Inter Press ServiceIPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 17 Aug 2018 17:14:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Palestinian Children, the True Victims of the Conflicthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/palestinian-children-true-victims-conflict/#respond Wed, 15 Aug 2018 06:57:07 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157188 Over 500 to 700 West Bank children were arrested and prosecuted each year by Israeli military forces. And Palestinian child rights organisation, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), says that between 2012 and 2017 the organisation represented more than 700 children, some 72 percent of whom endured violence after their arrest. With the release of Palestinian teen […]

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Over 700 West Bank children were detained by Israeli military forces between 2012 and 2017, with 72 percent of them enduring physical violence after the arrest, according to Defense for Children International Palestine. Photo credit: UNICEF/El Baba

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 15 2018 (IPS)

Over 500 to 700 West Bank children were arrested and prosecuted each year by Israeli military forces. And Palestinian child rights organisation, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), says that between 2012 and 2017 the organisation represented more than 700 children, some 72 percent of whom endured violence after their arrest.

With the release of Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi in late July, the constant arrests of Palestinian children by Israeli forces have been in the spotlight once again.“Reforms undertaken by Israeli military authorities tend to be cosmetic in nature rather than substantively addressing physical violence and torture by Israeli military and police forces.” -- Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at Defense for Children International Palestine.

“Ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces is widespread, systematic and institutionalised throughout the Israeli military detention system,” Brad Parker, international advocacy officer and attorney at DCIP, told IPS.

July was an eventful month for Palestine. On the one hand, the observer state of Palestine was chosen to lead the Group 77 at the United Nations, making it a big win for Palestine and increasing the tensions with Israel. G77 is the largest bloc of developing countries, currently with 135 countries, and Palestine spoke at the General Assembly. Palestine will assume leadership of the G77 by January 2019, replacing Egypt.

On the other hand, some days later the 17-year-old Palestinian activist, Tamimi, was released after an eight-month stay in an Israeli prison. She was arrested after she hit an armed Israeli soldier at the entrance of her village, Nabi Saleh. The scene was recorded and the video made her well known worldwide.

Commenting on Tamimi’s case, Parker said: “Ahed’s detention, prosecution, plea agreement, and sentencing in Israel’s military court system is not exceptional, but illustrates the widespread, systematic, and institutionalised ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces and the fair trial denials inherent in Israel’s military detention system.”

“Now that she has been released, attention will likely wane but she has and continues to highlight the plight of the hundreds of other Palestinian child detainees that continue to be detained and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system,” he added.

Palestinian child arrests are becoming pervasive and the legitimacy of the methods used to process their arrests is quite questionable. Of the 727 children processed by Israeli military courts that DCIP represented, 700 had no parent or legal counsel present during the interrogation.

Additionally, 117 spent more than 10 days in solitary confinement. For Parker, “the ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees by Israeli forces has been one of the more high profile Palestinian rights issues raised by the international community.”

With Palestine’s new leadership position at the U.N., the observer state could draw international attention towards this issue. But some experts remain sceptical as to whether this will prove to be true. Vijay Prashad, director at Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, said: “The G77 is hampered as countries that once were stalwarts in the fight against colonialism—such as India—are now hesitant. They need to be called to account.”

Asked about the role of the international system and institutions such as the U.N. to stop Palestinian child abuses in the West Bank, Prashad was adamant that there must be more action.

“The U.N. must be more vigorous. It is one thing to have declared the settlements as illegal and another to do nothing about it,” he said.

He went on, stating, “there needs to be more action by countries that abhor this policy of colonisation. Much more vocal condemnation, more stringent policies against the Israeli government [is needed].” 

Parker called the Israeli authorities to responsibility.

“Despite sustained engagement by [U.N. Children’s Fund] UNICEF and repeated calls to end night arrests and ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention, Israeli authorities have persistently failed to implement practical changes to stop violence against Palestinian child detainees or guarantee due process rights and basic fair trial rights,” he said.

In response to the question of whether there had been any reforms within the Israeli military, Parker answered: “Reforms undertaken by Israeli military authorities tend to be cosmetic in nature rather than substantively addressing physical violence and torture by Israeli military and police forces.”

The international community is taking a stand with, for example, briefings and reports by different U.N. agencies and the current United States bill that focuses on the rights of Palestinian children detainees called the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act”.

According to Parker, this is not enough as Israel keeps breaking international justice agreements.

“Regardless of guilt or innocence or the gravity of an alleged offence, international juvenile justice standards, which Israel has obligated itself to implement by ratifying the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, demand that children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort, must not be unlawfully or arbitrarily detained, and must not be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” Parker said.

When asked whether the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem— enacted by U.S. president Donald Trump—has increased tensions, Prashad said: “Israeli policy has been whipped past illegality long before Trump became president. It has certainly intensified. But it is the same U.S. policy of appeasement of Israel’s ambitions.”

Parker, on the other hand, did see changes.

“Large-scale demonstrations, marches and clashes throughout the West Bank following the Trump administration’s decision to publicly recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December corresponded with a spike in the number of Palestinian child detainees held in Israeli military detention,” Parker said.

“Systemic impunity is the norm when it comes to Israeli’s 50-plus year military occupation of Palestinians, so demanding justice and accountability and ultimately an end to occupation is what is needed to end grave human rights violations against children,” he said.

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Children and Women with Disabilities, More Likely to Face Discriminationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/children-women-disabilities-likely-face-discrimination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-women-disabilities-likely-face-discrimination http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/children-women-disabilities-likely-face-discrimination/#comments Mon, 13 Aug 2018 06:46:05 +0000 Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157190 This article is part of a series of stories on Disability inclusion.

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Women with disabilities in Afghanistan protest for their rights. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.

By Carmen Arroyo and Emily Thampoe
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 13 2018 (IPS)

Children with disabilities are up to four times more likely to experience violence, with girls being the most at risk, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“Children with disabilities are among the most marginalised groups in society. If society continues to see the disability before it sees the child, the risk of exclusion and discrimination remains,” Georgina Thompson, a media consultant for UNICEF, told IPS.

According to the World Health Organisation, 15 percent of the global population lives with disabilities, making it the largest minority in the world—with children and women numbering higher among those disabled.

Last month, more than 700 representatives of non-governmental organisations, private companies and governments got together to address the systemic discrimination that exists against people with disabilities at the Global Disability Summit in London.

“Creating a more equal world where children with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as all children is everyone’s responsibility,” Thompson said.

More than 300 organisations and governments signed an action plan to implement the U.N. International Convention on Disability, which included 170 commitments from multiple stakeholders to ensure disability inclusion. The summit was organised by the governments of Kenya and the United Kingdom, along with the International Disability Alliance. The most important topics discussed during the meetings included passing laws to protect disabled citizens and promoting access to technology for people with disabilities.

Women and children face the most discrimination within the disabled community. A report presented to the U.N. Secretary-General on the situation of women and girls with disabilities stated that while 12 percent of men present a disability, a slightly higher amount of women—19 percent—have a disability.

In addition, girls are much less likely to finish primary school than boys, if both present disabilities. And girls are more vulnerable to sexual violence.

According to the U.K.’s Department for International Development, mortality for children with disabilities can be as high as 80 percent in states where child mortality has significantly decreased.

There is a strong consensus regarding the risk that both children and women face. “Women with disabilities are especially vulnerable to discrimination and violence (three to five times more likely to suffer from violence and abuse that the average [female] population),” André Félix, external communications officer at the European Disability Forum, told IPS.

When asked what to do to address this issue, A.H. Monjurul Jabir, co-lead of the U.N. Women’s Global Task Team on Disability and Inclusion, explained his viewpoint on establishing a targeted gender agenda: “The implementation of strategy requires a bottom-up approach by offices, colleagues, and partners on the ground.”

According to Jabir, U.N. Women’s strategy is “to support U.N. Women personnel and key stakeholders to facilitate the full inclusion and meaningful participation of women and girls with disabilities.”

“This would be done across all U.N. Women’s priority areas through our operational responses and internal accessibility to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls with disabilities,” he said.

Thompson suggested the following strategy for UNICEF: “We must increase investment in the development and production of assistive technologies. Assistive technologies, such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, prosthetics, and glasses, give children with disabilities the chance to see themselves as able from an early age.”

The aforementioned strategy was one of the goals of the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology, a collaboration launched during the summit to accomplish the sustainable development goals and offer technology to those who with disabilities. “And yet, in low-income countries, only five to 15 percent of those who need assistive technology can obtain it,” Thomson added.

And, as 80 percent of the population with disabilities live in developing countries, emergency situations and lack of education are also crucial issues to be addressed when launching policies for disability inclusion.

“We must make humanitarian response inclusive. In emergency situations, children with disabilities face a double disadvantage. They face the same dangers as all children in conflicts or natural disasters do, including threats to their health and safety, malnutrition, displacement, loss of education and risk of abuse.

“But they also face unique challenges, including lack of mobility because of damaged infrastructure, difficulty fleeing harm and the prejudices that keep them from accessing the urgent assistance they need,” Thompson said.

According to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, 90 percent of children who live in developing countries that have educational opportunities available do not attend school.

“We must make education inclusive. Around half of all children with disabilities do not go to school because of prejudice, stigma or lack of accessible learning. Of those who do go to school, about half do not receive quality education because of a lack of trained teachers, accessible facilities, or specialised learning tools,” Thompson urged. “Excluding children with disabilities from education can cost a country up to five percent of its GDP due to lost potential income.”

But, who is responsible?

As was seen during the summit, member states are not the only stakeholders taking responsibility for disability inclusion. U.N. agencies, NGOs, and private firms are constantly launching programmes to reduce the gap and erase discrimination.

However, Félix explained what each stakeholder would be responsible for: “Member States are the policymakers. They need to guarantee that all the population is included and benefits from international development and inclusive policies. They also need to make sure that they consult civil society in the process.”

As for civil society, he said: “Civil society’s role is to monitor and advise the project and while they need to be included and part of international development (especially local civil society), the resources should come from member states.”

Thus, their work is intrinsically linked: “Structures of support for persons with disability must be community-based, which means no support for institutions that segregate persons with disabilities.”

Thompson added that those actors must work so closely that it would be hard to separate roles.

Agreeing with her, Jabir concluded: “It is the responsibility of everyone, all actors and stakeholders, we must work together, cohesively, not separately. The days of only standalone approach, or silo mentality is over.”

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Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories on Disability inclusion.

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Q&A: Honouring Women of Africa and the Diasporahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-honouring-women-africa-diaspora/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-honouring-women-africa-diaspora http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-honouring-women-africa-diaspora/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:27:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157058 IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Kenyan minister for education, science, technology and innovation, about her life-long work, particularly her work with women’s empowerment and girls’ education in Kenya and around the world.

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Ambassador Amina Mohamed, an international civil servant and the current Kenyan minister for education, science, technology and innovation, is this year’s recipient of the African Woman of Excellence award.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

This year, the African Union and the Diaspora African forum are honouring the first woman minister for education in Kenya for her long and outstanding work in girls’ education and governance.

