Inter Press Service » Headlines http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 26 Apr 2017 09:48:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.17 Double standards: Do all journalist lives matter?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/double-standards-do-all-journalist-lives-matter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=double-standards-do-all-journalist-lives-matter http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/double-standards-do-all-journalist-lives-matter/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2017 09:48:57 +0000 Shafik Mandhai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150157 Little attention is paid to reporters from the Global South who are killed, abused, or left stranded by foreign media.]]> Rescue workers move the body of Taimur Abbas, a cameraman of Pakistan's Samaa TV who was killed by gunmen in Karachi in February [Shahzaib Akber/EPA]

Rescue workers move the body of Taimur Abbas, a cameraman of Pakistan's Samaa TV who was killed by gunmen in Karachi in February [Shahzaib Akber/EPA]

By Shafik Mandhai
Apr 26 2017 (IPS)

Taha avoids giving his last name to journalists, but not out fear of the Sudanese government, whose harassment he fled in 2015.

“I don’t want any of the people I worked with to know I’m here,” he tells Al Jazeera, writing by instant messaging from a temporary residence for refugees in the French city of Calais.

“I want to avoid causing any embarrassment or awkwardness,” he adds.

The colleagues Taha refers to are journalists who covered the ongoing war in Sudan’s western province of Darfur.

The father-of-two worked as a stringer, fixer, and translator there for a number of major broadcasters based in the UK and South Africa.

However, as the conflict dragged on, coverage dried up because of restrictions placed on foreign media by the Sudanese government and as editorial agendas shifted to other wars in the region.

Taha says his track record as a journalist was enough to attract unwanted attention from the Sudanese authorities, but it was his next move that sealed his fate.

“I helped to set up a school for IDP (internally displaced) children in Khartoum, which was very successful and had about 800 students.”

Most of the pupils at the school were from the two conflict-stricken regions of Darfur and South Kordofan.

The Sudanese government, in an apparent bid to punish him for his journalistic work, eventually accused Taha of receiving money from foreign organisations.

After a cycle of harassment, arrests and releases, he decided to flee.

His first port of call was the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, from where he set sail with scores of others on a poorly maintained vessel headed for Europe.

The overcrowded boat capsized in the Mediterranean, but Taha was among the survivors after Greek rescuers plucked him from the waters.

After time in a Greek holding facility, Taha made his way across Europe eventually reaching northern France, from where he hoped to cross the English Channel and reach the UK, where his brother lived.

With one final hurdle left to overcome, however, Taha became ill with a benign tumour growing on his spine.

In the year since the diagnosis, his attempts to enter Britain have been put on hold while he undergoes treatment.

Taha hopes to join his brother who lives in the English city of Liverpool, but is resigned to the idea his appeals to the British Home Office for asylum will not succeed.

His story is just one of many that highlights the struggle of journalists from the Global South when western media outlets pack up and go.

Double standards

The work of stringers, in particular, is crucial in ensuring good coverage in difficult reporting environments, but when the story dies down, they are often left to deal alone with hostile governments or non-state actors.

Taha’s experiences are far from unique or limited to Sudan, which is ranked 140 of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

According to UNESCO, at least 929 journalists were killed between 2006 and 2016.

Of those killed, 94 percent, or at least 869 were local reporters. Sixty were foreign correspondents.

Most were killed in the Middle East and North Africa and Asia and the Pacific.

UNESCO recorded at least 12 killings of local journalists in Afghanistan in 2016, making it the deadliest country for reporters last year.

“Local Afghan journalists have experienced large numbers of threats against them,” Rachael Jolley of the Index on Censorship told Al Jazeera.

“Many Afghan journalists have stopped reporting and some have fled the country after threats against their lives.”

Jolley noted a surge in threats towards journalists in that country from around 2014, further blaming armed groups and gangs for harassing those in the media.

Journalists in Afghanistan face threats from armed groups and criminal gangs [File: Reuters]

Journalists in Afghanistan face threats from armed groups and criminal gangs [File: Reuters]


In other countries, journalists face the risk of kidnap and murder, while those who work with international media outlets face particular suspicion as potential spies, Jolley said.

“In Yemen, for instance, local journalists are threatened, kidnapped and released. The same tactics have been used in Syria to close down reporting.

“In some cases, the international media and those that work with it are also in massive danger, they are seen as traitors or spies.”

But despite the threats they face, journalists in the Global South receive little attention from their fellow colleagues around the world when targeted.

Lack of coverage

In March alone this year, in Mexico, for instance, at least three journalists have been killed – Miroslava Breach who chronicled murder, columnist Ricardo Monlui and Cecilio Pineda Birto.

Their stories were covered by local and regional media, but largely ignored by international newspapers, websites and television channels. Their names did not trend worldwide as hashtags on social media.

In 2016, of the 100 journalists who were killed, 93 were citizens from the Global South, according to UNESCO.

Even in death, there is apparently a double standard in the newspaper world: one yardstick to measure the killing or abduction of, say, a reporter from the New York Times or the Washington Post and another yardstick to measure the kidnapping and murder, for example, of a journalist in Bangladesh, Nepal or Sri Lanka.

Farhana Haque Rahman, Director General, Inter Press Service

Farhana Haque Rahman, the director general of the Inter Press Service, said that the level of coverage and outcry each case received depends on where journalists are from and whether or not they are affiliated with western outlets.

“Even in death, there is apparently a double standard in the newspaper world: one yardstick to measure the killing or abduction of, say, a reporter from the New York Times or the Washington Post and another yardstick to measure the kidnapping and murder, for example, of a journalist in Bangladesh, Nepal or Sri Lanka,” she told Al Jazeera.

Rahman put the double standard down to a “mindset” in Western newsrooms that reflected the interests of their audience, but added journalists have a responsibility to change that.

“Change in perspective has to come from the inside, not from the outside.”

But according to City University Department of Journalism academic Abdullahi Tasiu Abubakar, differing responses were more closely related to whether journalists were members of staff or contractors for media outlets.

“The double standard involves full-time (staff) correspondents and freelancers…that’s a more clear demarcation in terms of how it’s treated,” he said, adding “mainstream media tend to treat their full-time reporters with more care and concern than freelancers”.

Abubakar explained that as the main market for stringers, fixers, and freelancers was in the Global South, it meant they were most affected by the differing standards of treatment.

Mainstream media tend to treat their full-time reporters with more care and concern than freelancers.

Abdullahi Tasiu Abubakar, academic at City University Department of Journalism

He said there was also a disparity in information flow from the Global South and Global North that translated into uneven levels of coverage for events depending on where they were happening.

This is, he said, was not exclusive to journalists but a wider reflection of which societies in the West prioritised.

Abubakar, himself a former reporter in Nigeria and producer for the BBC World Service, told Al Jazeera that media organisations should take on further responsibilities for their stringers, including the provision of adequate hostile environment training.

“Media organisations in the West have a massive responsibility to protect the journalist who work with them and in cases where their freelancers are being persecuted, they should put pressure on their governments to act against the offending government.”

In a similar vein, the Index on Censorship’s Jolley said that the risks journalists faced are not limited to threats from other people or government; she said inadequate training for local journalists also puts them in danger.

“[Index] has reported on freelance Iraqi journalists who had been reporting from the battlefield without any special training or equipment … Safety and security training is vital in these situations.

“We’ve been told that mainstream media channels in the UK, at least, are now refusing to use freelancers from locations that they would consider too dangerous for a staffer.”

For Taha in Calais, those decisions have come too late; such prospects make very little difference to his current situation.

His treatment has gone well and he now plans his days planning how he will reach the UK.

Despite his experience and reluctant acceptance things could have been different if he had a different ethnic background, Taha is grateful to be in Europe and harbours no ill will towards those he worked with.

Like many journalists, his interest in current affairs is difficult to shake off, and his days are spent discussing politics with his fellow refugees.

A recent round of deportation of Sudanese asylum seekers by the French authorities has rattled his optimism but he is careful not to dwell on it.

“God willing, I will be in the UK by Ramadan.”

This story was originally published by Al Jazeera.

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Worrying about Fake News Has Become All the Ragehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/worrying-about-fake-news-has-become-all-the-rage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worrying-about-fake-news-has-become-all-the-rage http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/worrying-about-fake-news-has-become-all-the-rage/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2017 05:10:52 +0000 Farhana Haque Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150153 By Farhana Haque Rahman, Director General, Inter Press Service
ROME, Apr 26 2017 (IPS)

Rogue interests, perhaps even foreign, are said to be trying to interfere with the electoral process in the U.S. and European Union members. Senior government officials glibly endorse what they themselves call “alternative facts” and even openly describe the media as their enemy.

Farhana Haque Rahman

Farhana Haque Rahman

Social media platforms, seen as the primary distribution vector for this plague, are under pressure to police their content.

However, the history of journalism is full of stories of distortions, many of them in prestigious publications. Benjamin Franklin once produced – in wartime – a fake newspaper to distribute a fake story.

At root, the current fake-news epidemic is a symptom of growing distrust in media. It also reflects a widespread contempt for expertise, which poses a special challenge for organizations like IPS, where for decades we have sought to chronicle the complex and often slow-moving travails of development in the global South.

The press, which should by nature be profoundly aware of the tactics of all kinds of propaganda, has no choice but to see this crisis as an opportunity.

A vibrant media ecosystem requires readers who are able to discern trustworthy news from “alternative” versions. Indeed, the relative absence of such readers may be a guide to what kind of policy response is needed. Enabling such readers to thrive is analogous to the goals of development efforts aimed at lifting people out of poverty and hunger.

That goal must include safeguards against againts violence directed at reporters, including civic journalists and bloggers, who are frequently targeted for abuse and often physically attacked, even hacked to death as evidenced by a string of grisly crimes in Bangladesh. Last year’s high-profile “Pizzagate” episode in the United States’ capital, in which a man fired an assault rifle in a popular restaurant he had been told by right-wing online sites was linked to an elite paedophilia ring, is a reminder that such attacks may themselves be based on fake news as well as ideological beliefs or factional interests.

Yet in the end, just as “more speech, not less,” was a rallying call for advocates of freedom of speech, today’s response should be real news, and more of it.

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No Trace of the Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-trace-of-the-nicaraguan-interoceanic-canal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-trace-of-the-nicaraguan-interoceanic-canal http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-trace-of-the-nicaraguan-interoceanic-canal/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 23:40:11 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150149 In April 2017, three years after this road was created to mark the official start of the construction of the Great Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal in Brito, on the country’s Pacific ocean western coast, it remains unpaved, and is only used by horses from nearby farms. Credit: José Adán Silva/ IPS

In April 2017, three years after this road was created to mark the official start of the construction of the Great Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal in Brito, on the country’s Pacific ocean western coast, it remains unpaved, and is only used by horses from nearby farms. Credit: José Adán Silva/ IPS

By José Adán Silva
PUNTA GORDA/BRITO, Nicaragua, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

Less than three years from the projected completion in Nicaragua of a canal running from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, there is no trace of progress on the mega-project.

