Inter Press Service » IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 29 Jun 2016 17:50:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Preventable Child Deaths Not Always Linked to Poorest Countries: UNICEFhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 02:01:10 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145867 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/preventable-child-deaths-not-always-linked-to-poorest-countries-unicef/feed/ 0 Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Sweden Among New Members of UN Security Councilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-kazakhstan-sweden-among-new-members-of-un-security-council/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopia-kazakhstan-sweden-among-new-members-of-un-security-council http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-kazakhstan-sweden-among-new-members-of-un-security-council/#comments Wed, 29 Jun 2016 01:27:14 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145864 Italy and the Netherlands have taken the unusual step of splitting the term of a UN Security Council seat. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine.

Italy and the Netherlands have taken the unusual step of splitting the term of a UN Security Council seat. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 29 2016 (IPS)

Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Sweden were elected on Tuesday to serve on the UN Security Council (UNSC) as non-permanent members, while Italy and Netherlands have split the remaining contested seat.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) met to choose five new non-permanent members who will serve a two-year term starting January 2017 alongside the 15-member council.

As the UN’s most powerful body, the UNSC is responsible for international peace and security matters from imposing sanctions to brokering peace deals to overseeing the world’s 16 peacekeeping missions.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom expressed how “happy” and “proud” Sweden is to be joining the UN’s top decision-making body.

“We will do now what we promised to do,” she told press. Among its priorities, Sweden has pledged to focus on conflict prevention and resolution.

“With 40 conflict and 11 full-blown wars, it is a very very worrisome world that we have to take into account,” Wallstrom stated.

Despite its location in Northern Europe,  Sweden has not been untouched by recent conflicts, including the ongoing civil war in Syria. With a population of 9.5 million, the Scandinavian country took in over 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015. The government has since imposed tougher restrictions on asylum seekers including a decrease in permanent residence permits and limited family reunification authorisations.

Ethiopia has also highlighted its position in promoting regional and continental peace and security. The country is the largest contributor of UN peacekeepers and is actively involved in mediating conflicts in Africa, most recently in South Sudan. It has also long struggled with its own clashes, including a crackdown on political dissent.

The Sub-Saharan African country has also promised to work towards UNSC reforms.

During the 70th Session of the UNGA in September 2015, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn remarked that he was “proud” that Ethiopia is one of the UN’s founding members, but stressed the need to reform and establish a permanent seat for Africa in the council.

“Comprehensive reform of the United Nations system, particularly that of the Security Council, is indeed imperative to reflect current geo-political realities and to make the UN more broadly representative, legitimate and effective,” he told delegates.

“We seize this occasion to, once again, echo Africa’s call to be fully represented in all the decision-making organs of the UN, particularly in the Security Council,” Dessalegn continued.

Ethiopia has been a non-permanent member of the UNSC on two previous occasions, in 1967/1968 and 1989/1990.

It will also be the third time that Bolivia will have a non-permanent SC seat. Bolivia campaigned unopposed with the backing of Latin American and Caribbean countries.

“Bolivia is a country that has basic principles…one of those principles is, without a doubt, anti-imperialism,” the Bolivian delegation said following their election, adding that they will continue implementing these principles as a member of the UNSC.

Since the election of Evo Morales, its first indigenous leader, the South American country has largely focused on social reforms and indigenous rights. Most recently, Morales has been reportedly implicated in a political scandal that is threatening journalists and press freedom.

Kazakhstan became the first Central Asian country to be a member of the UNSC after beating Thailand for the seat.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov said that he was “very happy” and their selection was a “privilege.” He also reiterated the country’s priority focus on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan relinquished its nuclear weapons and has been actively advocating for non-proliferation around the world.

“We have a lot to offer to the world and we believe that it is time to attract attention to the need of development in our part of the world,” Idrissov stated.

However, Human Rights Watch has scrutinized the Central Asian nation’s human rights record, including restrictions on freedom of expression.

Netherlands and Italy were up for the last Western European seat on the UNSC, but after four rounds of voting, they were deadlocked with each country receiving 95 votes while needing 127 to win.

Following deliberations, Italian and Dutch foreign ministers announced that they would split the seat, with Italy in the UNSC in 2017 and the Netherlands in 2018.

Since May, the six countries have been campaigning for council seats by participating in the first-ever election debates in the UN’s 70-year history.

The debates were a part of a new effort to increase transparency in the institution.

The new non-permanent members will work alongside the five veto-wielding permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Following their controversial exit from the European Union, known as “Brexit”, the UK may face an uncertain future in the UNSC as the prospects of Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the UK loom.

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The Case for Cash in Humanitarian Emergencieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-case-for-cash-in-humanitarian-emergencies/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 22:23:50 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145860 Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

By Phillip Kaeding
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Currently only six percent of humanitarian aid worldwide comes in the form of cash handouts, yet many aid organisations believe that cash transfers should be seen as the rule, not the exception.

Both the World Food Program (WFP) and World Vision International, who work together in Somalia, South Sudan and other crisis-ridden countries, stressed the advantages of cash instead of in kind allowances at a meeting held here Monday.

“There is no longer a question about ‘does cash work’ or ‘is cash the right tool’,” said Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, Deputy Executive director of the WFP.

George Fenton of World Vision explained:

“Digital humanitarian cash transfers are one of the most significant and most exciting innovations of today. They offer… a greater dignity, choice and flexibility for crisis-affected people.”

Due to increasingly widespread mobile phone ownership, cash transfers are now often made digitally. In some circumstances, including refugee camps, aid organisations may hand out cash directly.

The transfers are usually given unconditionally, since this is considered an effective way to provide assistance to a person in need. Whereas in-kind assistance such as food or materials, may not suit the specific needs of the recipient, cash transfers allow recipients to spend money on their most urgent needs, while also supporting local markets.

“Cash transfers turn notions of aid and charity on their head. Rather than the giver deciding that people need food or clothes, the choice is with the people themselves," -- Sarah Bailey.