The annual African Women of Excellence Awards (AWEA) recognises and honours women of Africa and the diaspora who have contributed to the struggle for political, social and economic independence.

This year’s theme pays tribute to the first iconic recipient of the AWEA Committee’s Living Legends Award Winnie Madikizela Mandela."Girls fail to acquire an education because of violence, which includes kidnapping, maiming as well as sexual abuse, exploitation and bullying. Statistics indicate that less than five percent of girls in rural-conflict settings in Africa complete secondary education." -- Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Kenya's minister for education, science, technology and innovation.

Receiving the honour during a celebration in Sept. 29 to 30 will be Ambassador Amina Mohamed, an international civil servant and the current Kenyan minister for education, science, technology and innovation.

Previously, Mohamed served as the minister for foreign affairs and international trade, deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme and permanent secretary in the ministry of justice, national cohesion and constitutional affairs where she played a key role in creating the 2010 Constitution in Kenya.

Most recently, she has worked tirelessly in the arenas of women’s empowerment and girls’ education in Kenya and around the world, especially as co-chair of the Commonwealth High Level Platform for Girls’ Education which works to put 130 million out of school girls back in the classroom.

IPS spoke to Ambassador Mohamed about her inspirations, career, and ongoing challenges in education. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): What does it mean for you to be receiving the African Woman of Excellence award? How does this award advance the key issues you work on?

Amina Mohamed (AM): The AWEA is a great honour which I accept with humility and gratitude; and which I share with my family, colleagues and friends who have encouraged me all along.

The award is recognition that I have made a demonstrable contribution towards the progress of my country and in enriching the lives of our people. It is a very important award that will no doubt inspire other women in the country, and especially young girls, to develop confidence in themselves and in their ability to make positive and tangible impact in their communities and nations.

The award reinforces my commitment to bequeath the youth a legacy greater than my heritage. I feel re-energised and challenged to keep doing more.

IPS: You have a long and distinguished career as a diplomat and international civil servant. What drove you where you are today?

AM: I have always believed that the script of your life is yours to write.

I grew up in a society where existing norms defined a lesser role and position for womena notion I was uncomfortable with from an early age having been brought up by a strong mother. I therefore made a conscious and deliberate decision to cultivate my own success in the knowledge that great careers are not hereditary; they must be seeded, grown and nurtured.

My humble upbringing reinforced my commitment to serve others and to emphasise with different situations in the knowledge that every challenge has a solution and everyone has the capacity to live a dignified life and to make a contribution.

At every stage in my professional journey, I have learned to embrace those virtues that define successful careers particularly those moral and civic values that are needed to not only make us better people but to also make our country a better place in which to live for all.

IPS: Would you say that the millions of girls who don’t go to school is a global crisis? What have been some of the challenges you have faced or seen working towards girls’ access to education, and what has Kenya done differently to address this issue?

AM: It certainly is a global crisis. The Global Education Monitoring Report, 2018 indicates that only 66 percent of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education, 45 percent in lower secondary and only 25 percent in upper secondary. Other statistics are more frighteningUNESCO [U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation] estimates that 130 million girls aged between six and 17 are out of school. An additional five million girls of primary-school age will never enter a classroom.

What this means is that millions of girls are being denied a fair and just chance in life. Without education, girls are exposed to serious insecurities and dangers, including early marriage, sexual exploitation, diseases, poverty and servitude. This crisis goes beyond the unfulfilled lives of girls who miss out on education and involves serious loss of economic benefits and opportunities.

Among the critical challenges that impede girls’ education are poverty, conflict and violence, early marriages, harmful traditional practices, long distances to school, and inadequate menstrual hygiene.

In Kenya, we have been implementing wide ranging measures to address these challenges including readmission of girls who get pregnant while in school; outlawing FGM [Female Genital Mutilation] and introducing rescue centres for girls running away from FGM or early marriages; provision of sanitary towels to girls in public primary schools; and introduction of free primary and day secondary education, which has ensured that no child, boy or girl, misses out on education needlessly.

As a global crisis, concerted global action is required to ensure all girls access education. Multi-sectoral approaches and the sharing of best practices in a collaborative effort involving governments, civil society organisations, multilateral organisations and the private sector holds the key to addressing this crisis.

IPS: Conflict has proliferated in many parts of the world, making education even more inaccessible for many children. How should the international community address the issue of education for refugee or displaced children?

AM: Emergencies and protracted conflicts ruin the education systems of affected countries. Girls fail to acquire an education because of violence, which includes kidnapping, maiming as well as sexual abuse, exploitation and bullying. Statistics indicate that less than five percent of girls in rural-conflict settings in Africa complete secondary education.

Humanitarian aid for education is acknowledged as a way forward in ensuring provision of education for refugee and displaced children.

Despite this recognition, humanitarian aid for education remains very lowcatering, by 2015 estimates, for only two percent of requirements. To overcome this challenge, a possible way forward is for humanitarian agencies and development actors to come together and set up a specialised funding stream that meets the other 98 percent of the requirements for education in conflict situations.

IPS: Recently the ministry of education launched a policy on disaster management in response to the impacts of heavy rains on schools and the education sector. How important is it to have such a policy, especially as extreme weather and disasters become more prevalent? Is this a move that other countries should consider?

AM: We have experienced many disasters in Kenya, including droughts, floods, fires, and even conflicts. These have routinely disrupted learning and damaged education infrastructure in affected areas.

While efforts to address climate change gets underway, it is clear now that extreme weather events are getting more frequent and intense. There is every indication, therefore, that we will experience severe flooding, landslides and droughts into the future.

We must therefore prepare for these eventualities so that we do not experience the same disruptions and losses in the education sector that we have undergone in the past. This underscores the need for comprehensive disaster risk reduction and management policies. The launch of this policy was in fact long overdue.

In the modern world, preparedness or risk reduction is a necessity not a choice. Countries that fail to plan will bear the heaviest burden as the effects of climate change intensify.

IPS: What is your message to Kenyans in light of this award?

AM: The well-being of our country, now and in the future, lies in our hands. Building a country is a collective responsibility and exercise in which each one of us has a role to play and a contribution to make. In making our contribution, in whatever capacity, we must embrace the virtues of hard work, careful reflection, patriotism, honesty, accountability, justice and fairness and the pursuit of public good. I believe that my adherence to these virtues have inspired this award.

In so doing, I recall the words of the late Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Mathai that: “Every one of us can make a contribution. And quite often we are looking for the big things and forget that, wherever we are, we can make a contribution. Sometimes I tell myself, I may only be planting a tree here, but just imagine what’s happening if there are billions of people out there doing something. Just imagine the power of what we can do.”

The post Q&A: Honouring Women of Africa and the Diaspora appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Kenyan minister for education, science, technology and innovation, about her life-long work, particularly her work with women’s empowerment and girls’ education in Kenya and around the world.

The post Q&A: Honouring Women of Africa and the Diaspora appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Indigenous Peoples Least Responsible for the Climate Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/indigenous-peoples-least-responsible-climate-crisis/#comments Thu, 09 Aug 2018 07:43:06 +0000 Jamison Ervin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157153 Jamison Ervin is Manager, UNDP’s Global Programme on Nature for Development

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Photo - UNDP/ PNG-Bougainville People celebration

By Jamison Ervin
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

Indigenous peoples, who comprise less than five percent of the world’s population, have the world’s smallest carbon footprint, and are the least responsible for our climate crisis. Yet because their livelihoods and wellbeing are intimately bound with intact ecosystems, indigenous peoples disproportionately face the brunt of climate change, which is fast becoming a leading driver of human displacement.

In Papua New Guinea, for example, residents of the Carteret Islands – one of the most densely populated islands in the country – have felt the effects of climate change intensify over recent years. With a high point on their islands of just 1.2 meters above sea level, every community member is now at risk from sea level rise and storm surges.

Moreover, the community depends almost entirely on fishing for their food and livelihoods, but the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs has gradually deteriorated from warming waters and coral bleaching.

The residents of these islands faced a stark choice – to be passive victims of an uncertain government resettlement program, or to take matters into their own hands. They chose the latter. In 2005, elders formed a community-led non-profit, called Tulele Peisa, to chart their own climate course. In the Halia language, the name means “Sailing the Waves on our Own,” an apt metaphor for how the community is navigating rising sea levels.

In 2014, the initiative won the prestigious, UNDP-led Equator Prize, in recognition for their ingenuity, foresight and proactive approach in facing the challenges of climate change, while keeping their cultural traditions intact.

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Sachs published an article entitled “We Are All Climate Refugees Now,” in which he attributed the main cause of climate inaction to the willful ignorance of political institutions and corporations toward the grave dangers of climate change, imperiling future life on Earth. 2018 will likely be recorded as among the hottest year humanity has ever recorded.

Yet a slew of recent articles highlight that we are not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. We have not shown the collective leadership required to tackle this existential crisis.

Carteret Islanders have been broadly recognized as the world’s first climate refugees, but they are not alone. Arctic indigenous communities are already facing the same plight, as are their regional neighbors from the island nation of Kiribati.

According to the World Bank, their plight will likely be replicated around the world, with as many as 140 million people worldwide being displaced by climate change within the next 30 years or so.

But the Carteret Island leaders are more than just climate refugees. They have done something precious few political leaders have done to date – they recognized the warning signs of climate change as real and inevitable, they took stock of their options, and they charted a proactive, realistic course for their own future that promised the most good for the most people. Therefore, they could also be called the world’s first true climate leaders.

Let’s hope that our world’s politicians and CEOs have the wisdom, foresight and fortitude of the elders of Carteret Islanders. Because like it or not, we will all be sailing the climate waves on our own, with or without a rudder and a plan.

The post Indigenous Peoples Least Responsible for the Climate Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jamison Ervin is Manager, UNDP’s Global Programme on Nature for Development

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

The post Indigenous Peoples Least Responsible for the Climate Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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States Must Act Now to Protect Indigenous Peoples During Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/states-must-act-now-protect-indigenous-peoples-migration/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 19:13:13 +0000 UN experts on Indigenous Peoples http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157142 States around the world must take effective action to guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples, says a group of UN experts. In a joint statement marking International day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the experts say it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from […]

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Indigenous men and women of Nuñoa in Puno, Peru, spin and weave garments based on the fiber of the alpacas. Credit: SGP-GEF-UNDP Peru/Enrique Castro-Mendívil

By UN experts* on Indigenous Peoples
GENEVA/NEW YORK, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

States around the world must take effective action to guarantee the human rights of indigenous peoples, says a group of UN experts. In a joint statement marking International day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the experts say it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from their lands:

“In many parts of the world, indigenous peoples have become migrants because they are fleeing economic deprivation, forced displacement, environmental disasters including climate change impacts, social and political unrest, and militarisation. Indigenous peoples have shown remarkable resilience and determination in these extreme situations.

We wish to remind States that all indigenous peoples, whether they migrate or remain, have rights under international instruments, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

While States have the sovereign prerogative to manage their borders, they must also recognise international human rights standards and ensure that migrants are not subjected to violence, discrimination, or other treatment that would violate their rights. In addition, states must recognise indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination; lands, territories and resources; to a nationality, as well as rights of family, education, health, culture and language.