IPS traveled to both ends of the routet: Bluefields, on the Caribbean coast in eastern Nicaragua, 383 km from Managua, and Brito, on the Pacific coast in the southern department of Rivas, 112 km from the capital.

In the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, IPS traveled by boat from Bluefields, the regional capital, to the town of Punta Gorda to the south.“About two years ago, foreigners used to come and travel around by helicopter and boat from the mouth of the Punta Gorda River all the way upstream. They were escorted by the army and would not talk with anyone, but they have not returned." -- Anonymous indigenous leader

There are 365 small scattered indigenous settlements along the banks of the rivers, in a region divided into two sectors: the Southern Triangle, facing the sea, and the Daniel Guido Development Pole, along the banks of the Punta Gorda River – the Caribbean extreme of the projected canal.

According to the plans of the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development (HKND) group, in charge of the project to build the Great Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal, in this sparsely populated jungle area bordering the territory of the Rama indigenous people, a deep-water harbour must be built, as well as the first locks on the Caribbean end for the ships that cross to or from the Atlantic Ocean.

The entire Great Canal project, according to HKND, is to include six sub-projects: the canal, the locks, two harbours, a free trade zone, tourist centres, an international airport, and several roads.

Other connected works are a hydroelectric power plant, a cement factory, and other related industrial facilities to ensure the supply of materials and the successful completion of the canal in five years, counting from 2014, when the project officially got underway.

But in Punta Gorda there are no infrastructure works, no HKND offices, and among the local population nobody is willing to openly talk about the subject.

“The silence is a matter of caution, people think you might be a government agent,” a local indigenous leader of the Rama and Kriol Territorial Government (GTR-K), an autonomous organisation of indigenous communities that own the lands that will be affected by the canal, told IPS on condition of anonymity.

In the days prior to IPS’ visit to the region, army troops and the police carried out operations against drug trafficking, and there was an overall sense of apprehension.

The members of the GTR-K are divided between supporting and opposing the project, but negotiations with the government representatives have been tense and conflict-ridden, to the extent that complaints by the local indigenous people demanding respect for their ancestral lands have reached the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

“About two years ago, foreigners used to come and travel around by helicopter and boat from the mouth of the Punta Gorda River all the way upstream. They were escorted by the army and would not talk with anyone, but they have not returned,” said the indigenous leader of this remote territory that can only be accessed by boat or helicopter.

Silence on the subject is not just found among the locals. There is no talk anymore at a government level about what was once a highly touted project.

Fishermen and stevedores on one of the docks on the Punta Gorda River, near where it runs into the Caribbean Sea, the projected Caribbean extreme of the interoceanic canal, where local residents have not seen any visible sign of progress on the works officially launched more than two years ago. Credit: José Adán Silva/ IPS

Fishermen and stevedores on one of the docks on the Punta Gorda River, near where it runs into the Caribbean Sea, the projected Caribbean extreme of the interoceanic canal, where local residents have not seen any visible sign of progress on the works officially launched more than two years ago. Credit: José Adán Silva/ IPS

However, Vice President Rosario Murillo, the chief spokesperson of the government of her husband Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua since 2007, announced this month that with Taiwan’s support, a deep-water harbour, not connected to the plan for the canal, would be built in the same area with an investment that has not yet been revealed.

María Luisa Acosta, coordinator of the Legal Aid Centre for Indigenous Peoples, told IPS that the Special Law for the Development of Infrastructure and Transportation in Nicaragua Relating to the Canal, Free-Trade Areas and Associated Infrastructure, known as Law 840, was passed in June 2013 without consulting local indigenous and black communities.

A year later, on July 7, 2014, HKND and the Nicaraguan government announced the route that had been chosen for the canal, running from the Rivas Isthmus across Lake Cocibolca, also known as Lake Nicaragua, to Punta Gorda.

The route would negatively affect the indigenous communities of Salinas de Nahualapa, Nancimí, Veracruz del Zapotal, Urbaite de las Pilas and San Jorge Nicaraocalí, along the Pacific, while in the Caribbean region it would impact the Creole communities of Monkey Point and Punta Gorda, as well as the Rama people of Wiring Kay, Punta de Águila and Bangkukuk Tai, home to the last speakers of the Rama language.

According to leaders of different indigenous communities, government representatives began to pressure them to give their consent over their lands to allow the canal to be built, giving rise to a still lingering conflict.

The canal is to be 278 km in length – including a 105-km stretch across Lake Cocibolca – 520 metres wide and up to 30 metres deep.

It was to be built by the end of 2019, at a cost of over 50 billion dollars – more than four times the GDP of this Central American country of 6.2 million people, 40 per cent of whom live in poverty.

The construction of a harbour, the western locks and a tourist complex is projected in Brito, a town on the Pacific coast in the municipality of Tola.

The town is named after the Brito River, a natural tributary of Lake Cocibolca, which winds through the isthmus until flowing into the Pacific Ocean. The works were officially inaugurated in Brito in December 2014.

The president of HKND, Wang Jing, together with Nicaraguan government officials, appeared in the media next to the construction equipment to inaugurate the work on a 13-km highway, which would be used to bring in the heavy machinery to build the initial infrastructure.

It was the last time Wang was seen in public in Nicaragua.

There is no new paved highway, just a dirt road which in winter is difficult to travel because it turns into a muddy track.

No heavy machinery is in sight, or vehicular traffic, workers or engineering staff.

Here, as in Punta Gorda, people avoid talking about the canal, and if they do it is on condition of anonymity and in a low voice.

“In Rivas we drove out the Chinese with stones when they tried to come to measure the houses, and after that, the police harassed us. They disguised themselves as civilians – as doctors, vendors and even priests, to see if we were participating in the protests,” said one local resident in Brito, who was referring to the 87 protest demonstrations held against the canal in Nicaragua.

In Managua, Telémaco Talavera, the spokesman for the state Commission of the Great Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal, said briefly to a small group of journalists, including IPS, that studies on the canal continue and that “the project is moving ahead as planned.”

However, Vice President Murillo announced in January that a 138-km coastal highway would be built along the Rivas Isthmus, to cater to the tourism industry and improve transportation, at a cost of 120 million dollars – with no mention of the canal.

One month later, government machinery was moved to Rivas to begin building the road where the canal was supposed to go.

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How to Undermine Democracy – Curtail Civil Society Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/how-to-undermine-democracy-curtail-civil-society-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-undermine-democracy-curtail-civil-society-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/how-to-undermine-democracy-curtail-civil-society-rights/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 14:07:39 +0000 Cathal Gilbert, Dom Perera, and Marianna Belalba CIVICUS http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150141

By Cathal Gilbert, Dom Perera, and Marianna Belalba, CIVICUS
JOHANNESBURG, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

Recent elections and referendums in a growing number of countries from Turkey to the USA and beyond are producing leaders and policies, which directly threaten some of the core principles of democracy.  In an increasing number of established and fledgling democracies, we see ruling parties violating the fundamental freedoms to speak-out, rally behind a cause and get involved in a social movement.

New research shows that these key conditions for a vibrant and open civil society are being violated to varying degrees in over 106 countries. A new online tool, the CIVICUS Monitor, finds that in many of these countries, governments are denying their citizens safe space to voice dissent, most often by detaining activists, using excessive force during protests and persecuting journalists.

The CIVICUS Monitor provides ratings on fundamental civic freedoms in all UN Member States, plus Palestine and Kosovo, and is designed to track and evaluate the state of civil society rights, in as close to real time as possible.  The online tool shows how almost six billion people live in countries where civic space – in other words the fundamental freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression – are obstructed, repressed or closed.

 

Civic space rating categories# countries with ratingDescription of rating
Open26  (Examples: New Zealand, Sweden, Portugal)The state both enables and safeguards the enjoyment of civic space for all people. Levels of fear are low as citizens are free to form associations, demonstrate in public places and receive and impart information without restrictions in law or practice.
Narrowed63 (Examples: USA, Argentina, South Africa)While the state allows individuals and civil society organisations to exercise their rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression, violations of these rights also take place. These rights are impeded by occasional harassment, arrest or assault of people deemed critical of those in power.
Obstructed51 (Examples: Nigeria, Kuwait, Armenia)Civic space is heavily contested by power holders, who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights. Although civil society organisations exist, state authorities undermine them, including through the use of illegal surveillance, bureaucratic harassment and demeaning public statements.
Repressed35 (Examples: Russia, China, Mexico)Civic space is heavily constrained. Active individuals and civil society members who criticise power holders risk surveillance, harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, injury and death. Although some civil society organisations exist, their advocacy work is regularly impeded and they face threats of de-registration and closure by the authorities.
Closed20 (Examples: Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Ethiopia)There is complete closure – in law and in practice – of civic space. An atmosphere of fear and violence prevails, where state and powerful non-state actors are routinely allowed to imprison, seriously injure and kill people with impunity for attempting to exercise their rights to associate, peacefully assemble and express themselves.

 

To provide meaningful assessments and ratings on the state of civil society in 195 countries, analysis is based on a coherent set of qualitative inputs on legislative developments, judicial outcomes, intelligence from activists and research partners on the ground and civil society consultations. By collating and cross-checking a variety of data sources, the CIVICUS Monitor, is able to assess and compare the conditions for citizens and civil society groups across the world.

Each ratings category represents a group of countries in which there is a diversity of nuanced yet comparable civic space conditions. For instance, North Korea and Ethiopia both receive a closed rating, but the exact nature and number of human rights violations differ between countries. By looking at all violations collectively on a per country basis, we are able to see the different degrees of civil society persecution on a macro level. Detailed narratives on individual country pages also allow us to describe which groups are being targeted, and examine the obstacles and opportunities for civic activism.

Evidence on national, regional and global trends related to civic space are critical for intergovernmental bodies and human rights mechanisms to monitor the state of civil society and hold governments accountable. Monitoring civic space also provides a useful proxy indicator for countries´ levels of development, democracy and ability to reduce inequality – on average, countries towards the better end of our civic space scale also rate highly on human development, equality and electoral democracy indices.

In 2017, we are facing no shortage of grand challenges ― humanitarian crises on scales unseen since World War II, rising global temperatures, spiraling economic inequality, the spread of populist politics. The solution to these is more democracy and respect for human rights, not less. We simply cannot hope to solve these global problems if governments and other non-state actors, continue to suffocate the one thing that can provide lasting solutions ― people’s innate sense of creativity, resilience and justice, qualities which emerge time and time again when civil society is set free to play its role in a democratic society.

