Inter Press ServiceHeadlines – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:43:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 “Big Reflection” Needed on Opioid Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:26:39 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151003 Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency. In its annual World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found concerning trends in drug use around the world. In 2015, an estimated quarter of a billion people used drugs at […]

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Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency UNODC

Intravenous drug users in Pakistan. Credit: Fahim Siddiqi/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 2017 (IPS)

Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency.

In its annual World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found concerning trends in drug use around the world.

In 2015, an estimated quarter of a billion people used drugs at least once. Of these, almost 30 million suffered from drug use disorders including dependence. UNODC found that opioids were the most harmful drug type, accounting for 70 percent of negative health impacts associated with drug use disorders worldwide, and its production is only increasing.

“[Opioid use] is a really dramatic epidemic…they are really, in terms of burden of disease, at the top of the scale,” said UNODC’s Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch Gilberto Gerra to IPS.

The use of opioids, including heroin, morphine, and fentanyl, heighten the risks of acquiring diseases such as HIV or hepatitis C through unsafe injecting practices as well as overdoses and death.

Globally, there are an estimated minimum of 190,000 premature deaths related to drugs that were mostly avoidable. A large proportion of those deaths is attributed to the use of opioids.

Though affects many countries in the world, the opioid crisis is particularly prevalent in the United States.

Mostly driven by opioids, approximately one quarter of the estimated drug-related deaths worldwide occur in the U.S.

Overdose deaths in the North American nation more than tripled from almost 17,000 to over 52,000 annually between 1999 and 2015, and increased by 11 percent in the past year alone, reaching the highest level ever recorded.

In fact, more Americans died from the misuse of opioids in 2016 than in the entirety of the Vietnam War, noted Gerra.

In the state of Maryland, opioid-related deaths quadrupled since 2010 and deaths from fentanyl increased 38-fold in the past decade. In response to the crisis, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, stating: “We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency…this is about taking an all-hands-on-deck approach so that together we can save the lives of thousands of Marylanders.”

Though some states have begun the place restrictions on the accessibility of pharmaceutical opioids, including a Florida bill that aims to restrict painkiller prescriptions to a five-day supply, Gerra stressed the importance of focusing on not only supply, but also the demand side of opioids.

“If so many people are consuming this opioid medication including legal opioids from the pharmacy, when you restrict the pharmacy’s opioid medication, they will start to turn to things like heroin,” he told IPS.

In the U.S., heroin use has increased significantly, and the Centers for Disease Control has suggested that it is linked to prescription opioid abuse.

“There needs to be a big reflection on this issue in North America,” Gerra said.

However, the potential changes in healthcare in the U.S. may impact access to treatment.

In particular, the current health care bill proposes cuts to expanded Medicaid, which is used by many states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic to boost their response by paying for medication, therapy, and other treatment services.

Health advocates criticised the proposed cuts during President Trump’s first meeting of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis which is charged with finding solutions for the epidemic.

“If we make it harder for people to get health care coverage, it is going to make this crisis worse,” said North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper.

A similar scenario is found around the world as availability of and access to treatment of drug use disorders remain limited. Fewer than one in six persons with drug use disorders are provided with treatment each year, UNODC found.

Gerra highlighted the importance of treatment, pointing to the need for personalised interventions and close supervision by doctors or therapists in order to avoid opioid misuse.

He also added that people possessing drugs for personal consumption should not be criminalised as it steers them away from seeking treatment for fear of punishment.

Though approaches to global drug policy have been contentious and diverse, countries in the General Assembly session on the world drug problem (UNGASS) in 2016 unanimously agreed for the first time to a people-centered approach which sees the drug problem as a health disorder rather than a criminal or moral issue.

“We cannot respond to people trapped by drugs with a punitive approach. We have to tell them that we are here, we are aware of your condition and behaviour, you are aware that you are in trouble, please come and we will do what we can to help you and your family to overcome this problem in a very humane and human-rights, science-based way,” Gerra told IPS.

Gerra called for a continuum of care approach to help keep people using drugs like heroin safe through services like needle exchange programs and to provide long-term accessible and affordable treatment once users are ready.

“No one should be left behind in the delivery of prevention and treatment interventions,” UNODC said in its report.

Gerra noted that prevention is by far the most cost-effective intervention in the long run, but approaches must be science-based in order to be effective.

“People don’t understand that there is a science behind prevention—they continue to use initiatives that are well-intentioned but completely not science-based [and] then they say prevention is not working,” he said, pointing to science-based methodologies such as life skills education and drug education to children.

The globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, whose motto is to leave no one behind, includes a target to strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

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No Wall for Ethiopia, Rather an Open Door—Even for Its Enemyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/no-wall-ethiopia-rather-open-door-even-enemy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-wall-ethiopia-rather-open-door-even-enemy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/no-wall-ethiopia-rather-open-door-even-enemy/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 00:01:37 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150998 It’s one thing to read about the exodus of souls flowing out of Eritrea, it’s quite another to look into the tired eyes, surrounded by dust and grime, of a 14-year-old Eritrean girl who’s just arrived on the Ethiopian side of the shared border. She is carrying a scruffy plastic bag. Inside are a few […]

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Ethiopia's refugee population now exceeds 800,000—the highest number in Africa, and the 6th largest globally.

Eritrean teenagers and young men, aged from 16 to 20, waiting at the Badme entry point to be moved to the screening registration center. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
ADINBRIED, Ethiopia, Jun 22 2017 (IPS)

It’s one thing to read about the exodus of souls flowing out of Eritrea, it’s quite another to look into the tired eyes, surrounded by dust and grime, of a 14-year-old Eritrean girl who’s just arrived on the Ethiopian side of the shared border.

She is carrying a scruffy plastic bag. Inside are a few clothes, an orange beaker, and a small torch whose batteries have nearly run out.“We are the same people, we share the same blood, even the same grandfathers.” --Estifanos Gebremedhin, head of the legal and protection department for Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs

With her are four men, two women and five younger children, all of whom crossed the Eritrea-Ethiopia border the night before. Ethiopian soldiers found them and took them to the town of Adinbried.

The compound of simple government buildings where they were dropped off constitutes a so-called entry point, one of 12 along the border. It marks the beginning of the bureaucratic and logistical conveyor belt to assign asylum status to those arriving, before finally moving them to one of four refugee camps designated for Eritreans in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

“It took us four days traveling from Asmara,” a 31-year-man among the group says about their trek from the Eritrean capital, about 80 kilometres north of the border. “We travelled for 10 hours each night, sleeping in the desert during the day.”

In February 2017, 3,367 Eritrean refugees arrived in Ethiopia, according to the Ethiopian Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA). There are around 165,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Ethiopia, according to the UN refugee agency.

Ethiopia’s open-door policy is in marked contrast to the strategies of migrant reduction increasingly being adopted in many Western societies.

And its stance is all the more striking due to the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments forever accusing the one of plotting against the other amid an atmosphere of mutual loathing.

But it appears the Ethiopian government is willing to treat ordinary Eritreans differently.

“We differentiate between the government and its people,” says ARRA’s Estifanos Gebremedhin. “We are the same people, we share the same blood, even the same grandfathers.”

Before Eritrea gained independence, it was Ethiopia’s most northern region. On both sides of today’s border many people still share the same language—Tigrinya—as well as Orthodox religion and cultural traditions.

Shimelba was the first Eritrean refugee camp to open in 2004. It now houses more than 6,000 refugees. About 60 percent of its population come from the Kunama ethnic group, one of nine in Eritrea, and historically the most marginalised.

“I have no interest in going to other countries,” says Nagazeuelle, a Kunama who has been in Ethiopia for 17 years. “I need my country. We had rich and fertile land, but the government took it. We weren’t an educated people, so they picked on us. I am an example of the first refugees from Eritrea, but now people from all nine ethnic groups are coming.”

Discussion among refugees in Shimelba camp of governmental atrocities ranges from accusations of genocide against the Kunama, including mass poisonings, to government officials shopping at markets and then shooting stall owners due to disagreements over prices.

“The world has forgotten us, apart from the U.S., Canada and Ethiopia,” says Haile, an Eritrean in his fifties who has been a refugee for five years. He says his father and brother died in prison. “What is happening is beyond language, it is a deep crisis—so why is the international community silent?”

Ethiopia's refugee population now exceeds 800,000—the highest number in Africa, and the 6th largest globally.

Eritrean soldiers—now deserters—arriving at the Adinbried entry point. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

There are some, however, who argue the situation in Eritrea isn’t as bad as claimed. A UN report last year accusing Eritrea’s leadership of crimes against humanity has received criticism for being one-sided, failing to acknowledge Eritrea’s progress with the likes of providing healthcare and education, and thereby entrenching a skewed negative perspective dominant in policy circles and Western media.

“It is real, nothing is exaggerated,” says Dawit, a Shimelba resident of eight years. “We have the victims of rape, torture and imprisonment in our camp who can testify.”

About 50 kilometres south of Shimelba is Hitsats, the newest and largest of the four camps with 11,000 refugees, of whom about 80 percent are under 35 years of age.

“In Sudan there are more problems, we can sleep peacefully here,” says 32-year-old Ariam, who came to Hitsat four years ago with her two children after spending four years in a refugee camp in neighbouring Sudan.

Refugees say the Eritrean military launches missions into Sudan to capture refugees who have fled.

Ethiopia also hosts refugees from a plethora of other strife-torn countries. Its refugee population now exceeds 800,000—the highest number in Africa, and the 6th largest globally.

“Ethiopia strongly believes that generous hosting of refugees will be good for regional relationships down the road,” says  Jennifer Riggan, an associate professor of International Studies at Arcadia University in the US, and analyst of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

Others point out how there is also an increasing amount of money involved with refugees. The likes of the UK and Europe are providing Ethiopia with financial incentives to keep refugees within its borders—similar to the approach taken with Turkey—so they don’t continue beyond Africa.

Meanwhile, despite the apparent welcome given to Eritrean refugees, frictions remain.

“People recognise the shared culture and ethnic background, and that helps for many things, but there’s still distrust because of the 30-year-war [for independence],” says Milena Belloni, an anthropologist who is currently writing a book about Eritrean refugees. “There’s a double narrative.”

While both sides talk of the other as brothers, she explains, historically Eritreans have looked down on Tigrayans—based on them working as migrant labourers in Eritrea during its heyday as a semi-industrialised Italian colony—while Tigrayans viewed Eritreans as arrogant and aloof.

Either way, Ethiopia appears to be looking to better assimilate refugees by embracing the 2016 Leaders’ Summit on Refugees—pushed by former U.S. President Barack Obama—that called for better integration and education, employment and residency opportunities for refugees wherever they land around the world.

“Ethiopia’s response is to manage the gate, and figure out how it can benefit from these inevitable flows of people,” Riggan says. “I definitely think Ethiopia’s approach is the wiser and more realistic one.”

About 10 miles north of Adinbried the military forces of Ethiopia and Eritrea straddle the border, eying each other suspiciously through binoculars overlooking derelict military emplacements that serve as grim reminders of a former two-year war and ongoing fraught relations between the two countries.

In 1998 Eritrea invaded the small and inconsequential-looking border town of Badme before pushing south to occupy the rest of Ethiopia’s Yirga Triangle, claiming it was historically Eritrean land.

Ethiopia eventually regained the land but the fighting cost both countries thousands of lives, billions of dollars desperately needed elsewhere in such poor and financially strapped countries, and sowed rancour and disagreement festering ever since.

Because despite the internationally brokered peace settlement that followed the 2000 ceasefire ruling Badme return to Eritrea, Ethiopia still occupies it—the government felt the Ethiopian public wouldn’t tolerate the concession of a now iconic town responsible for so many lost Ethiopian lives—and the rest of the Yirga Triangle jutting defiantly into Eritrea.

While Badme hasn’t changed much since those days—it remains a dusty, ramshackle town—it too is involved in current Eritrean migration.

