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Opinion: Reforming Mental Health in India

India is not only poised for greatness, some say it is already on its way. The events that have shaped the nation's dialogue over the past month showcase an India with a bold vision – to transform industry, to close the gap on inequality and ultimately, to redefine its place as a leader among the world.

Prominent Lawyer Defending the Poor Gunned Down in Mozambique

As billions pour into Mozambique from foreign investors scooping up fields of coal and natural gas, the signs of newfound wealth are impossible to miss.

By Girls, For Girls – Nepal’s Teenagers Say No to Child Marriage

If not for a group of her school friends coming to her rescue, Shradha Nepali would have become a bride at the tender age of 14.

Opinion: Let’s Grant Women Land Rights and Power Our Future

Women are not only the world’s primary food producers. They are hardworking and innovative and, they invest far more of their earnings in their families than men. But most lack the single most important asset for accessing investment resources – land rights.

Opinion: Greece and the Germanisation of Europe

At last, on Tuesday Feb. 24, the Eurogroup (of eurozone finance ministers) approved the Greek government’s commitment to a programme of reforms in return for extending the country’s bailout deal.The agreement marks the end of tense and protracted negotiations. It consists of a four-month extension for the second bailout programme worth 130 billion euros (over 145 billion dollars), in force since 2012 and which was due to expire on Feb. 28. The first bailout was for 110 billion euros, equivalent to 123 billion dollars.During this period, the European Central Bank (ECB) will provide Greece with liquidity and the terms of a new bailout will be hammered out.The eleventh-hour agreement was no doubt motivated partly by fears that a “Grexit” – Greek withdrawal from the eurozone monetary union – would have triggered a financial earthquake with unforeseeable consequences. The result is a very European-style compromise that averts catastrophe and gains time while avoiding facing the underlying problems.In exchange for an extension of financial support from Greece’s partners and creditors, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will have to submit all his government’s measures during this period to Eurogroup inspection.But the deal promises Greece more than just restrictions. The country will have to pay its debts to the last euro, but if, as seems probable, deadlines for primary surplus targets are extended, the country will have greater ability to pay (France has just secured this for itself).In the final document, Greece promised to adopt a tax reform that would make the system fairer and more progressive, as well as reinforce the fight against corruption and tax evasion and reduce administrative spending.[pullquote]3[/pullquote]If the government pursues these goals, together with the fight against contraband, efficiently and with determination (as indeed it should, because they are part of its programme and target its domestic enemies), the income will be helpful for the application of its social and economic programmes.In view of the successive positions that Greece has had to relinquish in the course of the negotiations, it appears that the country has achieved the little that could be achieved.The negotiations between Greece and its European partners mark a milestone in the political tussle in the European Union since the reunification of Germany in 1990, between moving towards a Europeanised Germany or a Germanised Europe.Germany has undeniably secured its basic goal: the enshrining of austerity as the fundamental dogma of the new European economic order, although political prudence and even self-interest have softened the application of the dogma, and may continue to do so in future.Germany has openly tried to impose its convictions and its hegemony on Europe. Greece was only the immediate battlefield. Brussels and Berlin have been divided from the outset about how to solve the Greek crisis, but Germany prevailed.However, the masters of Europe do not have any interest in “destroying” Greece, and so cutting off their nose to spite their face. They are satisfied with a demonstration of the asymmetry of power between the two sides, and the public contemplation of assured failure for whoever defies the status quo and supports any policy that deviates from the one true official line.The problem with a Germanised Europe is not the preponderant role that Germany would play, but that it would impose a “Made in Germany” model of Europe that conforms to its own interests. That is how it would differ from a Europeanised Germany.The Greek crisis has highlighted the ever-widening contrast between the values and ideals that we consider to be central to the European project, such as solidarity, mutual aid and social justice, and the new values that set aside basic aims like full employment, social welfare and equal opportunities.It is paradoxical that Europe, which is apparently absent from or baffled by threats from the opposite shore of the Mediterranean, should take a harsh, tough attitude with a small partner overwhelmed by debt. It is also paradoxical that structural reforms are demanded of Greece, without admitting Europe’s own urgent need to redesign the eurozone and reframe the policies that have led to the poor performance of its monetary union.The Greek crisis and the difficulties in overcoming it have a great deal to do with a design of the euro that benefits financial interests, particularly Germany’s.[related_articles]The project neglected the harmonisation of tax policies and created a European Central Bank that lacked the powers that permit the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of England to issue money and buy state debt.As is well known, the ECB has made loans to European banks at very low interest rates, and they in turn have made loans to states, including Greece, at much higher interest. Government debts thus mounted up, and in order to pay they were forced to cut public spending.Why does Europe persist in following failed policies while refusing to follow those that have lifted the United States out of recession? The only explanation is stubborn attachment to an ideological vision of economic policy that is devoid of pragmatism.How can insistence on the path of error be explained at such a time? There may well be a quota of incompetence, but the basic reason is, as Nobel prize-winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman affirm, that the goal of the policies imposed by the “Troika” (European Commission, ECB and International Monetary Fund) is to protect the interests of financial capital. And this is because the powers of political institutions, the media and academia, are dominated by financial capital, with German financial capital at the core.Financial interests are essentially capable of shaping the decisions of European governance institutions. In the United States this subservience is less clear-cut, allowing hefty penalties to be imposed on certain banks, as well as the development of other economic strategies.This is because independent mechanisms of control and oversight exist, the Federal Reserve has well-defined goals (whereas the ECB has spent years fighting the insistent threat of inflation), and there is democratic administration with the political will to resist.In conclusion: the issue is to clarify what sort of Europe the citizens of Europe want, and what institutional changes are needed to achieve it.And even more importantly, having seen the consecration of German hegemony over the Old World, what sort of German leadership would be compatible with a united Europe based on solidarity? Is this even possible? (END/IPS COLUMNIST SERVICE)Translated by Valerie Dee/Edited by Phil Harris    The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS - Inter Press Service. 