 

 

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No One is Left Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-one-is-left-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-one-is-left-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-one-is-left-behind/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:22:08 +0000 Kakoli Ghosh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150143 Dr. Kakoli Ghosh, Coordinator, Academia and Research Organisations, Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
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Dr. Kakoli Ghosh, Coordinator, Academia and Research Organisations, Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

By Kakoli Ghosh
ROME, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

In the context of global development, ‘no one is left behind’ brings with it a powerful message. It emphasizes progress- one that is inclusive, fair, integrated and empowering. The phrase ‘No one is left behind’ is mentioned some five times in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that was adopted by all governments at the United Nations in 2015. The Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet, peace and prosperity. It has globally agreed 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 ambitious targets, and should be achieved within the next decade ‘to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.’

Kakoli Ghosh

Kakoli Ghosh

To keep these commitments and uphold the values that underpin them, a necessary corollary is that ‘every one’, irrespective of geography and circumstances, participates in this collective journey. Is that the case? Consider women and girls for instance. Although they are 51 percent of the world, women and girls continue lag behind on most counts. Women are often patronized or objectified and have far fewer possibilities for accessing and climbing the economic, professional or political ladder. Despite years of dedicated programs by governments, the UN and the civil societies, gender inequality is acute in rural settings, although their pivotal contribution to farming and rural economy is widely acknowledged. The Agenda recognises this, and Goal 5 is to ‘Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls’. Furthermore, Goals 2, 3 and 4 also have specific targets with indicators to measure progress on women’s participation, income and education. However, almost 80 percent of the indicators for gender equality across the Goals lack data- a severe limitation- that policy and governance has to overcome to create bottom–up solutions. Another necessary step has to be a better and greater convergence of all the big and small efforts being undertaken to tackle gender inequality in development.

Another important group that must not be left behind are the teenagers. Currently there are some 1.2 billion young people, of which 88 percent live in developing countries. Should the Goals be achieved by 2030, the youth of today could be the biggest beneficiaries. Much will depend on policy environment in a country, but in my view, the academic community can play a critical role. Science, technology, analytical data and multidisciplinary approaches are required for almost all the goals. Therefore, teachers- as the custodians of future generations – could lead by promoting a systems-based approach, revising outdated curricula, applying the indicators in their own settings as well as participating in monitoring progress at the national level. Creating awareness among the students can encourage their buy-in early on, which in turn can lead to quicker solutions and new possibilities. In fact, Goal 4 ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ focuses on youth; this focus is also in Goals 8 and 13. There needs to be a strategy in place to mobilise academia to support the implementation of these Goals. Strengthening education quality and increasing investment in universities today, particularly in developing countries, can position youth to cope with the challenges of tomorrow.

Women and youth may not be the only groups falling behind when one considers the status of migrants. As Agenda was being adopted in 2015, a number of countries were dealing with an unprecedented migration including in Europe, the Near East and Sub-Sahara Africa. Immediate attention had to be given to the availability of food, shelter and safety of the new refugees. It is estimated that there are some 244 million international migrants today, of which a third are young adults leaving their countries due to conflicts, climate change and political instability. Their education, aspirations, prospects are being left behind. For the first time the issues of migration are recognized with the Goals 10 calling for ‘well-managed migration policies’ and Goal 8 focuses on the situation of migrant workers.

Looking ahead, there is a lot to do. What will it take for each of us to step up, to achieve gender equality in our own sphere? How can young adults benefit from the Goals? How to promote integration of diverse communities in a sustainable way? It is not possible to do it alone. Perhaps it is time to revive ‘partnerships’ as a fundamental tool for delivery. Partnerships not as an association for the few but as a mechanism for collective achievements. As Swami Vivekananda said ‘There cannot be any progress without the whole world following in the wake, and it is becoming every day clearer that the solution of any problem can never be attained on racial, or national, or narrow grounds. Every idea has to become broad till it covers the whole of this world, every aspiration must go on increasing till it has engulfed the whole of humans, nay the whole of life within its scope’.

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-one-is-left-behind/feed/ 0 Long Way to Go for Indigenous Rights Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 09:11:18 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150139 Tadodaho Sid Hill (shown on screens), Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Tadodaho Sid Hill (shown on screens), Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

Despite progress, many gaps remain in international indigenous rights protection, said representatives during an annual UN meeting.

More than 1000 indigenous representatives from around the world have gathered at the UN for the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). This year’s meeting focuses on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which was adopted 10 years ago by the General Assembly.

“On the day of the adoption of the declaration, there was a major change in the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples,” said this year’s UNFPII Chairperson Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine during the opening ceremony.

Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Mali). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Mali). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Willie Littlechild echoed similar comments, stating that indigenous communities had no voice in the international arena until the 1980s when discussions first began on creating a special instrument to protect indigenous peoples worldwide.

Alongside the Declaration, the UN now has four mechanisms focused on indigenous communities, including UNPFII and a Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Coming from no voice to four mechanisms at the UN, I think that is a significant accomplishment,” Littlechild stated.

The 2030 Agenda for Development, adopted in 2015 by the international community, also directly involves and references indigenous issues unlike its predecessor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

However, many challenges remain in implementing and enforcing UNDRIP.

Littlechild expressed concern to IPS over the lack of implementation mechanisms in Canada, stating: “[Justin Trudeau] was the first Prime Minister to even look at the UN declaration…but the task is now in the follow-up.”

After formally adopting UNDRIP in 2016, many have said that Prime Minister Trudeau has violated the document by approving several controversial pipelines without full consent from indigenous communities whose lands would be impacted. One such pipeline is the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline which received support from 40 out of 139 First Nations living along the planned route.

Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Article 19 of UNDRIP highlights the importance of such consent, stating: “States are required to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that affect them.”

The right to lands, territories, and resources is also among the most important provisions of the Declaration.

Both Aboubakrine and Littlechild highlighted the importance of inclusive discussions and decision-making at the international and state levels to ensure the protection of indigenous rights.

“Some of the traditional knowledge of elders is critical to making sure there’s safe development if that is what is agreed to or to protect the environment,” Littlechild told IPS.

Aboubakrine stressed the need for UN agencies to communicate and coordinate in order to effectively and meaningfully enforce UNDRIP.

“It’s moving along, but I’m just concerned we are not moving along with it,” Littlechild concluded.

Indigenous communities around the world face disproportionately high rates of poverty, poor health, and discrimination. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), indigenous people constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but make up approximately 15 percent of the world’s poorest.

The 16th Session of UNFPII aims to address challenges and highlight progress in indigenous rights at the UN headquarters from 24 April to 5 May.

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Indigenous Peoples – Best Allies or Worst Enemies?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:23:39 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150134 Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

It all happened on the very same day—4 April. That day, indigenous peoples were simultaneously characterised as fundamental allies in the world’s war on hunger and poverty, while being declared as collective victims of a “tsunami” of imprisonments in Australia. See what happened.

Australia must reduce the “astounding” rates of imprisonment for indigenous peoples and step up the fight against racism, on 4 April warned Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.“Traditional indigenous knowledge and the diversity of their food systems can provide solutions for healthy diets, and many areas such as nutrition, climate change or ecosystem management” – Graziano da Silva

“It is alarming that, while the country has adopted numerous policies to address the socio-economic disadvantage of Aboriginal peoples and those from the Torres Strait Islands, it has failed to respect their rights to self-determination and to full and effective participation in society,” she added at the end of an official visit to Australia.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the Australian government policies have failed to deliver on targets in the areas of “health, education and employment and have led to a growing number of people being jailed, and have resulted in an increasing number of children being removed from their homes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Astounding Figures

“High rates of incarceration were described to me as a “tsunami” affecting indigenous peoples. It is a major human rights concern. The figures are simply astounding. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up only 3 per cent of the total population, they constitute 27 per cent of the prison population, and much more in some prisons,” she stressed.

“I visited Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville, Queensland, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children constitute 95 per cent of the children detained. Many have been going from out-of-home care into detention,” Tauli-Corpuz said, adding that aboriginal children are seven times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in contact with the child protection system or to be subject to abuse or neglect.

Indigenous women from Panama design action plans to ensure food security. Credit: FAO

Indigenous women from Panama design action plans to ensure food security. Credit: FAO

“… I urge Australia to increase the age of criminal responsibility. Children should be detained only as a last resort… These children are essentially being punished for being poor and in most cases, prison will only aggravate the cycle of violence, poverty and crime. I found meeting young children, some only 12 years old, in detention the most disturbing element of my visit.”

The UN expert expressed criticism of the government programme known as the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, which was initiated in 2014 and involved a large budget cut in funding for support programmes. “The implementation of the strategy has been bureaucratic, rigid and has wasted considerable resources on administration.”

Tauli-Corpuz called on the government to forge a new relationship with the national representative body for indigenous peoples, the National Congress of Australia’s First People, and restore their funding.

She also expressed concern that the government would not meet targets to close the gap in areas such as “life expectancy, infant mortality, education and employment,” and called for a comprehensive approach including specific targets for the “reduction of detention rates, child removal and violence against women.”

Fundamental Allies

That very same day–4 April, the head of the United Nations body specialised in the areas of food and agriculture, was welcoming in Rome a group of indigenous youth representatives from the indigenous peoples’ seven socio-cultural regions of the world.

In his address to the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus meeting in the Italian capital (5-7 April), Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that indigenous peoples are “fundamental allies” in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty “because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices.”

Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

In a world in which climate change brings new challenges and uncertainties, we cannot eliminate hunger without the participation of youth, said da Silva, noting that “they must participate in these issues that will affect their children and their children’s children. Let’s work together and do it right now.”

The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity for countries, indigenous organisations and the United Nations to work together to make an impact starting now through to 2030, he added, while reminding that since the creation of its Indigenous Peoples team in 2014, FAO is strengthening its work with indigenous organisations based on a double approach:

“On the one hand, we consider indigenous peoples as fundamental allies in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices.

“On the other hand, “we are aware that the lack of recognition of their rights in the management of natural resources and the marginalization they suffer places them in a vulnerable position. I speak above all of your ancestral rights to land tenure.”

Traditional Indigenous Knowledge

Da Silva referred to the indigenous food systems, noting that traditional indigenous knowledge and the diversity of their food systems can provide solutions for healthy diets, and many areas such as nutrition, climate change or ecosystem management.

Working with indigenous women’s leadership schools, he added, has enabled fellow indigenous women to gain access to training on rights, food security and other areas of interest such as the use of local seeds, voluntary guidelines on land tenure, guides on artisanal fisheries, etc.

The Rome meeting of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus coincided with the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples.

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With an Eye on Electoral Violence, Kenya Keeps Tight Rein on Mediahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/with-an-eye-on-electoral-violence-kenya-keeps-tight-rein-on-media/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=with-an-eye-on-electoral-violence-kenya-keeps-tight-rein-on-media http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/with-an-eye-on-electoral-violence-kenya-keeps-tight-rein-on-media/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 00:12:52 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150128 Kenyan journalists attend a function. The media has been blamed for fanning the flames of electoral violence, which took an ethnic angle. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

Kenyan journalists attend a function. The media has been blamed for fanning the flames of electoral violence, which took an ethnic angle. Credit: Justus Wanzala/IPS

By Justus Wanzala
NAIROBI, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

As the clock ticks down to Kenya’s general elections slated for Aug. 8, a move by the Kenya Communication Authority (CAK) to make journalists adhere to guidelines on election coverage has elicited fear that the government could be trying to control how they report on the polls.