However, while cash transfers have been considered successful in the settings where they have so far been rolled out, humanitarian organisations, such as the World Bank now want to work out how to make wider use of the concept. As Amir Abdulla put it: “How do we take it to scale?”

In order to do this, some obstacles need to be overcome, methods of delivery have to be streamlined and there has to be a response to the “need to marry cash and technology,” as Fenton puts it.

Colin Bruce, senior advisor to the World Bank President, told the meeting about upcoming challenges: “Until we can better coordinate those processes (needs assessments and response analyses), it’s going to be very difficult to get the kind of upstream thinking, funding and programming necessary to take cash to scale.”

Secondly, a “change in mindsets” has to take place, as Sarah Bailey told IPS this week. Bailey is a Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and was on the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers which produced the report Doing Cash Differently. She explained to IPS that “cash transfers turn notions of aid and charity on their head. Rather than the giver deciding that people need food or clothes, the choice is with the people themselves.”

The desired shift to cash-based aid is closely linked to the fund-raising side of humanitarian programs. Charlotte Lattimer of the non-profit research organization Development Initiatives emphasized that although funding increased in the last year, there still exists “an enormous shortfall in terms of meeting humanitarian needs”.

Donors are increasingly asking for more transparency and more precise reporting on exactly how funds are spent, which is difficult if it is spent by the recipients instead of the aid organization.

Still “cash transfers are a tangible opportunity for more aid transparency because it’s easier to track the movement of money than the movement of food and buckets. Far from cash transfers being a risk to accountability, cash can be a vehicle for it,” Bailey told IPS.

Further research may help determine whether cash transfers can provide the transparency donors ask for. With innovations in the field of digital transactions and mobile banking and payment, the infrastructure for new aid delivery concepts improves year by year.

It is this development that aid organizations hope will catch the attention of donors. Bailey explained to IPS why she is convinced that cash transfers will become more and more important. At the end of the day, financial arguments decide financial questions: “Delivering cash is cheaper than delivering in-kind aid. You do not need to rent a warehouse and hire a driver to get money to people. As aid agencies use cash more it will become even cheaper with economies of scale.”

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Drought Prompts Debate on Cuba’s Irrigation Problemshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/drought-prompts-debate-on-cubas-irrigation-problems/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:14:16 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145849 Low water in a nearby reservoir prevented the use of this central pivot machine for spray irrigation on the state-owned La Yuraguana farm for several days this year due to the severe drought affecting Holguín province and many other areas in Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Low water in a nearby reservoir prevented the use of this central pivot machine for spray irrigation on the state-owned La Yuraguana farm for several days this year due to the severe drought affecting Holguín province and many other areas in Cuba. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

By Ivet González
HOLGUÍN, Cuba, Jun 28 2016 (IPS)

Five gargantuan modern irrigation machines water the state farm of La Yuraguana covering 138 hectares in the northeastern province of Holguín, the third largest province in Cuba. However, “sometimes they cannot even be switched on, due to the low water level,” said farm manager Edilberto Pupo.

“The last three years have been very stressful due to lack of rainfall. We take our irrigation water from a reservoir that has practically run dry,” Pupo told IPS. In 2008 La Yuraguana received new irrigation equipment financed by international aid.

Central pivot machines are a form of overhead water sprinkler that imitates the action of rain. The machinery is assembled in Cuba using European parts.

Since late 2014 Cuba has endured the worst drought of the past 115 years.

The extremely dry weather has sounded an alarm call drawing attention to the urgent need to modernise and change water management practices in response to climate challenges, and to other problems such as water wastage from leaky supply networks, inefficient water storage and conservation policies and absence of water metering at the point of use.

National reforms begun in 2008 have not yet achieved the hoped-for lift-off in agricultural production. Farming, however, is the main consumer of water in this Caribbean country, responsible for using 65 percent of the island’s total fresh water supply for irrigation, fish farming and livestock.

Future difficulties loom on the horizon, because droughts are becoming more seasonal in nature in the Caribbean region due to climate change, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published June 21. 

“Agriculture is the most likely sector to be impacted, with serious economic and social consequences,” the FAO report says. “Most of Caribbean agriculture is rainfed, and demand for fresh water is increasing with irrigation use becoming more widespread in the region.”

The Caribbean region accounts for seven of the world’s top 36 water-stressed countries, FAO said.

The eastern part of Cuba suffers most from droughts, and its population, alongside small farmers in Holguín province, has its own methods of addressing the problem of lack of rainfall. They say that in extreme droughts, irrigation equipment is of little use.

“At the most critical time we had to plant resistant crops like yucca (cassava) and plantains (starchy bananas that require cooking) that can survive until it rains,” Pupo said, speaking about the cooperative farm which sells vegetables, grains, fruit and root crops to the city of Holguín’s 287,800 people.

Julio César Pérez weeds a cassava (yucca) field on a farm owned by the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Services Cooperative in the eastern Cuban province of Holguín. An irrigation system installed in 2010 has increased the cooperative’s yields by 70 percent. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Julio César Pérez weeds a cassava (yucca) field on a farm owned by the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Services Cooperative in the eastern Cuban province of Holguín. An irrigation system installed in 2010 has increased the cooperative’s yields by 70 percent. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

La Yuraguana employs  93 workers, 14 of whom are women. Its 2016 production target is 840 tonnes of food, for direct sale to markets in the city of Holguín, in the adjacent municipality.

“We hope Saint Peter will come to our aid, that the rains will come and fill the reservoir, so that we can water our crops and keep on producing,” said Pérez. Devout rural folk call on Saint Peter, whose feast day is June 29, to intercede on their behalf because they believe the saint is able to bring rain.

Cuba’s total agricultural land area is about 6.24 million hectares out of its total surface of nearly 11 million hectares. Only 460,000 hectares of arable land is under irrigation, mostly with outdated equipment and technology, according to the government report titled “Panorama uso de la tierra. Cuba 2015” (Overview of land use: Cuba 2015).

