations between the major nuclear weapon states – the US and the Russian Federation who hold 93% of the weapons between them – deteriorate with no dialogue across the divide.

Huge sums of money are being spent on modernisation of the weapons and extremist groups practising barbaric terrorism may acquire them adding to the existential threat that the weapons pose, said Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs.

John Hallam, Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner with People for Nuclear Disarmament and the Human Survival Project, told IPS he has, over the years, suggested a number of possibilities for entry into force of the CTBT, including a ‘group of friends’ (governments) declaring that, for them, the CTBT has already entered into force.

Once such group of governments could constitute a comfortable General Assembly (GA) majority in a resolution cementing this in some sense, he added. Possibly at a later stage, he said, one could put up a GA resolution simply declaring that it is now in force. Period.

“I understand fully that such approaches are likely to encounter resistance from non-ratifiers. However the pressure would then be on them to ratify. And a majority should not be bound by the tiny minority of holdouts however influential,” said Hallam.

“And it is an idea I have been gently suggesting in a number of quarters for a number of years,” he pointed out.

The CTBT, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly back in 1996, has still not come into force for one primary reason: eight key countries have either refused to sign or have held back their ratifications.

The three who have not signed – India, North Korea and Pakistan – and the five who have not ratified — the United States, China, Egypt, Iran and Israel – remain non-committal 20 years following the adoption of the treaty.

Currently, there is a voluntary moratoria on testing imposed by many nuclear-armed States. “But moratoria are no substitute for a CTBT in force. The four nuclear tests conducted by the DPRK are proof of this, Ban said.

In September 2013, a group of about 20 “eminent persons” was tasked with an unenviable job: convince eight recalcitrant countries to join the CTBT.

Under the provisions of the CTBT, the treaty cannot enter into force without the participation of the last of the eight key countries.

Addressing the UN’s Committee on Disarmament and International Security last October, Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, said it was necessary to reignite the spirit of the 1990s and go beyond the “business-as-usual” approach of recent years.

“It was necessary to further disarmament, because they would lead the process and see it through. Operationalizing the CTBT would greatly increase the capacity of the international community to address proliferation and advance prospects for those weapons’ eventual elimination”.

In the current millennium, he pointed out, there had only been one county (DPRK) that had violated the moratorium on nuclear testing. “Action was still needed to secure the future of the Treaty as a firm legal barrier against nuclear testing and the nuclear arms race,” he said.

He said nuclear weapons and nuclear testing had a dangerous and destabilizing impact on global security, as well as a negative impact on the environment. More than $1 billion had so far been invested in the most sophisticated and far-reaching verification regime ever conceived.

Significant national security decisions were made in good faith, with the expectation that the Treaty would become legally binding, in line with international law. Countries should finish the job done by experts, he added.

“The challenges of disarmament and non-proliferation required bold ideas and global solutions, as well as the active engagement of stakeholders from all corners of the world. Equally important was building capacity among the next generation of experts, who would carry the endeavours forward,” Zerbo declared.

Hallam told IPS whatever multilateral initiative is adopted, something has got to be done that does an end run around entry-into-force conditions in the text of the treaty, that are, almost impossible ever to satisfy. They have to be in some way short-circuited.

He said that other alternatives must be sought, and that” we should be creative in doing so.”

“I think the CTBTO is already doing a splendid job (and specifically that Lassina Zerbo is doing a great job in promoting it), and this fact already stands it in good stead.”

It would be important to ensure that raw data from the CTBTO sensor network is readily and quickly available to the research community – not just the nonproliferation community but others who might be interested such as geophysicists and climate researchers, not to mention tsunami warning centres, he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Europe is disintegrating while its citizens watch indifferenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/europe-is-disintegrating-while-its-citizens-watch-indifferent/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-is-disintegrating-while-its-citizens-watch-indifferent http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/europe-is-disintegrating-while-its-citizens-watch-indifferent/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 12:53:07 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143786

Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
Rome, Feb 4 2016 (IPS)

We are witnessing the slow agony of the dream of European integration, disintegrating without a single demonstration occuring anywhere, among its 500 millions of citizens. It is clear that European institutions are in an existential crisis but the debate is only at intergovernmental level.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

This proves clearly that European citizens do not feel close to Brussels. Gone are the 1950s, when young people mobilized in the Youth Federalist Movement, with activists from the Federal Movement led by Altiero Spinelli, and the massive campaign for a Europe that would transcend national boundaries, a rallying theme of the intellectuals of the time.

It has been a crescendo of crisis. First came the North-South divide, with a North that did not want to rescue the South, and made austerity a monolithic taboo, with Germany as its inflexible leader. Greece was the chosen place to clash and win, even if its budget was just 4 percent of the whole European Union. The front for fiscal discipline and austerity easily overran those pleading for development and growth as a priority and it alienated many of citizens caught in the fight.

Then come the East-West divide. It become clear that the countries which were under the Soviet Union, joined the EU purely for economic reasons, and did not identify with the so called European values, the basis for the founding treaties. Solidarity was not only ignored, but actively rejected, first with Greece, and now with the refugees. There are now two countries, first Hungary and now Poland, which explicitly reject the “European model and values”, one to defend an autocratic model of governance, and the other Christian values, ignoring any declarations emanating from Brussels.

At the same time, another ominous development emerged. British Prime Minister David Cameron used threats to get special conditions, or in order to leave the EU altogether. At Davos, he explicitly said that Britain was in the EU for the market, but rejects everything else, and especially any possible further integration. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been sending soothing signs, and all European countries are in the process of trying to recover as much sovereignty as possible. Therefore, whatever Britain may get in the end will serve as a benchmark for everyone else. It is revealing that in Britain, the pro-Europe lobby is run by the financial and economic sector, and there is no citizen’s movement.

All this is happening within a framework of economic stagnation that even unprecedented financial injections from the European Central Bank have not been able to lift.

The list of countries in trouble does not cover only countries from the South. Leaders of fiscal rectitude, like the Netherlands and Finland, are in serious difficulty. The only country which is doing relatively well, Germany, enjoys a positive trade balance with the rest of Europe, has a much lower rate of interest mainly due to its generally better performance; it has been calculated that over half of its positive budget comes from its asymmetric relations with the rest of Europe. Yet, Germany has stubbornly refused to use some of these revenues to create any pact to socialize its assets, like a European Fund to bail out countries, or anything similar. Hardly a shining example of solidarity….as its minister of finance, Wolfgang Schauble, famously said, “we are not going to give the gains that we have sweated for to those who have not worked hard the way we have…”

Finally, the refugee crisis has been the last blow to an institution which was already breathing with great effort. Last year, more than 1,3 million people escaping conflicts in Iraq, Libya and Syria, arrived in Europe. This year, according the High Commissioner for Refugees, at least another million are expected to find their way to Europe.

What has been happening, shows the European reality. The Commission determined that 40.000 people, a mere drop in the ocean, should be relocated from Syria and Ethiopia. This led to a furious process of bargaining, with the Eastern European countries flatly refusing to take part and in spite of threats by the Commission. As of today, the total number of people who have relocated is a mere 201.

Meanwhile Angela Merkel decided to open Germany up to one million refugees, mainly Syrians. But a smart interpretation of the Treaty on Refugees made clear that economic refugees (as well as climate) were excluded, and it was then declared that the Balkans were safe and secure, thereby excluding any Europeans coming to Germany by way of Albania, Kosovo and other countries not yet part of the EU.

It is interesting that, at the same time, Montenegro was invited to join Nato, which, by coincidence also serves to increase the containment of Russia, thanks to a standing army of 3.000. But of course, the flood of people made it difficult to process the paperwork required, and so each country was forced to resort to its own way of doing things, without any relation with Brussels.

Austria declared that it would admit only 37.500 asylum applications.

Denmark, besides creating a campaign to announce to refugees that they were not welcome, passed a law that delays family reunification for three years, and authorises the authorities to seize asylum seekers’ cash and jewels exceeding US$1.400.

Sweden announced that it would give shorter residence permits, and that strict controls will be imposed on trains coming from Denmark.

Finland and Holland have indicated that they will immediately expel all those who do not fit under strict norms as refugees. Great Britain, which was responsible together with the United States for the Iraq invasion (from which ISIS was born) has announced that it will take 27.000 refugees.

There has been a veritable flourishing of wall construction, constructed in Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria. Meanwhile Europe tried to buy the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with three billion euros, as a way to stop the flow of refugees but it didn’t work. Now Greece is the culprit, because it was not able to adequately process the nearly 800.000 people who transitted the country.

Austria has asked to exclude Greece from the Schengen agreement, and move European borders “further north” . This chapter is now being concluded by the German initiative to introduce, once again national border controls, for a period of two years. Last year, there were 56 million trucks crossing between countries, and every day 1,7 million people crossed between borders.

To eliminate the Schengen agreement for free movement of Europeans, would be a very powerful signal. But more critically are the imminent political changes which see anti-European and xenophobic parties all riding the wave of fear and insecurity crossing Europe.

In Germany, where Angela Merkel is increasingly losing support, the Party for an Alternative, which has been relatively marginal, could achieve representation in at least three provinces. Across Europe, from France to Italy, from Great Britain to the Netherlands, right wing parties are on the rise.

These parties all use some form of left wing rhetoric: Let us renationalize industries and banks, increase social safety nets, fight against neoliberal globalization…

Hungary has heavily taxed foreign banks to get them to leave, and Poland is using similar language. Their target is very simple: the unemployed, the under employed, retirees, all those with precarious livelihoods, those who feel that they have been left out of the political system and dream of a glorious yesterday. If it is working in the United States with the likes of DonaldTrump, it will work here.

Therefore, there is no doubt that at this moment a referendum for Europe would never pass. Citizens do not feel that this is ‘their’ Europe. This is a serious problem for a democratic Europe.

Will the European Union survive? Probably, but it will be more a kind of common market for finance and business rather than a citizen’s project. It will also hasten the reduction of European power in the world, and the loss of European identity, once the most revolutionary project in modern history.