“I crossed after hearing they were about to round people up for the military,” says 20-year-old Gebre at the entry point on the edge of Badme. “I wasn’t going to go through that—you’re hungry, there’s no salary, you’re not doing anything to help your country; you’re just serving officials.”

With Gebre are another 14 males ranging in age from 16 to 20 who crossed to avoid military service, as well as two mothers who crossed with two young children each.

“Life was getting worse, I had no work to earn money to feed my children,” says 34-year-old mother-of-four Samrawit, who left two older children in Eritrea.

She travelled with 22-year-old mother-of-two Yordanos, having met her at the Eritrean town of Barentua, about 50 kilometres north of the border, and the rendezvous point with their smuggler.

Neither knows how much the smuggler earned for driving them to the border and helping them across: payment was organised by their husbands living in Switzerland and Holland.

“I would like to make sure coming here is worth it before my elder two children come,” Samrawit says.

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East Asia’s Real Lessonshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/east-asias-real-lessons/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=east-asias-real-lessons http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/east-asias-real-lessons/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:20:45 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150996 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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International recognition of East Asia’s rapid economic growth, structural change and industrialization ("East Asian Miracle") grew from the 1980s.

To better learn from ostensible miracles, it is necessary to demystify them. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 21 2017 (IPS)

International recognition of East Asia’s rapid economic growth, structural change and industrialization grew from the 1980s. In Western media and academia, this was seen as a regional phenomenon, associated with some commonality, real or imagined, such as a supposed ‘yen bloc’.

Others had a more mythic element, such as ‘flying geese’, or ostensible bushido and Confucian ethics. Every purported miracle claims a mythic element, invariably fit for purpose. After all, miracles are typically attributed to supernatural forces, and hence, cannot be emulated by mere mortals. Hence, to better learn from ostensible miracles, it is necessary to demystify them.

The World Bank’s 1993 East Asian Miracle (EAM) volume is the most influential document on the subject. It identified eight high-performing Asian economies: Japan, Hong Kong, three first-generation newly industrialized economies, namely South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, and three second-generation South East Asian newly industrializing countries, viz, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Despite a title implying geo-spatial commonality, the study denied the significance of geography and culture, and specifically excluded China, the elephant in the region.

Strategic interventions?

The book identified six state interventions as important, approving of four ‘functional’ interventions, but sceptical of two ‘strategic’ interventions. Functional interventions supposedly compensated for market failures, while strategic interventions were deemed more market-distortive.

These two ‘strategic’ interventions are in the areas of finance, specifically what it calls directed (targeted) and subsidized credit, and international trade, particularly what is often referred to as ‘industrial policy’, or more rarely as ‘investment and technology policy’.

Careful consideration of the accelerated East Asian growth and transformation experiences underscore that such interventions were mainly responsible for the superior performance of the Northeast Asian HPAEs compared to their Southeast Asian counterparts.

Industrial investments

Debates over Northeast Asian industrialization continue, but the pioneering work of American political economists Chalmers Johnson and Alice Amsden was undoubtedly seminal. Both showed that Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese government measures were quite different from typical World Bank development policy advice.

Successful finance ministry and central bank efforts to keep interest rates positive, but low, were crucial for accelerating industrial investments. From the mid-1970s, more orthodox Western economists began to characterize this as constituting ‘financial repression’, for depressing interest rates, the incentive to save and funds available for investment.

Only later did other Western economists explain this Korean anomaly in terms of ‘financial restraint’ to overcome financial market failures. But few have noted that savings rates actually follow, rather than determine investment rates. Meanwhile, cultural explanations have also been invoked to explain East Asia’s high savings and investment rates.

Ownership matters
Subsidized and directed (or targeted) credit also promoted desired investments. Fiscal and other policies also encouraged reinvestment of profits, rather than maximizing ‘shareholder value’, while other incentives encouraged desired investments. Where private investments were not forthcoming, the governments themselves made needed investments despite active discouragement by international development banks.

Strict controls on capital outflows, especially when foreign exchange resources were still scarce, also served to discourage capital flight. Northeast Asian economies were also careful to distinguish between long-term foreign direct investment (FDI) and short-term portfolio investment, or ‘hot money’.

Perhaps owing to Bank preference for FDI, ostensibly to close both the ‘savings-investment’ and ‘foreign exchange’ gaps, the EAM also favoured FDI and did not consider ownership important. However, during the early decades of high growth before the 1990s, Northeast Asian governments encouraged national ownership of industrial enterprises.

This policy served to promote vertically and horizontally integrated industrial conglomerates in the case of Korean chaebol and Japanese keiretsu. (Zaibatsu were suppressed after the Second World War as they were held responsible for the pre-war Japanese military industrial complex.) Instead of FDI, South Korea encouraged licensing and, if necessary, joint-ventures to promote technology transfer.

Singapore and Malaysia in Southeast Asia have especially sought to attract FDI, initially for political reasons. Singapore desired strong Western support after establishing a new state in 1965. Since then, FDI has been attracted as part of a pro-active technology policy complemented by government policies, including investments. Attracting FDI to accelerate technology development is quite different from capital account liberalization enabling short-term financial inflows.

Trade policies
The Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese governments pursued import substituting industrialization policies from the 1950s, but later encouraged export orientation as well. Infant industries were provided with effective protection conditional on export promotion, effectively requiring firms to quickly become internationally competitive.

By protecting firms temporarily, depending on the product to be promoted, and by requiring certain output shares be exported within pre-specified periods, discipline was imposed on firms in return for the support provided. Such policies forced firms to achieve greater economies of scale and accelerate learning to reduce production costs quickly.

Requiring exports has also meant producers have had to achieve international consumer quality standards quickly, which accelerated progress in product and process technology. This ‘carrot and stick’ approach induced many firms to rapidly become internationally competitive.

Thus, the very industrial, trade and financial policies rejected by the Bank were in fact necessary for East Asia’s achievements. Some policies were inappropriately and prematurely undermined or terminated, e.g., with Japan’s financial ‘big bang’, with disastrous consequences.

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Refugee Protection an Obligation Under International Lawhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/refugee-protection-obligation-international-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugee-protection-obligation-international-law http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/refugee-protection-obligation-international-law/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:40:50 +0000 Antonio Guterres SG http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150992 UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the occasion of the World Refugee Day

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Refugee Protection an Obligation Under International Law

A young refugee girl pushing a wheelbarrow of rubbish through the refugee camp in Obock, Djibouti. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Secretary-General António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2017 (IPS)

It is impossible to be ten years as High Commissioner for Refugees, doing my best to try to help the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, without changing your life. And, indeed, not only witnessing the suffering of people but also learning [about] the extraordinary courage, resilience and capacity to permanently generate hope of refugees is something that has changed my perspective of the world and, to a large extent, changed my life.

And this was the reason why I became candidate for Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Now we are witnessing the largest number of refugees ever. But it is important to say that refugee protection is not a matter of solidarity or generosity, refugee protection is an obligation under international law – the ‘51 Convention and many regional instruments of binding nature. And, as a matter of fact, during the ten years in which I was High Commissioner for Refugees, I have to say that, by large, international law was respected.

Borders were, in general, open, very few situations where refugees were rejected or sent back to their countries of origin, where they might face persecution – what is technically called refoulement. The number of resettlement opportunities offered by developed countries for refugees living in camps and other dramatic situations in the developing world has doubled during those ten years and there was, in general, a strong acceptance by Member States that refugee protection was something that was needed and had to be granted.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

The situation has considerably changed now. It’s true that we are still witnessing a very large number of countries doing an enormous effort to provide protection to refugees in very dramatic circumstances. I’ll be flying tonight to Uganda. Uganda has been receiving, very generously, refugees from the neighbouring countries – it has now more than 1.3 million refugees, 950,000 from South Sudan alone – and providing them not only with protection, but even with plots of land and the capacity to live not in camps, but in the society, in a way that is much more humane but, of course,, that requires a much stronger solidarity from the country itself.

We are still witnessing many remarkable examples of solidarity in today’s world. But at the same time, we are seeing more and more borders being closed, we are seeing more and more refugees being rejected and, namely in countries of the developed world, we are seeing the opportunities for resettlement in richer countries of refugees coming from the global South being decreased in number at the present moment.

And this is particularly worrying, especially when associated to forms of political populism, xenophobia, racism, in which refugees become a target, many times being accused of being part of the terror threat when refugees are not terrorists – they are the first victims of terror, they are fleeing terror; that is why they are refugees. And this is the reason why I believe it is important to make today five very strong appeals to the international community. Five very strong appeals that I believe are absolutely necessary for the right of refugees to be again fully respected.

First: I call Member States that are not doing it, to re-establish the integrity of the international protection for refugees regime, which means to have the right, obviously, to manage their borders in a responsible way, but managing them also in a protection-sensitive way, and not refusing entry to those seeking asylum and deserving protection, which means asking countries not to send back people to where they might face persecution, which means asking countries to increase their resettlement quotas and to grant protection to a larger number of refugees that are living in very dramatic circumstances in crowded camps or in the slums of cities in abject poverty.

Second: recognizing that there is no humanitarian solution for the refugee plight, the solution is political and it is related to the solution of the conflict that generate refugees in larger numbers; to ask all parties to different conflicts in the world and all countries that have an influence on the parties to each conflict to come together and understand that all those conflicts are now conflicts that are causing tremendous suffering in which nobody is winning, everybody is losing, that are becoming a threat not only to the refugees themselves but a threat to the whole world, as those conflicts are becoming also more and more interlinked to problems of global terrorism.

Third: humanitarian support for refugees is still largely underfunded. I believe that, grosso modo, appeals made are funded at about 50%. That means that the majority of the refugees live below the poverty line — that many cannot bring their children to school, that many cannot guarantee adequate nutrition to their children, that many have not adequate health support, that most of them have no jobs and no hopes or perspective to have a dignified life. It is absolutely crucial that humanitarian appeals are fully funded and that international solidarity is expressed in relation to refugees, not forgetting that 80% of the world’s refugees live in the developing world.

Fourth: I appeal to countries in the developed world to be able to express a much stronger solidarity to countries of first asylum in the global South; those that host, as I mentioned, 80% of the world’s refugees, and sometimes with a dramatic impact on their economy, on their society, not to mention the impact on their security with the conflict next door.

If one looks at countries like Lebanon, where one third of the population is refugees, if one looks at countries like Uganda or Kenya or Ethiopia – they have now more than one million refugees- in societies that are poor, that lack resources, that have huge development gaps and huge development problems; it is absolutely crucial not only to support refugees but to support those communities. And that requires effective development cooperation with these countries.

I must praise the World Bank that was able to create new financial instruments, namely for middle-income countries that are hosting a large number of refugees, in the cases of Lebanon and Jordan innovating financially, to allow these countries to have a little bit more support than the one that they were receiving from the international community.

But the truth is that at the same time, countries are asking those in the developing world that host the largest number of refugees to keep them but are not providing the necessary support for that to be possible. Stronger solidarity with refugee-hosting countries in the global South is absolutely a must.

And finally: I ask countries in the developed world to increase their resettlement quotas at least to the levels that we had two or three years ago, to be able to offer an effective responsibility-sharing with those that are hosting millions of refugees in the deep South.

Just to give you an idea about the differences between the global North and the global South, I’m going to Uganda, as I mentioned. Uganda, last year, received three times more refugees from South Sudan than those crossing the central Mediterranean, and you all know the enormous impact in public opinion and in political debates that the movement through the central Mediterranean caused last year. Well, Uganda received three times more, and Uganda is a tiny country with a relatively small economy and with an enormous generosity in the hearts of the people and the decisions of the Government.

I’d also like to remind you that beyond those that are able to cross the border to seek protection outside their country, we have an even larger number, probably about double, of people that are displaced within the borders of their own country, internally displaced people. And those are under the authority either of their Governments or of different non-State actors that occupy parts of the territory.

And they have been systematically, in many parts of the world, victims of dramatic violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. And so I also would like to make a very strong appeal to all actors in all the conflicts to respect international humanitarian law and to respect human rights law and for the international community to be able to implement those methods of accountability to make sure that those that are responsible for the worst atrocities to be effectively accountable and to be punished for what they are doing, because that’s probably the only way to stop the kind of tragic impact we are having in the life and dignity of now more than 65 million people around the world.