The rules, announced on Feb. 28, require Kenyan journalists to keep all notes and recordings for six months and ensure that radio and TV guests do not make hateful statements about individuals and ethnic groups.“Considering that most media houses are privately owned by influential politicians and well connected individuals, it remains to be seen whether those who flout the rules will face justice." --Kennedy Epalat

On March 7, the media managers also signed up to another poll coverage code designed by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) in collaboration with Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The council is a quasi-governmental body charged with protecting media independence and enforcing standards of professionalism.

MCK rules also require media organisations to remain truthful to the tenets of responsible journalism that is sensitive to peace and objectivity during the polls. Kenya was engulfed in post-election violence in late December 2007 and January 2008 due to a poll dispute that saw some 2,000 people lose their lives and over 3,000 flee their homes. The media was blamed for not doing enough to forestall the violence, which took an ethnic angle.

The scenario was to influence the subsequent election in 2013, which was peaceful but saw the media depicted as being overly timid. Critics noted that most coverage failed to raise the tough issues facing the country during the election period.

Not everyone thinks the guidelines are a bad thing. According to Dennis Odunga, a reporter at the Daily Nation, Kenya’s leading daily newspaper, enforcement of the rules will be a challenge as long as impunity continues to prevail. But the CAK guidelines are just a reminder that the media is expected to promote fair coverage in line with journalistic standards.

“For instance, keeping notes and recordings is not a new thing in the media world. It is a rule we apply when dealing with sensitive matters like in investigative stories,” he observed.

He said that it is possible to check hate speech in both print and electronic media. In the case of radio and television programmes, hosts should be in control of their guests and be fast in interrupting those who use the platform to whip up ethnic emotions – although such a measure should be done with decorum.

“Freedom of expression and access to information is not absolute [under the constitution],” he noted. “But, being a government entity, we must be wary of possibility of mischief in some of the rules, especially on programming that could affect the flow of revenue for media houses.”

Fair coverage of the election might remain a mere wish anyway, given that media houses are known to be driven by both ownership and editorial interests, he said.

CAK’s Angela Koki, speaking on behalf of Director General Francis Wangusi, told IPS that the Kenya Information and Communication Act 1998 gives the Authority power to prescribe a code that sets standards for the time and manner of programmes to be broadcast.

She said the Authority prepared the Programme Code and Complaints Handling procedure for use in the regulation of broadcasting services with stakeholders. “The consultation was done in line with the constitution and consolidation of inputs, the final documents were published and came into effect on 1st July 2016,” she said.

In exercising its mandate, Koki said the CAK is simply reminding media houses about already existing regulatory provisions governing the responsible use of broadcasting platforms before, during and after the elections.

“Coverage of elections and political parties can be found under section nine of the Programming Code and requires that broadcasters provide equitable coverage and opportunities to political parties participating and candidates among other standards,” she said.

On whether media practitioners are being burdened by multiplicity of regulations, Koki said CAK’s mandate is to regulate broadcasting houses as its licensees, and does not extend to journalists or journalistic practices.

She added that the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) is the regulator mandated to handle professionalism and accountability of media workers and journalists.

“The requirement to keep broadcast recording for a period of one year and also the requirement of delay of live broadcasts by seven seconds so as to manage unintended content before it goes on air applies to broadcasting houses as an entity and not to journalists,” she clarified.

She concurred with Odunga that the Programming Code is a living document and is to be reviewed every two years. She thus urges journalists to give their inputs towards the improvement of the document whenever there is a call for stakeholder consultations.

Her views were echoed by MCK Deputy Chief Executive Officer Victor Bwire who said there are no new guidelines announced by the communication Authority of Kenya. He reiterated that the authority just talked about the need for implementation of its programmes code for radio and television that was instituted in 2016 noting too that CAK’s programmes Code was arrived at in a participatory manner.

Bwire said views were sought from CEOs of media houses and representatives of the Editors Guild. “They are really not new, we just update to include issues relating to gender sensitivity and emerging matters like fake news,” he said.

“The aim is to ensure fair and professional coverage of elections. The measure is also aimed at adherence to standards, just as is the case in when it comes to climate change and business reporting. There is nothing new, if anything each media house has its in house policy,” he added.

Kennedy Epalat, a radio news editor at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, said CAK’s move is influenced by the perception that media helped foment the post-election violence of 2007/8, especially local radio stations.

“By retaining the recorded material and the scripts for six months, relevant agencies get evidence to sustain prosecutions in order to avoid the propagation of hate in future,” he observed.

In relation to radio and television guests, Epalat said it is incumbent upon programme producers to blacklist those with notoriety in propagating hate. Guests should also be prepared by the programe hosts on the dos and don’ts, although such measures are not devoid of challenges.

“In 2004, I black-listed a member of parliament (MP) from participating in my radio programmes because of attacking the president whenever he was talking about crime or corruption. This is even after asking him to avoid the same. I even told my presenter as much. Two months later, the MP was appointed as an Assistant Minister for Information and Broadcasting and asked my station to set aside one hour weekly for him which he would use to outline government policy. Fortunately, I was not victimised,” he recalled.

Commenting on how the multiplicity of guidelines will impact on the 2017 general election coverage, Epalat said that accessing information and freedom of expression will be impeded under certain circumstances.

“The people you seek information from may not offer that information as freely as they would do if you came from their community. People will tend to trust one of their own with information – especially if it is sensitive,” he said.

He said the challenge will be aggravated if those covering the elections have not undergone training in light of the emerging rules. And like Odunga, he is concerned with the problem of impunity.

“Considering that most media houses are privately owned by influential politicians and well connected individuals, it remains to be seen whether those who flout the rules will face justice,” he observed.

To fellow journalists, he said since MCK has signed a memorandum of understanding with the IEBC on elections coverage, as long as they abide by its guidelines, and apply the rule of common sense; cognizant of the past chaotic elections, then they do not need to worry.

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Has Trump pulled the trigger for World War III?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/has-trump-pulled-the-trigger-for-world-war-iii/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=has-trump-pulled-the-trigger-for-world-war-iii http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/has-trump-pulled-the-trigger-for-world-war-iii/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 17:35:49 +0000 Mauro Gia Samonte http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150125 By Mauro Gia Samonte
Apr 24 2017 (Manila Times)

World nation states instantly took on alignments accordingly as they favored or protested the 59 United States Tomahawk target strikes at the Shayrat airfield in Syria last week. This necessarily raised speculations that World War III is breaking out. In yesterday’s column, I touched on fears having already heightened over this concern by the dropping of a 21,000-lb non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan by the United States and the hasty dispatch of the USS Vinson aircraft carrier clearly as a preemptive action against possible military intervention from the vocally avowed antagonist of the United States in the Far East, North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un has been widely described as “desperate ready” to strike against the United States. The instant US naval maneuver in Far Eastern waters speaks much of the anticipation by the United States of North Korea’s taking advantage of an open Russo-American confrontation in making good its oft-repeated threats of striking America with nuclear war heads right into its heart.

Mauro Gia Samonte

Mauro Gia Samonte

Only China’s announcement of non-involvement in the two-superpower world fight augurs less horrifying prospects for the immediate future. This is to say that it is unlikely the United States and Russia would go fighting it out on a world scale without hurting China and thus drawing in the third top world superpower into the fray. Stated conversely, that is saying China won’t ever let the two big world bullies ravage each other without doing something in its own super capacity to stop the fight that ultimately will not only destroy themselves but the whole humanity as well.

It is for reason of the foregoing that I asked the question in yesterday’s column: Is China the great equalizer between world doom and salvation?

The question indicated a desperation by the weak of the world in clinging on to China as the one single hope of sanity in an extremely militarized atmosphere in which one unfortunate fit of madness, as that often bragged about by North Korea, can send humanity crashing to its doom. China’s focus on common prosperity for the nations of the world, which is the centerpiece of OBOR (one-belt-one-road) concept, makes it clear that world military dominance is far from its international objectives, and though its military capabilities may be at par with, and in certain areas better than, those top ones in the community of nations, those capabilities have never been demonstrated in scopes beyond internal defense, and in exceptional cases, defense of friends.

Ironically, however, China’s circumspection in the extremely heightened tension cannot escape the universal mandates in Sun Tzu’s Art of War. One such mandate states: “Before doing battle, one calculates in the temple and will win, because many calculations were made; before doing battle, one calculates in the temple but will lose, because few calculations were made.”

The Trump order for the Tomahawk target strikes in Syria doubtlessly demonstrates that US war strategists have made Sun Tzu’s mandated calculations before doing battle. The next issue to be resolved is, had Trump – or his war strategists – made enough and correct calculations to make sure he would win the battle he did? The only way to resolve the issue is to wait for the war already begun to take its natural course.

The dropping of the 21,000-lb conventional bomb in Afghanistan and the dispatch of the USS Vinson aircraft carrier to the Koren peninsula could form part of the beginning of a larger war between the US and Russia but could still constitute a testing of the waters of, an imminent perhaps but still a potential, World War III.

The next to watch out for is actual military action to be undertaken by the Soviet Union. None such has Russia done yet outside of publicly condeming the US “unilateral attack,” just like those of its allies in the conflict, such as Syria, Iran and Bolivia. Only a physical military action by Russia against the United States will show whether or not the Tomahawk target strikes was the trigger for World War III.

But then if the Tomahawk air strikes were indeed meant by the United States to be such trigger, regardless of whether Russia responds militarily or continues the cool with which it defused the international tension created by the Cuban missiles crisis in 1962, World War III would erupt as the United States had programmed it.

Wars are endemic in a community of nation states. So long as one state is suffused with a strong sense of superiority over the others, its drive to subjugate other states is obsessive. In all instances, such obsession is irrepressible. In an interview during the period of his trial in 1945, General Masaharu Homma, the British-trained “Poet General” Commander of the Japan Expeditionary Forces in the Pacific, called Japan’s war strategy “madness” and had no chance of winning. But Imperial Japan proceeded with the war strategy of Premier Hideki Tojo, Homma’s classmate at the Imperial Japan Military Academy and whom he beat for honors during their studies there, learning too late with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that indeed, as Homma put it, the war Japan triggered in the Pacific in 1941 was madness. In September 1945, Emperor Hirohito finally accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration calling for unconditional Japanese surrender.

Indeed, as Sun Tzu mandates, generals make calculations in the temple. But it is one thing to calculate, it’s another thing that the war calculation is correct. Japan pulled the trigger in the Pacific war with the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 but ended up surrendering to the allies four years later. Had Hitler known that the Allies would eventually defeat Germany in 1944, would he have made the first strike of annexing Poland, thereby igniting the World War II conflagration?