Tech-Savvy Women Farmers Find Success with SIM Cards

Jawadi Vimalamma, 36, looks admiringly at her cell phone. It’s a simple device that can only be used to send or receive a call or a text message. Yet to the farmer from the village of Janampet, located 150 km away from Hyderabad, capital of the southern Indian state of Telangana, it symbolises a wealth of knowledge that changed her life.

An American Missionary Kidnapped in Nigeria as Neighbouring Countries Seethe

With kidnappings and violent attacks almost a daily occurrence in Nigeria, the disappearance of an American missionary appears to have stirred a new wave of outrage among the international community at the worsening conditions in the West African country, once considered a rising star and the largest economy on the continent.Phyllis Sortor, a reverend with the Free Methodist Church USA, was taken from Hope Academy in Kogi state, central Nigeria, where she had been working since 2005.The kidnapping was probably not the work of Boko Haram, said Philip Obaji Jr., a freelancer and founder of 1 GAME, an advocacy group that fights for the right to education for disadvantaged children in northeastern Nigeria.Kogi state police commissioner Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi announced that a ransom of around 300,000 dollars had been demanded by Tuesday afternoon, barely 24 hours after the kidnapping, which is not typical for Boko Haram.“Kidnapping is big business here in Kogi. Most of the times, ransoms are paid to secure the release of abductees,” Ahmed, a local journalist, said in an interview. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a ransom is paid to secure Ms. Sortor’s release.”On the same day as Sortor’s kidnapping, a Chinese construction worker was abducted from his work site by armed men. All of southern Nigeria is prone to kidnappings, and public officials, their relatives, and foreign workers are regularly abducted for ransom. An estimated 1,500 kidnapping cases are reported every year.Meanwhile, it has been nearly one year since over 270 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in Chibok, Nigeria.Local activists have been stepping up their demands that the government make the disappearance of the Chibok girls the top priority. “Our rallies are the reason why [the government] remembers,” organizer Funmi Adesanya told TIME magazine, “but I don’t think they are really doing anything about it.While President Goodluck Jonathan and his national security advisor promised to end the Boko Haram threat before elections now scheduled for March 28, the new multinational force of Cameroon, Chad and Niger appears to be drawing new and dangerous fire from the insurgents.On Saturday, some 5,000 Cameroonians marched in their capital, Yaounde, and denounced the violence caused by Boko Haram.“It was important to tell Cameroonians that we are at war and a part of the country is suffering,” newspaper editor Gubai Gatama told Al Jazeera. “About 150,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, some 200,000 Nigerians are in refugee camps and 170 schools in Cameroon have been closed,” he said. “I am sure Boko Haram has got the message that the people are united against them.” Two hundred Cameroonian soldiers have been killed in the cross-border skirmishes so far.Edited by Roger Hamilton-Martin

Tackling Ebola: Give Autonomy to Local African Communities, Says International Rescue Committee

Recommendations on how to eradicate Ebola and avoid future outbreaks were released in a report on Tuesday by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Opinion: It’s Time to Step It Up for Gender Equality

If we look at the headlines or the latest horrifying YouTube clip, Mar. 8 – International Women’s Day – may seem a bad time to celebrate equality for women.

Gaza Reconstruction, Hampered by Israeli Blockade, May Take 100 Years, Say Aid Agencies

Despite all the political hoopla surrounding an international pledging conference in Cairo last October to help rebuild Gaza, the reconstruction of the Israeli-devastated territory is apparently moving at the pace of paralytic snail.

Women Leaders Call for Mainstreaming Gender Equality in Post-2015 Agenda

Women leaders from every continent, brought together by U.N. Women and the Chilean government, demanded that gender equality be a cross-cutting target in the post-2015 development agenda. Only that way, they say, can the enormous inequality gap that still affects women and children around the world be closed.

Families See Hope for Justice in Palestinian Membership of ICC

"I have lost all meaning in life after the death of my child, I will never forgive anyone who caused the tearing apart of his little body.  I appeal to all who can help and stand with us to achieve justice and punish those who killed my child."

For Women in Asia, ‘Home’ Is a Battleground

Nearly half of the four billion people who reside in the Asia-Pacific region are women. They comprise two-thirds of the region’s poor, with millions either confined to their homes or pushed into the informal labour market where they work without any safeguards for paltry daily wages. Millions more become victims of trafficking and are forced into prostitution or sexual slavery.

U.N. Member States Accused of Cherry-Picking Human Rights

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has criticised member states for ‘cherry-picking’ human rights – advocating some and openly violating others – perhaps to suit their own national or political interests.

Everyone Benefits from More Women in Power

Women’s participation in decision-making is highly beneficial and their role in designing and applying public policies has a positive impact on people’s lives, women leaders and experts from around the world stressed at a high-level meeting in the capital of Chile.

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