The Declaration specifically provides that States must ensure indigenous peoples’ rights across international borders that may currently divide their traditional territories.

Within countries, government and industry initiatives, including national development, infrastructure, agro-business, natural resource extraction and climate change mitigation, or other matters that affect indigenous peoples, must be undertaken with the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples, such that they are not made to relocate against their will. States must recognise that relocation of indigenous peoples similarly triggers requirements including free, prior and informed consent, as well as restitution and compensation under the Declaration.

We are concerned about human rights violations in the detention, prosecution and deportation practices of States. There is also a dearth of appropriate data on indigenous peoples who are migrants. As a result of this invisibility, those detained at international borders are often denied access to due process, including interpretation and other services that are essential for fair representation in legal processes.

We call on States immediately to reunite children, parents and caregivers who may have been separated in border detentions or deportations.

In addition, States must ensure that indigenous peoples migrating from their territories, including from rural to urban areas within their countries, are guaranteed rights to their identity and adequate living standards, as well as necessary and culturally appropriate social services.

States must also ensure that differences among provincial or municipal jurisdictions do not create conditions of inequality, deprivation and discrimination among indigenous peoples.

We express particular concern about indigenous women and children who are exposed to human and drug trafficking, and sexual violence, and indigenous persons with disabilities who are denied accessibility services.

We look forward to engagement in the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration regarding indigenous peoples’ issues.

On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we urge States, UN agencies, and others, in the strongest terms possible, to ensure indigenous peoples’ rights under the Declaration and other instruments, and to recognise these rights especially in the context of migration, including displacement and other trans-border issues.”

(*) The experts: The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a subsidiary body of the Human Rights Council. Its mandate is to provide the Council with expertise and advice on the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to assist Member States in achieving the ends of the Declaration through the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of indigenous peoples. It is composed of seven independent experts serving in their personal capacities and is currently chaired by Ms Erika Yamada.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. The Forum is made up of 16 members serving in their personal capacity as independent experts on indigenous issues. Eight of the members are nominated by governments and eight by the President of ECOSOC, on the basis of broad consultation with indigenous groups. It is currently Chaired by Ms Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine. 

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples was established by the General Assembly in 1985. The Fund provides support for indigenous peoples’ representatives to participate in sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Human Rights Council, including its Universal Periodic Review, and UN human rights treaty bodies. Its Board of Trustees is currently Chaired by Mr. Binota Dhamai.

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Beyond Boundaries – Cultural Literacy in Indiana & Rwandahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 12:08:02 +0000 Vera Marinova http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157129 Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

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Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

By Vera Marinova
BLOOMINGTON, Indiana, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

For ten years now, in special partnership with the community of Musanze, Rwanda, Indiana University (IU) has created meaningful programs and connections across the country. It is an unlikely partnership, one that formed over 10 years ago with a university alum recognizing an opportunity for not only cultural literacy but friendship.

It was 2005 and IU alumna Nancy Uslan was traveling in Rwanda when she noticed none of the school children in the local primary school had books. She came back to the states and turned to her alma mater to create a program that would not only provide high-quality books to students at the Kabwende Primary School, but would also provide a cultural exchange between U.S. elementary-school students and Rwandan students.

Fast forward 10 years later, and IU’s impact in Rwanda has grown exponentially. For the past 6 years, we have expanded the program in a variety of ways and this summer (Aug. 10-18, 2018), in efforts to commemorate our 10 years of service in Rwanda, we have invited a number of faculty and professionals who will each work on specific projects associated with the promotion of literacy and education.

We still provide books — 20,000 total this year — but we have grown to include teacher training; a three-week, literacy-focused camp for students; the school’s first library and three playgrounds.

And we’re not done. This year, we are providing eye exams and glasses for hundreds of students. We will also be providing 3-D prosthetic hands to four young people in the area, along with partnering with a local high school to teach 3-D printing and bring those vocational skills to the community to create tools needed in construction, that are hard to find locally in Rwanda.

In essence, this holistic approach has helped us to look “beyond” as the program continues to grow and find new ways to share and partner with communities in Rwanda. We remain committed to create, grow, and further educational opportunities for children in both Rwanda and America.

I am extremely proud of the work IU is doing in Rwanda and the commitment and enthusiasm our students and faculty have for making a difference both at home and abroad. In celebrating ten years of successful engagement between our two nations, we have created lasting partnerships and friendships that will last a lifetime to come.

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Excerpt:

Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

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Helping Indigenous Peoples Live Equal Liveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/helping-indigenous-peoples-live-equal-lives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=helping-indigenous-peoples-live-equal-lives http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/helping-indigenous-peoples-live-equal-lives/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 10:51:37 +0000 Emily Thampoe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157067 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Mapuche indigenous peoples from Chile celebrate their new year. Credit: Fernando Fiedler/IPS

By Emily Thampoe
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

Although indigenous peoples are being increasingly recognised by both rights activists and governmental organisations, they are still being neglected in legal documents and declarations. Indigenous peoples are only mentioned in two of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and only seen in two of the 230 SDG indicators, says indigenous rights expert Chris Chapman.

According to Chapman, an indigenous rights researcher from Amnesty International, even recognition by governmental bodies is not enough to ensure that indigenous peoples are on an equal level as “regular people”. But this recognition is a move in the right direction and securing land rights for indigenous peoples is being increasingly seen as an urgent and necessary global priority.“Indigenous peoples will be the moral measurement of achievement and nurturers of a new relationship with nature.” -- Joshua Cooper, director of the International Network for Diplomacy and Indigenous Governance Engaging in Nonviolence Organising for Understanding and Self-Determination.

“Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions,” he tells IPS via email.

He adds that effectively helping indigenous peoples, “means empowering indigenous peoples to help themselves, ensuring that their voices are heard, and enabling them to set the agenda in terms of development. This is in accordance with the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.”

At a side event titled ‘The Land, Territories, and Resources of Indigenous Peoples’, held during a two-week High-Level Political Forum on SDGs this July in New York, representatives from different nations spoke about the treatment of immigrants and the scarcity of resources available to them.

“Indigenous peoples will be the moral measurement of achievement and nurturers of a new relationship with nature,” shares Joshua Cooper, an activist and the director of the International Network for Diplomacy and Indigenous Governance Engaging in Nonviolence Organising for Understanding and Self-Determination.

“The 17 [SDGs] outline an opportunity to organise, to overhaul global governance, to be honest for future generations. [The goals are] rooted in a philosophy of ‘no one left behind,’ with a human rights blueprint dedicated to ‘furthest behind first.’”

The meeting was held and organised by the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG), which aims to respect, protect, and fulfil the rights of indigenous peoples.

The group maintains that as well as helping with these rights, it is imperative that indigenous peoples are involved with, “the development, implementation, monitoring and review process of actions plans and programmes on sustainable development at all levels.”

According to a representative from the African branch of IPMG, across the continent different groups of indigenous peoples live according to their unique lifestyles. It is important for governments to recognise ways of life that divert from the norm of living in a family home—where indigenous peoples live in savannahs or deserts.

African Union’s African Agenda 2063 guidelines aim to help improve the state of the continent’s socio-economic climate over the next five decades. There are seven goals or aspirations that stress the importance of growth and sustainable development. These include a politically united continent; a continent that upholds the values of democracy and respects human rights; a continent that embraces its strong cultural identity and values and ethics; and a continent that uses its citizens to help create progress and develop society.

While discussing what is being done to help indigenous peoples in terms of the U.N.’s SDGs Joan Carling, the convenor of IPMG, said this of Africa: “In their national report they relayed that in Congo, indigenous peoples are subjected to land grabs and conflicts. There is no clear action on those issues.”

According to the Centre for Research on Globalisation agricultural companies are reportedly behind these land grabs that have prevented local communities from using land for farming and raising livestock—even on land that is no longer in use by the company.

During the meeting, a representative from the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact shared that the continent is home to approximately 411 million indigenous peoples, who in their poignant words, “are the guardians of our nature”. The representative also shared that the following Asian countries legally recognise the presence and importance of indigenous peoples; the Philippines, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Carling says that IPMG and other organisations working with indigenous peoples are hoping that, “more countries will implement the ideas of the sustainable development goals into their action plans and strategies.”

“We see some progress in certain countries where they have inclusion in reference to indigenous peoples, but these are the countries that were already supporting indigenous peoples in the past; they are now adding the element of SDGs,” she says.

In terms of helping indigenous peoples on a global scale, Carling stresses the importance of quality education.

“Education has to respect the use of [indigenous peoples’] mother tongue at the primary level. How can kids adjust when the language being used is completely alien to them? It doesn’t really help facilitate their learning at a higher level. In terms of land rights, change is important. Without land rights, we can not achieve sustainable development not only for indigenous peoples, but for the whole system,” she says.

It is also important to sample data correctly, in order to precisely determine the demographics of a society and their needs. This is a dire need, in Carling’s eyes, as more can be done if governments know how many indigenous peoples are not well off, for example. If information about lifestyles and certain ethnic groups are distributed, progress in terms of indigenous peoples rights will be more easily made.

The world is on the right path towards creating more sustainable societies that are fulfilling for all groups of people but in Carling’s words, nations need greater political will and attention at state level rather than focusing attention on the matter at global level.

The post Helping Indigenous Peoples Live Equal Lives appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Paid Leave In New Zealand For Victims of Domestic Violence Praised Globallyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/paid-leave-new-zealand-victims-domestic-violence-praised-globally/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=paid-leave-new-zealand-victims-domestic-violence-praised-globally http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/paid-leave-new-zealand-victims-domestic-violence-praised-globally/#respond Sun, 05 Aug 2018 19:36:51 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157060 Domestic violence in New Zealand is one of the highest rates in the developing world and recent legislation there that gives victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave, without having to present any documentation in support, has been praised across the globe. The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill was passed at the […]

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By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 5 2018 (IPS)

Domestic violence in New Zealand is one of the highest rates in the developing world and recent legislation there that gives victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave, without having to present any documentation in support, has been praised across the globe.

The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill was passed at the end of July with 63 to 57 votes and was launched by Green member of parliament Jan Logie.

“We were very happy to hear about the passage of legislation in New Zealand affording victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave and scheduled flexibility from their employment to leave their partners, find new homes and protect themselves and their children,” Kristine Lizdas, legal policy director at Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP), shared with IPS.

According to United Nations Women30 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner, and in some countries that number goes up to 70 percent.

“Such policy can contribute to and facilitate the exercise of the right of women who experience domestic violence in New Zealand to support, services and protection for themselves and for their children,” Juncal Plazaola, an expert on ending gender violence at U.N. Women, told IPS.

Back in 2004, the Philippines also passed the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, which provided the same 10 days of paid leave to victims of domestic violence.

Civil society and law experts have analysed the benefits of this new policy, given that women who suffer from domestic violence underperform at work. In the United States, victims of domestic violence lose around 10 days of paid work every year, and they work 10 percent of hours less than those who do not suffer from abuse at home.