(End)

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Small-scale Fishing Is About Much More than Just Subsistence in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/small-scale-fishing-is-about-much-more-than-just-subsistence-in-chile/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:31:46 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143772 Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Pedro Pascual, who has been a fisherman for 50 of his 70 years of life, prepares bait in the installations used by some 70 small-scale fisherpersons in a bay in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, Chile. This son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen is worried because very few young people are fishing today. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
ALGARROBO, Chile, Feb 3 2016 (IPS)

“Fishing isn’t just for making a living, it’s also enjoyable,” said Pedro Pascual, a 70-year-old fisherman who has been taking his small boat out to sea off Chile’s Pacific coast in the early hours of the morning almost every day for the past 50 years, to support his family.

Impish and ebullient, he told IPS that he doesn’t like to eat much fish anymore, although he is aware of its excellent nutritional properties, which make it a key product in terms of boosting global food security. “The thing is, eating what you fish yourself is kind of boring,” he said.

“Sometimes my wife has to go out and buy fish, because I come home without a single fish – I sell all of them, so I don’t have to eat them,” he confessed, in a mischievous tone.

Pascual was born and raised in the beach resort town of Algarrobo, 100 km west of Santiago.“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work.” -- Juan Carlos Quezada

The son, grandson and great-grandson of fishermen, he stressed that fishing is everything for him and his family, as he prepared bait on counters built on the beach, which are used by some 70 local fishers.

He and the others will sell their catch in the same place the following day, at market installations built there by the municipal government.

“We used to catch a lot of meagre (Argyrosomus regius) in this area. Now we catch hake (Merluccius) in the winter and in the summer we catch crab and some red cusk-eel (Genypterus chilensis),” he said.

As he prepared the bait, tying fish heads with twine, Pascual explained that he and his fellow fishermen go out in the afternoon, lay their lines, return to land, and head out again at 6:00 AM to pull in the catch.

“I like crabs, because there are different ways to eat them. I love ‘chupe de jaiba’ (crab quiche). You can make it with different ingredients,” he said.

He repeated several times in the conversation with IPS how much he loved his work, and said he was very worried that there are fewer and fewer people working as small-scale fishers.

“At least around here, we’re all old men…young people aren’t interested in fishing anymore,” he said. “They should keep studying, this work is very difficult,” he said, adding that he is lucky if he makes 300 dollars a month.

In response to the question “what will happen when there are no more small-scale fishers?” he said sadly: “people will have to buy from the industrial-scale fisheries.”

This is not a minor question, especially since large-scale fishing has hurt artisanal fisheries in countries along the Pacific coast of South America, which have become leaders in the global seafood industry over the last decade.

Small-scale fisheries account for over 90 percent of the world’s capture fishers and fish workers, around half of whom are women, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, based in Santiago.

Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing.  Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Boats anchored in a small bay in the Chilean town of Algarrobo, waiting for the local fishermen to head out to sea in the evening to put out their lines. They go out the next day at dawn to haul in their catch, in a centuries-old activity that is now threatened by overfishing and laws in favour of industrial-scale fishing. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

In addition, they supply around 50 percent of all global fish catches, and fishing and aquaculture provide a livelihood for between 10 and 12 percent of the world’s population.

“Small-scale fishing makes key contributions to nutrition, food security, sustainable means of subsistence and poverty reduction, especially in developing countries,” FAO stated in response to questions from IPS.

Studies show that fish is highly nutritious, offering high-quality protein and a broad range of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A and D, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium, while saltwater fish have a high content of iodine.

Its protein, like that of meat, is easily digestible and complements protein provided by cereals and legumes that are the foundation of the diet in many countries of the developing South.

Experts say that even in small quantities, fish improves the quality of dietary protein by complementing the essential amino acids that are often present in low quantities in vegetable-based diets.

Moreover, fish oils are the richest source of a kind of fat that is vital to normal brain development in unborn babies and infants.

Chile, a long, narrow country between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes mountains to the east, has 6,435 km of coast line and a broad diversity of marine resources.

Official figures indicate that 92 percent of fishing and fish farming activity involves fish capture, five percent seaweed harvesting, and the rest seafood harvesting.

The three main fish captured in Chile are the Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi), sardines and the anchoveta, which bring in more than 1.2 billion dollars a year in revenues on average, but are facing an overfishing crisis.

Extractive fishing provides work for more than 150,000 people in this country of 17.6 million and represents 0.4 percent of GDP. Of the industry’s workers, just over 94,000 are small-scale fishers and some 22,700 are women, according to the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service.

About three million tons of fish are caught every year in this South American country. But fish consumption is just 6.9 kilos per person per year – less than eight percent of the 84.7 kilos of meat consumed annually per capita.

The low level of fish consumption in Chile is attributed to two main reasons: availability and prices.

With regard to the former, a large proportion of the industrial-scale fish catch is exported.

A controversial law on fisheries and aquaculture in effect since 2013, promoted by the right-wing government of former president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014), has played a major role in this scenario.

The law grants fishing concessions for 20 years, renewable for another 20, and establishes that large companies can receive fishing rights in perpetuity, which can be passed from one generation to the next.

“Artisanal fishers who used to have a quota, a share of extractive fishing activity, were left without rights, and many lost their work,” Juan Carlos Quezada, spokesman for the National Council for the Defence of Artisanal Fishing (CONDEPP), told IPS.

The representative of the union of small farmers added that “ninety percent of artisanal fishers have been left without fish catch quotas, because concessions and quotas were only assigned to industrial fisheries and shipowners.”

While small-scale fishers are fighting for the law to be repealed, the government continues to support the Development Fund for Artisanal Fishing which, contradictorily, is aimed at the sustainable development of Chile’s small-scale fishing industry, and backs the efforts of organisations of small fishers.

Pascual sees things clearly: “Fishing is my life and it will always be. The sea will always give us something, even if it offers us less and less.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Ebola Recovery Funds Impossible to Track, Says New Studyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ebola-recovery-funds-impossible-to-track-says-new-study/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ebola-recovery-funds-impossible-to-track-says-new-study http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ebola-recovery-funds-impossible-to-track-says-new-study/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 19:40:31 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143749 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 1 2016 (IPS)

When the Ebola epidemic devastated three West African countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea two years ago – the international community responded with pledges of over $5.8 billion in funds to fight the disease which has killed over 11,300 people.

But six months after the International Conference on Ebola Recovery, hosted by the United Nations, about $1.9 billion worth of promised funds have not been delivered, while “scant information” is available about the remaining $3.9 billion, according to a new study released here by Oxfam International.

The pledged recovery funds has “proved almost impossible to track,” said the UK-based aid and development charity.
Asked if the lack of transparency is due to corruption, David Saldivar, Oxfam America’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, told IPS: “This lack of transparency is not due to a single cause – it is a systemic challenge that is the collective responsibility of all—donors, governments, and implementing organizations—to improve.”

Oxfam believes that more funding should be given directly to local governments and organizations, as they understand the context and need best and are more accountable to the local communities they serve, he added.

Asked about the gap between pledges and delivery, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “It is important that the countries that did such excellent work in dealing with the recent Ebola crisis receive the funds that had been pledged to them.”

The Ebola outbreak has not only been a setback to the economies of affected countries but also shattered already inadequate health systems and ruined people’s livelihoods, according to Oxfam.

Still, the Ebola epidemic is not over yet. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week that another 150 people were exposed to the risk of Ebola in Sierra Leone.

“This is not the end of Ebola in West Africa or globally”, said Oxfam, pointing out that it has taken almost two years, more than 11,300 deaths, massive provision of resources, technical assistance and billions of US dollars from around the world to tackle the Ebola epidemic in West Africa – specifically Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.”

As African Heads of State meet in Addis Ababa this week to discuss making 2016 the year of Human Rights in Africa, Oxfam is calling on them to focus attention on the Right to Health.

“The slow identification and response by government health services to the recent cases in Sierra Leone and Liberia clearly demonstrate that they are still not capable of responding effectively to Ebola and other highly contagious diseases. “

In April 2001, heads of state of African Union (AU) countries met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector.

In 2013, just before the Ebola outbreak only 6 AU member States had met these commitments and the ECOWAS (West African) average was at only 8% with Sierra Leone just 6.22%, according to Oxfam.

Aboubacry Tall, Oxfam’s Regional Director for West Africa, said: “Although Oxfam and other organizations responded by mobilizing community volunteers, this is not enough. If we are going to succeed, communities need to be a part of the process and a part of the planning, from the very beginning.”

“After the recent outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, I was horrified to see the same patterns of distrust emerging. Rumors were rampant, some people didn’t believe it was Ebola and others felt that it had been re-introduced on purpose. Rumors like these are extremely dangerous and can lead to community complacency.”

In order to prevent the same tragedy from happening again, Oxfam urges the Governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to empower communities to take a leading role in their own healthcare, by making sure that local people are put at the heart of decisions about where resources go, and how they are used.

Oxfam’s experience during the Ebola response has shown that community leadership and trust in local health systems is absolutely vital and should be considered a medical necessity, he added.

Asked whether the decline in funds was due to the global economic recession and the fall in oil prices, Saldivar told IPS the global humanitarian system is stretched by an unprecedented number of simultaneous crises, which makes it all the more important that countries recovering from shocks like the Ebola outbreak have the tools and support they need, including the information they need to plan and manage the recovery.

“The biggest problem is with efforts to track recovery funds is the lack of a single system for consistently reporting clear, up-to-date information across all donors.”

He pointed out that different donors report information in different ways, making it difficult for local actors to follow the funds.

Over $1 billion of funds pledged from major donors are available for countries to draw from as governments determine their most critical recovery needs.

“It is reasonable that only 6 months after the UN conference, that not all pledged funds have been spent. But, the key issue is that local stakeholders deserve to have the most up to date information on the situation so they can monitor and have a say in how resources are spent,” he noted.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Core Principals of Climate Finance to Realize the Paris Agreementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/core-principals-of-climate-finance-to-realize-the-paris-agreement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=core-principals-of-climate-finance-to-realize-the-paris-agreement http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/core-principals-of-climate-finance-to-realize-the-paris-agreement/#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2016 21:42:36 +0000 Stephen Gold http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143734

Stephen Gold is Global Head - Climate Change, at UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

By Stephen Gold
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 29 2016 (IPS)

The Paris climate change conference brought together 197 countries and over 150 Heads of State – the largest convening of world leaders in history – to agree on measures and work together to limit the global average temperature rise.

While world leaders and the Agreement they adopted recognize climate change as one of the greatest development challenges of this generation and of generations to come, we are now faced with the next, more difficult step: to raise and wisely spend the money that is needed for us to act.