I also think it’s important to underline that the difficulties faced by refugees are also linked to the fact that the migration debate has become quite irrational in today’s world. We are talking about two different situations: refugees crossing borders, fleeing conflict or prosecution, [and] economic migrants who aspire legitimately to have a better life and move from one country to another, aiming at a better future for them and their children.

They do not have the same rights as refugees, countries are not forced to grant them protection, but they also have human rights that also need to be respected and their dignity needs to be respected. Now, the truth is that the debate about the migration became largely an irrational debate. Migration has been present in the world since [forever], and as a matter of fact, if one looks at demographic and economic projections of different parts of the world, migration is a necessary element of establishing different forms of equilibrium in the global society and the global economy.

In my country, my mother is assisted by some people, she is 93 years old, and those that are assisting her – they are not Portuguese. They are from different countries, they are migrants in my country, and Portugal is a relatively poor country in the context of the European Union. And so migration is necessary. If something is necessary, it’s better to control it and to do it regularly than to let smugglers and traffickers be in charge of these movements.

And so my strong appeal in relation to migration is that a rational debate become possible about migration, that of course countries have the right to apply their own migration policies, but that they do that in full respect of human rights, that at the same time, development cooperation policies are able to address the problems of human mobility, to create opportunities in countries of origin for migration to be out of choice, not out of necessity, and much stronger cooperation of States among themselves to crack down on smugglers and traffickers, but also a much big offer of opportunities of legal, regular migration.

I think if migration can be discussed in a rational way, that will create a much better environment in our societies that are all multiethnic, multicultural, multireligious, and at the same time that will also help refugees benefit more easily from the protection rights they are entitled to receive.

We will have two very important debates in the General Assembly next year for two compacts: on migration and refugees. And my appeal to all Member States is to engage positively in those debates and to allow for the international community to be able to define, both in [terms of] refugees and in migration, adequate policies that are assumed by the whole of the international community, respecting human rights, taking into account the legitimate interests of States, but also the opportunities that are generated by human mobility in our world.

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Sexual Violence Fuels Vicious Recruitment Cycle in Congolese Militiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/sexual-violence-fuels-vicious-recruitment-cycle-congolese-militia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sexual-violence-fuels-vicious-recruitment-cycle-congolese-militia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/sexual-violence-fuels-vicious-recruitment-cycle-congolese-militia/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 20:00:45 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150988 In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the active recruitment of young girls by armed militias has produced disastrous effects—facing social stigma when they’re freed, many girls find their way back to these violent groups and rejoin them. Half of the girls, employed as what are called “operation units”, are sexually assaulted by soldiers. Among […]

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While measures such as the Child Protection Code brought back 46,000 children from armed groups, only seven percent of those freed were girl soldiers

Former soldiers who have returned to school successfully in Congo. Credit: Child Soldiers International

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the active recruitment of young girls by armed militias has produced disastrous effects—facing social stigma when they’re freed, many girls find their way back to these violent groups and rejoin them.

Half of the girls, employed as what are called “operation units”, are sexually assaulted by soldiers. Among these violent defensive militias in DRC, also known as Mai Mai, girls accounted for up to 40 percent of all underage soldiers.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, celebrated June 19 and commemorated three years ago by the UN, Child Soldiers International (CSI) released an important report outlining the aftermath of this violence.

“I left [to join the Mai Mai] after they raped my mother in front of all of us, even my father. I felt shame, pity, anger. One day I decided to take up arms to avenge my mother,” a former girl soldier, who is 19, explained.

Most of the girls, who were interviewed in early 2016, were abducted by groups such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), M23, and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

At a young age, the girls often endured sexual violence, which became a routine event.

“Sometimes I didn’t even know the name of the man who abused me at night,” said a 16-year-old girl. “I wanted to escape but saw what they did to those who tried… I was too scared.”

While measures such as the Child Protection Code of 2009 brought back 46,000 children from armed groups, only seven percent of those freed were girls.

Things didn’t get much better at home. The girls were often shunned by their families, and blamed for their status as victims as of sexual assault.

“Not two days goes by without neighbours making us feel we have known men,” a 14-year-old girl said. “We are not allowed to associate with their daughters.”

Facing a lack of aid or counseling, many went back to the groups. They long to speak with their families, and go to school, the report says. Instead, they are turned away. This injures their psyche, and can lead to low self-esteem. More has to be done, Sandra Olsson, the programme manager at CSI, told IPS.

“Community reintegration and tackling the stigma and rejection these girls face needs to be at the centre of reintegration programmes for these girls. We hope that our research and recommendations will help the DRC government develop girl specific reintegration strategies,” she said.

The report, she told IPS, hopes to raise awareness, provide long term assistance to the girls, and finally, end sexual violence in conflicts.

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Half of World’s Civilian War Deaths Occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 19:38:13 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150985 Between 2010 and 2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, a major independent, neutral organisation ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence informs. According to a new report ‘I Saw My City Die‘ by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), […]

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Between 2010-2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq & Yemen, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross

On the road going east from Mosul, people fleeing the fighting cross through Gogjali, a Kurdish village located on the way to Al Khazer displaced camp. Credit: CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / ICRC / A. Qusay

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Between 2010 and 2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, a major independent, neutral organisation ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence informs.

According to a new report ‘I Saw My City Die‘ by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), five times more civilians die in offensives carried out in cities than in other battles.

“Over the past three years, our research shows that wars in cities accounted for a shocking 70% of all civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria”, said the ICRC’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Robert Mardini.

“This illustrates just how deadly these battles have become. This is all the more alarming as new offensives get underway in cities like Raqqa in Syria, or intensify in Mosul, Iraq. A new scale of urban suffering is emerging, where no one and nothing is spared by the violence.”

The research findings are based on preliminary analysis of battle trends and data over the past three years in Iraq and Syria.

The report includes testimony from residents in Syria’s Aleppo, Iraq’s Mosul and Yemen’s Taiz, and expert analysis. It vividly illustrates the effects of siege warfare, the use of explosive weapons and the extensive damage caused to key infrastructure.

The conflicts in these countries have resulted in internal displacement and migration levels unprecedented since WWII, says the Geneva-based ICRC.

Ahmad Ali has just arrived home with a bag of Kudam, a local Yemeni bread. His dry lips tell of his fatigue and the difficult life he leads. He earns a pittance working as a cobbler. “I keep hoping we can soon go back to our home town and the peaceful lives we used to lead. Life here is very difficult. There is no water, no food, no medicine, and no stability,” he says. Credit: CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mohammed Yaseen

17 Millions Fleeing Home

More than 17 million Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis have fled their homes. And these battles risk becoming even more protracted if real political solutions are not found soon, says the report.

Wars in cities are so devastating because of the way in which they are being fought. Armed parties are failing to distinguish between military objectives and civilian infrastructure – or worse, they are using or directly targeting them, it adds.

“It’s beholden on those with power to act. Warring sides must realise the full impact the fighting has on the people they ultimately hope to govern. Will the victors be able to keep the peace if people feel they have respected neither the law nor the basic humanity of local citizens? The consequences of this violence will resonate for generations and there is the very real danger that cities experiencing these conflicts will simply act as incubators for further violence in the future”, said Mardini.

“States supporting parties to conflict must also do their utmost to restrain their allies and ensure better respect for international humanitarian law. And once the guns fall silent, it is local people and organisations which must play a full part in the rebuilding of the communities.”

The report also considers Lebanon’s 15-year civil war and examines the lessons Beirut can offer to help ensure the recovery of urban communities after such overwhelming and protracted violence.

According to ICRC, findings on the proportion of civilian casualties in cities are based on preliminary research in the Iraqi provinces of Anbar, Ninewah and Salahuddin and Syrian governorates of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Rif Damascus and Damascus, based on data available between January 2014 and March 2017.

The proportion of deaths in Iraq, Syria and Yemen is based on a yearly average of around 90.000 global conflict-related deaths between 2010 and 2015, during which time the yearly average of deaths in Iraq, Syria and Yemen was of 42.000 conflict-related deaths i.e. 47 per cent of the total casualties worldwide.

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Children Now More Than Half of the 65 Million Displacedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/children-now-half-65-million-displaced/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-now-half-65-million-displaced http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/children-now-half-65-million-displaced/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 14:47:16 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150981 Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report. In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world. “We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to […]

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Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report.

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border where a makeshift camp had sprung up near the town of Idomeni. The sudden closure of the Balkan route left thousands stranded. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report.

In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world.

“We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to be made in terms of conflict and violence that is producing people who have had to flee,” said the Director of UNHCR’s New York Office Ninette Kelley, ahead of World Refugee Day.

In just two decades, the population of forcibly displaced persons doubled from 32 million in 1997 to 65 million in 2016, larger than the total population of the United Kingdom.

Of this figure, almost 23 million are refugees while over 40 million are displaced within their own countries. Approximately two-thirds of refugees have been displaced for generations.

Despite the slight decrease in displacement in the last year, the numbers are still “depressing” and “unacceptable,” Kelley told IPS.

“Each individual number really reflects a deep level of human loss and trouble and is experienced every minute and every second of every day,” she stated.

Much of the growth was concentrated between 2012 and 2015, and driven largely by the Syrian conflict which, now in its seventh year, has forcibly displaced over 12 million representing over half of the Middle Eastern nation’s population.

However, the biggest new concern is now South Sudan where renewed conflict and food insecurity is driving the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.

At the end of 2016, 3.3 million South Sudanese were displaced, equivalent to one in four people, and the figures have only continued to rise in 2017.

Kelley particularly pointed to the disturbing rise in displaced children around the world. Though children comprise of 30 percent of the world’s population, they disproportionately make up over 50 percent of refugees.

Over 66 percent of South Sudanese refugees alone are children.

Meanwhile, over 75,000 unaccompanied or separated children applied for asylum, a figure that is assumed to be an underestimate.

“I really ask you to pause and think about your own children or your nieces or your nephews and then think about the journeys that refugees take across conflict areas, across deserts, climbing mountains, giving their lives to unscrupulous traffickers and smugglers. And imagine those journeys of children without their parents or without adult accompaniment—then they arrive, and they are alone,” Kelley said.

The majority of displacements continue to be borne by developing countries which host almost 85 percent of the world’s refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. Such refugee influxes cause additional stress to low and middle income countries which already lack the necessary resources for their own citizens.

Uganda, where 37 percent live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, is now the largest refugee-hosting nation in Africa with over 1 million refugees from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi.

Already unable to provide adequate health services and other public goods to its citizens, Uganda’s resources have become increasingly stretched.

Despite the bleak picture and severe imbalance in global responsibility sharing, there has been little action or progress in the issue of displacement.

In 2016, a little over 40 percent of UNHCR’s budget was left unfunded, impeding the agency’s ability to meet refugees’ needs including relief items, shelter, and education.

Refugee plans continue to be underfunded, including South Sudan’s regional refugee response plan which is currently 15 percent funded.

Though 189,000 people were resettled in 2016 and a total of 37 countries are now providing resettlement places, both of which represent increases from the previous year, the number of available resettlement spots are still “disappointingly small” relative to refugee flows, Kelley said, urging for new approaches in displacement response.

In addition to highlighting the need for conflict prevention and mitigation, Kelley noted the need for more resettlement places, opportunities for family reunification, education scholars, and work exchange programmes in order to broaden the possibilities for refugees embarking on dangerous journeys due to consequences beyond their control.

She pointed to the historic New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants as a “positive” and comprehensive response framework to assist both refugees and the communities in which they live.

Adopted in 2016, the Declaration also tasks UNHCR with developing a global compact for safe, regular, and orderly migration which is undergoing negotiations in order for adoption by 2018.

Kelley also looked to action and engagement closer to home by individuals themselves, stating: “We can’t see these figures and sit back and say there’s nothing I can do.”