At present only about 11 percent of the land used to raise crops is irrigated, but FAO forecasts that by 2020 the area equipped for irrigation will nearly double, to some 875,600 hectares, through a programme launched in 2011 to modernise machinery and reorganise farm irrigation and drainage.

Use of irrigation increases average crop yields by up to 30 percent, experts say.

Cuban authorities want to boost local production in order to reduce expenditure on purchasing imported food to meet demand from the island’s 11.2 million people, and from the influx of tourists – there were three million visitors to Cuba in 2015. The bill for imported food is two billion dollars a year.

Agricultural scientist Theodor Friedrich, the FAO representative in Cuba, told IPS that “irrigation is not the answer to drought.”

This Caribbean island “should curb the use of irrigation rather than extend it,” he warned, because exploiting water sources, especially underground aquifers, could lead to “degradation and accelerated salinisation of water resources.”

A better course of action, he said, is to “implement water conservation measures at once, including the reduction of leakage losses throughout the piped water distribution network, avoidance of all forms of sprinkling irrigation, watering the soil directly and irrigating according to the particular needs of the crop, not forgetting to take into account long-range meteorological forecasts.”

In Friedrich’s view, sustainable solutions must be based “on soil management” and conservation techniques.He pointed out that eco-friendly organic agriculture “achieves greater production yields with less water and opens up the soil so that rainwater can infiltrate to the fullest depths and refill aquifers.”

This ditch for collecting rainwater in the rural outskirts of Holguín, a city in eastern Cuba, is used by small farmers to water their cattle. Now it is almost empty due to the drought. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

This ditch for collecting rainwater in the rural outskirts of Holguín, a city in eastern Cuba, is used by small farmers to water their cattle. Now it is almost empty due to the drought. Credit: Ivet González/IPS

Cuba is not blessed with any large lakes or rivers, and so is reliant on rainfall, captured in 242 dammed reservoirs and dozens of artificial minilakes.

Local experts agree with FAO’s Friedrich that over-exploitation of underground water reserves should be discouraged because of the risk of causing salinisation and losing fresh water sources.

The present drought in Cuba was triggered by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate phenomenon, which has had devastating effects in Latin America this year. Shortage of water has affected 75 percent of Cuban territory, according to official sources, with the worst effects being felt in Santiago de Cuba, a province adjacent to Holguín.

In spite of steps taken to put the water consumption needs of people before agricultural and industrial uses, one million people experienced some limitation on their access to water in May, said the state National Institute of Water Resources. 

On June 20 the European Union announced an additional grant of 100,000 euros (113,000 dollars) to Cuba via the Red Cross, as disaster relief for 10,000 drought victims in Santiago de Cuba. The funds are intended to improve access to safe drinking water and to deliver transport equipment, reservoirs and materials for water treatment and quality control.

However, many of those responsible for the agriculture and small farming sectors still see irrigation as the key to boosting production.

“Yields under irrigation when necessary are much higher than when one just waits for nature to take its course,” said Abdul González, deputy mayor in charge of agriculture for the municipal government of Holguín. Unfortunately “80 percent of our land under crops lacks irrigation,” he told IPS.

“Small farmers from all forms of agricultural production (state, private and cooperative) are demanding irrigation systems. Some of them resort to home made tanks and ditches to mitigate the negative impacts of the drought,” he said.

At the Eduardo R. Chibás Credit and Service Cooperative, not far from La Yuraguana, Virgilio Díaz, one of the cooperative’s beneficial owners who grows garlic, maize, sweet potato, papaya and sorghum on his 22-acre plot, ascribed much of his success to the irrigation system bought in 2010 by the 140-member cooperative.

“Income went up by over 70 percent: we raised salaries; I was able to request a lease on more land and I built a new house,” Díaz said. He and five other workers between them produce 200 tonnes of food a year, when the climate is favourable.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez. Translated by Valerie Dee.

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Civil Society Under Serious Attackhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-under-serious-attack http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 22:51:25 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145847 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/civil-society-under-serious-attack/feed/ 0 Journalists Face Unprecedented Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalists-face-unprecedented-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 21:41:33 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145845 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/journalists-face-unprecedented-violence/feed/ 0 Will Brexit Have Political Ramifications at UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 16:22:50 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145834 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/feed/ 1 Making Sustainability Part of the Corporate DNAhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:26:44 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145814 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/feed/ 0 Least Developed Countries’ Vulnerabilities Make Graduation Difficulthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:25:40 +0000 Ahmed Sareer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145797 An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Ahmed Sareer
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Last month, over two thousand high-level participants from across the world met in Antalya, Turkey for the Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action, an action plan used to guide sustainable economic development efforts for Least Developed Countries for the 2011 to 2020 period. The main goal was to understand the lessons learnt by the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) over the past five years and apply the knowledge moving forward.

For my country, the Maldives, the past five years have been a chance to experience first-hand the realities of life after graduation from LDC status. In January 2011, the Maldives was officially removed from the list of LDCs, the culmination of decades of hard work and determined efforts of developing the country. The Fourth UN Conference on LDCs, held in May 2011, was the last for the Maldives as an LDC, but last month in Antalya, we went back because we believed it was important to share the lessons we had learnt since 2011.

While our graduation was naturally a moment of pride and cause for celebration for a country only 50 years old, it was accompanied by a sense of uncertainty about the challenges we would face following the withdrawal of the protections and special preferences afforded to LDCs.

Ultimately, we were able to forge ahead in spite of these difficulties and adapted to the new realities. We ensured that our economy, driven by a world-class tourism sector, and a robust fisheries industry, would continue to be competitive and dynamic. We focused on fostering a business-friendly climate, while making prudent investments for future growth.

However, we remain conscious of the degree to which the gains we have made are vulnerable to exogenous shocks. On 20 December 2004, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to graduate the Maldives effective 1 January 2008. But just four days before the UNGA decision, a catastrophic tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean, claiming the lives of over 275,000 people in fourteen countries.