During my discussions with countries in Paris last month, I listened to concerns expressed by dozens of developing country government representatives about the challenges they face in securing the necessary financing. This is a significant challenge; while countries outlined their Paris Agreement climate targets on mitigation and adaptation via the ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” or “INDCs”, turning these targets into actionable plans requires financing.

To help frame this challenge, three key principles for catalyzing and supporting access to climate finance for sustainable development must be considered.

First, climate finance should be equitable. We must ensure that resources are available to all developing countries who need it. Likewise all segments of the populations, women and men, including from indigenous groups within those countries, should be able to participate and benefit.

Second, it should be efficient, in that public finance must be used to maximize its potential and to bring about far larger sums of finance, particularly in private investment. UNDP helps countries to access, combine and sequence environmental finance to deliver benefits that address the Sustainable Development Goals, including poverty reduction, energy access, food and water security, and increased employment opportunities.

This includes support for diversifying livelihoods through agricultural practices that are more resilient to droughts and floods, improving market access for climate resilient products, disseminating weather and climate information through mobile platforms, and improving access to affordable energy efficient and renewable energy sources.

Third, it should be effective by being transformational and strengthening capacities so that climate and development goals can be achieved in an integrated manner. To make a sufficiently profound impact that moves toward a zero carbon economy, countries know they will need to effectively use the limited public climate finance available in a catalytic manner, so as to secure wider-scale finance from capital markets in a meaningful and sustainable manner. This can include taking significant actions to address existing policy barriers and regulatory constraints to investment that will help create investment opportunities.

UNDP has for example, supported such measures in Uruguay and Cambodia, encouraging affordable wind energy and climate-resilient agricultural practices respectively. This is not to say that institutional investors alone will or should provide a magic bullet for climate-friendly investment. However, there may be opportunities for institutional investors to make climate-smart investment a part of their portfolios while meeting government development objectives somewhere in the middle.

Following these three principles are by no means a guarantee of success, however adhering to them will strengthen our efforts substantially. The evolving climate finance landscape provides new opportunities for countries to strengthen their national systems and incentive mechanisms to attract the needed finance at the international, regional, national and sub-national levels.

Through our collective adherence to the key principles of equity, efficiency and effectiveness, more countries will be more likely to access the finance they need to achieve their development goals, including those outlined in the Paris Agreement.

There is no more critical time than now to act. 2016 is a pivotal year that will set the stage for inter-governmental action on climate change in response to the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals and other global agreements for years to come. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the sustainable development agenda and to support countries with the resources and tools they need to achieve their goals.

These processes can create the right frameworks to unlock and access scaled-up resources. They also provide a unique opportunity to set new goals and objectives for the global development community, incentivizing innovative approaches, helping to foster gender equality and supporting long-term sustainable development.

Let us ensure we have sufficient resources to undertake the actions needed, and let us make sure we use those resources wisely so that we achieve success.

(End)

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The State We’re In: Ending Sexism in Nationality Lawshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-state-were-in-ending-sexism-in-nationality-laws-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-state-were-in-ending-sexism-in-nationality-laws-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-state-were-in-ending-sexism-in-nationality-laws-2/#comments Mon, 25 Jan 2016 08:35:02 +0000 Antonia Kirkland http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143683

Antonia Kirkland, Programme Manager, Discrimination in Law, at Equality Now

By Antonia Kirkland
NEW YORK, Jan 25 2016 (IPS)

Everyone has the right to be born with a nationality – safe, fearless and free – and secure in their human right to equally transfer, acquire, change or retain it. There is no reason why over 50 countries should still have sexist nationality and citizenship laws, which largely discriminate against women, potentially putting them and their families in danger and denying them the rights, benefits and services that everyone should enjoy.

A new global report by Equality Now demands that these laws, which discriminate on the basis of sex, should be urgently revised in line with international legal obligations. Although commitments have been repeatedly made by governments around the world to work towards repealing such discriminatory laws, many have yet to translate their promises into action.

Despite the reluctance to do this by many countries, momentum is gathering at the global level to fix sexist nationality laws. This includes a target in the post-2015 sustainable agenda for eliminating discriminatory laws, adopted by the UN, and the setting up of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, a coalition with a steering committee made up of UNHCR, the Women’s Refugee Commission, the Equal Rights Trust, the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion and Equality Now.

At the national level, a number of countries have either removed, or taken steps to address, discriminatory provisions within their nationality laws since 2013. Senegal, Austria, Jordan, Vanuatu, Suriname, Niger and Denmark have all made amendments – or at least taken steps towards legal reform in some way.

We hope that this will create a ripple effect for neighboring countries. Others such as the Bahamas and Togo have indicated that change may happen soon, and we hope they, and all countries with remaining discriminatory laws, will pick up the pace of reform in 2016.

Sexist nationality laws reinforce harmful gender stereotypes. Once married, a woman loses her independent identity if she loses her nationality of origin; a child “belongs” to a father rather than a mother if only the father can give the child citizenship. Other negative outcomes for women and their families include lack of access to education, social and medical services and even increased risk of child marriage.

Nour was born in Lebanon and married off at 15 to a relative in Egypt, to avoid the difficulties of being an adult in Lebanon without Lebanese nationality, while in Jordan, Maysar, a Jordanian woman, was refused by the officer in charge, who suggested that she should not have married a non-national.

Maysar would now prefer that her daughters marry Jordanians, to ensure that they do not endure what she did. Her husband works illegally in the construction sector, as he cannot afford the fees necessary for his work permit.

In a case study provided by our partner, Nina, a Malaysian woman, married Brian from the US. They had a daughter, Julia, but moved back to her home country. Due to Brian’s short-term immigration status, he found it impossible to find a job. After three years of frustration and considerable expense, Nina finally obtained Malaysian citizenship for her daughter. Had Nina been a man, the process would have been automatic.

Losing her nationality of origin can leave a woman especially vulnerable, if her marriage ends due to divorce, or the death of her husband – particularly if her children have their father’s nationality. Even if a woman is able to subsequently claim back her nationality, delays and other hurdles in regaining citizenship can cause her considerable trauma, anxiety and other hardship.

Having committed to do so on many occasions, all governments should immediately turn words into deeds and finally prioritize the amendment of all sexist nationality laws. This will help them comply with both their international legal obligations, as well as their own national obligations to ensure equal access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

National legislation should be revised so that women and men can equally extend citizenship to each other and to their children, whether their children are born in or out of marriage, at home or abroad. It should also be revised so women and men can acquire, keep or change their own nationality in the same way.

This will send a clear signal that everyone is valued equally, in a fairer society, where everyone can reach their full potential. Getting these laws working for women and girls will mean a safer and more prosperous society. Nationality laws can be unnecessarily complex, but removing discrimination between men and women is not a complicated concept – and working together, this is something that can be achieved in a very short time, if governments truly care about girls and women

(End)

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North Korea Momentarily Escapes Sanctions After Fourth Nuclear Testhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/north-korea-momentarily-escapes-sanctions-after-fourth-nuclear-test/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=north-korea-momentarily-escapes-sanctions-after-fourth-nuclear-test http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/north-korea-momentarily-escapes-sanctions-after-fourth-nuclear-test/#comments Tue, 19 Jan 2016 19:35:52 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143635 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 19 2016 (IPS)

When the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea — immediately following its first nuclear test back in 2006 — Pyongyang described the punitive measure as “an act of war.”

A visibly angry North Korean ambassador, Pak Gil Yon, walked out of the chamber dismissing the resolution as a “gangster-like” act by the 15 members in the Council.

The outspoken John Bolton, then US ambassador to the United Nations, described North Korea’s defiance as “the contemporary equivalent of (Soviet leader) Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe” on his desk at the General Assembly hall to demand his right of reply during the height of the Cold War in October 1960.

But there was no such political drama in the chamber – at least not yet – following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test early January.

So far, North Korea has conducted four tests — in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016 – and every one of them in defiance of the international community.

“This was a destabilizing act that violates Security Council resolutions and imperils collective security,” declared UN Secretary-General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon.

US Ambassador Samantha Power said North Korea is the only country in the world that has tested a nuclear weapon in the 21st century – not once, but four times.

“It is also the only country in the world that routinely threatens other UN member states with nuclear attacks”.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters: “We will be working with others on a resolution on further sanctions.”

Still, despite threats of new sanctions and punitive measures against North Korea, the UN Security Council (UNSC) remains deadlocked – primarily due to China’s opposition to sanctions— nearly two weeks after the test.

The only action of the Security Council was to unanimously condemn the test as “a clear violation of (past) resolutions.. and of the non-proliferation regime.”

At the United Nations, sanctions are known to bite – but resolutions? No.

Some of the past sanctions on North Korea include mostly commercial and weapons shipments and blacklisting of specific companies and individuals.

The US and the Western world, which are notorious for their double standards, are willing to go after Iran with a vengeance – even though the Iranians said they were developing nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons—but ignore and accept Israel as a virtual nuclear power in the Middle East.

There has always been less virulent opposition to North Korea (also known as the Democratic Republic of North Korea or DPRK) because its nuclear weapons are not a threat to Israel.

North Korea has pointed out that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, were perhaps facilitated by one fact: none of these countries had nuclear weapons.

“And that is why we will never give up ours,” a North Korean diplomat was quoted as saying.

Alice Slater. an Advisor with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and who serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War, told IPS “it’s hypocritical to continue to sanction North Korea, when we’ve sabotaged so many of the peace negotiations with them over the years.

“We keep insisting on our right for our nuclear deterrent, and improving it and offering its protection in our alliance to countries like Japan, Australia, and South Korea as well as to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) states.”

“I think North Korea is using its “deterrent” to get our attention for resuming negotiations for a resolution to the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with only an armistice and 30,000 US troops still stationed there, as well as to end the crippling sanctions that has impoverished their nation,” she said.

“I don’t think the UN resolutions make sense. What about the UN resolution to prevent an arms race in space, put forth by Russia and China which the US blocks, and the need to reinstate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) so that the US and Russia can really negotiate for nuclear disarmament that will bring everyone else along, including North Korea?,” Slater asked.