“We can volunteer, we can contribute, we can donate, we can educate, we can advise ourselves, we can try to build bridges within our own communities that seem to be widening day by day,” she concluded.

World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20th to commemorate, raise awareness of, and mobilize action for the millions of refugees around the world.

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:02:36 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150978 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwide

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The world is heading into troubled waters as we are witnessing an unprecedented movement of people – refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) alike – fleeing from misery, poverty and conflicts. The refugee crisis that has swept across Europe and the Middle East is becoming the 21st century’s most protracted crisis with no immediate solution in sight. The world has not witnessed a more complex movement of people since the end of the Second World War; thousands of human beings undertake perilous and treacherous journeys in hope for a better and a safer future. Many of them perish during these hazardous journeys. How can we forget the words the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire who said:

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

The 2017 World Refugee Day is an important occasion to stand united with millions of refugees around the world. This international commemorative day was announced in 2001 following the adoption of Resolution 55/76 by the United Nations General Assembly on 12 February 2001. It also marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the “1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.” Although the traumas of the Second World War reminded the world of the importance of never ignoring the past, the contemporary crisis calls for concerted efforts to resolve the plight of refugees worldwide as a matter of urgency and to address the root causes of mass exodus, as a long-term strategy.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 21 million refugees worldwide. In 2017, there was an estimated 5 million Syrian refugees worldwide. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan – countries located in the Arab region – are also considered as source countries of refugees owing to the proliferation of conflicts and the rise of violent extremism.

The majority of these refugees have sought refuge in countries neighbouring their country of origin. In the Middle East, countries in the Arab region are hosting one of the highest number of refugees. More than 1 million people have found refuge in Lebanon, a country that has already welcomed more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees. Jordan is home to approximately 660,000 refugees, whereas Iraq and Egypt have welcomed around 240,000 and 120,000 refugees respectively despite internal upheavals and civil strife. On top of this, one can also add Turkey that is currently hosting nearly 3 million Syrian refugees.

On the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, several European countries have showed some support to address the plights of refugees from the Arab region. Germany and Sweden have taken adequate measures to accommodate the influx of refugees by welcoming 400,000 and 100,000 refugees respectively. Other countries such as France and the Netherlands have also pleaded to relocate refugees entrenched in refugee camps in transit countries such as Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Although a certain degree of solidarity is being expressed by European countries, the number of refugees being granted protection in rich Western countries constitutes a very small one-digit percentage of the population compared with countries in the Arab region. Despite being signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, many countries have decided to openly defy the acceptance of refugees belonging to certain religious faiths within their societies. Walls have been built in a misconceived attempt to exclude refugees from entering certain countries. The fearmongering and scapegoating of refugees have likewise given rise to a populist tidal wave. Right-wing movements use the contemporary refugee crisis to confer legitimacy on their aspirations to political power through whipping up xenophobia and through conflating Islam with terrorism.

During a panel debate that was held on 15 March 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) on the subject of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” several panellists underscored that these types of practices are contradictory to the core principles of Islam and Christianity preaching love, peace and tolerance towards people in need. Societies should stand united in addressing the rise of populism that is pervasive in many countries.

I would also like to call upon governments in the Middle East and in the West to work jointly to address the protracted refugee crisis. Rich countries have a moral responsibility to provide development assistance to poorer countries to achieve a more equitable burden sharing arrangement for hosting refugees. Countries in the West and in the Middle East need also to step up their joint efforts to eliminate the root causes which have fuelled extremism. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored before refugees can safely return to their home societies. This calls for a radical political change of approach in problem solving in the region.

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New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Secondhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 11:25:15 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150974 Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported. The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at […]

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After three days on the road, South Sudanese refugees arrive at the newly constructed Gure Shembola Camp in Ethiopia. Credit: UNHCR/Diana Diaz

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported.

The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at which conflict and persecution is forcing people to flee their homes.

The report Global Trends, which as been released ahead of the World Refugee Day on June 20, marks a jump of 300,000 since the end of 2015. “By any measure this is an unacceptable number,” said UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, urging “solidarity and a common purpose in preventing and resolving crisis.”

Grandi also called for properly protecting and caring for the world’s refugees, internally displaced and asylum-seekers – who currently number 22.5 million, 40.3 million, and 2.8 million, respectively.

The Biggest Refugee Producer

According to the report, Syria remains “the world’s biggest producer of refugees” with 12 million people living in neighbouring countries and away from the region. There are 7.7 million displaced Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans and 4.2 million Iraqis.

However, in 2016, South Sudan became “the biggest new factor” when peace efforts broke down in July resulting in some 737,400 people fleeing by the end of the year.

Source: Global Trends – Forced Displacement in 2016 report. Credit: UNHCR

Nyawet Tut, a South Sudanese mother of five in her 30s, described how soldiers set fire to her village and she had to run for her life with her own five children and five others of relatives killed in the conflict.

“My husband was killed in the war which, in addition to the shortage of food, made me decide to leave my home, everything, behind,” she told UNHCR staff during an interview at a temporary way station in Ethiopia.

In total, about 3.3 million South Sudanese had fled their homes by the end of the year, in what is known as the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world.

Youngest Faces of War

About half of the refugee population last year were children younger than 18 years of age, according the report. This is in contrast to the fact that children make up only about 31 per cent of the total world population.

Among its findings, the report noted that some 75,000 asylum claims were received from children travelling alone or separated from their parents. These include youngsters like Tareq, 16, who dodged armed combatants to walk out of Syria into neighbouring Turkey.

“There was no future where we lived,” he told UNHCR. “There was no university and no work. There were troops grabbing young children like me, and they send them to war, and they get killed. I wanted to study.”

South Sudanese refugees spend the night at a way station in Gimbi, Ethiopia while en route to the newly constructed Gure Shembola Camp. Credit: UNHCR/Dina Diaz

Seeking Refuge in Poor Countries

Developing countries are hosting the majority of the world’s refugees, UNHCR reported.

About 84 per cent of the people were in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016. Of that figure, one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries.

“This huge imbalance reflects several things including the continuing lack of consensus internationally when it comes to refugee hosting and the proximity of many poor countries to regions of conflict,” the UN agency said.

In addition, the figure “illustrates the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be robustly resourced and supported,” UNHCR said, warning that the absence can create instability in the host countries.

Fleeing War, Disasters, Persecution

With a record 65.6 million people last year forcibly uprooted from their homes by violence and persecution, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on June 20 called on the international community to provide support and solidarity.

“We reflect on the courage of those who fled and the compassion of those who welcome them,” the Secretary-General said in his video message for World Refugee Day.

He noted that more people than ever in our lifetimes are fleeing war, disasters and persecution.

“Hardship, separation, death,” Guterres said, recalling nightmare stories heard from refugees and displaced persons, whose number rose 300,000 since the end of 2015.

Despite the hardships of fleeing with nothing, “they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world,” Guterres said. “They ask for little – only our support in their time of greatest need and our solidarity.”

The UN chief said it is “so inspiring to see countries with the least doing the most for refugees.”

According to the report, about 84 per cent of the people were in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016. Of that figure, one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries.

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Asia-Pacific: Farming Rice and Fish Together to Reduce Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/asia-pacific-farming-rice-fish-together-reduce-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asia-pacific-farming-rice-fish-together-reduce-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/asia-pacific-farming-rice-fish-together-reduce-poverty/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 06:26:40 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150968 Rice is a major food commodity and staple food for many, and adding fish to flooded rice paddies has been a farming tradition practiced in a number of Asian countries for many centuries—even for more than 1000 years in some Chinese areas, the United Nations reports. With the adoption of innovative technologies and a wider […]

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The rice-fish farming system we witnessed here, also recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), represents the wisdom of millennia of farming, nowadays strengthened by innovative aspects such as public private partnership.”

FAO promotes advancements of innovative agro-aquaculture systems to enhance blue growth in Asia-Pacific. CREDIT: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME/BANGKOK, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Rice is a major food commodity and staple food for many, and adding fish to flooded rice paddies has been a farming tradition practiced in a number of Asian countries for many centuries—even for more than 1000 years in some Chinese areas, the United Nations reports.

With the adoption of innovative technologies and a wider choice of fish species and rice varieties, the rice-fish farming system can play a significant role in poverty reduction and improving food and nutrition security, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

A prime example of this successful practice is found in Honghe County of China’s Yunnan Province.

Rural and Indigenous Communities

On this, Matthias Halwart, Senior Officer and Outreach Coordinator of FAO’s Sustainable Agriculture Programme, says that agriculture, integrated with fish farming, supports rural and indigenous communities and can significantly help countries address the challenges of poverty alleviation as well as improved food and nutrition security.

The five criteria that must be met for GIAHS accreditation:

1. Contributes to food and livelihood security,

2. Endowed with biodiversity and ecosystem functions,

3. Maintains knowledge & management systems of natural resources,

4. Cultures, value-systems and social organisations supported,

5. Features remarkable landscapes, land and water resources management.

SOURCE: FAO

“The rice-fish farming system we witnessed here, also recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), represents the wisdom of millennia of farming, nowadays strengthened by innovative aspects such as public private partnership.”

Halwart also pointed out that there is scope for a wider adoption of rice-fish systems in the region and beyond, while noting that the UN specialised agency was partnering with China as part of the Belt and Road Initiative and through its FAO-China South-South Cooperation Programme to support countries on their path towards more sustainable agricultural systems.

Agro-Aquaculture

A group of agro-aquaculture experts from seven Asian countries attending a recent FAO regional workshop on innovative integrated agro-aquaculture in Asia, recently visited the rice-fish farming systems in the terraced rice field in Honghe, where fish is integrated in rice paddy to achieve higher yield and better quality of rice topping with fish as an additional commodity.

“As a result, the value of the combined output has tripled,” the Bangkok-based FAO regional office for Asia and the Pacific informs.

Honghe is a mountainous area where more than 85 per cent of inhabitants are the indigenous ethnic group called “Hani” and who are traditional rice growers in the terraced rice paddy. The county has been identified in the country’s list of poverty reduction areas.

The Freshwater Fisheries Research Center (FFRC) in Wuxi of China, which is an FAO Reference Centre for Fisheries and Aquaculture, has provided technical support and backstopping to Honghe on the rice-fish farming system and set up an experimental station.

The rice-fish farming system we witnessed here, also recognised as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS), represents the wisdom of millennia of farming, nowadays strengthened by innovative aspects such as public private partnership.”

Rice is a major food commodity and staple food for many, and adding fish to flooded rice paddies has been a farming tradition practiced in some Asian countries for many centuries. Credit: FAO

The experts from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, and Viet Nam said they were convinced that the experience of Honghe could be replicated in their respective countries to help the local farmers in their fight against hunger and to improve their livelihoods and reduce poverty.

The group further recommended that FAO set up a rice-fish farming demonstration village in Honghe to showcase their experiences and good practices.

Xu Pao, a professor and Director of FFRC, stressed the importance of cooperation among the countries concerned to share experiences and expressed a willingness to continue providing technical support and assistance for the technology transfer on rice-fish farming, not only to farmers in Honghe but nationally and internationally.

The experts participating in the workshop and site visit noted the importance of using scarce resources efficiently and manage to grow nutritious and safe food with a minimum of potentially harmful chemicals, says FAO.

They also concluded that promoting an enabling policy environment and providing necessary technical expertise are critical elements in developing their business plans.

The group agreed to continue collaborating and to develop a regional strategy for upscaling the rice-fish farming systems through a regional technical cooperation programme, supported by various funding sources, through south-south cooperation.

At present, 26 sites in 6 countries (1 site in Bangladesh, 11 sites in China, 3 sites in India, 8 sites in Japan, 1 site in Philippines and 2 sites in Republic of Korea) are designated as GIAHS in Asia and the Pacific region.

More than 1000 Ago in China

In some Chinese areas, farmers combine rice farming with aquaculture, quite literally growing fish in their flooded paddy fields. The rice paddies offer protection and organic food for the fish, while the fish soften the soil and provide nutrients and oxygen for the rice crop, the UN specialised body tells in its report: Growing rice and fish – together a Chinese tradition for 1000 years.