Plazaola, from U.N. Women, explained: “Women can be constantly harassed at work, delayed getting to work or prevented from going to work. This can lead to either quitting their job or being terminated.” Seeing these types of occurrences, it is vital to promote a corporate environment that takes this reality into account.

“Women who experience domestic violence have high rates of absenteeism at work and such a measure can support them keep their employment. This policy can therefore contribute to more job security, economic opportunities and independence and greater chances for abused women to abandon an abusive relationship,” Plazaola added.

Employment and labour attorney Mark I. Shickman, from Freeland Cooper & Foreman LLP, also expressed his agreement with the New Zealand policy: “Employers can allow time off to do what is necessary legally or medically without fear of adverse work consequence or lack of confidentiality.”

However, he did not idealise it.

“Employment accommodations won’t solve every problem, but they are a big help. Vulnerable survivors do not want to risk the work situation which is often their most secure environment, so knowing that they cannot be retaliated against or fired for the time they need to speak to law enforcement, or to counsellors, or to children/family agencies, etc., is a huge help,” Schickman said.

Regarding the risks of the policy—as it does not require the victim to justify in any way that she/he is being abused—all experts seemed optimistic. The risk of the company being subject to fraud by its employees are low.

“The benefits of the law far outweigh the risks involved. The prevalence of false reporting is historically hyperbolised in many contexts. Very few individuals will fraudulently assert that they are victims of domestic violence for the sole purpose of receiving paid leave days,” Lizdas, from BWJP, said.

Plazaola agreed with her by saying that this policy “will most probably contribute to more empowered and satisfied staff with higher productivity.” The issue, she claimed, is not fraud, as most cases are not reported; less than 40 percent of women who have been abused look for help.

“Reasons for this often include shame, as well as blame, from one-self and from others. Therefore, it is not expected that this type of measures will lead to an over- or mis-use of it,” she concluded.

For Lizdas, this kind of policy was a good way to avoid victims’ isolation: “If awareness of intimate partner violence pervades the private/corporate sectors, as well as employers more generally, and if employers are incentivised to identify and provide assistance to employees suspected of being victims of IPV, this should have the effect of reducing victims’ isolation.”

Isolation, an abusive relationship, and a lack of external help increase the risk of domestic violence; at least half of the women victims of homicide every year have been killed by their intimate partners. But homicide is the last step of a violent relationship.

“An abusive relationship doesn’t start with murder, but the abuse escalates and without timely intervention and support, the women may end up murdered,” Plazaola said.

Asked how to avoid this fatal ending, Plazaola was adamant: “We need  legislation and policies on femicide, as well as the tools to properly investigate and punish all forms of violence against women, including femicide. Ending impunity is critical.”

Lizdas agreed: “Reducing intimate partner homicide requires a commitment from a wide variety of social sectors – legal, medical, public health, education, social service, military, etc.”

However, in the U.S, there is another factor that plays into the numbers of female homicide—the easy access to guns. In 2015, 55 percent of the intimate partner homicides in the U.S. were by gun. Shickman warned IPS: “The first issue is getting guns out of the house.”

“Abused women are five times more likely to be killed if the abuser has a gun,” he added.

For Plazaola, the solution to end, or at least reduce, the number of fatal victims on the hands of an intimate partner lies within the whole society.

“Understanding that femicide is the ultimate act in a chain of acts of violence against women, means understanding that health sector, social services, the police and the justice sectors must work together,” she said.

“Having policies that recognise the rights of abused women to protection as well as to other measures that will help them deal with the consequences and harm of this violence, can help us all have a better understanding of their realities, and can contribute to questioning the blaming and shaming too often associated with it.”

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Going Cashless, Led by Swedenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/going-cashless-led-sweden/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=going-cashless-led-sweden http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/going-cashless-led-sweden/#respond Fri, 03 Aug 2018 12:45:34 +0000 Stefan Ingves http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157045 Stefan Ingves is the governor of Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, described as the world’s oldest central bank.

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Stefan Ingves is the governor of Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, described as the world’s oldest central bank.

By Stefan Ingves
STOCKHOLM, Aug 3 2018 (IPS)

Sweden is rapidly moving away from cash. Demand for cash has dropped by more than 50 percent over the past decade as a growing number of people rely on debit cards or a mobile phone application, Swish, which enables real-time payments between individuals.

More than half of all bank branches no longer handle cash. Seven out of ten consumers say they can manage without cash, while half of all merchants expect to stop accepting cash by 2025 (Arvidsson, Hedman, and Segendorf 2018). And cash now accounts for just 13 percent of payments in stores, according to a study of payment habits in Sweden (Riksbank 2018).

Stefan Ingves

Digital solutions for large payments between banks have existed for some time; the novelty is that they have filtered down to individuals making small payments. And my country isn’t alone in this regard.

In several Asian and African countries—for example, India, Pakistan, Kenya, and Tanzania—paying by mobile phone instead of cards or cash is commonplace.

Given that the role of a central bank is to manage the money supply, these developments potentially have wide-ranging consequences. Are central banks needed as issuers of a means of payment in a modern digital payments market?

Are banknotes and coins the only means of payment for retail payments that should be supplied by a central bank? Is there a risk of future concentration in the payments market infrastructure that central banks should be monitoring?

In Sweden, clearing and transfers between accounts are concentrated in one system, Bankgirot. Once the payments market infrastructure is in place, the marginal costs for payments are low and positive externalities are present. What do we mean by “positive externalities”?

A classic example is the telephone. Having the first telephone is not very valuable, as there would be no one to call. However, as more people eventually connect to the telephone network, the value of the phone increases.

The same is true for the payments market—the value of being connected to a payments system increases as more people join. Moreover, payments can also be regarded as collective utilities.

Considering this, my view is that the state does indeed have a role to fill in the payments market—namely, to regulate or provide the infrastructure needed to ensure smooth functioning and robustness.

Citizens can expect a payments market to meet a few basic requirements. First, its services should be broadly available. Second, its infrastructure should be safe and secure. Sellers and buyers should be convinced that the payment order will be carried out—a necessary condition for people to be willing to use the system. Third, it should be efficient: payments should be settled fast, at the lowest possible cost, and the system should be perceived as simple and easy to use.

Do we fulfill these requirements? I am becoming increasingly uncertain whether we can respond with an unequivocal yes.

If banknotes and coins have had their day, then in the near future, the general public will no longer have access to a state-guaranteed means of payment, and the private sector will to a greater extent control accessibility, technological developments, and pricing of the available payment methods.

It is difficult to say at present what consequences this might have, but it will likely further limit financial access for groups in society that currently lack any means of payment other than cash. Competition and redundancy in the payments infrastructure will likely be reduced if the state is no longer a participant. Today, cash has a natural place as the only legal tender. But in a cashless society, what would legal tender mean?

In this regard, one might ask whether central banks should start issuing digital currency to the public. This is a complex issue and one central banks will likely struggle with for years to come. I approach the question as a practical, not a hypothetical, matter.

I am convinced that within 10 years we will almost exclusively be paying digitally, both in Sweden and in many parts of the world. Even today, young people, at least in Sweden, use practically no cash at all.

This demographic dimension is also why I believe that cash’s decline can be neither stopped nor reversed. While the Nordic countries are at the forefront, we are not alone. It is interesting to see how quickly the Chinese payments market, for instance, is changing.

And then there is the emergence of crypto assets. I do not consider these so-called currencies to be money, as they do not fulfill the three essential functions of money—to serve as a means of payment, a unit of account, and a store of value. This view is shared by most of my colleagues.

Crypto assets’ main contribution is to show that financial infrastructure can be built in a new way with blockchain technology, smart contracts, and crypto solutions. Although the new technology is interesting and can probably create value added in the long run, it is important that central banks make it clear that cryptocurrencies are generally not currencies but rather assets and high-risk investments.

The clearer we are in communicating this, the greater the chance that we can prevent unnecessary bubbles from arising in the future. We may also want to review the need for regulatory frameworks and supervision for this relatively new phenomenon.

It is worth mentioning that digitalization, technical improvements, and globalization are positive developments that increase our collective economic welfare. We can only speculate on what new payments services may be developed in the future. But there are several challenges ahead.

One key issue we face is whether central banks can stop supplying a state-guaranteed means of payment to the general public. Another is whether the infrastructure for retail payments should be transferred to a purely private market. The state cannot entirely withdraw from its social responsibility in these areas. But exactly what its new role will become remains to be seen.

The link to the original article follows:
http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/06/central-banks-and-digital-currencies/point.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

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Excerpt:

Stefan Ingves is the governor of Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, described as the world’s oldest central bank.

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Land Degradation: A Triple Threat in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-degradation-triple-threat-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-degradation-triple-threat-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-degradation-triple-threat-africa/#respond Fri, 03 Aug 2018 08:41:45 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157041 Sustainability, stability, and security—the three overlapping issues are an increasing concern among many especially in Africa where land degradation is displacing citizens and livelihoods. African ministers and United Nations officials convened at the U.N. as part of the Initiative on Sustainability, Stability, and Security (3S), which aims to address migration and instability caused by land […]

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A rice farmer in Northern Ghana during better days. Croplands that were once fertile in northern Ghana are now unproductive, which has led to decreased incomes while water sources are drying up due to prolonged droughts. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3 2018 (IPS)

Sustainability, stability, and security—the three overlapping issues are an increasing concern among many especially in Africa where land degradation is displacing citizens and livelihoods.

African ministers and United Nations officials convened at the U.N. as part of the Initiative on Sustainability, Stability, and Security (3S), which aims to address migration and instability caused by land degradation across the continent.

“We need to take ownership of our responsibility,” said minister of environment and sustainable development of Senegal Mame Thierno Dieng. The west African nation was one of the countries that helped launch the 3S initiative."We need to ensure people have jobs within their communities and environment. We want them to stay on their farms and farm." -- Ghana’s deputy-minister of environment, science, technology, and innovation Patricia Appiagyei.

Among its objectives, 3S hopes to stabilise “at risk” areas by creating new, green jobs for the most vulnerable communities through investments on land rehabilitation and sustainable land management.

Without any such action, the dangers for communities are undeniable.

Globally, 80 percent of land degradation is caused by agriculture. Since 1950, 65 percent of Africa’s cropland, which millions depend on, has been affected by land degradation by mining, poor farming practices, and illegal logging.

Meanwhile, an estimated 375 million young Africans are estimated to enter the job market within the next 15 years. Of this population, 200 million will live in rural areas.

As resource-based sectors such as agriculture account for 80 percent of employment, young people will be left without a healthy environment to survive on. According to 3S, this could lead to conflict over natural resources, instability caused by the lack of income-generating opportunities, and increased exposure to extremist groups.

Ghana, renowned for its tropical forests and cocoa farms, is already seeing this scenario play out.

Approximately 35 percent of the west African country’s land is under threat of desertification especially in the north where land degradation and climate change have exacerbated poverty.