The 2004 tsunami was especially devastating in the Maldives. With the highest point in our country being just 2.5 metres high, virtually all of it was, for a few harrowing minutes, underwater.

Several islands were rendered uninhabitable; nearly one in ten people were left homeless.

Farms were destroyed, the fresh water lens corrupted, with large-scale loss to infrastructure. The economic cost of the destruction was equivalent to close to 70 percent of GDP, a blow from which it took us over a decade to recover.

The Maldives is not alone in facing such vulnerabilities. For many countries, particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as our own, an end to LDC status does not necessarily herald the disappearance of structural barriers to growth—such as limited access to markets, geographical isolation, environmental pressures, or difficulty achieving economies of scale.

By 1997, the Maldives had already exceeded two of the three thresholds that determine LDC status—GNI per capita, and the Human Capital Index, measured in terms of undernourishment, child mortality rates, secondary school enrolment rates, and adult literacy.

But we did not exceed the threshold for the third criterion, the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), which measures the structural vulnerability of countries to exogenous economic and environmental shocks – we did not meet this threshold to date. It is not necessary to meet all three thresholds to in order to graduate—meaning we were considered ready for graduation.

As the tragedy of 2004 taught us, persistent vulnerabilities have the potential to undermine, if not reverse, gains made towards development. Despite meeting the formal requirements, we were not yet ready. The lessons of our own experiences have meant that the Maldives has been consistent in calling for a smoother and more holistic approach to the graduation process.

Firstly, the criteria for graduation must account for the structural vulnerabilities of developing countries. The fact that economic vulnerability can be disregarded in determining whether a country is ready to graduate from LDC status represents a critical oversight.

Second, the Economic Vulnerability Index itself must also be redesigned to better account for vulnerability. At present, the index fails to account for key considerations such as geographic and environmental vulnerability, import dependency, and demographic pressures.

With greater attention being paid to the effects of climate change on developing countries, most notably in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), evaluating vulnerabilities more comprehensively is a task that has acquired even greater importance.

Lastly, the extension of support and assistance to countries must be determined on the basis of their individual capabilities and challenges, rather than their mere place on a list. We would be remiss to overlook the role that development assistance, including that provided by the UN, has played in helping the Maldives progress—as it has for many others—particularly in regards to our work in disaster preparedness and climate change mitigation.

The withdrawal of such assistance—including preferential trade access and concessionary financing—following our graduation from the ranks of the LDCs has meant increased fiscal challenges. This disregards the unique challenges faced by countries like the Maldives due to their specific structural constraints—constraints ignored under the present graduation regime.

While efforts have been made to smooth the graduation process for LDCs—in 2004, and most recently in 2012—the process remains deeply flawed and in need of comprehensive reform. To this end, the Maldives has called for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend the application of TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) for all LDCs, in addition to the exploration of a “small and vulnerable economy” category at the United Nations, which would recognize the particular needs of such countries.

Similarly, we must move towards devising measures of development that do more than just record national income, and instead provide a more meaningful assessment of national capability and capacity, for which GDP can often be a poor proxy.

No country wishes to be called “least developed”, much less remain in that classification indefinitely, but the factors driving underdevelopment must be meaningfully dealt with if we wish to attain genuinely sustainable development. It is for this reason that we believe that the desire by countries to eradicate poverty and achieve economic development must be met with commitment on part of the United Nations and other organizations to chart a realistic and holistic path towards that end.

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Women’s Health Takes Center Stage at UN Population Awards   http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/womens-health-takes-center-stage-at-un-population-awards/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:38:18 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145796 By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

Social Scientist, Carmen Barroso and Polish Organisation, Childbirth in Dignity received the United Nations Population Awards here Thursday for their outstanding work in population, improving individuals’ health and welfare, and specifically for their decades-long leadership in women’s rights.

“I dedicate this award to anonymous health providers everywhere, who day in and day out help women to exercise their rights and preserve their health,” said Barroso on accepting the award.

Barroso has been actively involved in reproductive health and population issues for more than forty years. She was selected for her leadership in developing programmes, funding and policies related to sexual and reproductive health and rights and for mobilising the voices of people in the South around those issues.

In 1966, Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country rising under the weight of a military dictatorship, Barroso was a 22 year old college student living off of her husband’s meagre salary. Committed to achieving social justice, they did not plan to start a family for many years, and had a very important vision of their future.

On birth control for a long time, she was becoming uncomfortable with the hormones she was putting into her body. A doctor offered her an alternative: IUDs. When she started, she began having copious periods of painful cramps, but she decided to wait in hope they would go away. But they didn’t. One day, she missed her period.

She froze with horror: “All of a sudden, the castle of my future came crashing down.”

At the time, abortion was a taboo subject. She never thought it was something that would happen to her, but now she knew that was what she wanted, and went to the doctor.

He performed the abortion, telling her to keep it secret and cover it up as a miscarriage.

“I would not be here today if it weren’t for the courage of a doctor operating under restrictive laws. Because of him, we were able to live the future we dreamed of.”

Later Barroso became a senior researcher with the Chagas Foundation, where she pioneered innovative evaluation methods and later created Brazil’s first and foremost women’s studies center, despite protest from colleagues who saw it as an “imperialistic import of feminist ideology.”

Dr. Barroso became the first non-American to be appointed as director in the US MacArthur Foundation, and she recently resigned from her tenure as Director of Planned Parenthood International, Western Hemisphere.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation

Twenty years ago in Poland, pregnant women had little freedom to choose the environment in which they gave birth. Lack of privacy, loneliness and inadequate support were the rule, with women having to go through mandatory episiotomies, and other arcane procedures such as not having time with their newborn child immediately, or having their significant other in the room during childbirth, made the experience far from joyful, in fact, humiliating in many cases.