The method proved to have several additional advantages. For instance, the fish also eat insects and weeds maintaining a perfect ecological balance that improves biodiversity while limiting problems caused by insects and plant diseases.

“This ancient farming system has been designated a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by FAO, making Qingtian County famous for something other than emigration, and now well-known for an agricultural system that has stood the test of time and remains in harmony with nature.”

New is not always better. “It turns out that our traditional fish-rice farming method is now seen by the world as a 1 000-year-old treasure,” says Wu, a participant and beneficiary of growing rice and fish–together, according to the report.

“People were so amazed by the beauty and wonder of the rice-fish culture system that our village has become the focus of international attention.” As Wu’s village became famous, many city dwellers and some foreigners began arriving for holidays.

Wu, like many other villagers, recognised that this proud and ancient agricultural tradition was about to improve their 21st century livelihoods. “I seized the opportunity to open the first locally owned and operated restaurant in Longxian village,” says Wu. “I began selling fish produced from the rice fields.”

In order to take full advantage of the new GIAHS designation, government experts helped the villagers plan for conservation and expansion. “We formed a special team and we became much more conscious of the importance of native/local plant resources conservation and environmental protection,” says Wu.

“Today, many species of birds, like egrets, which had disappeared for years, are once again seen flying around this area.”

Today the entire village is benefiting from the conservation of its agricultural heritage. The fish produced in the paddy fields of Longxian village that once sold for 20 Yuan (2.5 dollars) per kilogramme, today sell for 120 Yuan (19 dollars).

“There are now five restaurants run by farmers in the village,” adds Wu, “and there is no shortage of customers.” Last year the village received more than 100 000 tourists.

The persistence of traditional farming through the centuries is living proof of a successful indigenous agricultural strategy and a tribute to the “creativity” of small farmers throughout the developing world, according to the UN specialised agency.

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UN Work Stoppage in Geneva Halts Human Rights Meetinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/un-work-stoppage-geneva-halts-human-rights-meeting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-work-stoppage-geneva-halts-human-rights-meeting http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/un-work-stoppage-geneva-halts-human-rights-meeting/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 21:53:10 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150960 As UN staffers in Geneva threaten a strike, protesting a proposed salary cut of over 7.5 percent, a token two-hour “work stoppage” last week forced the Human Rights Council to suspend its meeting. But there is more to come, warned Ian Richards, President of the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA). […]

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UN Work Stoppage in Geneva Halts Human Rights Meeting

Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

As UN staffers in Geneva threaten a strike, protesting a proposed salary cut of over 7.5 percent, a token two-hour “work stoppage” last week forced the Human Rights Council to suspend its meeting.

But there is more to come, warned Ian Richards, President of the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA).

Richards told IPS that a strike would only ever be the last resort. But he accused the United Nations of failing to practice in its own backyard what it preaches to the rest of the world, particularly on labour and human rights.

“Had there been a proper negotiation system in place for staff to have a say in their salaries as the UN preaches to countries, we could have avoided all this.”

“Having said that”, he pointed out, “if there is no avenue for meaningful dialogue, UN staff will have no choice but to escalate their actions.” At the end of the day this isn’t about a budget cut, he noted.

Currently, the UN staff in Geneva number over 5,400 in the professional category of employees.

A resolution adopted by the Geneva staff, at an “extraordinary general meeting” early June, blamed the New York-based International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) for “failing to address the deep concerns and questions raised by staff federations and the heads of 10 Geneva-based agencies over the proposed cut to post adjustment that would result in a reduction in take-home pay of 7.5 per cent (or more).”

The agencies based in Geneva include the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Conference on Trade and Development, (UNCTAD), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Conference on Disarmament and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), among others.

The ICSC, which determines UN salary structures, has awarded staff in New York a pay rise of 2.2 percent, which they rightfully deserve, said Richards. “In the end it’s about some pushing to see what they can get away with,” he added.

The CCISUA will be joined by the 30,000-strong Federation of International Civil Servants Association (FICSA) in any collective action.

The Human Rights Council, the primary UN body dealing with human rights, was forced to suspend its sittings last Friday, but the Geneva staff decided not to disrupt a meeting negotiating an end to the long-drawn-out Syrian civil war which has triggered one of the world’s major humanitarian crises.

Rolando Gómez, Public Information Officer of the Human Rights Council Branch of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva confirmed to IPS about the suspension of the Human Rights Council meeting, resulting from the work stoppage.

“It was the first time such a suspension took place at the Council for such a reason,” he added.

Gomez said the Human Rights Council recognises the right of UN staff to demonstrate against the proposed pay cut and did not wish to take any action that would prevent them from doing so.

“The Council also reiterates its immense gratitude to UN staff at Geneva for the first-rate, indispensable assistance they provide in servicing their meetings throughout the year,” he declared.

Meanwhile, in a letter to staff unions in Geneva, Michael Møller, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG), said staff representatives have informed the Executive Heads of all Geneva-based common system organizations that they are “planning actions throughout this summer, including work stoppages” with respect to the recent decision of the ICSC on post adjustment levels in Geneva.

This is also refers to an email last week from the UNOG Staff Council with the heading: “Upcoming work stoppage”.

“UN Geneva recognizes and respects the right of staff to freedom of association. Staff are allowed to meet on the UN Geneva premises in a non-disruptive representative manner. UN Geneva also acknowledges the dissatisfaction of staff resulting from the ISCS’s determination on post adjustment for Geneva.”

The letter further warned: “Notwithstanding the above, staff are reminded that actions which disrupt or otherwise interfere with any meeting or other official activity of the Organization, may be considered in contravention to the obligations under staff rule 1.2 (g). This includes any and all conduct which is intended, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the ability of staff or delegates to discharge their official functions.”

Based on guidance from UNHQ (in New York), staff are also reminded that action, such as work stoppage or other collective action, may be considered as unauthorized absence in line with staff regulations and rules, the letter added.

He also said that staff should take note that discussions are still ongoing with the ICSC regarding the implementation of the post adjustment changes, “and we should all ensure that we do not to jeopardize the outcome of such discussions.”

“This is also to call on all of us to act professionally and in a manner befitting our status as international civil servants,” the letter added.

Richards told IPS: “We’re disappointed that UN management should have resorted to threatening staff.”

Asked for his comments, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters last week: “The guidance we have from our colleagues in Geneva is that they fully acknowledge the right of staff to freedom of association, which is a basic right. Staff were allowed to meet on the UN… on the premises in Geneva in a non disruptive manner.”

“I think our colleagues in Geneva have acknowledged the dissatisfaction of staff resulting from the issues having to do with the International Civil Service Commission on post adjustments in Geneva. My understanding is that negotiations are still going on, on the implementation of these issues, but we’re all international civil servants, and we need to respect the rules,” he noted.

Richards also said that staff from organizations across Geneva took part in the work stoppage, with the aim of sending a strong message to New York management and the ICSC, that Geneva staff won’t allow their pay to be cut on the basis of absence of negotiations and numerous questions raised about the data and calculations.

“During the stoppage we held a staff meeting, attended by a large number of staff, including directors and staff from HR and security. We have a video which shows a lot of anger.”

Asked what the next step would be, Richards said: “Next steps are the report from a group of statisticians who visited the ICSC last week to check their data and calculations. The ICSC will revisit the issue in Vienna in July and we hope will change their conclusions.”

“It is important to note, he said, that this isn’t about budget cuts, as New York, where ICSC is based, recently got a 2.2 percent pay rise. However, the un-transparent approach used by the ICSC means that another 85 duty stations could be in line for a cut,” he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Kenya through Innovative Financinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/achieving-universal-health-coverage-uhc-kenya-innovative-financing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieving-universal-health-coverage-uhc-kenya-innovative-financing http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/achieving-universal-health-coverage-uhc-kenya-innovative-financing/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 15:56:55 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150956 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Kenya through Innovative Financing

Right to health as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and; contribution to economic development as envisioned in Vision 2030. Credit: JACARANDA HEALTH

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

Every year, one million Kenyans are driven below the poverty line by healthcare-related expenditures. Poverty predisposes them to disease and slows all aspects of growth in the economy.

Poor health hobbles economic growth. Noble Laureate in Economics Robert Fogel noted in 1993 that better diets, clothing, housing and quality healthcare all play an important role in generating economic growth. Strengthening healthcare systems to increase access to affordable, appropriate and quality health services in any country is a prerequisite for long-term development and structural transformation.

Africa accounts for a quarter of the world’s disease burden but has less than 5 per cent of the world’s doctors. The continent lags far behind in basic healthcare coverage for services such as immunization, water and sanitation, and family planning. Kenya is no exception.

The new Kenyan Constitution devolved responsibility for primary and secondary healthcare services to the newly demarcated 47 counties, leaving the national government to focus on policy and research.

Kenya’s health financing envelope is progressing gradually but falls short of the 2001 Abuja Declaration, in which nations committed to allocating 15 per cent of their national budget to the health sector. In fact, Kenya is outperformed by some of its neighbours in the national budget allocation to health sector. In fiscal year 2014/15, Uganda allocated 8 per cent of its national budget to the health sector compared to Kenya’s 4 per cent.

Kenya’s allocation has been increasing every fiscal year, rising for instance from about US$178.8 million (Ksh 15.2 billion) in 2001/02 to US$382.2 million (Ksh 34.4 billion) in 2008/09 based on exchange rate then. In the current fiscal year, Kenya allocated around US$597 million (Ksh 60.9 billion) for healthcare services compared to US$591.2 million (Ksh 60.3 billion) for fiscal year 2016/17. This is projected to increase in the medium term to US$606.9 million (Ksh 61.9 billion) and US$614.7 million (Ksh 62.7 billion) for 2018/19 and 2019/20, respectively.

The challenges confronting the health sector range from the spread of non-communicable diseases to inadequate funding of health interventions. The devolution of healthcare services, coupled with the Bill of Rights, elicits huge funding demands, making the sustainability of gains made so far in the sector more complex.

In 2015, the international community formally enshrined UHC in Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals, which will guide development efforts through 2030.

Partnering with mobile phone service providers and charging a small fee for targeted healthcare initiatives can generate the necessary resources to support Universal Health Coverage in the country.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Credit: UNDP

In its Vision 2030, Kenya committed to becoming a competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life for all its citizens by 2030. Investing in a quality health delivery system is enshrined in the Vision, an area in which the government has made considerable progress.

Revamping the national health insurance scheme to comprise everyone capable of paying premiums, rather than only those in formal employment has shifted the burden of healthcare costs from the individual to the collective by raising more money for healthcare services.

Nevertheless, four out of every five Kenyans have no access to medical insurance. That is why Kenya needs to adopt more innovative ways of financing its healthcare system.

The 2014 World Bank Group’s Kenya Public Expenditure Review considers the private sector a lead in local healthcare markets. This is because it owns 60 per cent of all primary healthcare facilities, while 40 per cent are government-run. Leveraging this strategic position of the private sector, public-private partnerships (PPP) can be institutionalized for financing UHC in Kenya.

One such case in point is the strong PPP established in 2015 by six private sector companies (Philips, Merck Sharp & Dohme-MSD, GlaxoSmithKline-GSK, Safaricom, Kenya Health Care Federation and Huawei) to improve maternal health in historically marginalized counties. This initiative – targeting Mandera, Marsabit, Migori, Isiolo, Lamu and Wajir and spearheaded by the Government of Kenya and the UN – has yielded positive health outcomes. Similar approaches can be adopted for the health system at both national and county levels.

Kenya is known for developing innovative home-grown solutions to challenges. It can easily move towards a cashless economy, which will be critical for driving Kenya’s socio-economic transformation agenda.

For instance, M-pesa was conceived to address the challenge of rural banking but it has also provided a platform for M-health, the use of mobile devices to support the practice of medicine and public health.