Croplands that were once fertile in northern Ghana are now unproductive, which has led to decreased incomes while water sources are drying up due to prolonged droughts.

Such losses have forced northern residents to migrate to the southern region of the country where they live in “highly deplorable” conditions, Ghana’s deputy-minister of environment, science, technology, and innovation Patricia Appiagyei told IPS.

“It is about time that we find ways of ensuring we neutralise the high rate of degradation,” she said.

“[3S] is an initiative we are very passionate about and we believe that we need to join to address these issues because land degradation and desertification issues is not just affecting the land but it is also affecting water, energy, food baskets, and livelihoods of the people who live within those communities,” Appiagyei continued.

While Ghana has begun investing in agricultural development in the north, conflicts are beginning to escalate between farmers and herders who are losing grazing land for their cattle.

The Gambia is facing similar challenges, with almost 80 percent of its woodlands degraded in alongside a rapid decrease in the productivity of its cropland.

As 64 percent of its population are young people, Gambians have been forced to move to urban areas or abroad for greener pastures.

Many Gambians have also been returning which is proving to be an additional challenge, said minister of environment, climate change, and natural resources Lamin Dibba to IPS.

“There was a particular month that there were about 400 people returning from abroad. This is very worrying for the fact that when they stay long without any livelihood support system, this can bring a lot of social disorder,” he said.

In an effort to avoid such instability, the Gambia hopes to create 25,000 green jobs for youth in their communities as well as returning migrants in the fields of agriculture, tourism, and conservation.

To achieve this, education is a crucial component, both Appiagyei and Dibba said.

“[We need] to reach out to the communities to explain to them what is climate change, what are the causes, what are the likely impacts…this is why we call it integrated—we want to look at all aspects of people’s livelihoods,” Dibba said.

Supported by the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative, the Gambia is implementing an education project targeting schools about GGW and land restoration methods.

Appiagyei noted the importance of including farmers, especially women, in such initiatives through education on agricultural practices and new technologies.

“They are currently suffering from the agricultural practices they are undertaking and the weather doesn’t really help…we need to ensure people have jobs within their communities and environment. We want them to stay on their farms and farm,” she said.

While Ghana is considering a lift on a ban on small-scale mining, which has impacted swathes of forests and water bodies, Appiagyei told IPS that sustainable land management comes first.

“We are thinking about lifting the ban, but not until we are able to improve on land management practices and apply the right legislation. Not until we are convinced that we have the right measures to curb the activities of small-scale illegal mining,” she said.

But no one of this will be possible without meetings and support from the international level.

“We want to ensure these projects become a reality,” said Dibba.

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From Crowdfunding to Development Platforms: 8 Ways to Make Use of a Networked Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/crowdfunding-development-platforms-8-ways-make-use-networked-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crowdfunding-development-platforms-8-ways-make-use-networked-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/crowdfunding-development-platforms-8-ways-make-use-networked-world/#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2018 14:16:26 +0000 Robert Pasicko http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157024 Robert Pasicko works for UNDP’s Alternative Financing Lab

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Credit: iHub/Kenya

By Robert Pasicko
ISTANBUL, Turkey, Aug 2 2018 (IPS)

Hardly a day goes by in the development world without hearing the term “platform”. Like in the business world, it’s becoming harder for any development organization to provide a single service or product that will make broad impact. Airbnb doesn’t build homes, it creates a network that brings together host and guests.

Likewise, it’s impossible to eradicate poverty – a complex phenomenon – without connecting different areas of expertise and partners across a wide range of thematic issues. And it’s often the case that the people we’re trying to pull out of poverty are closer to the problem and entitled to have a say about the solution.

While building platforms doesn’t happen overnight, it’s highly likely you’re already working in ways that resemble that. Take crowdfunding: it helps diversify funding, involves target groups, and mobilizes experts from all walks of life. I’ve led 35 crowdfunding campaigns at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2015 and mobilized $1.2 million. Our field offices are working on $7 million worth of campaigns. So here’s my take-away:

Think broad. Turning old development methods on their head, crowdfunding enables development institutions to sit at the same table with everybody else –people from poor neighborhoods, governments, startups, banks and large donors, and of course crowdfunding marketplaces. To survive in the 21st century, development organizations must diversify their contacts with partners that are ready to research, test and scale up solutions to complex problems.
• Build your ecosystem. Get a better understanding of the national context. Study the legislation and bring on board national partners who already have local connections to crowds. The more partners are able to latch on and add value, the higher the chances of success. Think of yourself as the app store: when developers come in and launch their own apps, you’ve created a virtuous circle in which the parts bring exponentially more value into the whole.
Link up with tech platforms. Through crowdfunding we’ve supported lots of UNDP tech-based platforms, like LiveLebanon.org, GreenCrowds in Ecuador, or YemenOurHome. We’re working with them to move away from online donations, towards building communities that can deliver long-term impact. It’s not enough just putting a “donate” button on your page. These online communities can be powerful starting points for continuing to rally investors and partners.
Partner with cities to achieve quick wins. London is creating a city for all Londoners through crowdfunding. Madrid has its own crowdsourcing platform. We’re transferring these practices to some unlikely places like Somalia, working with the diaspora to help people in Mogadishu create revenue, and withstand violence and disaster.
Go solar: it’s the ultimate platform initiative. It’s not development if it isn’t green. Funding solar is the ultimate way to hit multiple SDG targets. We teamed up with over 30 crowdfunding platforms to deliver Citizenergy, which helped invest € 40 million into clean energy. With UNDP Moldova and Sun Exchange, we are also developing a $1 million solar plant using cryptocurrencies.
Support small businesses – It’s hard for SMEs to get and repay their credit. But our experience in Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Morocco and Turkey has shown that crowdfunding can be a great way to get new businesses off the ground. By the same token, development organizations should intensify their work to bring crowd-funders, businesses, third party verifiers and others together to make business more inclusive.
Use new sources of financing. In the Muslim world, Zakat (donations) are worth 200 billion to 1 trillion. We’re now working with the Islamic Development Bank on a proposal to fund NGOs. In Indonesia, UNDP is designing a brand new platform that will – among other things – use Islamic finance to help the country achieve the SDGs.
Build networks to help people recover from disaster. Campaigns such as GoFundMe and YouCaring are putting a face on individuals affected by disasters and mobilizing global funding. The Connecting Business Initiative is taking that approach further, mobilizing business networks so they too can get involved.

Crowdfunding is the originator of all modern development platforms. When we turn to platforms, we direct money where it is most needed. People can crowdsource the best ideas and vote for them. Governments and donors can match the funds collected, financing projects citizens actually support.

In an increasingly networked age, it’s not only capable of unleashing significant impact. It can also inspire thousands of development organizations around the world to rally partners and contribute to global causes more effectively.

The post From Crowdfunding to Development Platforms: 8 Ways to Make Use of a Networked World appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Robert Pasicko works for UNDP’s Alternative Financing Lab

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Trump Escalates Rhetoric on Iranhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/trump-escalates-rhetoric-iran/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-escalates-rhetoric-iran http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/trump-escalates-rhetoric-iran/#respond Wed, 01 Aug 2018 17:38:14 +0000 Kelsey Davenport http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157009 Kelsey Davenport is director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association

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Kelsey Davenport is director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association

By Kelsey Davenport
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 1 2018 (IPS)

Rhetoric escalated between the United States and Iran when U.S. President Donald Trump irresponsibly tweeted July 22 that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani must “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN” or else suffer consequences the likes of which “FEW HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

The meeting for a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program in 2015. Attendees included John Kerry of the United States, Philip Hammond of the United Kingdom, Sergey Lavrov of Russia, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, Laurent Fabius of France, Wang Yi of China, Federica Mogherini of the European Union and Javad Zarif of Iran.

In response to Trump’s threat, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted July 23 that Iran is “UNIMPRESSED” by the bluster and ended his message with the warning “BE CAUTIOUS.”

The Trump tweet was likely prompted by Rouhani warning July 22 that the United States should know that “war with Iran is the mother of all wars” and if Iran’s oil exports are blocked, “no other country in the region” will export oil.

The sanctions that Trump reimposed May 8 when he violated and withdrew from the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), include measures penalizing states if they fail to significantly reduce imports of Iranian oil every 180 days.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated in a July 22 speech that the U.S. focus is to get states importing Iranian oil to “as close to zero as possible” by the Nov. 4 180-day deadline (see below for details).

Pompeo said little about the JCPOA in his speech, which criticized the Iranian regime and reiterated that the United States is engaged in a “diplomatic and financial pressure campaign” to cut off funds used by the government to “enrich itself and support death and destruction.”

While Trump’s tweet prompted pushback from some policymakers, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton July 23 reiterated and appeared to broaden the vague and reckless threat, saying “if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said July 24 that Trump is making “very clear” that Iran is “on the wrong track” and called for Tehran to “shape up and show responsibility.”

The exchange of threats between the United States and Iran is taking place as the P4+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) are looking for options to sustain sanctions relief and keep Iran in the JCPOA (see below for details).

The P4+1 face a ticking clock, as the first U.S. sanctions re-imposed by Trump will be enforceable Aug. 6, when the 90-day wind down closes. These measures target certain banking activities, trade involving certain metals, coal, and the automotive sector, and the purchase of U.S. dollars by the Iranian government.

The Treasury Department will also revoke authorizations allowing carpets and Iranian foodstuffs to be exported to the United States and revoke licenses issued for the sale of commercial aircraft parts and services to Iran.

The remaining sanctions penalties, including those that target Iran’s oil sales, will be effective Nov. 4.

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Excerpt:

Kelsey Davenport is director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association

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Slovakia Elevates SDGs to Status of National Prioritieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/slovakia-elevates-sdgs-status-national-priorities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=slovakia-elevates-sdgs-status-national-priorities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/slovakia-elevates-sdgs-status-national-priorities/#respond Tue, 31 Jul 2018 14:16:47 +0000 Razeena Raheem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156977 At the High-Level Political Forum, which concluded mid-July, world leaders from 46 countries show-cased their progress in achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2030. All 46 countries produced voluntary national reviews (VNRs) aimed at facilitating the sharing of their experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, […]

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By Razeena Raheem
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 31 2018 (IPS)

At the High-Level Political Forum, which concluded mid-July, world leaders from 46 countries show-cased their progress in achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2030.

All 46 countries produced voluntary national reviews (VNRs) aimed at facilitating the sharing of their experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 SDG Agenda.

Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Richard Raši

The VNRs also seek to strengthen policies and institutions of governments and to mobilize multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Since the launch of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the number of countries presenting VNRs has increased significantly since the original 22 in 2016.

With this year’s Forum, says the UN, more than 120 countries have submitted their reviews, showing commitment to tackle some of the biggest challenges of our time. The Forum also brings together leaders from all sectors of society, including the business community and civil society.

Perhaps one of the most comprehensive VNRs was from the Slovak Republic which was presented by the Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Digitalization Richard Raši.