John Hallam, Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner with People for Nuclear Disarmament and the Human Survival Project, told IPS: “I guess if I were UNSG or any one of the delegates at the UNSC, I’d be somewhat cynical over the likely effectiveness of any resolution.

“What will be the mechanisms of enforcement, other than those used so far without success?”, he asked.

“However I simply can’t imagine the UNSC not trying in some way to sanction the DPRK, nor would I suggest that they refrain from sanctioning it. “

“What I would hope however is that the UNSC look at those of its own membership who have massive programmes aimed at refurbishing their own nuclear deterrent forces – forces that have tens of thousands of times the kick of those of the DPRK and whose existence does indeed imperil humans as a species, as the Oslo, Nayarit and Vienna conferences made quite clear.”

He said much depends on how toughly worded are UNSC resolutions, and on what its enforcement mechanisms are.”

“However my instinctive gut feeling is that nothing but nothing will deter the DPRK from further tests. “

“I think the probability of yet more tests and of missile tests also is very high, and neither action by the UNSC nor actions taken by the individual members of it will make the slightest difference”, said Hallam.

In an oped piece in Counterpunch, Slater wrote: “This latest terrifying and dreadful underground nuclear test by North Korea should be a warning to the United States and the other nuclear weapons states, that the longer we continue to modernize and cling to our nuclear arsenals and promote a nuclear deterrence policy which promise catastrophic threats of nuclear retaliation if attacked, the more additional countries will be seeking to get their own “deterrent”, just as North Korea has done creating ever greater threats of accidental or deliberate nuclear disaster.”

She pointed out that “It is telling that at the same time we made the deal with Iran to rein in their “peaceful” nuclear power program and secure their enriched uranium in Russia, we promised “peaceful” nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Turkey so they too will have their bomb in the basement.”

“It cannot have escaped the notice of North Korea that after Saddam Hussein’s nuclear programme was ended after the first Gulf War, and Muammar Ghadafi voluntarily gave up his nuclear weapons programme, one wound up dead in a hole in the ground and the other in a sewer pipe.”

The only way to control the further spread of nuclear weapons and future catastrophic nuclear disaster, is for the US and the other nuclear nations — Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan — to give up their nuclear weapons and negotiate a treaty for the total abolition of nuclear weapons under strict and effective international monitoring and control.

“Unfortunately, this won’t happen until the two nuclear behemoths at the table, the US and Russia, who now have 15,000 of the 16,000 nuclear weapons on the planet agree to do this,” declared Slater.

Hallam said: “I am quite sure the DPRK views a real nuclear capability as its survival ticket, and to some extent they are correct.”

Of course the irony is that nuclear weapons will do absolutely nothing to protect them against their own people if they decide to revolt. But as of now there are no signs of that, he said.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Military Conflicts Threaten to Undermine Battle Against Rural Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/military-conflicts-threaten-to-undermine-battle-against-rural-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=military-conflicts-threaten-to-undermine-battle-against-rural-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/military-conflicts-threaten-to-undermine-battle-against-rural-poverty/#comments Thu, 31 Dec 2015 13:16:12 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143485 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/military-conflicts-threaten-to-undermine-battle-against-rural-poverty/feed/ 0 Development Aid on the Decline, Warns New Studyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/development-aid-on-the-decline-warns-new-study/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=development-aid-on-the-decline-warns-new-study http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/development-aid-on-the-decline-warns-new-study/#comments Thu, 10 Dec 2015 14:38:30 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143286 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 10 2015 (IPS)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed fears last month that increases in humanitarian aid to thousands of refugees invading Europe could result in sharp cuts on development aid by Western donors.

Confirming those fears, a new report by CONCORD, the European confederation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) representing all 28 European Union (EU) members, points out aid budgets are increasingly being used to cover refugee and asylum seekers costs: the Netherlands at 145%; Italy 107%; Cyprus 65%; and Portugal 38%.

And despite repeated promises, the EU, as a whole, did not deliver on its commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) as official development assistance (ODA) by 2015.

More worryingly, says the report, there is an emerging trend in EU countries to divert aid budgets from sustainable development to domestic costs associated with hosting refugees and asylum seekers.

Luxembourg, Poland and Bulgaria have already decided not to report refugee costs as ODA, contrary to Spain, Malta and Hungary.

The report, the tenth CONCORD AidWatch and titled “Looking to the future, don’t forget the past – aid beyond 2015,” finds that EU as a group remains well short of the target having spent 0.42% of its GNI on aid, with only four of 28 Member States meeting the 0.7% target;

The only four EU countries meeting aid targets are: Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark and the UK.

According to CONCORD, the largest increases in EU aid were in the EU13 countries, namely Romania (65% increase), Croatia (41%), Estonia, (21%), Hungary (13%) and Malta (13%).

Significant increases were also recorded in Germany (14%), Finland (14%), the UK (9%) and Sweden (7%), although aid is expected to contract significantly in Finland in 2015.

Major cuts were recorded in other countries, including Lithuania (21% cut), Spain (20%), Portugal (14%), France (8%) and Poland (7%).

Of these countries, Spain, Portugal and France are a source of serious concern, because they have continued on a downward trend for the last few years.

Asked about declining aid, the UN Secretary-General told reporters at a press briefing in Finland Wednesday he appreciates the difficulties and challenges facing many European countries.

“At the same time, I commend such compassionate leadership and generous support for many refugees who are seeking better opportunities and safety. “

“While I appreciate such difficulties, I ask the rich countries, the European countries, to increase their financial support and generous support for all these migrants and refugees, rather than diverting their already earmarked development aid.“

Ban said he realizes there is a limit to resources.

“So inevitably, they may have to temporarily divert and use this development money for humanitarian purposes but in the longer term, if this kind of trend continues, it will only perpetuate this bad balancing between humanitarian and development.”

If development doesn’t move on, it will create more jobless people, it will create more frustration and then, they may have to flee their homes again for better opportunity, he warned.

“So I think you have to address this in a balanced and comprehensive way – that is my earnest appeal to many European countries.”

Asked specifically about Finland, he said it was one of the biggest donors in the world, and one of the leaders of the world for the development agenda and empowerment, and for peace and human rights.
“It is a model Member State and I asked many other Member States to emulate from that shining example,” he added.

Meanwhile, the CONCORD report says EU aid is still seen by many as a tool to drive policy change or liberalization in partner countries – much aid remains directly tied or comes with a ‘suggested’ policy agenda.

The study also said development aid commitments by EU countries are also at risk of being “greenwashed” to meet climate finance promises to poorer nations and that these existing aid commitments could be relabeled to qualify as climate finance. Also the growing costs of climate change should not replace existing development priorities.

The UN’s post-2015 development agenda 2030, which was adopted by world leaders last September, will require ambitious financing from all actors.

“What’s been lacking to date is real action from most – though certainly not all – of the donor community to meet their own commitments and promises on aid which we’ve seen again this year as the EU misses its own 2015 target to deliver on the 0.7% promise.

Aid will remain a vital development source for years to come – it is focused on reaching the hardest to reach which is vital for the leave no one behind agenda and is more flexible, predictable and accountable, the report says.

To ensure the new development framework delivers as expected, EU should reach the 0.7% target by 2020 in line with the commitment made (at the Financing for Development Conference in July) in Addis (Ababa, Ethiopia)”, said Amy Dodd CONCORD AidWatch Chair and Director UK Aid Network.

Jessica Poh-Janrell from CONCORD Sweden, said: “We recognize the urgent nature of the current refugee crisis, but remain convinced that aid should be used to support development in third countries.”

The world’s poorest should not foot the bill for the refugee costs in Europe. Aid is essential to prevent more people having to flee their homes. Continuing investing in fighting poverty and inequality in developing countries is ultimately the most sustainable way of dealing with the crisis in the long term, she added.

Last month Ban appealed to the international community not to forsake its longstanding commitment for development assistance to the world’s poorer nations.

Ban’s appeal followed a UN pledging conference on Nov 10 which reported a “dramatic decline” in donor commitments: from 560 million dollars in 2014 to 77 million dollars in the most recent pledges, largely covering 2015.

Asked if the Secretary-General’s appeal was the result of the decline in commitments, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq told IPS: “It’s in response to many factors, including concerns expressed by some states about maintaining aid levels.”

The secretary-general said resources for one area should not come at the expense of another.

Redirecting critical funding away from development aid at this pivotal time could perpetuate challenges that the global community has committed to address, he warned.

“Reducing development assistance to finance the cost of refugee flows is counter-productive and will cause a vicious circle detrimental to health, education and opportunities for a better life at home for millions of vulnerable people in every corner of the world,” Ban declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Native Seeds Help Weather Climate Change in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/native-seeds-help-weather-climate-change-in-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=native-seeds-help-weather-climate-change-in-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/native-seeds-help-weather-climate-change-in-el-salvador/#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:34:40 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143159 Domitila Reyes, 25, picks a cob of native corn in a field in the Mangrove Association, one of the two small farmer organisations that produce these seeds for the government’s Family Agriculture Plan in El Salvador. The seeds are not only high yield but are also more tolerant of the climate changes happening in this Central American country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Domitila Reyes, 25, picks a cob of native corn in a field in the Mangrove Association, one of the two small farmer organisations that produce these seeds for the government’s Family Agriculture Plan in El Salvador. The seeds are not only high yield but are also more tolerant of the climate changes happening in this Central American country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
JIQUILISCO /SAN MIGUEL, El Salvador , Nov 30 2015 (IPS)

Knife in hand, Domitila Reyes deftly cuts open the leaves covering the cob of corn, which she carefully removes from the plant – a process she carries out over and over all morning long, standing in the middle of a sea of corn, a staple in the diet of El Salvador.

Reyes is taking part in the “tapisca” – derived from “pixca” in the Nahat indigenous tongue, which means harvesting the field-dried corn.

The process will end, weeks later, with the selection of the best quality seeds, in order to ensure food sovereignty and security for poor peasant farmers in this Central American country of 6.3 million people.

Some 614,000 Salvadorans are farmers, and 244,000 of them grow corn or beans on small farms averaging 2.5 hectares in size, the Ministry of Agriculture and Stockbreeding reports.

In rural areas, 43 percent of households are poor, compared to 29.9 percent in urban areas, according to the latest annual survey by the Ministry of Economy.