A nationwide campaign, “Childbirth with Dignity” which empowered women to share their stories, caught international attention, causing government legislative action like Perinatal and Postnatal Care Standards in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Partners are now allowed in the delivery room, mothers can have visitors, and newborns are able to breastfeed, being placed in the mother’s arms to bond right after being born making childbirth an easier experience for mothers.

Childbirth in Dignity Foundation was awarded for their strong advocacy and support of the rights of women and newborns for over 20 years, and for empowering women, as patients, to demand their rights in relation to childbirth.

Both laureates were chosen from among several international nominees, by the Committee for the United Nations Population Award chaired by Paraguay, and including Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Haiti, Iran, Israel and Poland. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) serves as secretariat for the award.

Past laureates selected by the Committee included individuals and organizations, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Dr. Allan Rosenfield, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Population Council.

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Disagreement Continues Over Global Drug Policyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/disagreement-continues-over-global-drug-policy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disagreement-continues-over-global-drug-policy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/disagreement-continues-over-global-drug-policy/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 14:44:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145793 A Libyan drug and alcohol trafficking police squad. Credit: Maryline Dumas/IPS

A Libyan drug and alcohol trafficking police squad. Credit: Maryline Dumas/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

A new report has found that global drug use largely remains the same, but perspectives on how to address the issue still vary drastically.

The new World Drug Report, released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), provides a review on drug production and use and its impact on communities around the world.

UNODC has estimated that 1 in 20 adults, or quarter of a billion people between the ages of 15 and 64 years, used at least one drug in 2014. Though the figure has not changed over the past four years, the number of people classified as suffering from drug use disorders has increased for the first time in six years to over 29 million people.

Of those, 12 million are people who inject drugs and 14 percent of this population lives with HIV.

UNODC’s Executive Director Yury Fedotov noted the significance of such a comprehensive review, stating: “The 2016 World Drug Report highlights support for the comprehensive, balanced and integrated rights-based approaches.”

However, Kasia Malinowska, Director of Open Society Foundation’s (OSF) Global Drug Policy Program, expressed her disappointment in the document.

“It is really important that we stop thinking of it as a drug problem but that we look at it as a problem of severe underdevelopment in some regions." -- Kasia Malinowska.

“It’s a little bit of business as usual,” she told IPS.

She particularly pointed to the lack of recognition of drug prohibition policies.

For instance, in the report, UNODC notes that drug-associated violence is higher in Latin America than in Asia. Malinowska told IPS that this overlooks a history of militarised narcotics interventions in Latin America that did not exist in Asia.

In the 1990s, the United States funded anti-narcotics police operations in Colombia which contributed to a spike in drug-fuelled violence as well as the longest war in the Western hemisphere which killed over 220,000 civilians.

Although the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP signed a historic ceasefire agreement this week, Colombia continues to be a major coca and cocaine producing country.

“My question is how have external actors contributed to violence…and there is no recognition of that bigger context, and that’s the problem with the report,” Malinowska told IPS.

“It does not take responsibility of how much current prohibitionist policies have contributed to that problem,” she continued.

Malinowska highlighted the need to recognize that prohibition is not the only way to address drugs, and that policies must be contextualised according to the wellbeing of countries’ own citizens rather than international conventions.

UNODC’s Director of Policy Analysis and Public Affairs Jean-Luc Lemahieu echoed similar sentiments during a briefing, stating that “not one shoe fits all.”

He pointed to Netherlands and Sweden as two examples.

In the Netherlands, the government implemented a “separation of markets” approach, which separated cannabis from other hard drugs. Its aim was to limit exposure and access to harder drugs.

This proved to be a success for the country as cannabis use remained low. The Dutch government also invested in treatment, prevention and harm reduction approaches which helped it to maintain low rates of HIV among people who use drugs and low rate of problem drug use.

Sweden, on the other hand, implemented more restrictive drug policies that punish drug use and curb drug supply. UNODC noted that the country’s approach is a “success” as it has low rates of drug abuse and needle-associated HIV transmission.

Both Lemahieu and Malinowska also stressed the need to integrate sustainable development with global drug policy.

In the report, UNODC recognized the contribution of poverty and lack of sustainable livelihoods to the cultivation of crops such as coca leaves.

“Illicit drug cultivation and manufacturing can be eradicated only if policies aimed at the overall social, economic and environmental development communities,” the report states.

Malinowska, however, told IPS of the need to offer “proper” choices and opportunities to poor smallholder farmers engaged in the drug economy. Though not everyone may choose other economic activities, she remarked that no one has tried the approach.

“What we need is thoughtful, sustainable development…we are using the same matrix, the same paradigm, the same language and that really needs to dramatically change,” she said.

“It is really important that we stop thinking of it as a drug problem but that we look at it as a problem of severe underdevelopment in some regions,” Malinowska concluded.

The World Drug Report 2016 has been published following the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in April.

During the launch of the report, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson described it as an issue of “common global concern” that affects all nations and sectors of society.

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Ethiopia-Eritrea: The Cry of the Imburihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-eritrea-the-cry-of-the-imburi/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopia-eritrea-the-cry-of-the-imburi http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ethiopia-eritrea-the-cry-of-the-imburi/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 13:48:45 +0000 Rene Wadlow http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145791 The author is member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and of its Task Force on the Middle East, is president and U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens and editor of Transnational Perspectives. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.]]> Map derived from a United Nations map. Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons.

Map derived from a United Nations map. Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons.

By Rene Wadlow
GENEVA, Jun 24 2016 (IPS)

The 12 June 2016 exchange of artillery fire along the heavily militarized frontier between Ethiopia and Eritrea could be just one of the periodic skirmishes between the two States. However, it could be the first signs of a flare up of violence. There have been calls from the United Nations and African Union officials for “restraint” but as yet no steps for real conflict resolution.

The Imburi are spirits that are said to inhabit the forests of Gabon in Equatorial Africa and who cry out for those who can hear them at times of impending violence or danger.