Asked about Slovakia’s key challenges in implementing the 17 SDGs, the Deputy Prime Minister told IPS: “Our main challenge is a change of mindset in our society where there is still prevalence of strong orientation on instant benefits and individualism, but communitarian and holistic needs are being considered only too little, as well as further horizons.”

“A big task ahead of us is therefore creating awareness about SDGs to promote voluntary engagement of all stakeholders. Our objective is mainly to engage local and regional stakeholders, because it is estimated that 65% of the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda cannot be reached without engaging and coordinating with local and regional governments,” he pointed out.

“To make our interventions towards reaching the SDGs effective and targeted, they will be based on a territorial approach and on the principle of subsidiarity. Local and regional governments have an indispensable role in mobilizing a wide range of stakeholders and facilitating “bottom-up” and inclusive processes for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The formation of multi-stakeholder partnerships is equally important,” he declared.

“I have first-hand experience with the role of cities in localizing agendas and engaging its citizens for various causes. Between 2010 and 2018, I served as the mayor of the second largest city of Slovakia, Košice. During my term, Košice was named European Capital of Culture in 2013 and European City of Sport in 2016. In 2019, the city will be a European Volunteering Capital. Until 2030, we aspire to make significant progress in six national priorities that were defined in a broad stakeholder participation process.”
Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: What are your national priorities relating to Agenda 2030?

Deputy Prime Minister: Education for a life in dignity – support for education of socially or physically disadvantaged groups of people, because no one can be left behind. We also need to upgrade the overall quality of our educational system, because we cannot be satisfied with the results of Slovak pupils in international testings.

We also aim at intertwining education more closely with future labour market needs, that will, in the near future, require more and more complex skills like solving complex problems, critical thinking or creativity. Last but not least, our ambition is to better the teachers´ position in society as well as their professional preparation.

Transformation towards a knowledge-based and environmentally sustainable economy in the face of changing demography and global context:
Slovakia has an open, export-oriented economy that is part of the European Union and Euro-zone. Therefore, we have to sensibly perceive and react to challenges and changing conditions that Europe has to face. Our own challenge is an ageing population that our social system must deal with. As to the transition to circular economy, that is an absolute environmental imperative.

Poverty reduction and social inclusion:
although the problem of poverty is not too convex in Slovakia, we are aware of the need to raise the purchasing power of our citizens to match their counterparts in most developed European nations, the need to reduce regional disparities in income, and above all we are aware of multigenerational islands of extreme poverty that are sharply bounded both regionally and ethnically and pose a very complex problem.

Sustainable settlements, regions and countryside in the face of climate change: climate change is a fact and we have to reflect if in our urbanistic planning and in our approach towards the country. It is especially important to strengthen adaptation measures and to enhance the resilience of our communities and society to the potential adverse effects of climate change.

Rule of law, democracy and security: by which I mean, for example, strengthening of public trust into institutions and readiness towards new security threats such as spreading disinformation, rise of extremism or cybernetic crime.

Good health: apart from increasing the quality of health care, there must be above all increase in the state of public health by preventive means. That will not happen without a change in Slovak people´s lifestyle. Because our population is ageing, increasing healthy life years and prevention of chronical and civilisation diseases must be priority.

IPS: Conforming to a widespread appeal to member states by the UN, Slovakia has firmly committed its political will to implement the 2030 Agenda. But what is the primary impediment towards achieving its goals? Is it lack of development funding? Or decline in ODA? Or both?

Deputy Prime Minister: We of course recognise, that the national priorities will gain genuine significance only once they will be prioritised in terms of budgetary allocations. At the moment, the 2030 Agenda and the national priorities are not sufficiently integrated into the sectoral strategies of ministries and consequently they are not included in sectoral investment plans either. Therefore, as an essential part of the National Development Strategy, a National Investment Plan will be elaborated, which should bolster financing for sustainable development.

But if the importance of sustainable development was recognised in society and the stakeholders came forward with voluntary initiatives, finance would not be so essential. Therefore, I do not deem the main obstacle in achieving the SDGs to be only money, but also a lack of awareness.

We are fully aware, that while it is crucial to set up an effective framework for implementing the 2030 Agenda within our national borders, our responsibilities stretch further. In terms of supporting the implementation of the SDGs globally, we regard ODA as an important tool but not the only one. Net ODA as a percentage of gross national income has been gradually increasing in Slovakia over the last decade, but still falls below target values.

A second tool we utilise to contribute to sustainable development on a global level is leveraging our membership and position in international and regional organisations to mainstream sustainability in all areas of global concern.

IPS: How do the 17 SDGs fit into your national development strategy? Is there any coordination among your various ministries in helping implement the 2030 agenda?

Deputy Prime Minister: Our ambition is to establish the 2030 Agenda as the core of Slovakia´s strategic governance framework. Having defined our six national priorities in a broad stakeholder participation process, our next step will be to further develop these priorities within a National Development Strategy until 2030. This strategy should in turn form the basis of all sectoral and cross-cutting strategies, as well investment plans.

To turn this ambition into practice, a robust institutional framework is in place. It includes all key stakeholders for implementing the 2030 Agenda. In Slovakia, the coordination of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is shared by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office for Investments and Informatization, in charge of the national implementation of the Agenda, and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, responsible for implementing the Agenda in an international environment.

The main high-level coordinating body for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is the Government Council of the Slovak Republic for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In particular, the Government Council coordinates the creation of policies and strategies related to sustainable development, both at the national and regional level.

It also assesses the progress made in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Members of the Government Council include key line ministers, representatives of other relevant state institutions, regional administration, cities and municipalities, employers, trade unions, academia, non-governmental organisations and relevant government advisory bodies.

IPS: Are there any significant contributions from parliamentarians, NGOs, academia and the private sector– described as key stakeholders– in the implementation of the 17 SDGs?

Deputy Prime Minister: Key stakeholders, including academia, NGOs and the private sector, have been involved in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda from the very beginning. Stakeholders were engaged in the process of defining Slovakia´s national priorities for the 2030 Agenda, in accordance with the principle of participation and partnership. Currently, we are working to involve parliamentarians more deeply, who should have an important role in monitoring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and in ensuring continuity.

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States Must Treat Refugees & Migrants as Rights Holders & Prevent Trafficking & Exploitationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/states-must-treat-refugees-migrants-rights-holders-prevent-trafficking-exploitation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=states-must-treat-refugees-migrants-rights-holders-prevent-trafficking-exploitation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/states-must-treat-refugees-migrants-rights-holders-prevent-trafficking-exploitation/#respond Mon, 30 Jul 2018 08:23:31 +0000 Maria Grazia Giammarinaro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156940 Maria Grazia Giammarinaro* is UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons

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Maria Grazia Giammarinaro* is UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons

By Maria Grazia Giammarinaro
GENEVA, Jul 30 2018 (IPS)

States around the world must act now to strengthen their efforts to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings, including by ensuring that victims and potential victims are considered and treated as rights holders.

Many people who fall prey to traffickers are migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, who have decided to leave their country for various reasons, such as conflict, natural disaster, persecution or extreme poverty.

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro

They have left behind their social protection network, and are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.

In the current poisonous anti-migration political atmosphere, migrants are often targeted as a threat, while in reality they contribute to the prosperity of the host countries where they live and work.

In this context, the anti-trafficking discourse is often misused to justify restrictive migration policies and push-back activities. Taking a stand against xenophobic and racist approaches, as well as violence, hatred and discrimination, is a moral duty which is in everyone’s power.

States have an obligation to prevent trafficking. It is a gross human rights violation. In the context of the Global Migration Compact, States should establish – in addition to international protection schemes – individualised procedures and appropriate indicators to identify migrants’ vulnerabilities to trafficking and exploitation, and provide them with tailored solutions to prevent further harm.

In many countries, human rights activists and civil society organisations have been criminalised and ostracised for acting in solidarity with migrants and victims and potential victims of trafficking.

All over the world, civil society organisations are playing a pivotal role in saving lives, and protecting people from trafficking, during search and rescue operations, and on arrival in transit and destination countries. Any attempt to delegitimise their humanitarian work is unacceptable.

NGOs also play an important role in the identification of victims of trafficking. This is essential for ensuring access to protection and rehabilitation for victims, and should be prioritised, including during large mixed migration movements.

Identification and referral to protection services is only a first step, which must be followed by innovative action to promote social inclusion. This can only be possible if exploitation, especially labour exploitation of migrant workers, ceases to be normalised and the right to the enjoyment of decent work, with fair pay and conditions, is respected and guaranteed to everyone, regardless of their migration status.

On World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, my message is that, even in difficult times, inclusion, not exclusion, is the answer.

*Maria Grazia Giammarinaro (Italy) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014, to promote the prevention of trafficking in persons in all its forms, and to encourage measures to uphold and protect the human rights of victims. She has been a Judge since 1991 and served as a Pre-Trial Judge at the Criminal Court of Rome, and currently serves as a Judge in the Civil Court of Rome.

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Excerpt:

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro* is UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons

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Latin American Migrants Targeted by Trafficking Networkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/latin-american-migrants-targeted-trafficking-networks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-migrants-targeted-trafficking-networks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/latin-american-migrants-targeted-trafficking-networks/#respond Sat, 28 Jul 2018 00:35:18 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156934 The rescue earlier this month of 12 Venezuelan and three Colombian women from a prostitution network that recruits migrants in Peru is an example of the complex web where migration and human trafficking often involve victims of forced labour and sexual exploitation. The sex trade ring that preys on migrants was dismantled by police in […]

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Peace & Equal Political Participation of Women in the DRChttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 12:12:45 +0000 Justine Masika Bihamba http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156920 Justine Masika Bihamba is President of Synergie des Femmes, a women’s organization based in Goma, DRC, and partner of global women’s group Donor Direct Action.

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Congolese Women's Forum Meets in Kinshasa, DRC in Sept 2017

By Justine Masika Bihamba
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

I am a women’s human rights defender and President of Synergie des Femmes, a platform of 35 organizations working for the improvement, promotion, defense, respect and protection of women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

We offer particular support to women who are victims of sexual violence, and work towards the establishment of lasting peace in North Kivu in the east of the country.

On July 26th I briefed the United Nations Security Council on the current situation for women in the DRC in the areas of the UN mission (MONUSCO), the growth of insecurity and the increase of cases of sexual violence against women and girls, and the tense political climate following the failure to hold elections before the constitutional deadline.

The recent decision to close some bases of MONUSCO has exposed the civilian population in sensitive areas. We are left in a precarious position. Despite the rapid deployment, interventions often arrive too late, when irreparable damage has already been done.

Following a decrease in financial resources, the Joint Human Rights Office is no longer present on the ground and, as a result, can no longer effectively document the cases of serious human rights violations that are now reported.

We fear disorder during the proposed elections at the end of this year and really hope that MONUSCO will ensure that Congolese police are properly trained so that order can be maintained and that polling stations can be secured. This is extremely important as fair and transparent elections are at the core of ensuring a peaceful and prosperous nation.