Kenya can institute targeted taxation as an innovative financing policy to complement existing financing mechanisms. Partnering with mobile phone service providers and charging a small fee for targeted healthcare initiatives can generate the necessary resources to support UHC in the country.

An estimated US$122.5 million (Ksh 12.5 billion) is transacted daily in the form of mobile money transactions. By contributing roughly one percent on a graduated scale, Kenya can easily raise US$ 1.2 million (Ksh 125 million) daily to finance UHC.

For example UNITAID, an International Drug Purchase Facility for AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria is supported mainly (70%) through the airline ticket tax. The airline solidarity contribution is an innovative attempt to gain the benefits of a global tax. Kenya can do the same by charging a small tax at its international airports and border crossings for a ring fenced public health account.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, “All roads should lead to universal health coverage.” Credit: UN/DANIEL JOHNSON

There is no one-size-fits-all health financing solution. And Kenya must continuously adapt in the face of rapid technological changes.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the new WHO Director-General has said that, “all roads should lead to universal health coverage.” With its technological prowess, a hotspot for innovation, incredible entrepreneurial spirit and enterprise, Kenya must be at the vanguard on the road to universal health care in Africa.

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Africa: Drought and Jobless, Hopeless Youth, Fertile Grounds for Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 06:27:56 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150944 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

“The on-going drought in the Horn of Africa is widespread, triggering a regional humanitarian crisis with food insecurity skyrocketing, particularly among livestock-owning communities, and devastating livelihoods” - FAO. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME/OUAGADOUGOU, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

Ignoring the plight of jobless young people in sub-Saharan Africa is a recipe for political instability and global insecurity, warned a high-level symposium of Africa’s interior, environment and foreign affairs ministers in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The high-level symposium, which was held ahead of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) marked on June 17, stressed that Africa’s heavy reliance on the natural resource base for livelihoods is a challenge, and its mismanagement increases household risks and amplifies the vulnerability of millions of people.

This was the first time high-ranking officials drawn from Africa’s foreign affairs, environment and interior ministries met jointly to find solutions to Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men.“Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.” Monique Barbut

Participating ministers called for support to create land-based jobs in the rural areas to ward off the temptation for the most disillusioned to take up alternative but dangerous sources of income.

They called for the identification of sites where tenure or access to land rights can be secured and provided to vulnerable at-risk-groups.

The high-ranking officials also called for partnerships to create 2 million secure land-based jobs through rehabilitation of 10 million hectares of degraded land.

As well, they called for investment in rural infrastructure, rehabilitation tools and skills development and prioritisation of job creation in unstable and insecure areas.

The symposium examined the threats connected to sustainability, stability and security, namely, conflicts linked to access to degrading natural resources, instability due to unemployment of rural youth and insecurity and the risk of the radicalization triggered by social and economic marginalization and exposure to extremist groups.

Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

A young person helps out in his family farm in Gitaramaka village, Karusi Province, Burundi. Today’s generation of young people aged 15 to 24 is the largest in history. Governments around the world face the challenge of providing young people with jobs and opportunities that safeguard their futures. Credit: ©IFAD/Susan Beccio

Drought, Unemployment and Hopelessness, Fertile Grounds for Extremism

Presidents Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali and Mahammadou Issoufou of Niger stressed that drought, food insecurity, water scarcity, unemployment, hopelessness about the future and poverty are fertile grounds for extremism, and a sign of insecurity, instability and unsustainability.

Two days earlier, more than 400 civil society representatives from African participated in their World Day observance, also in Ouagadougou, and organised by Spong, a local non-governmental organisation, to prepare for the International Summit of Non-State Actors titled, Desertif’actions 2017, to be held on 27 and 28 June 2017 in Strasbourg, France, which will be dedicated to land degradation and climate change, bringing together 300 stakeholders from 50 countries.

The outcomes of the Strasbourg Summit will be presented to the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to be held in Ordos, China, in September 2017, and the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention.

“Frustrations Will Boil over with More Migration and More Conflict”

According to Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, more than 375 million young people will enter Africa’s job market over the next 15 years, of whom 200 million be living in the rural areas.

Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

FAO makes massive strides in famine prevention programme in Somalia. Credit: FAO

“Millions of rural young people face an uncertain future due to the lack of decent rural jobs and continuous loss of livelihoods due to land degradation and falling yields…Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.”

The challenge is bigger than just a matter of a million young African’s attempting to make the move towards Europe over the course of a year, she said, adding that the UK Ministry of Defence estimates up to 60 million Africans are at risk of distressed migration as a result of land degradation and desertification pressures in the next two decades.

“Imagine what could happen if each of you committed to rehabilitate 100,000 hectares of land in your respective countries… If young people in Africa were given the chance to bring that natural capital back to life and into production… With the right type of investments in land, rural infrastructure and skills development, the future in your region can be bright.”

During the celebrations, Barbut announced the two winners of the prestigious Land for Life Award: Practical Action Sudan/UNEP from South Sudan; Watershed Organization Trust from India.

The Land for Life China award was given to Ms Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, China.

The winners show that restoration of degraded land can halt distress migration that is driven by unproductive land resources, Barbut said. “Families and communities are transformed and become more resilient towards climate change when job opportunities are created.”

The 1st African Action Summit by Heads of State and Government held in Marrakesh in 2016 launched the Sustainability, Stability and Security initiative – the 3S Initiative – with a commitment to speed up the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands as a means to create jobs for rural youth.

According to Batio Bassiere, Minister of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change, Burkina Faso, his country, on average, loses 360,000 hectares of land to degradation every year, with significant impacts on 85 per cent of the population that lives off agriculture and pastoral activities.

As stated in the theme of the World Day to Combat Desertification, Our Land, Our Home, Our Future must be preserved against all forms of degradation or desertification, said the minister.

Burkina Faso is now among the 110 countries that to-date have committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target of land degradation neutrality by 2030, he said.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. It promotes good land stewardship, and its 196 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to UNCCD, the end goal is to protect our land, from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy.

“By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality, now and in the future, we will reduce the impact of climate change, avoid conflict over natural resources and help communities to thrive.”

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Safeguarding Precious Crop Genes in Trust for Humanityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/safeguarding-precious-crop-genes-trust-humanity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=safeguarding-precious-crop-genes-trust-humanity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/safeguarding-precious-crop-genes-trust-humanity/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 00:01:55 +0000 Ini Ekott http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150937 A genetic resource centre run by the Nigeria-based International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has banked thousands of crop varieties for disaster relief and research, holds the world’s largest and most diverse collection of cowpeas, and contains some of Africa’s rarest insect species. In times of crises when farmers lose their seeds, the genetic resource […]

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A genetic resource centre run by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has banked thousands of crop varieties

The governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima; Deputy Director General, Partnerships for Delivery at IITA, Kenton Dashiell; and IITA Ambassador and Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo during the donation of 35,930 kilograms of seeds to Borno State government in Maiduguri. Credit: Ini Ekott/IPS

By Ini Ekott
ABUJA, Nigeria, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

A genetic resource centre run by the Nigeria-based International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has banked thousands of crop varieties for disaster relief and research, holds the world’s largest and most diverse collection of cowpeas, and contains some of Africa’s rarest insect species.

In times of crises when farmers lose their seeds, the genetic resource centre – which the institute calls genebank – provides new seeds that are multiplied and given to farmers. Researchers can also pick from the bank preferred traits they incorporate into breeding programmes.Since plant and animal genetic resources are the foundation of sustainable agriculture and global food security, conserving crop varieties helps prevent “genetic erosion.”

For a continent plagued by perennial food shortages, and a world rapidly losing its genetic resources, the genebank is a precious gift, and its contents are kept in trust for humanity.

“The IITA genebank is one of the most precious resource centres to Africa, in particular, and the world at large. I see it as the pride of Africa,” said Michael Abberton, the head of the IITA’s genetic resource centre.

Since plant and animal genetic resources are the foundation of sustainable agriculture and global food security, conserving crop varieties helps prevent “genetic erosion”, said Abberton, referring to the tendency of losing varieties either as a result of the development of new varieties or disasters.

The IITA’s conservation activities started in the mid-1970s with the establishment of a genebank to help in crop improvement. That bank was later upgraded to provide seeds for people affected by flood, fire, wars, and other disasters.

The genebank currently holds over 28,000 accessions of plant material, called germplasm, of Africa’s major food crops – maize, plantain, cassava, cowpea, banana, yam, soybean, and bambara nut.

The bank has some 15,122 unique samples of cowpeas that come from 88 countries, close to half of global cowpea diversity. Seed samples of IITA’s cowpea collections stored since 1978 are still viable.

The crops’ germplasms are held in trust on behalf of humanity under the auspices of the United Nations, and distributed without restriction for use in research for food and agriculture, the institute says.

Abberton said depending on the species of a product, and its reproductive and dissemination biology, collections are either stored in the field, or in the seed or in-vitro genebanks. All crops producing orthodox seeds are maintained at optimal water content and low temperatures of 5 ºC in short term, and -20 ºC in long term.

At the research level, crops’ traits such as seed colour, resistance to pest and diseases, height of plant, sweetness or others can all be harnessed from the genebank.

The IITA was the first centre to contribute to the new Svalbard Global Seed Vault project, built by the Norwegian government as a service to the global community. The facility is funded by the Rome-based NGO Global Crop Diversity Trust.

In 2008, twenty-one boxes of IITA germplasm samples, part of a first installment, arrived in Oslo to go to the isolated Norwegian archipelago in time for its Feb. 26 opening. In 2009, another shipment was made.

Seeds samples sent to Svalbard Global Seed Vault were large sample of cowpea (also known as black-eyed pea), wild vigna, soybean, maize and bambara.

The IITA genebank based in Nigeria also plays a vital role as a reservoir for response to disaster. It did so on May 22 when the institute donated 35,930 kilograms of seeds to Nigeria’s Borno state government to cushion an eight-year humanitarian crisis caused by the Islamist group Boko Haram.

Borno, in northeastern Nigeria, has been the epicentre of Boko Haram violence. The group is responsible for the deaths of more than 20,000 people and the displacement of more than 2 million – a majority of them farmers.

The seeds donated to Borno government included improved varieties of cowpea, soybean, maize, millet, sorghum, and rice.

They were adapted to the climate of the region with some being extra-early, early, and intermediate, maturing, IITA’s deputy director general for partnerships for delivery, Kenton Dashiell, explained.

“They are also high yielding and resistant to the major pests and diseases, and other biotic and abiotic constraints in the region,” he said.

Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who as an IITA ambassador made the presentation on behalf of the institute, described the donation as the most meaningful gift ever given to the people of Borno.

Abberton, the head of the genetic resource centre, told IPS the donations to Borno state would not have been possible if not for the genebank that helped the institute in conserving the seeds.

“So, the genebank is a life wire for the IITA and humanity,” he said. He added that the IITA was committed to alleviating hunger and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Latin America’s Rural Exodus Undermines Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/latin-americas-rural-exodus-undermines-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-americas-rural-exodus-undermines-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/latin-americas-rural-exodus-undermines-food-security/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 22:15:51 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150934 This article forms part of special IPS coverage for the World Day to Combat Desertification, celebrated June 17.

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In Latin America and the Caribbean a number of factors contribute to soil degradation and to a rural exodus that compromises food security

Livestock seek shade on a small farm in the arid centre of the northern Argentine province of Santiago del Estero, where men are forced to migrate to cities or to seek seasonal work in more fertile regions, fleeing from drought and poverty. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

In Latin America and the Caribbean, which account for 12 per cent of the planet’s arable land, and one-third of its fresh water reserves, a number of factors contribute to soil degradation and to a rural exodus that compromises food security in a not-so-unlikely future.

These figures, and the warning, emerge from studies carried out by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ahead of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, celebrated on June 17. This year’s theme is “Our land. Our home. Our Future,” highlighting the link between desertification and rural migration, which is driven by the loss of productive land to desertification.

Over the past 50 years, the agricultural area in Latin America increased from 561 to 741 million hectares, with a greater expansion in South America, from 441 to 607 million hectares. This growth led to intensive use of inputs, degradation of the soil and water, a reduction of biodiversity, and deforestation.