By ordering the Tomahawk target strike in Syria, Trump, like Hitler or Hideki Tojo, had only a mindset for victory. The order evidently neglects the fact that down history, the United States has suffered huge defeats: its greatest military defeat in history, the Fall of Bataan in 1942; its trouncing by Vietnam in the Vietnam War in the 70s; its great toll of 30,000 men in the Korean War in 1950.

By Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the very fact that wars break out shows that calculations for their outbreak were wrong. History is replete with examples of wars that drive home the lesson: those who pull the trigger are most often outshot.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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How Feminists Have Catapulted Women to National Leadership Roleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/how-feminists-have-catapulted-women-to-national-leadership-roles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-feminists-have-catapulted-women-to-national-leadership-roles http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/how-feminists-have-catapulted-women-to-national-leadership-roles/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:51:10 +0000 Torild Skard http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150119 Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile, campaigning in Valparaíso, June 2013. The author writes that Bachelet has promoted “women-friendly” policies, but not all female leaders do so.

Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile, campaigning in Valparaíso, June 2013. The author writes that Bachelet has promoted “women-friendly” policies, but not all female leaders do so.

By Torild Skard
NEW YORK, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

Hillary Clinton did not make it to the top, but Theresa May, the British prime minister, and Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, did. Since Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the world’s first female prime minister, in Sri Lanka in 1960, one-hundred women have been heads of state or government around the world.

How did they get to power and did they make a difference? And how much did feminist activists influence the promotion of female leaders? Plenty and decisively.

The nations of the world reaffirmed faith in the equal rights of women and men when the United Nations was created in 1945, though all the existing states were male dominated and 97 percent of the representatives at the San Francisco conference were men.

My analysis of the conference shows that women from Latin America, headed by Bertha Lutz from Brazil, lobbied successfully for women’s rights, despite opposition from, among others, the sole US female representative, Virginia Gildersleeve, the dean of Barnard College.

Since then, the UN and member states have repeatedly demanded women’s equal participation in power structures, but progress has been slow. When it comes to everyday realities, men in power often seek to maintain their prerogatives, and the higher the position they hold, the greater the resistance to including women.

Torild Skard, the author of “Women in Politics.”

Torild Skard, the author of “Women in Politics.”

In 2017, only 23 percent of members of Parliament are women; 18 percent of government ministers are women; and 5 percent of national leaders are women, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

When I studied the life course of 73 female presidents and prime ministers in 53 countries from 1960 to 2010, in my book, “Women of Politics,” it was evident that national leadership for women was no simple matter.

In all regions, except North Africa and the Middle East, women rose to power but not often, and it happened in about twice as many industrialized nations as in developing countries. To succeed, most of the female top leaders had extraordinary qualifications, including extensive education and professional careers.

In addition, the political systems provided opportunities. The great majority of women rose to power in established or emerging democracies. But if a certain democracy was necessary for women’s political participation, that was not enough.

Worldwide, political institutions were male dominated and women were neither mobilized nor welcomed if there was no pressure from feminist movements to do so. Many women who climbed to power benefited from activists requiring more women in leading positions.

In practice, women used three paths to become national leaders. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, Indira Gandhi of India, Isabel Perón of Argentina and others in Asia and Latin America took over the political position of a deceased father or husband.

A few, such as Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland and Ertha Pascal-Trouillot of Haiti, came in as outsiders relative to their personal background. But most of the women rose in the ranks of the political parties, gaining a degree of conditional support from male colleagues.

The political parties are crucial actors in democratic systems, representing a link between people and power. But often they represent an obstacle and do not provide support for women. Studies of parties are, unfortunately, rare. It is notable that globally, women hold only 10 percent of leadership positions in political parties.

Top female leaders are usually surrounded by men. At the same time, female politicians are often expected to promote the interests of women. Whatever they do, female leaders are criticized. So what did they do?

I studied to what extent female leaders followed up the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), which has 189 states parties, of which the United States is a signatory but has not ratified it. Here is what I learned:

• Some women, albeit a few, conformed to male-dominated politics and neglected or weakened women’s positions. Such examples were Tansu Ciller of Turkey, Golda Meir of Israel and Margaret Thatcher of Britain.
• About half of the women played a compromising role, trying to look after the interests of both men and women. These included, among others, Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, Eugenia Charles of Dominica, Cristina Fernández Kirchner of Argentina, Mary McAleese of Ireland and Merkel and Gandhi.
• Finally, about a third of the women openly opposed male policies and promoted women-friendly measures, such as recruiting women to high positions, ensuring their reproductive rights and establishing special institutions for women. These include Michelle Bachelet of Chile, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Helen Clark of New Zealand, Ruth Dreifuss of Switzerland, Tarja Halonen of Finland, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Lidia Gueiler Tejada of Bolivia.

Although most female heads of state and government did not call themselves a “feminist,” they all contributed to strengthening women as political actors by accepting a top position. Thereby, they broke prevailing patterns and, in most cases, showed that women could handle the tasks. In addition, the great majority — some more and some less — made efforts to support women in particular. So, it usually made a difference with a woman at the top instead of a man.

The approaches of top female leaders to winning gains for women was important, but to carry out substantial women-friendly policies they needed support. An active feminist movement pressuring the relevant levers was essential. And the political system had to work democratically, so feminist voters could have an impact on who was elected to political office and which policies were pursued to promote gender equality.

(Brought to IPS readers courtesy of PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

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Fate of Earth Must Not be Decided by US & Fellow Nuclear Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:21:57 +0000 Joan Russow http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150115 Dr Joan Russow is Co-ordinator, Global Compliance Research Project]]> Credit: UN photo

Credit: UN photo

By Joan Russow
VICTORIA, BC, Canada, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

When the United Nations continues its negotiations in June for an international treaty against nuclear weapons, there must be a treaty that should cover every single aspect of the devastating weapons — and leading eventually to their total elimination from the world’s military arsenals.

As envisaged, the treaty should not only prohibit stockpiling; use and threat of use, and planning for use of nuclear weapons but also the deployment; transfer, acquisition, and stationing; development and production of these weapons—along with testing; transit and transshipment; and financing, assistance, encouragement, and inducement and an obligation for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and a framework to achieve it.(WILPH, Reaching Critical Will).

As Eva Walder, the Swedish representative to the UN’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, declared: “Sweden’s position is clear. The only guarantee that these weapons will never be used again is their total elimination.”

Through the current negotiations, there is the global opportunity to speak truth to power, to save the world from the scourge of war and to prevent and remove the threats to peace.

The US has stated that the treaty to ban nuclear weapons would be ineffective, with adverse consequences for security and would hinder the implementation of Article VI of the US constitution on international treaties.

It is, rather, NATO`s nuclear policy which contravenes Article VI, as well as some of the Thirteen Steps Towards Nuclear Disarmament, and has consequences for common security:

1) nuclear weapons must be maintained indefinitely
2) We will improve their use and accuracy (modernize them)
3) We can use them first.
4) We can target non-nuclear weapon states
5) We can threaten to use them
6) We can keep them in Europe, as they are now doing
7) We can launch some on 15 minutes warning.
8) We say “they are essential for peace
(Murray Thompson, Canadian for a Nuclear Weapons Convention)

In October 17 2016, prior to the vote of the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Nuclear Weapons, the US circulated a “non-paper“, to NATO and its allies on potential negative impacts of starting negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty and wrote,“ for the allies, participating in the OEWG , we strongly urge you to vote no on any vote at the UN First Committee on starting negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty.“ http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/NATO_OCT2016.pdf

Subsequently, in the October 27 2016 meeting of the OEWG, the US Intervention appeared to work. Only the Netherlands did not vote no. On December 23, 2016.the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved a significant resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

The resolution was adopted by a large majority, with 113 UN member states voting in favour, 35 voting against and 13 abstaining. Support came from every continent, except Australia, and represented the range of legal systems. It thus fulfilled the criteria for a peremptory norm.

The US appears, however, to have provided a script for the US allies voting on the nuclear ban treaty; most of them gave the reason for voting against the resolution as being, “the US nuclear weapons are essential for its security and they have refused to declare that nuclear weapons should never be used”. Perhaps “security” needs to be redefined not distorted by the US weapons industry.

The late Olof Palme, former Prime Minister of Sweden, affirmed “True security exists when all are secure, through “common security” (Palme Commission (Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security) 1982)
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/04/the-u-n-at-70-a-time-for-compliance/

The aforementioned October 17 2016 letter to the NATO and the script for allies at the UNGA, continues the practice of the US “influencing“ votes through financial incentives, threats, or intimidation (FITI),

For example, in 1990, only two countries on the UNSC opposed the passage of US Resolution 678, and when Yemen cast one of these votes, the U.S. Ambassador threatened him: “that will be the most expensive vote you ever cast,” and the U.S. immediately cut off aid to Yemen.

In 2003, several UNSC non-permanent members who opposed the US` proposed intervention in Iraq, suddenly came out with a US script supporting the invasion of Iraq. In addition, in 2003, the US sent a letter, described as an ultimatum, to all the members of the UNGA pressing them to not support the call for an emergency session of the UNGA to oppose the invasion of Iraq.

The data, based on UNGA voting patterns, provided in the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) document of participants in the March negotiations, indicates that there were 138 “supportive” states, one “not supportive” state (Japan), and 13 “not clear” states

The ICAN data on voting patterns of participants who did not attend the March negotiations indicate 14 were “supportive, five were “not clear”, 27 NATO states were “not supportive,” along with the other non-NATO nuclear weapons states (Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and other US allies from NATO along with Japan, and South Korea, http://www.icanw.org/

If the 14 supportive states attend the upcoming June 15– July 7 meeting, there will be around 143 “supportive` states” (70% of the 193 member states of the United Nations). This would be the case, provided the US does not threaten or offer financial incentives and persuade them to claim “that the US nuclear weapons are essential for its security and has refused to declare that nuclear weapons should never be used”`.

If there is a positive vote in the UNGA, the US and the four other permanent members will try to block decision through taking any UNGA decision to the UNSC. With the current composition of the UNSC, the nuclear powers will be able to get “not supportive” votes from only three non-permanent members: Italy, Japan and Ukraine.