“I see that the harvest is good, even though the rain was causing problems,” Reyes, 25, told IPS. She earns 10 dollars a day “tapiscando” or harvesting corn.

Climate change has modified the production cycles in this country, which is experiencing lengthy droughts in the May to October wet season and heavy rain in the November to April dry season. The erratic weather has ruined corn and bean crops.“High quality seeds are strategic for the country, because they make it possible for farming families to grow their crops in periods of national and global crisis, given the problem of climate change.” -- Alan González

But Reyes, covered head to toe to protect herself from the sun in jeans, a long-sleeved blouse and a hat, is relieved that the high-quality or “improved” seeds have managed to resist the effects of the changing climate.

“This corn has withstood it better…the rain hurt it but not very much. Other seeds wouldn’t have survived the blow,” she told IPS in the middle of the cornfield.

Reyes is one of the nearly two dozen workers who, under the burning sun, are harvesting corn on this seven-hectare field, one of several that belong to the Mangrove Association in Ciudad Romero, a rural settlement in the municipality of Jiquilisco in the eastern department of Usulután.

The region is known as Bajo Lempa, named after the river that crosses El Salvador from the north, before running into the Pacific Ocean. In that region there are 86 communities, with a total population of 23,000 people.

Many of the inhabitants are former guerrilla fighters of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which fought the country’s right-wing governments in the 1980-1992 armed conflict that left a death toll of around 75,000, mainly civilians.

The Mangrove Association is one of the two producers of open-pollinated (the opposite of hybrid) native seeds in El Salvador. The other is the Nancuchiname Cooperative, also in the Bajo Lempa region.

They sell their annual output of 500,000 kilos of seeds to the government for distribution to 400,000 small farmers, as part of the Family Agriculture Plan (PAF). Each farmer receives 10 kg of seeds of corn and beans, as well as fertiliser.

“One achievement by our organisation is that the government has accepted us as a supplier of native seeds to the PAF,” said Juan Luna, coordinator of the Mangrove Association’s Agriculture Programme.

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar, 55, pick improved beans she grew on her three-hectare farm on the slopes of the Chaparrastique volcano in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar, 55, pick improved beans she grew on her three-hectare farm on the slopes of the Chaparrastique volcano in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Luna told IPS that with these seeds, Salvadoran small farmers are better prepared to confront the effects of climate change and ensure food security and sovereignty.

In this country, 12.4 percent of the population – around 700,000 people – are undernourished, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The Mangrove Association and another three cooperatives in the area produce 40 percent of the improved seeds purchased by the PAF, whether native or the H59 hybrid variety developed by the government’s Enrique Álvarez Córdova National Centre for Agricultural and Forest Technology (CENTA).

The rest are produced by cooperatives in other regions of the country.

“The seeds produced by CENTA are high quality genetic material adapted to growing everywhere from sea level to 700 metres altitude,” FAO resident coordinator in El Salvador, Alan González, told IPS.

Two farmers carry dry leaves of corn, after the harvest of field-dried corn, on a parcel of land belonging to the Mangrove Association, one of the cooperatives that produce native corn seeds in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Two farmers carry dry leaves of corn, after the harvest of field-dried corn, on a parcel of land belonging to the Mangrove Association, one of the cooperatives that produce native corn seeds in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

He added that the effort to promote this kind of seeds as a tool to weather the effects of climate change and strengthen food security and sovereignty are part of the Hunger Free Mesoamerica programme launched by FAO in 2014 in Central America, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

“High quality seeds are strategic for the country, because they make it possible for farming families to grow their crops in periods of national and global crisis, given the problem of climate change,” said González.

Up to 2009, PAF purchased seeds from only five companies. But that year the FMLN, which became a political party after the 1992 peace deal, was voted into office and modified the rules of the game in order for small farmers to participate in the business, through cooperatives.

Another of the advantages of these improved seeds, besides their resistance to drought and heavy rains, is their high yields. FAO estimates that productivity has increased by 40 percent in the case of beans and 30 percent in the case of corn, which has boosted the food and nutritional security of the poorest families.

“We produce more, and we earn a bit more income,” said Ivania Siliézar, 55, who produces an improved variety of bean in the village of El Amate in the department of San Miguel, 135 km east of San Salvador.

Siliézar told IPS that she took the time to count how many bean pods one single plant produces: “More than 35 pods; that’s why the yield is so high,” she said proudly.

The variety of bean grown by her and 40 other members of the Fuentes y Palmeras cooperative is called chaparrastique, and was also developed by the CENTA technicians. The name comes from the volcano at whose feet this and six other cooperatives grow the bean, which they sell in local markets, as well as to the PAF.

Siliézar grows her crops on her farm that is just over three hectares in size, and in the last harvest of the year, she picked 1,250 kg of beans, a very high yield.

Similar excellent results were obtained by all 255 members of the seven cooperatives, who founded a company, Productores y Comercializadores Agrícolas de Oriente SA (Procomao), and have managed to mechanise their production with the installation of a plant that has processing equipment such as driers.

The plant was built with an investment of 203,000 dollars, financed by Spanish development aid and support from FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the San Miguel city government, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Stockbreeding. It has the capacity to process three tons of beans per hour.

Cooperatives grouping another 700 families from the departments of San Miguel and Usulután also set up three similar companies.

“We have had pests, but thanks to God and the quality of the seeds, here is our harvest,” Siliézar said happily.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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“París Is Not the End of a Climate Change Process but a Beginning”http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/paris-is-not-the-end-of-a-climate-change-process-but-a-beginning/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=paris-is-not-the-end-of-a-climate-change-process-but-a-beginning http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/paris-is-not-the-end-of-a-climate-change-process-but-a-beginning/#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2015 15:45:32 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143138 Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during an exlusive interview with IPS in the Blue Room in the Moneda Palace, the seat of government, in Santiago, before flying to Paris to participate in the Nov. 30 inauguration of the climate summit, to be hosted by the French capital until Dec. 11. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during an exlusive interview with IPS in the Blue Room in the Moneda Palace, the seat of government, in Santiago, before flying to Paris to participate in the Nov. 30 inauguration of the climate summit, to be hosted by the French capital until Dec. 11. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Nov 27 2015 (IPS)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet says the climate summit in Paris “is not the end of a process but a beginning,” and that it will produce “an agreement that, although insufficient with respect to the original goal, shows that people believe it is better to move ahead than to stand still.”

In this exclusive interview with IPS, held shortly before Bachelet headed to the capital of France, the president reflected on the global impacts of climate change and stressed several times that the accords reached at the summit “must be binding,” as well as universal.

On Monday Nov. 30 Bachelet will take part in the inauguration of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will run through Dec. 11. At the summit, the 196 countries that are parties to the treaty are to agree on a new climate accord aimed at curbing global warming.

The president also said the Paris summit will have a different kind of symbolism in the wake of the terrorist attacks that claimed 130 lives: “It sends out an extremely clear signal that we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated,” she said.

Q: Latin America is a region where the countries face similar impacts from climate change. But it is negotiating with a fragmented voice. Has the region missed a chance for a leadership role and for a better defence of its joint interests?

A: Sometimes it is very difficult to achieve a unified position, because even though there are situations that are similar, decisions must be taken that governments are not always able to adopt, or because they find themselves in very different circumstances.

We belong to the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC) in the negotiations on climate change, along with Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. All of these countries did manage to work together, and we have a similar outlook on the question of climate change.

The countries in this region are not the ones that generate the most emissions at a global level. And above and beyond the differences we may have, the important thing is that we will all make significant efforts to reduce emissions and boost clean energies and other mechanisms and initiatives.

Q: Will the COP21 manage to approve a new universal climate treaty?

A: COP21 is not the end but a beginning of a process where the countries will turn in their national commitments [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCS)]. After that will come the mechanisms to assess the implementation of these contributions, and, from time to time, propose other targets, which would be more ambitious in some cases.

This will be the first climate change summit, after the Copenhagen conference [in 2009] where no accord was reached even though the Kyoto Protocol was coming to an end, where we will be able to reach some level of agreement.

It might not be the optimal level; apparently the contributions so far publicly submitted by the states parties would not achieve the objective of keeping global warming down to two degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, it is a major advance, when you look at what has happened in the past.

That said, what Chile maintains is that the contributions should be binding, and we are going to back that position which is clearly not supported by everyone.

Q: So you include yourself among those who believe Paris will mark a positive turning point in the fight against climate change?

Chile’s contribution

Q: Chile carried out a much-praised citizen input process for the design of its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCS), to be included in the new treaty. But media and business sectors were not pleased with some of the voluntary targets that were set. Will this hinder implementation?

A: Not everyone always agrees, we’ve seen that in different processes. I hope that awareness grows, and that is a task that we also have, as government. Climate change is a reality, not an invention, which will have disastrous consequences for everyone, but also for the economy.

For us it is indispensable, on one hand, to reduce emissions by 30 percent, by 2030. There are some who believe our commitment falls short, but it is what we can commit to today, understanding the economic situation that the country and the world find themselves in. It is a serious, responsible commitment. And obviously, if the economic situation improves, we will set more ambitious goals later.

On the other hand, Chile has an adaptation plan that includes, among other things, the reforestation of more than 100,000 hectares of native forest and an energy efficiency programme.

A: Yes, in the sense that a concrete, definitive agreement will be reached.

But it is, I insist, the start of a path. Later other, more ambitious, measures will have to be adopted, to further reduce global temperatures.

Q: Will the treaty currently being debated include the financing that the Global South and Latin America in particular will need in order to help prevent the planet from reaching a situation that is irreversible for human life?

A: I have a hope that the Green Climate Fund will grow and give more countries access to technology and resources. In this region we will always have the contradiction that we are considered middle-income countries, and thus we are not given priority when it comes to funding, while at the same time our economies are often unable to foot greater costs. And on the other hand, we are the smallest emitters [of greenhouse gases].

This is why in Chile we have set two targets, one without external support and the other with external financing, to reduce emissions by 45 percent. But there is also a possibility of financing through cooperation programmes for the introduction and transfer of new technologies to our countries, which will allow us to live up to the commitments.

Q: As the first executive director of U.N.-Women [2010-2013], you helped establish the idea that women must be taken into account in climate negotiations and actions, because they bear the impacts on a day-to-day basis and are decisive in adapting to and mitigating global warming. What is the central role that women should have in the new treaty?