Fourteen per cent of the world soil degradation occurs in this region, and it is worst in Mesoamerica (southern Mexico and Central America), where it affects 26 per cent of the land, compared to 14 per cent in South America.“This vicious circle has to do with the historical backwardness of Latin American rural areas, where vulnerability to climatic phenomena aggravate other factors that drive people to migrate, due to the lack of opportunities and because what used to be their main economic activity, agriculture, no longer allows them to survive with dignity,” Saramago said from FAO’s regional office. -- André Saramago

“As the soil degrades, the capacity for food production declines, jeopardising food security,” explained FAO forestry officer Jorge Meza from the organisation’s regional office in Santiago, Chile.

According to Meza, soil degradation depends on factors such as the extent and severity of the degradation, weather conditions, the economic conditions of the affected populations and the country’s level of development.

He told IPS that the first reaction of people trying to survive is intensifying the already excessive exploitation of the most accessible natural resources.

The second step they take, he said, is selling everything they have, such as machinery, to meet monetary needs for education and healthcare, or to put food on the table.

“The third is the fast increase in rural migration: adult men or young people of both sexes migrate seasonally or for several years to other regions in the country (especially to cities) or abroad, looking for work. These survival strategies tend to generate a breakdown of the community and sometimes of the family,” he added.

“The outlook for the future is that as climate change advances and rural populations, particularly vulnerable ones, fail to become more resilient, these figures could significantly increase,” warned the FAO expert.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), some 28.4 million Latin Americans live outside the countries where they were born, nearly 4.8 per cent of the total population of 599 million people.

Central America is the area with the most migration, with nearly 15 million migrants, who represent 9.7 per cent of the total population of 161 million people.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) defines “environmental migrants” as people or groups who are forced or choose to leave their communities due to sudden or gradual shifts in their environment that affect their livelihoods.

But for André Saramago, a FAO consultant on rural development, rural migration has multiple causes such as poverty, a lack of opportunities and, in some cases, such as the countries that make up the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America – Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – soaring rates of violence crime.

And these elements are now compounded by the vulnerability of homes to phenomena aggravated by climate change, such as increasingly intense and frequent droughts, he told IPS.

“This vicious circle has to do with the historical backwardness of Latin American rural areas, where vulnerability to climatic phenomena aggravate other factors that drive people to migrate, due to the lack of opportunities and because what used to be their main economic activity, agriculture, no longer allows them to survive with dignity,” Saramago said from FAO’s regional office.

According to the expert, reverting this phenomenon requires comprehensive responses, to manage land in a sustainable manner, preventing degradation and promoting recovery. He said, however, that this would not be enough to combat rural migration.

“Strategic investment in rural areas is key, in order to generate public assets that enable farmers, particularly small-scale family farmers, to overcome longstanding limitations,” he said.

These are the tools, he said, “to reverse the vicious circle; it is crucial to recover and rethink the concept of rural development, where the joint elaboration of policies and the capacity to tackle the problem in a multidisciplinary and multisectoral manner are key.”

For his part, Meza said that one of these actions is improving the management and distribution of water. Over the last three decades, water use has doubled in the region – a much faster increase than the global rate. The agricultural sector, and particularly irrigation farming, represents 70 per cent of water use.

“From a social perspective, rural poverty is also reflected in a lack of access to water and land. Poor farmers have less access to land and water, they farm land with poor quality soil that are highly vulnerable to degradation. Forty per cent of the world’s most degraded land are in areas with high poverty rates,” he said.

The expert noted that there are numerous experiences that combine production and preservation of biodiversity, particularly indigenous and traditional agrifood systems, as well as management of shared resources and protection of natural resources, which provide a methodology and systematisation of practices and approaches.

Norberto Ovando, president of the Friends of the National Parks of Argentina Association and a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, described some of the experiences in his country, where 70 per cent of the territory is threatened by desertification.

Eighty per cent of Argentina’s territory is dedicated to agricultural, livestock and forestry activities. Erosion is most acute and critical in arid and semi-arid areas that make up two-thirds of the territory, where the fall in productivity translates into a decline in living conditions and displacement of the local population.

“Currently many farmers in the world and in Argentina are using the drip irrigation system, which should be replicated around the world, and governments should adopt it as a state policy, assisting farmers with soft loans for installing it. With this system, up to 50 per cent of water can be saved, compared to the traditional system,” the environmental consultant told IPS.

Novando also said that the system of production of clean, varied and productive food, known as integrated polyculture agricultural-livestock-fish farming, currently widespread in Asia, should be adopted in the region.

“Public policies that promote support for family farming and that promote rural employment are essential,” he added.

“It could be said that in Latin America and the Caribbean hunger is not a problem of production, but of access to food. For this reason, food security is related to overcoming poverty and inequality,” he said.

“Effective management of migration due to environmental causes is indispensable in order to ensure human security, health and wellbeing and to facilitate sustainable development,” he concluded.

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Africa Could Help Feed the World – If Its Fertile Land Doesn’t Vanishhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-help-feed-world-fertile-land-doesnt-vanish/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-help-feed-world-fertile-land-doesnt-vanish http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-help-feed-world-fertile-land-doesnt-vanish/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 21:59:48 +0000 Younouss Youn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150931 The 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification was celebrated in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou on June 15 with a call to create two million jobs and restore 10 million hectares of degraded land. Three African heads of state took part in the celebrations: Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita from Mali, Mahamadou Issoufou from Niger and Roch […]

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The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré spoke on behalf of his peers Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita of Mali and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger at the celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification, June 2017. Credit: Younouss Youn/IPS

The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré spoke on behalf of his peers Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita of Mali and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger at the celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification, June 2017. Credit: Younouss Youn/IPS

By Younouss Youn
OUAGADOUGOU, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

The 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification was celebrated in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou on June 15 with a call to create two million jobs and restore 10 million hectares of degraded land.

Three African heads of state took part in the celebrations: Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita from Mali, Mahamadou Issoufou from Niger and Roch Kaboré from Burkina Faso. The Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Monique Barbut also attended the event.Two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands, and nearly 75 percent of agricultural land is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

According to the UNCCD, two-thirds of the African continent is desert or drylands. This land is vital for agriculture and food production, but nearly 75 percent is estimated to be degraded to varying degrees.

The region is also affected by frequent and severe droughts, which have been particularly devastating in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

“Degraded lands is not an inevitable fate. Restoration is still possible. However, what will be more difficult is to feed 10 billion human beings in 30 years. The only place where there are still lands to do that is Africa. We need these lands to feed the whole planet. Therefore restoring lands is assuring food security for the whole planet,” said Barbut.

The high-level meeting that gathered 400 experts from around the world ended in the Call from Ouagadougou, urging citizens and governments to tackle desertification by restoring ten million hectares of land and by creating two million green jobs for youth, women and migrants.

“By 2050, the African population will double to two billion people,” Barbut noted. “I fear that as the population depends up to 80 percent on natural resources for their livelihoods, those resources will vanish given the great pressure on them.”

She added that young people emerging from this demographic growth will need decent jobs.

“In the next 15 years, 375 million young people will be entering the job market in Africa. Two hundred million of them will live in rural areas and 60 million will be obliged to leave those areas because of the pressure on natural resources.”

According to UNCCD, it is critical to enact policies that enable young people to own and rehabilitate degraded land, as there are nearly 500 million hectares of once fertile agricultural land that have been abandoned.

Talking specifically about Burkina Faso, which hosted the celebration, Batio Nestor Bassiere, the minister in charge of environmental issues, said, “From 2002 to 2013, 5.16 million hectares, 19 percent of the country’s territory, has been degraded by desertification.”

The situation is similar in most African countries. That’s why “it’s nonsense to sit and watch that happening without acting, given that the means for action are available,” said Barbut.

The Call from Ouagadougou comes from a common willingness to save the planet and Africa particularly from desertification. Gathered to discuss the topic “Our land, our house, our future,” linked to the fulfillment of the 3S Initiative (sustainability, stability, and security in Africa), the Call from Ouagadougou also invites African countries to create conditions for the development of new job opportunities by targeting the places where the access to land can be reinforced and land rights secured for vulnerable populations.

Development partners and other actors have also been called on to give their contributions. They were invited to help African countries to invest in rural infrastructure, land restoration, and the development of skills in chosen areas and among those facing migration and social risks.

For that, the UN agency in charge of the fight against desertification and its partners can rely on the firm support of the three heads of state who came for this 23rd World Day to Combat Desertification.

The President of Burkina Faso Roch Kaboré let the audience know that they are all “engaged to promote regional and global partnerships to find funds for investment in lands restoration and long term land management, wherever they will have opportunities to speak.”

Representing the African Union, Ahmed Elmekaa, Director, African Union/SAFGRAD, said drawing attention to the resolutions of desertification, land degradation and drought and on climate change are at the top of the African Union’s environmental agenda.

Taking advantage of the celebration, the national authorities gave the name of the very first executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Hama Arba Diallo, to a street of the capital Ouagadougou. Experts from many countries also had the opportunity to visit sites showing the experience of Burkina Faso in combating desertification.

At a dinner ceremony held immediately following the closure of the ceremony, the UNCCD announced the winners of the Land for Life Award, Practical Action Sudan/UNEP from Sudan; Watershed Organization Trust from India. The Land for Life China award was given to Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, China.

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Housing Refugees of the Middle East Conflicts: Where Will They Go?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 20:39:42 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150927 Prolonged conflicts in the Middle East have led to a deadly humanitarian crisis, with as many as 17.5 million people displaced in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In Syria alone, 11.5 million people have fled their homes—more than three people a minute—since the beginning of war in 2011. Five million have fled the country, and six […]

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Housing Refugees of the Middle East Conflicts: Where Will They Go?

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon signs the ICRC guest book, as Mr. Maurer Looks on; 3rd Oct., 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

Prolonged conflicts in the Middle East have led to a deadly humanitarian crisis, with as many as 17.5 million people displaced in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

In Syria alone, 11.5 million people have fled their homes—more than three people a minute—since the beginning of war in 2011. Five million have fled the country, and six million live in ad-hoc shelters across the country.

The new numbers, in a report by the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) highlight the sheer magnitude of movement in the region, and the struggle of everyday life in first-hand accounts.

“When the siege of east Aleppo started last Ramadan [2016], the situation grew even more difficult as people were stranded for 190 days. The situation there was in a state of paralysis. My son was always hungry as there was nothing to eat or drink. Food was extremely expensive. We were forced to eat different kinds of lentil-based food. As a result, I lost 25 kilos,” said Yasser, a businessman in Aleppo, who watched his son die as his building collapsed after a bombing.

Aleppo, a flourishing economic hub in northern Syria, laid in ruins after four years of hellish fighting between varying warring groups. When the fighting finally ended on Dec. 15, 2016, 35,000 people were evacuated to neighbouring areas in just one week. As residents move back into the city, livable housing remains a major problem.

In Ramadi, Iraq, which was recently liberated from the Islamic State, fighting damaged almost 80 percent of the city. By March, more than a year since the war ended, only 60 percent of its civilians were able to return to the city. Nationwide, even before the Iraqi offensive on Mosul began in October 2016, almost a tenth of Iraqis were uprooted from their homes.

In Mosul, at the beginning of April this year, nearly 274,000 remained displaced from their homes in the city.

In all cases, the extent of damage has been complicated by tactics of urban warfare—firing in densely packed cities, and employing sieges against civilians.

In three cities—Foua, Kefraya and Madaya—in eastern Aleppo, for instance, nearly 60,000 civilians were trapped in a siege that lasted 190 days in 2016. Similarly, in a 15-month siege in Taiz, Yemen, nearly 200,000 people were caught in the cross-fire.

Matters are made worse by continual use of high-impact weapons that destroy urban infrastructure—a single broken pipe, for instance, can deprive 100,000 people of water.