This is assuming that Bolivia Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Senegal. Sweden, and Uruguay will not be coerced into renouncing their former supportive positions for a treaty for the abolition of nuclear weapons. If the required number of nine votes does not oppose the treaty, the UNSC would fail to make a decision. Then there is a precedent in the 1950 “Uniting for Peace Resolution” and the decision could pass back to the UNGA. http://www.un.org/en/sc/repertoire/otherdocs/GAres377A(v).pdf

In the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, there is a call to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war – and “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”…

In 2017, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday clock to two and one half minutes to midnight because of the threats arising both from nuclear weapons and climate change. The funds thus saved from ending the production of nuclear weapons could be transferred to fully implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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Women Clearing Bombs in Cambodiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 14:27:52 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150110 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia/feed/ 0 Trump’s First 100 Days: a Serious Cause for Concernhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/trumps-first-100-days-a-serious-cause-for-concern/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-first-100-days-a-serious-cause-for-concern http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/trumps-first-100-days-a-serious-cause-for-concern/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10:37:56 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150108 With one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases becoming a disbeliever that climate change is man-made and could devastate the Earth, and no longer committing to take action domestically and helping others to do so, other countries may be tempted or encouraged to do likewise. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS

With one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases becoming a disbeliever that climate change is man-made and could devastate the Earth, and no longer committing to take action domestically and helping others to do so, other countries may be tempted or encouraged to do likewise. Credit: Cam McGrath/IPS

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

This week, Donald Trump will mark his first hundred days as US President.  It’s time to assess his impact on the world, especially the developing countries.

It’s too early to form firm conclusions.  But much of what we have seen so far is of serious concern.

Recently there have been many U-turns from Trump. Trump had indicated the US should not be dragged into foreign wars but on 6 April he attacked Syria with missiles, even though there was no clear evidence to back the charge that the Assad regime was responsible for using chemical weapons.

Then his military dropped what is described as the biggest ever non-nuclear bomb in a quite highly-populated district in Afghanistan.

Critics explain that this flexing of military might be aimed at the domestic constituency, as nothing is more guaranteed to boost a President’s popularity and prove his muscular credentials than bombing an enemy.

Perhaps the actions were also meant to create fear in the leaders of North Korea.  But North Korea threatens to counterattack by conventional or nuclear bombs if it is attacked by the US, and it could mean what it says.

Martin Khor

Martin Khor

Trump himself threatens to bomb North Korea’s nuclear facilities.  With two leaders being so unpredictable, we might unbelievably be on a verge of a nuclear war.

As the Financial Times’ commentator Gideon Rachman remarked, there is the danger that Trump has concluded that military action is the key to the “winning” image he promised his voters.

“There are members of the president’s inner circle who do indeed believe that the Trump administration is seriously contemplating a ‘first strike’ on North Korea.  But if Kim Jong Un has drawn the same conclusion, he may reach for the nuclear trigger first.”

The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says the most frightening nightmare is of Trump blundering into a new Korean war.  It could happen when Trump destroys a test missile that North Korea is about to launch, and the country might respond by firing artillery at Seoul (population: 25 million).

He cites Gen. Gary Luck, a former commander of American forces in South Korea, as estimating that a new Korean war could cause one million casualties and $1 trillion in damage.

Let us all hope and pray that this nightmare scenario does not become reality.

This may be the most unfortunate trend of the Trump presidency.  Far from the expectation that he would retreat from being the world policeman and turn inward to work for “America First”, the new President may find that fighting wars or at least unleashing missiles and bombs in third world countries may “make America great again”.

This may be easier than winning domestic battles like replacing former President Obama’s health care policy or banning visitors or refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, an order that has been countered by the courts.

But the message that people from certain groups or countries are not welcome in the US is having effect: recent reports indicate a decline in tourism and foreign student applications to the US.

Another flip-flop was on NATO.  Trump condemned it for being obsolete, but recently hailed it for being “no longer obsolete”, to his Western allies’ great relief.

Another note-worthy but welcome about-turn was when the US President conceded that China is after all not a currency manipulator.  On the campaign trail, he had vowed to name China such a manipulator on day 1 of his presidency, to be followed up with imposing a 45% tariff on Chinese products.

Trump continues to be obsessed by the US trade deficit, and to him China is the main culprit, with a $347 billion trade surplus versus the US.

The US-China summit in Florida on 7-8 April cooled relations between the two big powers. “I believe lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away,” Trump said at the summit’s end.

The two countries agreed to a proposal by Chinese President Xi Jinping to have a 100-day plan to increase US exports to China and reduce the US trade deficit.

For the time being the much anticipated US-China trade war is off the radar.  But it is by no means off altogether.

Trump has moved to shred Obama’s climate change policy. He proposed to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31% and eliminate climate change research and prevention programmes throughout the federal government. The EPA, now led by a climate change skeptic, was ordered to revise its standards on tailpipe pollution from vehicles and review the Clean Power Plan, which was the centrepiece of Obama’s policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Trump has asked his Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to prepare a report within 90 days on the US’ bilateral trade deficits with its trading partners, and whether any of them is caused by dumping, cheating, subsidies, free trade agreements, currency misalignment and even unfair WTO rules.

Once Trump has the analysis, he will be able to take action to correct any anomalies, said Ross.

We can thus expect the Trump administration to have a blueprint on how to deal with each country with a significant trade surplus with the US.

If carried out, this would be an unprecedented exercise by an economic super-power to pressurise and intimidate its trade partners to curb their exports to and expand their imports from the US, or else face action.

During the 100-day period, Trump did not carry out his threats to impose extra tariffs on Mexico and China.  He did fulfil his promise to pull the US out of the TPPA but he has yet to show seriousness about revamping NAFTA.

A threat to the trade system could come from a tax reform bill being prepared by Republican Congress leaders.  The original paper contains a “trade adjustment” system with the effect of taxing US imports by 20% while exempting US exports from corporate tax.

If such a bill is passed, we can expect a torrent of criticism from the rest of the world, many cases against the US at the WTO and retaliatory action by several countries.   Due to opposition from several business sectors in the US, it is possible that this trade-adjustment aspect could eventually be dropped or at least modified considerably.

In any case, as the new US trade policy finds its shape, the first 100 days of Trump has spread a cold protectionist wind around the world.

On another issue, the icy winds have quickly turned into action, and caused international consternation.

Trump has moved to shred Obama’s climate change policy.  He proposed to cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31% and eliminate climate change research and prevention programmes throughout the federal government.

The EPA, now led by a climate change skeptic, was ordered to revise its standards on tailpipe pollution from vehicles and review the Clean Power Plan, which was the centrepiece of Obama’s policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The plan would have shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, stop new coal plants and replace them with wind and solar farms.

“The policy reversals also signal that Mr Trump has no intention of following through on Mr Obama’s formal pledges under the Paris accord,” said Coral Davenport in the New York Times.

Under the Paris agreement, the US pledged to reduce its greenhouse gases by about 26% from 2005 levels by 2025.  “That can be achieved only if the US not only implements the Clean Power Plan and tailpipe pollution rules but also tightens them or adds more policies in future years,” says Davenport.

She quotes Mario Molina, a Nobel prize-winning scientist from Mexico, as saying:  “The message clearly is, we won’t do what the United States has promised to do…They don’t believe climate change is serious.  It is shocking to see such a degree of ignorance from the US.”

Will the US pull out of the Paris Agreement?  An internal debate is reportedly taking place within the administration.  If the country cannot meet and has no intention of meeting its Paris pledge, then it may find a convenient excuse to leave.

Even if it stays on, the new US delegation can be expected to discourage or stop other countries from moving ahead with new measures and actions.

There is widespread dismay about Trump’s intention to stop honouring the US pledge to contribute $3 billion initially to the Green Climate Fund, which assists developing countries take climate actions.

Obama had transferred the first billion, but there will be no more forthcoming from the Trump administration unless Congress over-rules the President (which is very unlikely).

Another adverse development, especially for developing countries, is Trump’s intention to downgrade the importance of international and development cooperation.

In March Trump announced his proposed budget with a big cut of 28% or $10.9 billion for the UN and other international organisations, the State Department and the US agency for international development, while by contrast the proposed military budget was increased by $54 billion.

For the time being the much anticipated US-China trade war is off the radar.  But it is by no means off altogether. Credit: Bigstock

For the time being the much anticipated US-China trade war is off the radar. But it is by no means off altogether. Credit: Bigstock

At about the same time, the UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien urgently requested a big injection of donor funds to address the worst global humanitarian crisis since the end of the second world war, with drought affecting 38 million people in 17 African countries.

The US has for long been a leading contributor to humanitarian programmes such as the World Food program.  In future, other countries will have to provide a greater share of disaster assistance, said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“The US is turning inward at a time when we are facing these unprecedented crises that require increasing US assistance,” according to Bernice Romero of Save the Children, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times.  “In 2016 the US contributed $6.4 billion in humanitarian assistance, the largest in the world.  Cutting its funding at a time of looming famine and the world’s largest displacement crisis since World War II is really unconscionable and could really have devastating consequences.”

Trump also proposed to cut the US contribution to the UN budget by an as yet unknown amount and pay at most 25% of UN peacekeeping costs.  The US has been paying 22% of the UN’s core budget of $5.4 billion and 28.5% of the UN peacekeeping budget of $7.9 billion.  Trump also proposed a cut of $650 million over three years to the World Bank and other multilateral development banks.

The foreign affairs community in the US itself is shocked by the short-sightedness of the Trump measures and 121 retired US generals and admirals urged Congress to fully fund diplomacy and foreign aid as these were critical to preventing conflict.

The proposed Trump budget will likely be challenged at the Congress which has many supporters for both diplomacy and humanitarian concerns.  We will have to wait to see the final outcome.

Nevertheless the intention of the President and his administration is clear and depressing.   And instead of other countries stepping in to make up for the United States’ decrease in aid, some may be tempted to likewise reduce their contributions.

For example, the United Kingdom Prime Minister Teresa May in answer to journalists’ questions refused to confirm that the UK would continue its tradition of providing 0.7% of GNP as foreign aid.

This has led the billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates to warn that a cut in UK aid, which currently is at 12 billion pounds, would mean more lives lost in Africa.

Besides the reduction in funding, the Trump foreign policy approach is also dampening the spirit and substance of international cooperation.

For example, the President’s sceptical attitude towards global cooperation on climate change will adversely affect the overall global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to global warming.

With one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases becoming a disbeliever that climate change is man-made and could devastate the Earth, and no longer committing to take action domestically and helping others to do so, other countries may be tempted or encouraged to do likewise.

The world would be deprived of the cooperation it urgently requires to save itself from catastrophic global warming.

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Building resilient rural livelihoods is key to helping Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:37:39 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150106 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).]]> Al Hudaydah, Yemen.  Dairy cattle seek shade. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. Dairy cattle seek shade. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

People in Yemen are currently suffering from the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

More than 17 million people around Yemen’s rugged landscape are acutely food insecure, and the figure is likely to increase as the ongoing conflict continues to erode the ability to grow, import, distribute and pay for food. More than 7 million people are on the verge of famine, while the rest are marginally meeting the minimum day-to-day nutritional needs thanks to external humanitarian and livelihoods support. Large-scale famine is a real risk that will cast an awful shadow for generations to come.

Only a political solution can end the suffering in Yemen, as there can be no food security without peace. And the longer the delay to draft an adequately funded recovery plan, the more expensive the burden will be in terms of resources and human livelihood.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

Keep in mind that Yemen has a very young population, yet some 2.2 million children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition. As inadequate nutrition in a child’s early years can permanently damage an individual’s lifetime potential, it is imperative to stop a generational doomsday loop.