A: There are a number of day-to-day decisions made by women, which have an influence. For example, energy efficiency is essential when it comes to reducing emissions, and it is often a domestic issue, in questions such as turning off lights, for example.

But in many parts of the world women are also the ones hauling water or cooking with firewood, especially in the most vulnerable areas.

So the importance of women ranges from these aspects to their contribution as citizens committed to the fight against climate change, with the conviction that a green, inclusive and sustainable economy is possible, and to the political role of women at the parliamentary and municipal level, where they are working hard for the adoption of measures and to ensure a livable planet.

Q: As president, and as a Chilean, what worries you most about the current climate situation? What would you see as the highest priority?

A: There are many things that worry me about climate change, ranging from severe drought and flooding to islands that could disappear under water – in other words, how natural events linked to climate change affect the lives of people.

I’m also concerned about two things that are essential for people: clean drinking water and food, two elements that can be profoundly affected by climate change. We have seen that there are areas of the country where people depend on rationed water from tanker trucks.

This not only affects the daily lives of people but also, in agricultural areas, it affects production and incomes. And think about the marvelous variety of fish and seafood that we have in our country, which depends on the temperatures in our oceans.

All of this could be modified. It is all very important, and ends up affecting people’s lives.

Q: Paris was the victim of a Jihadist terrorist attack on Nov. 13, which left 130 people dead. Did these attacks affect the climate surrounding the summit? Will the participation by the heads of state and government also serve as a response to the terrorism?

A: More than 160 heads of state and government have confirmed their attendance at the Paris conference, which sends out an extremely clear signal that we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated.

We are going to Paris first, because the issue to be addressed and discussed is important, but also because we are sending a message that we will not tolerate this kind of action and that we will continue moving forward in the defence of the values that we believe are essential. And we will give a hug of solidarity to our sister republic, France, to President François Hollande and to the French people.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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World’s Poorest Nations Battle Rising Rural Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/worlds-poorest-nations-battle-rising-rural-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worlds-poorest-nations-battle-rising-rural-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/worlds-poorest-nations-battle-rising-rural-poverty/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:46:41 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143120 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/worlds-poorest-nations-battle-rising-rural-poverty/feed/ 0 The Challenge of Climate Change: an Indian perspectivehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/the-challenge-of-climate-change-an-indian-perspective/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-challenge-of-climate-change-an-indian-perspective http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/the-challenge-of-climate-change-an-indian-perspective/#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2015 22:58:41 +0000 Arnab Jyoti Das http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143060 By Arnab Jyoti Das
NEW DELHI, INDIA, Nov 19 2015 (IPS)

Few countries in the world are as vulnerable to the effects of climate change as India is with its vast population (of over 1.2 billion) that is dependent on the growth of its agrarian economy, its expansive coastal areas and the Himalayan region and islands.

In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its Ambient Air Pollution (AAP) database, revealed that thirteen of top 20 dirtiest cities were Indian. Delhi topped the list followed by Patna, Gwalior and Raipur.

Realizing the problem, the government formulated a policy for abatement of pollution providing multi-pronged strategies in the form of regulations, legislations, agreements, fiscal incentives etc. Over time, the thrust has shifted from curative to preventive measures through adoption of clean technology, reuse and recycling, natural resource accounting, environmental audit to bring about sustainable development.

A recent example is the Rs 2,315 crore Hubli-Ankola railway line cutting across the Western Ghats in Karnataka which has been shown a red signal by the Supreme Court of India’s panel on forest and wildlife, which said that the project’s “huge and irreparable” ecological impact would “far outweigh” its actual tangible benefits.

Mobile enforcement teams have also been deployed on regular basis at various locations for prosecution of polluting vehicles and not having Pollution under control (PUC) certificates. The broad policy framework on environment and climate change has been laid down by the National Environment Policy (NEP) 2006, which promotes sustainable development along with respect for ecological constraints and the imperatives of social justice.

The country has a definite plan of action for clean energy, energy efficiency in various sectors of industries, steps to achieve lower emission intensity in the automobile and transport sector, a major thrust to non-fossil based electricity generation and a building sector based on energy conservation.

Wind energy has been the predominant contributor to the renewable energy growth in India accounting for 23.76 GW (65.2%) of the renewable installed capacity, making India the 5th largest wind power producer in the world.

Solar power is poised to grow significantly with solar mission as a major initiative of the Government of India.

Solar power installed capacity has increased from only 3.7 MW in 2005 to about 4060 MW in 2015, with a CAGR of more than 100% over the decade. The ambitious solar expansion programme seeks to enhance the capacity to 100 GW by 2022, which is expected to be scaled up further thereafter.

India’s investment in climate change appears to be ramping up domestically as well. People are very particular in buying any vehicle or electrical equipment, they look for fuel economy and power savings guide certified by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). The best way forward is by making investments in leapfrog technologies such as ‘100% renewable energy’.

Dharnai in Bihar (India), is a shining example. The village faces extreme poverty, and high illiteracy rates. But life in Dharnai has transformed in the 10 months since an affordable solar grid arrived, the first village in India where all aspects of life are powered by solar energy. Battery backup ensures power is available around the clock and solar water pumps has improved the access of farmers to fresh water resources.

The story of Dharnai ‘solar-powered micro-grid’ could be an exemplary model for bringing clean energy to all and combat climate change. People argue that renewable sources of power are not financially viable, especially for developing economies but they need to realize that any prototype of any model is always the most expensive to build.

It is through constant improvement that we reach an optimized process; this is a cornerstone upon which industry has been built and it is through this principle that I believe we can make our transition to a new era in sustainable development.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Urmi Goswami and @timesofindia.

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Open Defecation to End by 2025, Vows UN Chief, Marking World Toilet Dayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/open-defecation-to-end-by-2025-vows-un-chief-marking-world-toilet-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=open-defecation-to-end-by-2025-vows-un-chief-marking-world-toilet-day http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/open-defecation-to-end-by-2025-vows-un-chief-marking-world-toilet-day/#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2015 22:39:07 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143059 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 19 2015 (IPS)

The state of the world’s toilets reveals the good, the bad and the ugly – but not necessarily in that order.

As the UN commemorated its annual World Toilet Day on November 19, a new study says, contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the rich nations of the developed world has access to a toilet.

The study, released by the UK based WaterAid, points out that Canada, UK, Ireland and Sweden are among nations with measurable numbers still without safe, private household toilets.

Russia has the lowest percentage of household toilets of all developed nations, while India, the world’s second-most populous country, holds the record for the most people waiting for sanitation (774 million) and the most people per square kilometre (173) practising open defecation.

The report highlights the plight of more than 2.3 billion people in the world (out of a total population of over 7.3 billion) who do not have access to a safe, private toilet.

Of these, nearly 1.0 billion have no choice but to defecate in the open – in fields, at roadsides or in bushes.

The result is a polluted environment in which diseases spread fast. An estimated 314,000 children under five die each year of diarrhoeal illness which could be prevented with safe water, good sanitation and good hygiene.

Still, the tiny South Pacific island of Tokelau has made the most progress on delivering sanitation, holding number one position since 1990, followed by Vietnam, Nepal and Pakistan.

Nigeria has seen a dramatic slide in the number of people with access to toilets since 1990 despite considerable economic development.

The world’s youngest country, South Sudan, has the worst household access to sanitation in the world, followed closely by Niger, Togo and Madagascar, according to the study.

WaterAid’s Chief Executive Barbara Frost says just two months ago, all UN member states promised to deliver access to safe, private toilets to everyone everywhere by 2030.

“Our analysis shows just how many nations in the world are failing to give sanitation the political prioritisation and financing required. We also know that swift progress is possible, from the impressive advances in sanitation achieved in nations like Nepal and Vietnam.”

No matter where you are in the world, everyone has a right to a safe, private place to relieve themselves, and to live healthy and productive lives without the threat of illness from poor sanitation and hygiene.

“On this World Toilet Day, it’s time for the world to make good on their promises and understand that while we all love toilet humour, the state of the world’s sanitation is no joke,” said Frost.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF says lack of sanitation, and particularly open defecation, contributes to the incidence of diarrhoea and to the spread of intestinal parasites, which in turn cause malnutrition.

“We need to bring concrete and innovative solutions to the problem of where people go to the toilet, otherwise we are failing millions of our poorest and most vulnerable children,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes.

“The proven link with malnutrition is one more thread that reinforces how interconnected our responses to sanitation have to be if we are to succeed.”

In a report released Wednesday, the 21-member UN Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), calls for the mainstreaming of sanitation.

The focus should widen beyond the home – because toilets are needed in schools, clinics, workplaces, markets and other public places.

“Prioritize sanitation as preventive medicine and break the vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, especially affecting women and children.”

And “get serious about scaling up innovative technologies along the sanitation chain and unleash another sanitation revolution, as key economic and medical enabler in the run-up to 2030, and make a business case for sanitation by realizing the resource potential of human waste.”

Additionally, it says, “de-taboo the topic of menstrual hygiene management, which deserves to be addressed as a priority by the UN and governments.”

In its report, WaterAid is calling on world leaders to fund, implement and account for progress towards the new UN Global Goals on sustainable development.

Goal 6 – water, sanitation and hygiene for all – is fundamental to ending hunger and ensuring healthy lives, education and gender equality and must be a priority.

“Improving the state of the world’s toilets with political prioritisation and long-term increases in financing for water, sanitation and hygiene, by both national governments and donor countries like the UK.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the central role sanitation plays in sustainable development.

“The integrated nature of the new agenda means that we need to better understand the connections between the building blocks of development.”

In that spirit, he said, this year’s observance of World Toilet Day focuses on the vicious cycle connecting poor sanitation and malnutrition. He said poor sanitation and hygiene are at the heart of disease and malnutrition.

Each year, too many children under the age of five have their lives cut short or altered forever as a result of poor sanitation: more than 800,000 children worldwide — or one every two minutes– die from diarrhea, and almost half of all deaths of children under five are due to undernutrition.

A quarter of all children under five are stunted, and countless other children, as well as adults, are falling seriously ill, often suffering long-term, even lifelong, health and developmental consequences.

Parents and guardians carry the cost of these consequences. Women in particular women bear the direct brunt, he noted.

“Despite the compelling moral and economic case for action on sanitation, progress is too little and too slow,” Ban complained.