“What we are witnessing is a sustained assault on, and massive disregard for, the provision of health care during times of conflict,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) President Dr Joanne Liu in a co-written editorial for The Guardian.

The report urges parties involved in the conflict to uphold the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), protect urban settings, and work to the pressing concerns of civilians.

On May 3, 2016, spurred by ongoing attacks on volunteers and medical facilities, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2286, which called on all warring parties to protect medical facilities and personnel.

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BRICS to Lead World’s Efforts to Eradicate Hunger, Poverty by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/brics-lead-worlds-efforts-eradicate-hunger-poverty-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brics-lead-worlds-efforts-eradicate-hunger-poverty-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/brics-lead-worlds-efforts-eradicate-hunger-poverty-2030/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 14:35:54 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150924 With the clock ticking toward the 2030 deadline for meeting the international goals to eradicate hunger and poverty, five of the world’s most important emerging economies are well positioned to take a leading role in helping to achieve these objectives, according to the United Nations. The five countries, known collectively as the “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia, […]

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BRICS to Lead World’s Efforts to Eradicate Hunger, Poverty by 2030

The on-going drought in the Horn of Africa is widespread, triggering a regional humanitarian crisis with food insecurity skyrocketing, particularly among livestock-owning communities, and devastating livelihoods. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

With the clock ticking toward the 2030 deadline for meeting the international goals to eradicate hunger and poverty, five of the world’s most important emerging economies are well positioned to take a leading role in helping to achieve these objectives, according to the United Nations.

The five countries, known collectively as the “BRICS” (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), form an important economic block, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on June 16 reported.

They account for more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and over 20 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Together, they produce more than one-third of global cereal production. Last year, Russia became the largest wheat exporter in the world.

“The BRICS countries play an important political role in the international arena. Developing countries around the world look to your successes in economic development over the past few decades as an example to follow,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO’s Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, during the 7th Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Agriculture, in Nanjing, China.

“Your experiences provide a path that can help us all meet our global collective commitments, namely those of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and the Paris climate accord.”

Kadiresan pointed out that, despite trends towards urbanization, poverty in the world today is primarily rural. As a result, accelerating rural development will be key to achieving the SDGs.

“The question is how can we do this? Our experiences in countries in different parts of the world have shown that it can best be done through a combination of agricultural growth and targeted social protection, but also through growth in the rural nonfarm economy,” she said.

“Agriculture can be a driver of sustained and inclusive rural growth. In low-income countries, growth originating from agriculture is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth originating from other sectors of the economy.”

Equally important is that all the tools, approaches and technologies developed “must be useful and accessible to poor family farmers in developing countries” so that they can increase production and productivity.

BRICS to Lead World’s Efforts to Eradicate Hunger, Poverty by 2030

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have strong agricultural research systems. Credit: FAO


BRICS Strong in Agricultural Research

Achieving agricultural growth would also require investments in research and development, and the BRICS countries could play a leading role in this, as all five countries have strong agricultural research systems that are working on many of the challenges faced by developing countries, such as feeding a growing population in a sustainable way, according to FAO.

“Biotechnology would also play a key role in these advances, as would agro-ecological approaches. Climate-smart agriculture will be essential to adapt to the uncertain changes facing our farmers, and it will rely heavily on cutting-edge research.”

Information and Communication Technologies are becoming more widespread by the day, and they offer a promising approach to address many of the challenges smallholders face with regard to information on prices, weather forecasts, vaccines, financial services, and much more.

Agricultural Growth Not Enough

Agricultural growth, as important as it is, cannot eradicate hunger and poverty all by itself – social protection programmes can also play a key role in rural development, the UN specialised body says.

These programmes have important poverty reduction and health benefits, and can also strengthen the confidence of family farmers, encouraging them to become more entrepreneurial, it explains. “Brazil’s Fome Zero and India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are global references in this regard.”

Kadiresan stressed that it is important not to overlook the key role played by the rural non-farm economy in fostering rural development.

“As economies transform, most farm households obtain significant income from activities other than farming. The income from these activities provides not only a higher standard of living, but also a more stable one in many cases. Governments play a key role in encouraging this transformation by investing in rural health and education,” she said.

“While these investments are typically not within the Ministry of Agriculture’s mandate, we must support such investments, as they are in the interest of our rural constituents. Where would any of us be today without the opportunities provided by our former teachers and a strong educational system?”

International trade could also serve as an effective instrument in promoting food security and act as an adaptation tool to climate change. When an inevitable bad harvest occurs, as it does in every country at some stage, timely imports can help to rebalance the domestic food economy.

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IFAD’s President Houngbo Calls for Investment in Climate-Smart Agriculture for Poverty-Free Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 11:26:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150919 Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) new president Gilbert Houngbo. Approximately 20 million are at the brink of starvation. Over 65 million have been forcibly displaced by conflict. One in five people in developing regions live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, […]

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Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to IFAD's new president Gilbert Houngbo

IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo's first official visit to Uganda where he met with small holder farmers in financial saving groups. Credit: IFAD

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) new president Gilbert Houngbo.

Approximately 20 million are at the brink of starvation.

Over 65 million have been forcibly displaced by conflict.

One in five people in developing regions live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, and many risk slipping back into poverty.

A former Prime Minister of Togo, Houngbo entered IFAD’s presidency at a time of extreme suffering around the world. Though the global picture seems bleak, Houngbo remains optimistic and highlights the importance of long-term investments and development in agriculture in rural areas.

Though often neglected, rural areas are home to 80 percent of the world. Such areas are also responsible for most countries’ agriculture, and small farms in particular account for up to 80 percent of food production in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia.

Agriculture is therefore often the main route out of poverty and food insecurity for rural people, and focus on it will allow for progress in the internationally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, climate change is among the challenges that stand in the way.

As World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought approaches, IPS spoke to Houngbo briefly about the ambitious goals and increasingly complex challenges to make hunger and poverty things of the past.

Q: How realistic is it to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2030? Is this feasible? If not, why? What are or what could be some of the obstacles in trying to achieve those goals?

A: I’m maybe the wrong person to ask this question because I’m always really optimistic. When we started 2000 with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), everybody said that nothing there was realistic. Yet, we know that a lot has been achieved.

I do believe it is doable. Yes, it is very challenging. The point for me is not to say there is no more famine—that can happen as much as it is contained and eradicated quickly and that too is a challenge.

The most important thing for us to increase our chances to achieve the goal by 2030 is to make sure that one, we focus on long-term investment. Second, we also deal with the governance and the leadership dimension to minimize the risk of civil unrest—that’s the nexus of the common famine and the man-made crises.

But the long-term investment and scaling up what has been working really well is important. And I was hoping that with innovation, not only in technology, but among the small-scale or smallholder [farmers] we are focusing on—by adopting much more climate smart agricultural techniques and with innovation, it’s really doable.

Yes, the population is increasing. We need to increase food production by 60 percent by 2050. You have to see that as an opportunity for the smallholders to also increase [yields] and make money. Productivity for me and innovation is really the source.

Q: Would information and communication technologies (ICTs) be helping rural development in terms of food production?

A: Not only food production but also food transformation and access and the linkage to the food system. And to the market at the national level, regional level, or international level.

So we need to also look at agriculture not just as producing food but also business, as a way for the smallholders, for the rural citizens to earn in their daily lives a decent income, so that they don’t feel like they need to move to the city or move out of the country. So we are also talking about a rural transformation.

Q: Do you think advances in ICTs could threaten farmers because of the mechanization of certain jobs?

A: No, I don’t think so.

A couple of year ago a report issued not by IFAD but by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) demonstrated very clearly that yes there will be some jobs that will be lost in some sectors, but also when you think about the jobs that will be created, the net result is a positive. So we should not see that as an issue.

To the contrary, I do not think that commercial farms will ever replace the smallholder farms. In Africa, in Asia today, the smallholders are responsible for 80 percent of the [food] production. What we need to do is to bring technology that will help productivity and that will help with quick access to capital, access to the markets. By bringing that technology, coupled with what I call a rural transformation, then we will make it.

In other words, when you bring the technology here today, in a lot of low-income countries, agriculture contributes 25-35 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) compared to most advanced economies where agriculture will contribute maybe 5 percent or 2 percent of the GDP.

So it’s true that over time, you will also expect the low-income countries’ agricultural contributions to decrease. That’s why people worry that there will be unemployment. But on the contrary, if you are doing the rural transformation instead of being at the production level, they might be at the transformation level or there may also be a vocational training in other domains yet remain at the rural level.

Q: Do you think that the United States’ announcement to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is a setback? How are member states strategizing with IFAD to advance climate mitigation and adaptation?

A: First of all, we need to respect the decisions made by member states, whether it be the U.S. or any other country. I want to be very clear that we have to respect their decisions.

Secondly, our plan integrating climate-smart agriculture in our assistance to rural areas is very high on the agenda of all our member states. Obviously, I am concerned about the possible impact on the Green Climate Fund, and therefore the ability of the smallholders to access that financing.

I hope that one way or the other, the international community will find a way to overcome this new challenge.

Q: Do you have a message for the upcoming World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought?

A: For me, it is important that we start really thinking about the techniques that will help us in embedding climate-smart agriculture.

In Africa, for example, it is really affordable and basic irrigation systems and the use of climate or drought-resistant seeds and so forth—that will really help. But really it’s the irrigation dimension that I would like to encourage, to find ways to make it affordable, particularly in Africa because compared to Asia, Africa is very, very much behind.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a UN specialised agency which invests in rural areas of developing countries to help eradicate poverty and hunger.

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim Chairman of the Geneva Centre on Human Rights and its Executive Director Ambassador Idriss Jazairy meet with Prince Charles, the Prince of Waleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-geneva-centre-human-rights-executive-director-ambassador-idriss-jazairy-meet-prince-charles-prince-wales/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-geneva-centre-human-rights-executive-director-ambassador-idriss-jazairy-meet-prince-charles-prince-wales http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-geneva-centre-human-rights-executive-director-ambassador-idriss-jazairy-meet-prince-charles-prince-wales/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 06:41:26 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150949 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“The Geneva Centre”) as well as the Centre’s Executive Director Ambassador Idriss Jazairy and Board Member Trevor Mostyn attended the inauguration ceremony of the new premises of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies whose patron is […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Jun 16 2017 (Geneva Centre)

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“The Geneva Centre”) as well as the Centre’s Executive Director Ambassador Idriss Jazairy and Board Member Trevor Mostyn attended the inauguration ceremony of the new premises of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies whose patron is HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

The ceremony was also attended by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal and by the Oxford Centre’s Executive Director Dr. Farhan Nizami.

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre and its Executive Director had the opportunity to meet with HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. On this occasion, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre Dr. Al Qassim stated that he “would be honoured to collaborate with the Oxford Centre to forge dialogue and to build bridges between Islam and Christianity.

“The Geneva Centre”, he said, “is currently in the process of arranging a World Conference on the subject of ‘Religions and Beliefs, Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights.’ I believe this would be an ideal opportunity for both Centres to unite their forces in addressing prevailing misunderstandings affecting Muslim-Christian relations through the advancement of equal and inclusive citizenship rights.”

Invitees during the inauguration ceremony also included representatives from academic institutions, governmental organizations as well as international and non-governmental organizations.

The Oxford Centre forms part of the renowned Oxford University considered as one of the world’s leading and most influential educational institutions.

The mission of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies is to act as a “meeting point between the Islam and Western worlds of learning.” The Centre is also committed to the “advancement of academic excellence in teaching, research and publication.” It was established in 1985 to encourage thescholarly study of Islam and the Islamic world.”

On 15 February 2017, the Geneva Centre’s Executive Director Ambassador Idriss Jazairy had delivered a lecture at the Oxford Centre on the ideas and teachings of the founder of modern Algeria Emir Abd el Qader el Jazairy.

He had been invited by the current Director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies to offer his insights on the heritage of Emir Abd el Kader as a “precursor of universal values.”

The post Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim Chairman of the Geneva Centre on Human Rights and its Executive Director Ambassador Idriss Jazairy meet with Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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