To prevent the food security situation from worsening, immediate livelihoods support – mainly agriculture and fishing – must be an integral part of the humanitarian response. This year, FAO Yemen is appealing for USD 48.4 million in funding to reach 3 million people.

While Yemen is widely noted as being dependent upon imports for almost all of its wheat and rice demands, people can and do produce a lot of food on their own. This requires the provision of seeds, fertilizers and fuel for equipment and irrigation to the 2 million households who currently lack access to such basic agricultural inputs.

In 2016, agricultural production and area under cultivation shrank by 38 percent due to this lack of inputs. Livestock production fell by 35 percent. The situation in 2017 is not expected to improve without the international community’s intervention.

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A female dairy farmer milks her cow.  Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A female dairy farmer milks her cow. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli


FAO is on the ground in Yemen, working around the clock to deliver emergency livelihood assistance to kick-start food production. This assistance comprises inputs like quick turnaround backyard food production kits, which includes vegetable seeds, egg-laying chickens and rainwater storage tanks, solar pumps, feed, fertilizer, fishery boats, engines, fishing nets and continuous operational equipment and material support.

These home production kits, designed to help feed a household of 20 people for six months, constitute cost-effective humanitarian assistance that can be scaled up to reach more people more quickly. This is especially pertinent for internally displaced people – who now constitute more than 10 percent of the population, and the vast majority of whom traditionally relied on agriculture and livestock. They now live in camps, with relatives or on empty lots and helping them relieve pressure on host communities can pay a double dividend in terms of food and social cohesion.

The kits also have the virtue of being simple, and in the case of Yemen – enduring a combination of several worst-case scenarios at once – simple translates into being implementable.

Simplicity is especially essential to support isolated rural households, almost half of whom live more than six kilometres from any local market at a time when travel is dangerous and roads have been destroyed. For many of these families, these food production kits are their only lifeline to food.

In a bid to restore agricultural livelihoods, FAO is also offering starter kits for beekeepers, replacing fishing equipment that has been destroyed or lost, and giving rural households modern butter churns that enable the production to increase tenfold and help offset Yemen’s serious dairy deficit.

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A livestock market. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A livestock market. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli


As many families have had to sell their animals, a key productive asset, and restocking has slowed down due to lack of access to fodder, FAO is also distributing vouchers to distressed households in order to purchase livestock. At the same time, FAO is bolstering veterinary networks to vaccinate and treat ailing livestock as well as monitor and contain potential transboundary livestock diseases, which pose an enormous risk both for households living in Yemen’s remote and isolated areas as well as livestock trade across the region.

Making Yemen’s food system more sustainable will be a long-term effort, requiring important changes to which crops are grown and the rebooting or creation of value chains and improved logistics for what is destined to be the country’s primary economic sector. Agriculture already employs more than half of the workforce and is the main source of income for around 60 percent of households.

Even in peacetime, Yemen will face huge challenges, as only 4 percent of its land is arable and water resources are extremely limited. However, its people can and must be enabled to create a viable and more sustainable food system. This requires a simultaneous approach of providing humanitarian assistance along with resilience-building initiatives.

There is no time to lose. The alternative is dismal and threatens to catalyse more conflicts in the future, for there can be no peace without food security.

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Reclaiming the Bandung Spirit for Shared Prosperityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/reclaiming-the-bandung-spirit-for-shared-prosperity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reclaiming-the-bandung-spirit-for-shared-prosperity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/reclaiming-the-bandung-spirit-for-shared-prosperity/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:17:03 +0000 Noeleen Heyzer and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150094 Noeleen Heyzer, former Executive Secretary of UN-ESCAP and Under-Secretary-General of the UN. She was also special advisor to the UN-Secretary-General for Timor Leste.

Anis Chowdhury, former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008-2015 in New York and Bangkok.]]>

Noeleen Heyzer, former Executive Secretary of UN-ESCAP and Under-Secretary-General of the UN. She was also special advisor to the UN-Secretary-General for Timor Leste.

Anis Chowdhury, former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008-2015 in New York and Bangkok.

By Noeleen Heyzer and Anis Chowdhury
Bangkok and Sydney, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

“The despised, the insulted, the hurt, the dispossessed—in short, the underdogs of the human race were meeting. … Who had thought of organizing such a meeting? And what had these nations in common? Nothing, it seemed to me, but what their past relationship to the Western world had made them feel. This meeting of the rejected was in itself a kind of judgment upon the Western world!.”

—Richard Wright, The Color Curtain [University Press of Mississippi, 1956].

This is how Richard Wright, a novelist saw the gathering of leaders from 29 African and Asian nations at Bandung (Indonesia) on 18-25 April, 1955 of 29.

Noeleen Heyzer

Noeleen Heyzer

The leaders, prominent among them Jawaharlal Nehru (India), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Chou En Lai (China), Ho Chi Minh (Viet Nam), and Adam Clayton Powell (Congressman from Harlem, USA), considered how they could help one another in achieving social and economic well-being for their large and impoverished populations. Their agenda addressed race, religion, colonialism, national sovereignty, and the promotion of world peace. In opening the conference, the President of Indonesia, Ahmed Sukarno asked,

“What can we do? We can do much! We can inject the voice of reason into world affairs. We can mobilize all the spiritual, all the moral, all the political strength of Asia and Africa on the side of peace. Yes, we! We, the peoples of Asia and Africa, …, we can mobilize what I have called the Moral Violence of Nations in favour of peace.

The Bandung declaration

The final communiqué expressed, “general desire for economic co-operation among the participating countries on the basis of mutual interest and respect for national sovereignty”; “agreed to provide technical assistance to one another”; “recognized the vital need for stabilizing commodity trade”; recommended that: “Asian-African countries should diversify their export trade by processing their raw material, wherever economically feasible, before export”; promote “intraregional trade”; and provide “facilities for transit trade of land-locked countries”.

The rise of the Third World and demand for a New International Economic Order

Anis Chowdhury

Anis Chowdhury

It was the beginning of what came to be known as the “non-aligned” movement and the “Third World” and within the United Nations, the Group of 77 plus China. With this confidence they called for the establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) recognized at the 1974 General Assembly, based on equity, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest and cooperation among all States, to correct inequalities and redress existing injustices; to eliminate the widening gap between the developed and the developing countries; and to ensure steadily accelerating economic and social development and peace and justice for present and future generations.

The NIEO declaration was, in effect, a call for shared and differentiated responsibility for equitable development.

Unfortunately, many aspects of the NIEO were never implemented. While the developing countries sought strategic integration with the global economy using trade and industry policies, they were advised to accept unfettered liberalization and privatization, which saw increased volatility and financial crises often disproportionately disadvantaging them. The aid conditionality of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank included straight-jacketed package of so-called “sound policies” that emphasized deregulation and a diminished role for the State. This drastically reduced state capability and developing countries’ policy space to deal with crises, pursue their developmental aspirations and achieve structural transformation.

Through the experience of the Latin American debt crisis in the 1980s and the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, the countries of the South have realized that they have to create their own policy space and craft out policies based on their own circumstances. Thus, they managed to grow steadily over the last two decades and were able to weather the 2008-2009 Great Recession remarkably well to anchor the global economic recovery.

The Global South is no longer a collection of “despised, the insulted, the hurt, the dispossessed—in short, the underdogs”; they are the drivers of global economy.

Global South’s fault-lines

However, the issues facing developing countries are more complex now. They are faced with issues of inequalities and insecurities which affect social cohesion; climate change and uneven competition in global markets when key global negotiations on trade and climate change have broken down. They also face the potential danger of weakening of solidarity as the members of the Global South seek different interests.

It does not help when governance failure occurs in a number of the developing countries; when some are ripped apart by violent internal or regional conflicts, or manipulated because of rising extremisms of many sorts. Corruptions, lack of accountability and trembling of human rights are affront to the aspirations of independence and hinder the fulfilment of development and dignity for all. The governance failures and divided societies within have also weakened the developing South’s ability to deal with issues of international governance in the globalizing world, and our common future even with “Rising Asia”.

Reclaiming the Bandung spirit

Time has come for the rising Global South to collectively work for the unfinished business of a new international economic order that today has to take a more integrated and universal approach for people, planet and prosperity as highlighted in the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development goals (SDGs); to stabilize commodity prices; to improve export incomes; to ensure food security; to demand improved access to markets in developed countries; to put a stop to siphoning off capital through dubious transfer pricing arrangements of multinational corporations and international tax havens; to eliminate the instability of the international monetary system; to ensue full and effective participation in all decision-making in all global bodies, including the IMF and the World Bank, and in formulating an equitable and durable monetary system.

However, the developing South must lead by putting its own house in order; improve democratic governance, respect human rights especially women’s human rights, and ensure wider freedom of its own citizen to re-establish legitimacy and trust through a new social contract that responds to the needs and hopes of all citizens, not just in form but in substance.

In the spirit of Bandung, they have to work together for the prosperity of their people and to protect humanity’s common good, especially our planet. They should recall the message, “All of us … are united by more important things than those which superficially divide us. … And we are united by a common determination to preserve and stabilize peace in the world. . . .”

It is time to come together and advance together to address the risks and challenges that confront our world and harness the opportunities to build a more inclusive and sustainable future of shared prosperity. Only then can we sing:

A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore! (Longfellow; from President Sukarno’s opening speech).

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Bamboo Gaining Traction in Caribbean as Climate Saviorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/bamboo-gaining-traction-in-caribbean-as-climate-savior/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-gaining-traction-in-caribbean-as-climate-savior http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/bamboo-gaining-traction-in-caribbean-as-climate-savior/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 00:01:36 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150089 Bamboo sequesters carbon at rates comparable to or greater than many tree species. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Bamboo sequesters carbon at rates comparable to or greater than many tree species. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

Keen to tap its natural resources as a way to boost its struggling economy, Guyana struck a multi-million-dollar deal with Norway in 2009.

Under the deal, Norway agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over five years, if Guyana, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country in South America, maintained a low deforestation rate."It is a plant, it does photosynthesis, but it happens to be the fastest growing plant in the world so the absorption of CO2 by bamboo forests is quite significant.” --Dr. Hans Friederich

It was the first time a developed country, conscious of its own carbon-dioxide emissions, had paid a developing country to keep its trees in the ground.

The initiative was developed by the United Nations and called REDD+ (for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus conservation).

The main aim was to allow for carbon sequestration – the process involved in carbon capture and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Trees are thirsty for the potent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, soaking it up during photosynthesis and storing it in their roots, branches and leaves. Each year, forests around the world absorb nearly 40 percent of all the carbon dioxide produced globally from fossil-fuel emissions. But deforestation increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as trees are burned or start to decompose.