Meanwhile, the situation of women – and particularly those victims of sexual violence – is worsening day by day. The increase in armed groups as part of the ongoing war here has meant that mass rapes have continued, while populations have been displaced. In North Kivu alone, cases of rape and violence have increased this year by more than 60%.

The political climate has also made things more dangerous. Things are very tense at the moment as elections were not held before the end of last year as expected. This goes against our constitution.

At the time various demonstrations were shut down by the police, civilian deaths occurred, material damage was extensive (especially convents and Catholic churches), arbitrary arrests took place of the leaders of the citizen movement, of human rights defenders and of opposition politicians.

With only five months to go before the elections are due to take place (again), the political environment continues to be extremely difficult.

In addition to this political instability and the brutal repression of dissident voices, several legal reform projects initiated by the Congolese government have further reduced Congolese freedom of expression and civic spaces. One of these aims to change how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are run here, which could have major ramifications.

Against this backdrop the participation of women in the electoral process – a tried and trusted way of increasing the chance of lasting peace – has remained very low. A problematic electoral law brought in at the end of 2017 is a serious obstacle to our rights and freedoms.

It imposes many constraints, including the requirement of candidates to reach a threshold of support of at least 1% of votes at the national level. As a result, no provincial election nomination file was filed by the deadline date in some constituencies.

This law also discriminates specifically against women in the electoral contest and doesn’t take into account their socio-economic conditions. It states that a deposit of $ 1,000 must be made by candidates. This is an astronomical sum for women and young people living for the most part on an income of less than $1 per day.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, calls for an increase in the participation of women in all peacebuilding and security efforts. In late 2017, I co-ordinated a group of over 60 women from all provinces of the DRC to make this a reality for Congolese Women.

We set up the Congolese Women’s Forum to be able to achieve this and have pleaded with the government to change this discriminatory law, which is likely to reduce rather than increase women’s political participation in the DRC.

The upcoming elections will also be problematic in terms of how they are likely to be run. The proposed use of the voting machines will cause significant challenges and may lead to fear of electoral fraud. The DRC currently has a population that is 65% illiterate – mostly women and young people – who would have enormous difficulties using these machines.

This is the environment in which we currently live in the DRC. Every day we have new obstacles to overcome but we are also hopeful for a better future. In my statement to the Security Council and Member States I recommended that five steps are taken.

We want them to put pressure on the DRC government to implement policies which truly promote women’s participation in decision-making and women’s candidatures for elections.

We want them to ask the government to respect the freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate and the civic space of the Congolese population, that the New Year’s Eve Agreement, the Constitution and the rule of law are all respected, that MONUSCO restore its bases in sensitive areas to ensure the effective protection of civilians, that it supports the ongoing electoral process and ensures that the Joint Human Rights Office effectively documents human rights violations.

Finally, we recommended that the Security Council really supports civil society organizations that work for the promotion and defence of women’s rights – particularly in training women in leadership to be able to access decision-making positions. This is a key component of ensuring we finally see lasting peace in this country.

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Excerpt:

Justine Masika Bihamba is President of Synergie des Femmes, a women’s organization based in Goma, DRC, and partner of global women’s group Donor Direct Action.

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Educating Girls, The Only Road To Achieve the SDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/educating-girls-road-achieve-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=educating-girls-road-achieve-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/educating-girls-road-achieve-sdgs/#respond Thu, 26 Jul 2018 21:27:31 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156908 Better and prolonged education can bring down high rates of illiteracy, sexual abuse and early marriage among girls. “When girls stay in school, HIV goes down, child marriages go down and sexual violence goes down,” shared Alice Albright, chief executive officer of Global Partnership for Education, a multi-stakeholder partnership and funding platform that aims to […]

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More girls in rural Bihar, India are going to school after mini-grid-powered household lights give mothers and children two extra hours of evening work and study time. Experts say that when girls receive prolonged education this reduces HIV prevalence, child marriages and sexual violence. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 26 2018 (IPS)

Better and prolonged education can bring down high rates of illiteracy, sexual abuse and early marriage among girls.

“When girls stay in school, HIV goes down, child marriages go down and sexual violence goes down,” shared Alice Albright, chief executive officer of Global Partnership for Education, a multi-stakeholder partnership and funding platform that aims to strengthen education systems in developing countries.

She was speaking at the side event ‘Keeping girls in school: What impact on the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria?’, during the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, this July.

Agreeing with Albright, the spokesperson from the international NGO Camfed, or Campaign for Female Education, told IPS: “the cycle of poverty and ill health is perpetuated when girls don’t have access to quality education.”

The relationship between health and education among females has long concerned member states as an issue to address using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The panel, which included Brian Flynn, deputy permanent representative of Ireland to the U.N.; Jens Frølich Holte, deputy minister, ministry of foreign affairs from Norway; Marijke Wijnroks, chief of staff at the Global Fund; Sonita Alizadeh, champion, Girls not Brides; Mohamed Sidibay, a youth representative; and Albright, emphasised a critical issue: keeping girls in school.

The U.N. Women’s report ‘Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Action’ revealed that 15 million primary-school age girls don’t learn to read or write in school (10 million boys don’t either); 15 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have been forced sexually; and 750 million women were married before they turned 18. These numbers can only go down with better and prolonged education, highlighted Albright.

Issues like child marriage, sexual abuse, lack of healthcare products, and responsibility for household chores create a greater disparity between boys and girls when it comes to education.

For Camfed, the reason these issues affect boys and girls differently seemed obvious. “Girls are different from boys in their level of vulnerability to sexual exploitation, especially in a context of rural poverty, where pressure to have transactional sex to raise money for food and school going costs can result in life threatening infections, early pregnancy, the life threatening complications resulting from this, early marriage, and domestic violence.”

With 2.4 million women between the ages of 15 and 24 living with HIV, addressing this issue seems more urgent than ever for political leaders.

“Girls and young women face widespread social, cultural, political and structural barriers in accessing their right to health, particularly around sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Nazneen Damji, U.N. Women policy advisor, stated.

A year of education can change a girl’s life completely. According to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an extra year of secondary school can increase a woman’s income by 15 percent in the future, generating a virtuous cycle. However, it is very hard for a girl to access that extra year. She would have less time to study, as her household chores might occupy most of her time and families will count on her daily work, which can be interrupted if she attends school.

“Secondary schools are few and far between in rural areas, and the long and tiring walk to school can also be dangerous for girls (sexual exploitation, dangerous rivers to cross, wild animals). In addition, most schools in rural sub-Saharan Africa are ill equipped to support girls while they are menstruating,” the Camfed spokesperson told IPS when asked what other obstacles a girl child has to overcome to access education.

But once that education is accessed, the consequences are hugely beneficial.

“We know that educating girls, especially adolescent girls, creates cascading benefits, producing a ripple effect,” explained the UNICEF spokesperson.

“Educated girls are less likely to marry or have children early; they are better able to protect themselves from HIV and AIDS, from sexual exploitation and abuse. Educated women are far less likely to die in childbirth and far more likely to have healthy babies who survive their infancy and thrive,” he added.

Safeena Husain, founder of Educate Girls, an NGO in India that has helped 200,000 girls to return to school since 2007, also shared her organisation’s experience with girls’ education with IPS.

“We do see that with more girls in school they are getting married later. These educated girls feel empowered to make informed decisions and stand up for their rights,” she said.

As an example, Husain commented: “Some girls who we managed to enrol and stay in school through primary education made a conscious decision to call off their engagement to boys who were less educated. It’s a brave move for a girl living in a rural, patriarchal society where she has seen women covered under the veil all her life.”

Most importantly for her, the effects of education are long-term and affect society as a whole.

“The big multiplier effect with educating girls is that they will become the decision makers of the future. It will be the women who choose how to look after the next generation and if they know how to look after themselves during pregnancy, and when bringing up their children there will be an immediate impact on the health of the next generation,” she said.

What can be done?

As to who should be the stakeholder leading these changes in girls’ education, the answers vary. National governments, civil society groups and the private sector—through investments—all have a role to play.

For the UNICEF spokesperson, the key lies within national political leadership.

“We help countries build stronger education systems that deliver quality education to boys and girls,” he said, adding that making sure that national education plans and policies consider gender was key to ensuring that girls and boys alike enter and succeed at school.

Gender could be taken into account, he explained, by removing gender stereotypes from learning materials or educating teachers on the importance of gender biases.

Damji, from U.N. Women, believes civil society is crucial. While Camfed believes that both governments and civil society must interact: “Policy needs to be driven by the expertise of girls and young women who face these barriers, and we need local coalitions to break them down, holistically, with all duty bearers involved: parents, schools, local and traditional leaders, local and national education authorities, social and health workers,” the Camfed spokesperson concluded.

It is Hussain, from Educate Girls, who advocates for the collaboration between these three political actors, including the firms and enterprises.

“The private sector can bring funding and a risk-taking appetite to help fuel innovation and evidence building about what works. Civil society is closest to where the problems lie, they have the community access and know the community voice.

“Once solutions have been found, real scale will only happen when the government gets involved and either integrates the change into policy or funds the delivery of solutions at scale.”

When asked whose responsibility is it to lead the change, she replied: “Essentially it is the responsibility of everyone.”

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Sustainable Agriculture To End World Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-agriculture-end-world-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-agriculture-end-world-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/sustainable-agriculture-end-world-hunger/#respond Tue, 24 Jul 2018 10:26:29 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156834 Significantly more investment is needed to lift hundreds of millions rural poor out of poverty and make agriculture environmentally sustainable, according to Rob Vos, director of the markets, trade and institutions division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). With a growing world population, hunger and undernutrition are on the rise, and governments are […]

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The weakness of poor farmers and the growth of low-nutrition crops have been, until now, some of the deterrents of efficient agriculture. Esmilda Sánchez picks string beans on the Finca de Semillas farm. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 24 2018 (IPS)

Significantly more investment is needed to lift hundreds of millions rural poor out of poverty and make agriculture environmentally sustainable, according to Rob Vos, director of the markets, trade and institutions division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

With a growing world population, hunger and undernutrition are on the rise, and governments are looking for private alliances to alleviate these issues.“The world has over-invested in low-nutrition staple crops, driving up the relative price of nutrition rich-foods. Empty calories is the food system of the poor." -- John Coonrod, executive vice-president, the Hunger Project.

During the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, this July, IFPRI organised a side event called “Investing for Reshaping Food Systems”.

Speakers included Claudia Sadoff, director general for the International Water Management Institute; Nichola Dyer, from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme at the World Bank; Gerda Verburg, coordinator at the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN); and Chantal-Line Carpentier, chief at the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.

They all emphasised the urgency of investing in sustainable agriculture, defined by the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition as “the efficient production of safe, healthy, and high-quality agricultural products, in a way that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.”

While the world population will reach over eight billion people in 2025, the amount of cultivable land will remain the same. Decimated by pesticides, non-sustainable agricultural techniques, and water waste, healthy nutrients will become harder to access for the growing population. This issue, along with food waste (20 percent of every food purchase is wasted), is a major concern for Verburg, who highlighted the need to rethink food systems and stop blaming agriculture.