The artillery exchange with several hundred killed may be a cry of the Imburi and the need for more creative attention to the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict – all the more so that the armed conflicts in Yemen and Somalia have implications for both Eritrea and Ethiopia.

There was a long and often violent run up to the 1993 independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. Eritrea was never a “colony” of Ethiopia but rather a loosely integrated Provence within a very decentralized state-system of Ethiopia.

Rene Wadlow

Rene Wadlow

Thus the frontiers of Eritrea had never been set by history. Rather the 1993 independence agreement set some frontiers, but these were not marked on the ground and were contested by some in both States.

The frontier issue plus, no doubt, resentments from the long years of independence struggles, led to a brief but violent war between 1998 and 2000, leaving an estimated 70,000 dead and many wounded.

The war led to a strong militarization of Eritrea n society with long, compulsory military service and a permanent war-footing for the society.

These militarized conditions of life with little socio-economic development and little possibility of freedom of speech or association have led many Eritreans, especially the young, trying to leave the country for Europe.

Ethiopia has had a powerful and politically important army since the end of the Second World War. The army was the one national institution in a decentralized State where many of the provinces were based on different ethnic groups. The Ethiopian army remains strong and has been often used by the African Union in its peacekeeping efforts.

The frontier issue between the two countries was taken for arbitration to the World Court, but the Court’s findings have not been put into practice. The lands contested are of no particular economic or social importance. They are contested just because each State attaches disproportionate importance to a frontier.

Intelligent leadership on both sides could make of the frontier lands a bridge rather than a wall, but intelligent leadership has been in short supply. As the African Union headquarters is in Ethiopia, the AU secretariat has been inactive on the Ethiopia-Eritrea issue for fear of displeasing Ethiopia.

The political and economic situation in the Horn of Africa is ever more complex. Domestic and external drivers of conflict are increasingly intermeshed.

The problem of the State-collapse in Somalia and the war in Yemen make matters ever more complicated.

The prolonged failure of the inter-State institutions – the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union – to deal creatively with the Ethiopia-Eritrea divides may open a door for creative non-governmental Track II efforts.

One must hope that the cries of the Imburi are heard.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 June 2016: TMS: Ethiopia-Eritrea: The Cry of the Imburi.

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Bringing Back Our Girls Is Not The End of The Storyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:08:13 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145779 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bringing-back-our-girls-is-not-the-end-of-the-story/feed/ 0 UN Staff Unions Demand Stronger Action on Sexual Abusehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:04:35 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145767 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/un-staff-unions-demand-stronger-action-on-sexual-abuse/feed/ 0 Worldwide Displacement At Levels Never Seen Beforehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:35:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145762 A family living in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: Annabell Van den Berghe/IPS

A family living in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: Annabell Van den Berghe/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

Displacement has increased to unprecedented levels due to war and persecution, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has found.

In a new report, entitled Global Trends which tracks forced displacement globally, UNHCR found that 65.3 million were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59 million just 12 months earlier. This is the first time in the organisation’s history that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.

Globally, 1 in every 113 people is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee. This represents a population greater than the United Kingdom and would be the 21st largest country in the world.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi during the launch of the report.

Though the Syrian conflict continues to generate a large proportion of refugees in the world and garners significant international attention, other reignited conflicts have been contributing to the unprecedented rise in displacement including Iraq.

Iraq currently has the third-largest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and alongside Yemen and Syria, the Middle Eastern nation accounts for more than half of all new internal displacements.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too.” -- Filippo Grandi.

By the end of 2015, there were 4.4 million Iraqi IDPs, compared to 3.6 million at the end of 2014. At least one million of these IDPs have been displaced since conflicts in the mid-2000s.

Displacement has increased even further following a government military offensive against the Islamic State in May with more than 85,000 Iraqis fleeing from the Iraqi city of Falluja and its surrounding areas. Approximately 60,000 of these fled over a period of just three days between 15 to 18 June.

Despite the figures, UNHCR continues to struggle to secure funding to meet the needs of Iraqis.

Halfway through the year, the agency has so far only received 21 percent of funds needed for Iraq and the surrounding region.

“Funds are desperately needed to expand the number of camps and to provide urgently needed relief supplies for displaced people who have already endured months of deprivation and hardship without enough food or medicine,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery.

Though six camps have already been built and the construction of three more are underway, UNHCR estimates that 20 additional camps will be needed in the coming weeks.

In the Debaga camp in northern Iraq, newly displaced civilians are staying in a severely overcrowded reception centre which is currently seven times above its capacity.

Along with the lack of shelter, insufficient hygiene facilities and clean drinking water is creating a “desperate situation,” Rummery said.

And displacement may only get worse, she added.

“It is estimated that more than a million people still live in Mosul and any large offensive against the city could result in the displacement of up to 600,000 more people,” Rummery stated.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Iraq is classified as a level-three emergency, which signifies the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crisis.

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Xenophobic Rhetoric, Now Socially and Politically ‘Acceptable’ ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:09:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145759 Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

“Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to be becoming more socially and politically acceptable.”

The warning has been heralded by the authoritative voice of Mogens Lykketoft, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, who on World Refugee Day on June 20, reacted to the just announced new record number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution.

In fact, while last year their number exceeded 60 million for the first time in United Nations history, a tally greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, the Global Trends 2015 report now notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier.

The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries, says the new report, which has been compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, 1 in every 113 people globally is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced, putting them at a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent, the report adds.

On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.

And Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million, according to the new Global Trends report.

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck


Distressingly, children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or travelling alone, the UN reported.

Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Is So Loud…

On this, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon stressed that meanwhile, “divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, rising xenophobia, and restrictions on access to asylum have become increasingly visible in certain regions, and the spirit of shared responsibility has been replaced by a hate-filled narrative of intolerance.”

With anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, he said, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome.