By many accounts, sanitation is the most-missed target of the Millennium Development Goals.

“This is why the Call to Action on Sanitation was launched in 2013, and why we aim to end open defecation by 2025,” he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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UN Advisory Board Seeks Powerful New Global Arena for Water and Sanitationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/un-advisory-board-seeks-powerful-new-global-arena-for-water-and-sanitation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-advisory-board-seeks-powerful-new-global-arena-for-water-and-sanitation http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/un-advisory-board-seeks-powerful-new-global-arena-for-water-and-sanitation/#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2015 23:00:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143051 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 18 2015 (IPS)

A 21-member UN Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), which has just completed its 11-year mandate, is calling for a complete overhaul of how the United Nations and the international community deals with two unresolved socio-economic issues on the post-2015 development agenda: scarcity of water and inadequate sanitation.

The supreme importance of water and sanitation to development and well-being merits creation of “a powerful new global arena inside the UN”, dedicated to resolving water conflicts and common challenges while tracking progress against the world’s newly-agreed development goals, says a report released Wednesday.

The far-reaching recommendations by UNSGAB include a new intergovernmental platform on water and sanitation, supported by strong, independent panels of world scientists, counsellors and monitors.

Created by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2004 to advance water-related Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) targets, UNSGAB warns that today’s institutional infrastructure requires a major upgrade worldwide to possibly meet water and sanitation-related objectives in the 2030 Agenda — the new “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) adopted by world leaders at a UN summit in September.

The 17 SDGs, which include ensuring clean water and sanitation, plus the eradication of poverty and hunger, are targeted to be achieved by 2030.

“There is currently a mismatch between the integrated and ambitious 2030 vision of freshwater and sanitation management and the international political structures available to contribute to its implementation,” says the report, presented Wednesday by UNSGAB Chair Uschi Eid to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The proposed body, if created, is expected to be the world’s pre-eminent sphere for reaching consensus on common water and sanitation concerns, and to assess progress.

It would closely involve the private sector and other major stakeholders, supported by both a secretariat (UN-Water, unwater.org) and a panel of independent experts mandated to amass authoritative information on water and sanitation issues and stimulate research to fill knowledge gaps.

Additionally, it would support international decision-making “in a balanced, fact-based, transparent and comprehensive way.”

A fact sheet released by UNSGAP points out that the business community ranks water crisis as the number one global risk, based on impact to society, while the projected global increase in water demand between 2000 and 2050 is around 55 percent.

The number of people currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge is over 1.7 billion.

People who still lack improved drinking water sources is estimated at one in 10 (663 million in total) while people without access to improved drinking water: 8 in 10 living in rural areas.

The number of people without such access is increasing in urban areas and in sub-Saharan Africa, and the number of people who use a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated is at least 1.8 billion.

Still, the world has missed the MDG target for basic sanitation by almost 700 million people.

People who still lack improved sanitation facilities number one in 3 (2.4 billion in total) and people who practice open defecation: one in 8 (946 million in total)

The estimated loss in developing countries from lack of access to improved water sources and basic sanitation: 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) while priority given to public water expenditures varies widely between countries: from less than 0.5 percent to more than 2.0 percent of GDP.

The statistics have been sourced to several international organisations and UN agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN children’s agency UNICEF, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Economic Forum.

Addressing the special thematic session on water and disasters, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday water is the source of life, health and livelihoods across the world.

The provision of safe drinking water, he pointed out, is one of the basic responsibilities of national and local governments. Water drives the decisions of businesses and, in many places, determines the rhythm of daily life.

Too little water at the time when it is needed most can mean drought and food insecurity. And too much water – in the form of floods, storms or waves – can devastate entire cities, rich or poor, Ban said.

Contaminated water, whether from human or industrial sources, is claiming the lives of children and affecting the health of communities worldwide, with far-reaching consequences, he warned.

Currently, floods, droughts and windstorms account for almost 90 per cent of the 1,000 most disastrous events since 1990.

“They have caused more than 1.0 trillion dollars in damages and affected more than 4 billion people. The poor and most vulnerable have suffered first and worst,” Ban added.

UNSGAB’s recommendations include:

— A push for increased and improved financial flows, with increased priority to the water and sanitation services sector, as well as water resources management, in national budgets.

— More emphasis to the reality that water scarcity, water pollution and deterioration of water-related ecosystems pose a threat to global sustainable development.

— Develop national wastewater policies and master plans, including cost estimates, timeframes, and sustainable financing plans, to ensure that capital investment plans are matched by external and internal funding sources.

— Water-related disasters must be addressed as part of development planning, including required social protection.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Civil Society May be Snagged at Paris Climate Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/civil-society-may-be-snagged-at-paris-climate-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-may-be-snagged-at-paris-climate-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/civil-society-may-be-snagged-at-paris-climate-talks/#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2015 22:33:00 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143035 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 17 2015 (IPS)

The rising security concerns, following the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, are threatening to unsettle civil society participation in the upcoming landmark international conference on climate change in the French capital.

As a result of tight security, there is a strong possibility that a proposed Global March and several other demonstrations by civil society groups may either be curtailed, immobilized or banned altogether, according to several non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The Conference of Parties (COP-21), which is expected to be attended by nearly a hundred world leaders on opening day, is scheduled to take place November 30-December 11, with the adoption of a historic climate change treaty.

Over the last few years, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has continued to underline the importance of the conference in thwarting the impact of climate change worldwide – and specifically on developing countries.

Asked for his comments on the possible restrictions, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “We hope for as much coverage and as much participation by civil society at the COP-21 events in Paris as is possible”.

Of course, he cautioned, “we are well aware of security concerns in France at this difficult time and we trust that security considerations can be handled in such a way that there will still be significant access to conference.”

Journalists who had applied for accreditation also fear there may be restrictions –due both to reasons of space and security, according to sources in Paris.

Basically, the conference site holds about 20,000 people in all – half from governments, half from the UN, NGOs and the press.

So there can’t be much more than 3,000 slots for journalists, given the amount of space available.

Jean-François Julliard, executive director of Greenpeace, France, told IPS Tuesday: “We’re still waiting for the French authorities to tell us if they think the march in Paris, and other mobilization moments around the climate talks, can be made safe and secure. Huge numbers are predicted for the Paris gathering.”

“We at Greenpeace want it to happen,” he said.

“But whatever is decided, in hundreds of towns and cities across the world, people will march for the climate, for Paris and for our shared humanity. It is a vision of human cooperation that the murderers sought to destroy on Friday night. Most certainly, they must fail,” Julliard said.

March or no march, in Paris thousands of people will use their collective imagination to project their voices into the UN climate talks, he added.

“And when they do, those voices will ring loud in the ears of the politicians inside that conference center. We will be heard by those in Paris and beyond who have it within their power to call time on the fossil fuel era,” Julliard declared.

At a press conference Monday, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was asked about reports that over 1,000 journalists, including UN correspondents, may be shut out of the climate talks.

“Does that concern the Secretary General, that a possibly historic landmark occasion like this, thousands of journalists, including UN correspondents from this building, are being denied access to that conference?”

Dujarric said: “Obviously, we do want journalists there. I will check with our colleagues at UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], who are managing the inscriptions for journalists, and I will get back to you.”

In a statement released Monday, ActionAid International said the Coalition CLIMAT 21 and all the organizations that are part of it express its solidarity with the victims of the 12 November in Beirut and those of 13 November in Paris, as well as their families and loved ones.

‘’The world we have always defended is not the one we saw on that night. The world that we defend is one of peace, justice, the fight against inequality and climate change.’’

‘’Our struggle for climate justice will not stop. We have a duty to stand up and continue to fight for a just and livable planet for all. We will continue to mobilize to build a world free of wars, and atrocities, and the ravages of the climate crisis. We will continue to bring solutions and alternatives to fight against climate change.’’

While taking into account the exceptional circumstances, CLIMAT 21 said, ‘’we believe that COP21 cannot take place without the participation or without the mobilizations of civil society in France. Thus, we will implement all our efforts to hold all the mobilizations currently planned. In consultation with the authorities, we will continue to ensure the security of all participants is guaranteed.’’

It is important to remember that this mobilization will be the global: hundreds of thousands of people will mobilize during the two weeks of negotiations of the COP21 and representatives from countries the world over will be present in Paris, the statement said.

‘’The whole world is concerned and we will not ignore these issues,’’ CLIMAT 21 declared.

Meanwhile, in a statement ahead of the climate talks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year – from shifting patterns of disease, from extreme weather events, such as heat-waves and floods, and from the degradation of air quality, food and water supplies, and sanitation.

‘’The upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP-21) in Paris offers the world an important opportunity to not only reach a strong international climate agreement, but also to protect the health of current and future generations. WHO considers the Paris treaty to be a significant public health treaty – one that has the potential to save lives worldwide.’’

In 2012, WHO estimated 7 million people died from air pollution-related diseases, making it the world’s largest single environmental health risk. It is predicted that climate change will cause an additional 250 000 deaths per year from malaria, diarrhoea, heat stress and under-nutrition between 2030 and 2050. Children, women and the poor in lower income countries will be the most vulnerable and most affected, widening health gaps.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Latin America to Push for Food Security Laws as a Blochttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/latin-america-to-push-for-food-security-laws-as-a-bloc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-to-push-for-food-security-laws-as-a-bloc http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/latin-america-to-push-for-food-security-laws-as-a-bloc/#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2015 21:41:22 +0000 Milagros Salazar and Aramis Castro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143030 A panel in the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, held Nov. 15-17. Second from the right is indigenous leader Ruth Buendía, who represented rural communities in the Forum. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

A panel in the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean, held Nov. 15-17. Second from the right is indigenous leader Ruth Buendía, who represented rural communities in the Forum. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

By Milagros Salazar and Aramis Castro
LIMA, Nov 17 2015 (IPS)

Lawmakers in the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean decided at a regional meeting to work as a bloc for the passage of laws on food security – an area in which countries in the region have show uneven progress.

The Nov. 15-17 Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger (PFH) in Lima, Peru drew more than 60 legislators from 17 countries in the region and guest delegations from parliaments in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The coordinator of the regional Front, Ecuadorean legislator María Augusta Calle, told IPS that the challenge is to “harmonise” the region’s laws to combat poverty and hunger in the world’s most unequal region.