The relationship between the private sector and agriculture isn’t new. On the contrary, many farmers-especially the poorest ones-are members of the private sector.

“The majority of poor and hungry people are small-scale farmers. They are in fact members of the private sector, albeit the weakest. And some corporate investments in agriculture can hurt them,” John Coonrod, executive vice-president at the Hunger Project, told IPS.

The weakness of poor farmers and the growth of low-nutrition crops have been, until now, some of the deterrents of efficient agriculture.

“The world has over-invested in low-nutrition staple crops, driving up the relative price of nutrition rich-foods. Empty calories is the food system of the poor. To overcome malnutrition, we need to increase the dietary diversity of the poor to include many more fruits and vegetables, which means increasing their local production and reducing their price to local consumers,” Coonrod explained.

How can private investment develop sustainable agriculture? Vos from IFPRI said that a first priority should be to provide incentives for investments beyond farms “in infrastructure like roads, electricity and cold transportation and agri-food processing.”

“This will help provide better and more stable market conditions for farmers, create lots of new jobs, and limit the risks of investing in agriculture itself,” he said.

He also added that “the second priority is to provide incentives for investing in sustainable practices and crop diversification, including towards fruits and vegetables.”

Brian Bogart, senior regional programme advisor for South Africa to the U.N. World Food Programme, agreed with Vos.

“Key areas for investment to equity in food systems include rural infrastructure, access to markets, knowledge and technology, and improved storage and transport capacity to reduce post-harvest losses,” Bogart said.

What about governments?

During the event, Verburg, from SUN, pointed out the importance of political commitment and leadership within countries to reduce hunger and reshape food systems.

When asked about the role of national governments, Bogart said: “Member states have a responsibility to lead such efforts by developing effective partnerships with the private sector and fostering an enabling environment for investment.”

“With shrinking public investment in agriculture (according to the Secretary General’s progress report on the SDGs, government expenditure as a percentage of GDP declined from .38 to .23 between 2001 and 2016 and international aid allocations for agriculture declined by 20 percent between the mid-1980s and 2016), the question is how public-private partnerships can unlock opportunities for private investment to complement public resources and capacity to generate improved food security, particularly for the most vulnerable populations,” he added.

Some countries are already doing this. The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index on sustainable agriculture; nutritional challenges; and food loss and waste which ranks 34 countries according to eight categories, which are in turn divided among 35 indicators, reveals that France, Japan, Germany score highest.

However, responsibility does not lie solely with the state, but with civil society also. Coonrod, from the Hunger Project, explained what his organisation does in this regard: “We promote good nutrition through education, promoting better local farming methods, increasing local food processing and, in indigenous communities of Latin America, we’ve opposed junk food and helped communities reclaim their nutritious traditional foods.”

Finally, Vos highlighted the importance of research in reducing hunger.

“We undertake research to better understand the causes underlying the deficiencies in the present food systems and test out the effectiveness of interventions that aim to overcome these shortcomings. We know far too little on what is driving food system change, not just in agriculture, but in all stages of the food chain, from farm to fork.”

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Building Peace in Societies Affected by Small Armshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/building-peace-societies-affected-small-arms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-peace-societies-affected-small-arms http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/building-peace-societies-affected-small-arms/#respond Tue, 24 Jul 2018 09:18:40 +0000 Izumi Nakamitsu and Jean-Pierre Lacroix http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156838 Izumi Nakamitsu is UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs & Jean-Pierre Lacroix is UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

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Excerpt:

Izumi Nakamitsu is UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs & Jean-Pierre Lacroix is UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations

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Palestine to Lead UN’s Largest Group of Developing Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/palestine-lead-uns-largest-group-developing-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=palestine-lead-uns-largest-group-developing-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/palestine-lead-uns-largest-group-developing-nations/#comments Tue, 24 Jul 2018 07:30:51 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156836 The Group of 77 (G77) — the largest single coalition of developing countries at the United Nations– is to be chaired by Palestine, come January. “It’s a historical first, both for Palestine and the G77,” an Asian diplomat told IPS, pointing out that Palestine will be politically empowered to collectively represent 134 UN member states, […]

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Credit: Institute for Palestine Studies

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 24 2018 (IPS)

The Group of 77 (G77) — the largest single coalition of developing countries at the United Nations– is to be chaired by Palestine, come January.

“It’s a historical first, both for Palestine and the G77,” an Asian diplomat told IPS, pointing out that Palestine will be politically empowered to collectively represent 134 UN member states, including China.

Created in June 1964, the 54-year-old Group comprises over 80 per cent of the world’s population and approximately two-thirds of the United Nations membership

Traditionally, the G77 speaks with a single voice before the 193-member General Assembly, the highest policy making body at the UN, and also at all UN committee meetings and at international conferences.

Under a system of geographical rotation, it was Asia’s turn to name a chairman for 2019. The Asian Group has unanimously endorsed Palestine, which will be formally elected chair at the annual G77 ministerial meeting, scheduled to take place in mid-September.

Palestine will take over from the current chair, Egypt, which is representing the African Group of countries.

The chairmanship is a tremendous political boost for Palestine at a time when it is being increasingly blacklisted by the Trump administration which is kowtowing to the Israelis.

Although it is not a full-fledged UN member state, Palestine is recognized by 136 UN members, and since 2012, has the status of a “non-member observer state” –as is the Holy See (the Vatican).

Nadia Hijab, President, Al-Shabaka Board of Directors, told IPS: “At a time when Israel is moving on all fronts to wipe Palestine definitively off the map through relentless colonization – and to muscle in on UN committees despite its flagrant violations of international law — it is a source of solace to see Palestine slated for a very visible role at the UN.”

However, comforting as this may be, she pointed out, it will take a lot more than this to make “Palestine” a reality on the ground.

Sadly, the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has been unwilling or unable to end security coordination with Israel and to heal internal divisions. Instead, she said, it is cracking down on peaceful Palestinian protests.

”It is also reshaping the Palestine Liberation Organization, which has always been recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, in a way that excludes alternative and opposing views,” Hijab declared.

Martin Khor, Advisor to the Malaysia-based Third World Network, told IPS: “I think it will be a historic and a significant development-first for the G77 countries to elect Palestine as its chair, and thereby affirm their confidence in its leadership.”

The election will also prove that the State of Palestine itself has decided it can mobilise its human and material resources to take on the complex task of coordinating the largest grouping in the UN system– even though it has to fight its own very challenging battles of survival and independence, said Khor, the former executive director of the Geneva-based South Centre.

“Both Palestine and the G77 deserve the support of people around the world to wish them success in voicing and defending the interests of developing countries in these very difficult times when international cooperation and multilateralism are coming under attack,” he said.

Last week, the Trump administration refused to grant visas to a six-member Palestinian delegation that was expected to participate at the UN’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development which took place July 16-18.

This was clearly in violation of the 1947 US-UN Headquarters Agreement which calls on the US, among other obligations, to facilitate delegates participating at UN meetings.

Asked about the visa refusal, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters last week: “Well, certainly, we’re aware of this latest incident, but as far as I’m aware, there is a Host Country Committee that deals with disputes involving access to the United Nations and any problems dealing with the host country on that.”

”As of now, the Host Country Committee has not been approached or formally informed of this, so they haven’t acted on this. But it’s normally their role to deal with this situation. Of course, we would hope that all of those who are here to attend UN meetings would have the ability to do so,” he added.

Samir Sanbar, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General who headed the Department of Public Information (DPI), told IPS chairing the G-77 will be an unprecedented role for Palestine. He said leading that large, varied yet collaborative group will require tactful handling by all sides at a time when the rightful Palestinian cause needs every support as the region—and a fragmented conflicted, almost leaderless world— is facing serious challenges.

“It is hoped that Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine and an experienced diplomat with proven U.N. record, will be given the opportunity and required leeway to operate in an inclusive, patient and fruitful manner to enhance the role of the G 77 while advancing the status of the Palestine, said Sanbar, who served under five different UN secretaries-general.

At the UN, the Trump administration has been increasingly undermining the Palestinian cause – a cause long supported by an overwhelming majority of member states in the world body.

In May, the US relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem even though the UN has deemed it “occupied” declaring that the status of East Jerusalem should be subject to negotiations and that East Jerusalem will be the future capital of the State of Palestine.

Last month, the Trump administration also reduced its funding—from an estimated $360 million in 2017 to $60 million this year — to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), created in 1949 to provide assistance to over 5.5 million refugees resulting from the creation of Israel in 1948.

Last year when Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed the appointment of former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as UN’s Special Representative in Libya, the proposal was shot down by US Ambassador Nikki Haley, purely because he was a Palestinian.

And speaking before the US House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Haley went even further down the road when she indicated she would block any appointment of a Palestinian official to a senior role at the UN because Washington “does not recognize Palestine” as an independent state.

Suddenly, the Palestinians, for the first time, seem blacklisted– and declared political outcasts– in a world body where some of them held key posts in a bygone era.

Guterres, who apparently relented to US pressure by stepping back on Fayyad’s appointment plucked up courage to tell reporters: “I think it was a serious mistake. I think that Mr. Fayyad was the right person in the right place at the right time, and I think that those who will lose will be the Libyan people and the Libyan peace process.”

And, he rightly added: “”I believe that it is essential for everybody to understand that people serving the UN are serving in their personal capacities. They don’t represent a country or a government – they are citizens of the world representing the UN Charter and abiding by the UN Charter,” he said, pointedly directing his answer at Haley

A former chair of the G77 chapter in Vienna told IPS although the Palestinian issue is fundamentally a political one, centred as well on the legitimacy and legality of Israeli occupation, it no longer remains in the political-legal realms exclusively.

He said there are a large number of issues of economic, social and cultural and environmental nature, including health, education, food, water, etc, which arises both directly from conditions of occupation, as well as laterally from other conditions such as denial of humanitarian access, and, very recently, the declaration of “Israel as a Jewish state”.

It is logical that advancing a struggle on these issues call for a broad forum of solidarity, and the G 77 fits the bill, he noted.

In an oped piece marking the 50th anniversary of the G77, Mourad Ahmia, the G77 Executive Secretary said: “When it was established on Jun. 15, 1964, the signing nations of the well-known “Joint Declaration of Seventy-Seven Countries” formed the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the United Nations to articulate and promote their collective interests and common development agenda.

Since the First Ministerial meeting of the G-77 held in Algeria in October 1967, and the adoption of the “Charter of Algiers”, the Group of 77 laid down the institutional mechanisms and structures that have contributed to shaping the international development agenda and changing the landscape of the global South for the past five decades, he pointed out.

“Over the years, the Group has gained an increasing role in the determination and conduct of international relations through global negotiations on major North-South and development issues.”

The Group has a presence worldwide at U.N. centres in New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Washington D.C., and is actively involved in ongoing negotiations on a wide range of global issues including climate change, poverty eradication, migration, trade, and the law of the sea.

“Today, the G-77 remains the only viable and operational mechanism in multilateral economic diplomacy within the U.N system. The growing membership is proof of its enduring strength,” he declared.

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