For his part, Mogens Lykketoft, UN General Assembly President, alerted that “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are of grave concern… Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to becoming more socially and politically acceptable…”

The UN General Assembly’s president warning against the rising wave of extremism and hatred, came just a week after a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’ strong statement before the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016).

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers,” the High Commissioner on June 13 warned.

De-Radicalisation

Against this backdrop and the need to find ways how to halt and even prevent the growing waves of extremism of all kinds, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on June 23 organised a panel themed Deradicalisation or the Roll-Back of Extremism.

IPS asked Algerian diplomat Idriss Jazairy, Board Member of the Geneva Centre, about the concept of this panel he moderated.

“Violent extremism, which sprang up in what might be perceived here as remoter parts of the world during the last part of the XXth century, has spread its dark shadow worldwide and is henceforth sparing no region… And with it, wanton deaths and desolation.”

He then explained that unregulated access to lethal weapons in some countries make matters worse. Violent extremism fuels indiscriminate xenophobic responses. “These in turn feed the recruitment propaganda of terrorist groups competing for world attention.”

According to the panel moderator, it seems at first sight that conflict is intensifying. “In fact what is happening is that it has changed its nature from more or less predictable classical inter-State or civil conflict to a generalisation of unpredictable ad hoc violence by terrorist groups randomising victims and outbidding one another in criminal horror.”

Thus casualties are not more numerous than was the case in the past, with some important exceptions such as Algeria during the Dark Decade of the ‘nineties, said Jazairy.

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab


“Yet their impact is greater because attacks spread more fear among ordinary people and reporting on these crimes is echoed instantly across the world. The danger of polarisation of societies is thereby enhanced and peace is jeopardised.”

This meets the ultimate goal of terrorist violence, he added, while stressing that such violence has ceased to be simply a national or regional challenge. “It is now of worldwide concern. A concern that calls for immediate security responses with due respect for human rights of course.”

Jazairy explained that the panel has been intended to contribute to the maturing of such strategies and to rolling back violent extremism, xenophobic populism fuelled by it and that the latter in turn further exacerbates.

Understanding the Genesis of Violent Extremism

According to the panel moderator, understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not tantamount to excusing it despite what some politicians claim. It is a precondition to providing a smart and durable policy response, rather than a dumb crowd-pleasing short-term knee-jerk reaction, he added.

“True there is no single explanation to the emergence of violent extremism… Street crime in overpopulated cities may be its incubator.”

On this, Jazairy explained that in the South, high rates of youth unemployment and shortfalls in the respect of basic freedoms together with inadequate governance may be relevant considerations. In the North, he added, glass ceilings and marginalisation of minority groups and the desire of youths feeling powerless to develop an alternative identity and to become all-powerful, may also be at issue.

The former head of a UN agency then warned that understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not a philosophical debate as it ties in with the issue of how to “de-radicalise”.

In Belgium, he said, it has been claimed that condemnations in absentia of home grown terrorists that have joined Daesh (Islamic State) has pushed some to not return home with a group of others for fear of the penalty, thus radicalising them further.

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Fearing Violence, LGBT Refugees Rarely Seek Helphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 04:28:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145751 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/feed/ 0 Latin America and the Caribbean: What does it take to prevent people from falling back into povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 18:06:56 +0000 Jessica Faieta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145748 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/latin-america-and-the-caribbean-what-does-it-take-to-prevent-people-from-falling-back-into-poverty/feed/ 0 The Environment: Latin America’s Battleground for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-environment-latin-americas-battleground-for-human-rights/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:12:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145737 Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

Indigenous Asheninka activist Diana Rios (centre) from the Amazon village of Saweto, Peru is the daughter of slain activist Jorge Rios who was murdered by illegal loggers in September 2014. Credit: Lyndal Rowlands / IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

2015 was the deadliest year on record for the killings of environmental activists around the world, according to a new Global Witness report.

The report, On Dangerous Ground, found that in 2015, 185 people were killed defending the environment across 16 countries, a 59 percent increase from 2014.

“The environment is becoming a new battleground for human rights,” Global Witness’ Campaign Leader for Environmental and Land Defenders Billy Kyte told IPS.

“Many of these activists are being treated as enemies of the state when they should be treated as heroes,” he continued.

The rise in attacks is partially due to the increased demand for natural resources which have sparked conflicts between residents in remote, resource-rich areas and industries such as mining, logging and agribusinesses.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world." -- Billy Kyte.

Among the most dangerous regions for environmental activists is Latin America, where over 60 percent of killings in 2015 occurred. In Brazil, 50 environmental defenders were killed, the world’s highest death toll.

A majority of the murders in Brazil took place in the biodiverse Amazon states where the encroachment of ranches, agricultural plantations and illegal loggers has led to a surge in violence.

The report stated that criminal gangs often “terrorise” local communities at the behest of “timber companies and the officials they have corrupted.”

The most recent murder was of Antônio Isídio Pereira da Silva, the leader of a small farming community in the Amazonian Maranhão state. Isídio suffered years of assassination attempts and death threats for defending his land from illegal loggers and other land grabbers. Despite appeals, he never received protection and police have never investigated his murder.

Indigenous communities, who depend on the forests for their livelihood, particularly bear the brunt of the violence. Almost 40 percent of environmental activists killed were from indigenous groups.

Eusebio Ka’apor, member of the Ka’apor indigenous tribe living in Maranhão state, was shot and killed by two hooded men on a motorbike. He led patrols to monitor and shutdown illegal logging on the Ka’apor ancestral lands.

One Ka’apor leader told Survival International, an indigenous human rights organisation, that loggers have said to them that it is better to surrender the wood than let “more people die.”

“We don’t know what to do, because we have no protection. The state does nothing,” the leader said.

Thousands of illegal logging camps have been set up across the Amazon to cut down valuable timber such as mahogany, ebony and teak. It is estimated that 80 percent of timber from Brazil is illegal and accounts for 25 percent of illegal wood on global markets, most of which is sold to buyers in the United States, United Kingdom and China.