Calle added that a number of laws on food security and sovereignty have been passed in Latin America, and the challenge now is to standardise the legislation in all of the countries participating in the PFH to strengthen policies that bolster family farming.“We have reduced hunger by 50 percent (since 1990), but this is still insufficient. We cannot continue to live in a world where food is a business and not a right. It cannot be possible that 80 percent of those who produce the food themselves suffer from hunger.” -- María Augusta Calle

In Latin America, 81 percent of domestically consumed food products come from small farmers, who guarantee food security in the region, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which has advised the PFH since its creation in 2009.

Twelve of the 17 Latin American countries participating in the PFH already have food security and sovereignty laws, Calle said. But it has not been an easy task, she added, pointing out that several of the laws were approved only after long delays.

During the inauguration of the Sixth Forum, she said the region has reduced hunger “by 50 percent (since 1990), but this is still insufficient. We cannot continue to live in a world where food is a business and not a right. It cannot be possible that 80 percent of those who produce the food themselves suffer from hunger.”

The fight against hunger is an uphill task, and the forum’s host country is a clear illustration of this.

In Peru, the draft law on food security was only approved by Congress on Nov. 12, after two years of debate. The legislature finally reacted, just three days before the Sixth Forum began in the country’s capital. But the bill still has to be signed into law and codified by the executive branch, in order to be put into effect.

“How can it be possible for a government to put forth objections to a law on food security?” Peruvian Vice President Marisol Espinoza asked during the opening of the Sixth Forum.

Espinoza, who left the governing Peruvian Nationalist Party in October, took the place of President Ollanta Humala, who had been invited to inaugurate the Sixth Forum.

Display of native varieties of potatoes at a food fair during the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. Defending native products forms part of the right to food promoted by the legislators from Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

Display of native varieties of potatoes at a food fair during the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. Defending native products forms part of the right to food promoted by the legislators from Latin America and the Caribbean. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

The coordinator of the Peruvian chapter of the PFH, Jaime Delgado, told IPS that he hopes the government will sign the new food security bill into law without setting forth observations.

Indigenous leader Ruth Buendía, who took part in the Sixth Forum in representation of rural communities in Peru, said the government should pass laws to protect peasant farmers because they are paid very little for their crops, even though they supply the markets in the cities.

“What the government has to do is regulate this, for the citizens,” Buendía, who belongs to the Asháninka people, told IPS. “Why do we have a government that is not going to defend us? As we say in our community: ‘why do I have a father (the government)?’ If they want investment, ok, but they have to regulate.”

Another controversial question in the case of Peru is the more than two-year delay in the codification and implementation of the law on healthy food for children and adolescents, passed in May 2013, which requires that companies that produce food targeting this age group accurately label the ingredients.

Congressman Delgado said food companies are lobbying against the law, which cannot be put into effect until it is codified.

“It would be pathetic if after so much sacrifice to get this law passed, the government failed to codify it because of the pressure from business interests,” said Delgado.

He said that in Peru, over 200 million dollars are invested in advertising for junk food every year, according to a 2012 study by the Radio and Television Consultative Council.

Calle, from Ecuador, said the members of the PFH decided to call for the entrance into effect of the Peruvian law, in the Sixth Forum’s final declaration.

“The 17 countries (that belong to the PFH) are determined to see the law on healthy food codified in Peru. We believe it is indispensable. It is a wonderful law,” said the legislator.

Peasant farmers from the Andes highlands dancing during one of the opening acts at the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. More than 80 percent of the food consumed in the region is produced by small farmers, while the same percentage of hungry people are paradoxically found in rural areas. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

Peasant farmers from the Andes highlands dancing during one of the opening acts at the Sixth Forum of the Parliamentary Front Against Hunger held Nov. 15-17 in Lima. More than 80 percent of the food consumed in the region is produced by small farmers, while the same percentage of hungry people are paradoxically found in rural areas. Credit: Aramís Castro/IPS

She explained that in her country food and beverage companies have been required to use labels showing the ingredients, despite the opposition from the business sector.

“In Ecuador we have had a fabulous experience (regarding labels for junk food) which we would like businesses here in Peru to understand and not be afraid of,” Calle said.

The regional coordinator of the PFH said that to address the problem of food being seen as business rather than a right, “we need governments and parliaments committed to the public, rather than to transnational corporations.”

Another country that has made progress is Brazil, where laws in favour of the right to food include one that requires that at least 30 percent of the food that goes into school meals is purchased from local small farmers, Nazareno Fonseca, a member of the PFH regional consultative council, told IPS.

Calle said Brazil’s efforts to boost food security, in the context of its “Zero Hunger” programme, marked a watershed in Latin America.

The PFH regional coordinator noted that the person responsible for implementing the programme in the crucial first two years (2003-2004) as extraordinary food security minister was José Graziano da Silva, director general of FAO since 2011.

Spanish Senator José Miguel Camacho said it is important for legislators from Latin America and the Caribbean to act as a bloc because “there is still a long way to go, but these forums contribute to that goal.”

The commitments in the Sixth Forum’s final declaration will focus on three main areas: food security, where the PFH is working on a single unified framework law; school feeding; and efforts to fight overnutrition, obesity and junk food.

Peru’s health minister, Aníbal Velásquez, said the hope is that “the commitments approved at the Sixth Forum will translate into laws.”

And the president of the Peruvian Congress, Luis Iberico, said people did not enjoy true citizenship if basic rights were not guaranteed and hunger and poverty still existed.

The indigenous leader Buendía, for her part, asked the PFH legislators for a greater presence of the authorities in rural areas, in order for political declarations to produce tangible results.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Nepali Farmers Get Climate Smarthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/nepali-farmers-get-climate-smart/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nepali-farmers-get-climate-smart http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/nepali-farmers-get-climate-smart/#comments Fri, 13 Nov 2015 20:15:47 +0000 Shahani Singh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142996 By Shahani Singh
KAVREPALANCHOK, NEPAL, Nov 13 2015 (IPS)

Bimala Bajagain, a farmer and mother of three, wears a fading red kurta and appears older than her age at 35. She offers us plates of salted guavas at the porch of her quake-damaged house.

By mid-day, October’s warm sun boils over Kalchebesi village of Kavrepalanchok district. Bajagain insists we also savour a plate of cucumbers.

“We managed to build our temporary shelter from initial government funds and assistance from an INGO,” Bajagain shares, nodding toward a small hovel constructed of corrugated steel, right beside her cow shed.

“But this structure will have to be rebuilt for winter – the steel heated up unbearably in the summer and now it will turn very cold.”

Bajagain plans to reinforce her shelter with plywood for insulation, which she will fund with a loan from a local cooperative, and eventually pay with income from selling her vegetables, if the water holds out.

“We have scarcity of water during the summer due to erratic rainfall. This year, it poured torrentially for a day but halted for the rest of the season.”

Rows of bitter gourds hang from climbers suspended atop a wired roof. They look ripe for picking, and Bajagain explains that mulching has helped her crops retain moisture through dry spells, sustaining her income.

“It involves nothing more than digging a hole for placing organic manure, sowing the seed and covering it with hay as a protective layer,” she says. The results are obvious: “I had sown my bitter gourd seeds in February this year – six months on, I am still harvesting, whereas last year, the manure dried quickly and the harvest lasted only four months.”

Bajagain says her income has nearly doubled compared to the year before, thanks to the extra water. Donor funds for reconstruction still haven’t been distributed by the government, even eight months since the quake.

The extra money from her increased harvest of potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber and bitter gourd will be all she has to fund both the better winter shelter and support her children’s education.

Bajagain may have high hopes, but she has good reason to remain concerned.

“The total annual rainfall in Kavrepalanchok is not changing, and it is not projected to change,” says Laxmi Dutta Bhatta, ecosystem management specialist at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu.

“It is the pattern of rainfall that is changing – there are heavier, more intense downpours which lead to flooding. What we need is sustainable rainfall that the soil can absorb and which re-charges the ground water.”

Farmers in the neighbouring village of Patlekhet have also found climate-smart ways to adapt.

“Plastic ponds have greatly assisted the irrigation needs of my home garden,” says Saraswati Dhital, a farmer who was helped by a climate-smart project run by the Centre for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED), a local NGO.

Dhital’s pond is lined with plastic sheeting. Waste-water from wash basins and excess water from torrential downpours are channelled into a small plastic-lined pond that irrigate Dhital’s turnips, cardamom, lemon and coriander. Saplings are already starting to sprout.

Each household in Patlekhet village has its own plastic-lined collection pond, while a bigger community pond sits higher up the hill. Having a local irrigation source means Saraswati no longer has to hike to the next hill for potable water; it’s a big time-saver.

“Our main intervention is for waste-water management,” says Keshav Dutta Joshi, programme director, CEAPRED.

“According to our research, a typical family that grows vegetables using waste-water irrigation and keeps cattle can earn more than a migrant labourer working in the Gulf.”

CEAPRED aims to have a scientific basis to design and apply a well-packaged programme for the entire mid-hill agro-ecological region of Nepal that will tell farmers how much water can be harvested.

It will even work out the amount of investment required, the crops that can be grown and the amount of income that can be earned. “But, we will need data from at least three consecutive years of action research for this.” Joshi says.

Japan’s Kochi Technology University (KTU) surveyed over a 1000 farmers in Nepal’s western mid-hill agro-ecological zone. They found that vegetable production and income could increase more than 30 per cent by simply deploying water-conservation techniques like lining ponds with plastic.

The study expects plastic-pond technology to “…contribute to poverty reduction for smallholder farmers…and shall be a promising technology not only in Nepal, but also many other developing nations.”

It seems mulching and water harvesting by using plastic ponds have a good basis for scientific validity as adaptive practices against extreme weather. This will also help alleviate poverty in the mid-hills region in Nepal.

Bajagain is acutely aware that climate change and Nepal’s recent devastating earthquakes means age-old farming methods are going to have to adapt to a new reality. “We need self-sufficient practices to help ourselves. Mulching and plastic ponds have certainly helped us abate losses in the face of unexpected weather and climate change.”

“My crops would dry up and wilt in previous years,” she tells me calmly. “Thankfully, such is not the case this year, given our financial struggles after the quake.”

The story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to @RNW

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