“The murders that are going unpunished in remote mining villages or deep within rainforests are fuelled by the choices consumers are making on the other side of the world,” Kyte stated.

Kyte also pointed to a “growing collusion” between corporate and state interests and high levels of corruption as reasons for the attacks on environmental defenders.

This is reflected through the ongoing corruption case involving the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam which continued despite concerns over the project’s environmental and community impact and was used to generate over $40 million for political parties.

Even in the face of a public scandal, Kyte noted that environmental legislation has continued to weaken in the country.

The new interim Brazilian government, led by former Vice President Michel Temer, has proposed an amendment that would diminish its environmental licensing process for infrastructure and development mega-projects in order to revive Brazil’s faltering economy.

Currently, Brazil has a three-phase procedure where at each step, a project can be halted due to environmental concerns.

Known as PEC 65, the amendment proposes that industries only submit a preliminary environmental impact statement. Once that requirement is met, projects cannot be delayed or cancelled for environmental reasons.

The weakening of key human rights institutions also poses a threat to the environment and its defenders.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), whose goal is to address and investigate human rights issues in Latin America, is currently facing a severe funding deficit that could lead to the loss of 40 percent of its personnel by the end of July, impacting the ability to continue its work. It has already suspended its country visits and may be forced to halt its investigations.

Many countries in Latin America have halted financial support to the commission due to disputes over investigations and findings.

In 2011, IACHR requested that Brazil “immediately suspend the licensing” for the Belo Monte project in order to consult with and protect indigenous groups. In response, the Brazilian government broke off ties with IACHR by withdrawing its funding and recalling its ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), which implements IACHR.

“It’s a huge crisis,” Kyte told IPS.

While speaking to the Human Rights Council in May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also expressed concern over budget cuts to IACHR, stating: “When the Inter-American Commission announces it has to cut its personnel by forty percent – and when States have already withdrawn from it and the Inter-American Court…then do we really still have an international community? When the threads forming it are being tugged away and the tapestry, our world, is unravelling? Or are there only fragmented communities of competing interests – strategic and commercial – operating behind a screen of feigned allegiance to laws and institutions?”

He called on member states to defend and financially support the commission, which he noted was an “important strategic partner and inspiration for the UN system.”

In its report, Global Witness urged Brazil and other Latin American governments to protect environmental activists, investigate crimes against activists, expose corporate and political interests that lie behind the persecution of land defenders, and formally recognize land and indigenous rights.

Kyte particularly highlighted the need for international investigations to expose the killings of environmental activists and those responsible for them.

He pointed to the murder of Berta Cáceres, an environmental and indigenous leader in Honduras, which gained international attention and outrage.

“It’s a positive step that because of international outrage, the Honduran government was compelled to arrest these killers,” he said.

“If we can push for an international investigation into her death, which I think is the only way that the real criminal masterminds behind her death will be held to account, then that could act as an example for future cases,” Kyte concluded.

In March, Cáceres, who campaigned against the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, was shot in her home by two armed men from the Honduras’ military.

A whistleblower alleges that Cáceres was on a hit list given to U.S.-trained units of the Honduran military.

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Yoga Unites the UN for Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 23:03:39 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145731 'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev leads yoga at the UN on International Yoga Day. Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS.

'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev leads yoga at the UN on International Yoga Day. Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS.

By Valentina Ieri
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

The word yoga means “unite” in Sanskrit, and the Indian government hopes that the ancient practice will help United Nations member states to work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The International Day of Yoga was celebrated here Tuesday with an outdoor yoga session led by Indian yoga master ‘Sadhguru’ Jaggi Vasudev.

“How can (we) transform the world without transforming human beings?” asked Vasudev, who is also founder of the Isha Foundation, an international non-profit organisation. “It is only by transforming individuals that a change in the world can be achieved.”

“How can you have a peaceful world if you do not know what inner peace is?” he added. “Yoga is the search for human wellbeing. When you address human wellbeing in a scientific way, that is yoga.”

Syed Akbaruddin, India's Permanent Representative to the UN. "At its core, yoga is as much about mindful thought as it is about mindful action."

Sadhguru’s approach of combining scientific yoga with human wellbeing is part of a long history of yoga being used to promote large-scale socially, sustainably, and culturally appropriate health, education, and environment projects.

One of them is the Project Green Hands, an initiative set up in 2004 with the target of planting over 25 million tree saplings.

“Yoga means that you can transcend the limitations of physical nature and go beyond the form that we are. Once this becomes a living experience, sharing and living together will become a common experience everywhere.”

The Indian yogi continued – “Our common idea of profit is very short term […] But no matter what kind of business we are running, we should turn the customer into our partner, the employee into our partner. Essentially business should be about human well-being.”

The annual celebrations were organised by India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS

Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS

“Yoga, is much more than a physical regimen.” said Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN. “At its core, yoga is as much about mindful thought as it is about mindful action.”

These two yoga pillars – continued Akbaruddin – have a direct bearing on our collective responses to global problems and raising a global consciousness about the 17 SDGs.

Highlighting the potential for yoga to contribute to sustainable development and peace UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said:

“Practicing yoga can also help raise awareness of our role as consumers of the planet’s resources and as individuals with a duty to respect and live in peace with our neighbours.”

“All these elements are essential to building a sustainable future of dignity and opportunity for all.”

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to proclaim June 21 as the International day of Yoga co-sponsored by a 170 member-states. That decision showed the importance of yoga’s social, health and educational aspects.

Not only has yoga gained increasing popularity among youth and adults in different parts of the world, it is also linked to a healthier lifestyle and choice of living.

“Yoga means union between body and mind, between us and other human beings, and between human beings and nature, and it is because of this interdependence and interconnection that we are able to save problems,” said Germán A Bravo-Casas, President of the UN Yoga Club.

“If we are optimistic and change within ourselves”, said Bravo “than we will be able to solve catastrophes such as the contamination of the oceans, climate change, over-population, hunger and poverty”.

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