Most of the other Caribbean countries do not have the vast forests present in Guyana, but one expert believes there is still a huge potential to sequester carbon.

While the bamboo plant can be found in abundance in several Caribbean countries, the director of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Dr. Hans Friederich, said its importance and the possible role it could play in dealing with climate change have been missed by many of these countries.

“Bamboo and rattan, to a lesser extent, have been in a way forgotten as mechanisms that can help countries both with mitigation of climate change and with adaptation. And I think, certainly for the Caribbean, for Jamaica, both aspects are important,” Friederich told IPS.

“Mitigation, because carbon is sequestered by bamboo. It is a plant, it does photosynthesis, but it happens to be the fastest growing plant in the world so the absorption of CO2 by bamboo forests is quite significant.”

“The stems are thin but, over a period of time, the total sink of CO2 from a bamboo forest is actually more than the average from other forests. We’ve tried this, we’ve tested this and we’ve measured this in China and that’s certainly the case over there,” he added.

As far as adaptation is concerned, Friederich said bamboo also has a key role to play.

“For example, helping local communities deal with the effects of climate change in relation to erosion control, in relation to providing income in times when maybe other sources of income are no longer there or have been affected through floods or droughts or other environmental catastrophes,” the INBAR official explained.

“So, bamboo really is something that should be included in the overall discussion about climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

INBAR has facilitated a trip to China for a group of Jamaicans, to show them how the Chinese are using bamboo as a source of energy, as a charcoal source – to replicate that intelligence and that experience in Jamaica and help the island develop a bamboo industry.

In 2014, the Jamaica Bureau of Standards announced the country would embark on the large-scale production of bamboo for the construction of low-cost houses and value-added products such as furniture and charcoal for the export market.

The bureau also facilitated training exercises for people to be employed in the industry, and announced plans to set up three bamboo factories across the island.

The agency said it would also offer incentives for people to grow, preserve and harvest the bamboo plant for its various uses.

The following year, the bureau and the Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) collaborated to establish the country’s first ever Bamboo Industry Association (BIA).

The BIA’s mandate is to engage and heighten awareness among owners of properties with bamboo, about the potential economic values to be derived from the plant, of which there are more than 65,000 hectares of growing across the island.

“We believe in changing the nation…so we are here to make an impactful difference in the lives of the average citizen of this country,” SBAJ President Hugh Johnson said.

It seems the importance of bamboo might be slowly catching on in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

“Does it connect? It depends really with whom. I think our members, we now have 41 states that are part of the network of Inbar – they recognize it. And more and more do we get requests to help countries think about ways that we can develop the industry,” Friederich said.

“But beyond the people that understand bamboo there is still a lot of awareness raising to be done . . . to make people understand the opportunities and the benefits.

“The nice thing about bamboo is that the start of the production chain, the start of the value chain is something that basically involves unskilled, poor people. So, it is really a way to address Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number one – poverty reduction and bringing people out of real bad conditions. Therefore, that is something that we are working our members to see how we can support local communities with activities that basically promote that,” he added.

INBAR is an intergovernmental organisation established in 1997 by treaty deposited with the United Nations and hosted in Beijing, China.

Friederich said reactions from the producing countries have been very positive.

“From the international community, equally, I think those working in forestry like the Food and Agriculture Organisation, they definitely see the opportunities,” he said.

“From the investment community, maybe less so. I think the banks and individual investors are still wondering what the return on investment is, but we do have some very interesting private sector reactions and there are some exciting things going on around the world. So, in general, I think the message is getting through,” Friederich added.

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Tracking Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/tracking-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tracking-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/tracking-extremism/#comments Sun, 23 Apr 2017 16:11:08 +0000 Muhammad Amir Rana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150123 By Muhammad Amir Rana
Apr 23 2017 (Dawn, Pakistan)

There is apparently no direct link between the brutal lynching of Mashal Khan, the arrest of Naureen Leghari, a convert to the so-called militant Islamic State (IS) group, and the surrender of Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) leader Ehsanullah Ehsan.

Muhammad Amir Rana

Muhammad Amir Rana

Together, however, these incidents may depict varying expressions of tendencies in extremism and terrorism.

Mashal Khan`s case was an expression of collective behaviour of extremism, which can be invoked and exploited by interest groups for mala fide intentions. This can also be called the `criminal exploitation of extremism`, in which criminals take advantage of the masses` religious sentiments, knowing that the state and its institutions will hesitate to take action. These attitudes are creating a conducive environment for ultraand hyper-extremist groups to operate in the vulnerable spaces that exist in every class and institution in Pakistan.

Naureen was not the first victim of the violent extremist tendencies in the country. She was arrested in Lahore, while she was travelling to Syria for the nusra (support) of IS. Her case is similar to that of the Muslim diaspora youth in the West, who are recruited in cyberspace with their families having little idea. In Pakistan, radicalism is mainly a family phenomenon. The process starts with a male member, and gradually, female members of the family transform. Naureen`s inclination towards IS is a matter of concern, as her family was not aware of her transformation. This is the first time evidence has been found that the Middle Eastern terrorist group is targeting educated Pakistani youth. The potential for IS influence to spread, particularly on campuses and amongst the upper-middle classes, has not been measured yet.

The overall socio-religious atmosphere and activities of radical groups on campus are alarming. The problem is not confined to a few universities; this is a story of every campus.

The contradictory statements given by Punjab`s Counterterrorism Department and the InterServices Public Relations about Naureen`s travel to Syria reflect how the police handles such sensitive cases and manipulates information. To get creditand to justify huge budgets, counterterrorism departments manipulate information and exaggerate reports of the killing and arrest of militants.

Very little is known about the terrorist activities they were involved in.

The surrender of the JuA leader is big news, as the group was involved in major attacks during the past few months. The JuA has denied the reports about his surrender and claims he was arrested at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Whatever the case, this is an undeniable success. What is to be seen now is how security institutions deal with the aftermath.

All these three incidents were reported within a week. The picture emerging from foreign and Pakistani media warns of how extremism in society has reached a level that it can motivate a mob to lynch anyone without proof. And while it is fine if a few terrorists surrender, it does not indicate that the entire problem has been eliminated, as terrorist organisations such as IS still have human resource.

Naureen is an example. Some suspicious minds may go a step further and see the surrender of the JuA spokesman as part of the process of converting the `bad` into the `good`, as happened in the case of the Punjabi Taliban leader, Asmatullah Muawiya. He was found to have been involved in major terrorist attacks in the country but later detached himself from the anti-Pakistan groups.

The state and the common Pakistani may not agree with the picture. Extremism changes people`s perspectives. The social and religious imagination becomes narrow, if not abnormal. One may argue that these are three separate incidents, and have nothing to do with each other. One may bring statistical evidence to support the argument and point to the number of terrorists that have been killed since the last attack in the country. The overall decrease in such attacks may also be a good reason to claim success. Naureen`s case may be explained away as one isolated incident, as IS is not present in Pakistan. As far as Mashal Khan is concerned, the violence that led to his murder may be `justified` as a sudden reaction of the faithful. This is how we think.These three incidents could constitute good case studies for understanding the dynamics of extremism, crime, negligence, terrorism and counterterrorism strategies. However, examining such phenomenon scientifically is not possible in a society that is not ready to accept science as a pure discipline in its educational institutions.

The little work on the subject done by local and international scholars indicates that the common man is becoming more sensitive about his religious and sectarian identity and affiliation. Even the expression of religion is becoming more sectarian, with different identities expressing themselves more vociferously, to the denial of others, facilitated by sectarian parties allying with mainstream parties, the presence of sect-based madressahs, and the changing geopolitical rivalry between Shia Iran and Wahabi Saudi Arabia. As old groups like the Pakistani Taliban decline, other groups like IS make inroads, relying on the resources of Pakistani Taliban militants.

Religious rituals once participated in by all are now are claimed by some, excluding others. Almost all sects have their rituals or events marked publicly to show strength. In southern Punjab, for instance, shrines and Sufism were a form of religious expression that people took as cultural expression; but now, even in that `city of saints`, intolerance is rising, expressed in a narrow religious-social context. In this process of the transformation of religious expression, religious and sectarian minorities are suffering greatly.

However, the state has a counterargument and claim to make. The National Action Plan was formed to address such deep-seated issues.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb and now Operation Raddul Fasaad have rooted out the militant infrastructure, and physical spaces have shrunk too. While the state cannot fix the society`s thinking process, it can take several initiatives, from educational to security sector reforms. But who is the state? From where are its operators coming? Do they have the will or the vision to reverse the processes?

The writer is a security analyst.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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May Does a Mahinda but Without Astrologyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/may-does-a-mahinda-but-without-astrology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=may-does-a-mahinda-but-without-astrology http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/may-does-a-mahinda-but-without-astrology/#comments Sun, 23 Apr 2017 07:44:28 +0000 Neville de Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150100 By Neville de Silva
Apr 23 2017 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

So it is May’s day. Prime Minister Theresa May who pledged that she will run her course as Prime Minister and dismissed the idea of an early election did a rather sudden u-turn. Those who remember the Margaret Thatcher era would recall her October 1980 conference speech when she told those waiting “with bated breath” for a Thatcher u-turn “You turn if you want to. The Lady’s not for turning”. She was punning on the title of the Christopher Fry play “The Lady’s Not for Burning”.

Politics in Britain as well as in Sri Lanka, until quite recently called the “Miracle of Asia” by tourist blurb writers with little imagination and no respect for facts, have come a long way since Thatcher’s words rocked the conference hall with laughter and applause that October day.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa called a presidential election two years ahead of time it was said that two persons influenced the decision. One was his favourite astrologer and the other brother Basil who made a quick exit from the country after the Mahinda lost the election pleading mea culpa or words to that effect.

Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May last week announced an election three years before the scheduled date. REUTERS/Leon Neal/Pool

Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May last week announced an election three years before the scheduled date. REUTERS/Leon Neal/Pool

Basil Rajapaksa’s call for an early election appears to have been influenced by his reading of the political developments of the time whereas the astrologer seemed to have gazed at the wrong stars.

Theresa May’s announcement last week of an election three years before the scheduled date had nothing to do with stellar movements but the political constellation at home, and possibly in the European continent, the orbit from which she is trying to detach Britain.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011 passed during the time of a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition led by Prime Minister David Cameron, states that from the 2015 parliamentary elections would be held every five years. However an early election could be triggered only if the government is defeated in a “no confidence” vote or if 2/3rds of MPs vote for an early election.

Theresa May who became Prime Minister following David Cameron’s resignation after losing last year’s referendum on whether to stay or leave the European Union, was determined to stay the whole term during which her government would negotiate the best terms on which to quit the EU.

Her problem however was that a small group of Tory backbenchers who are opposed to the UK pulling out of the EU could prove troublesome during the negotiations and be damaging and even dangerous when she had only a slender majority in parliament.

There was the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) calling for another referendum on Scotland’s future, sniping at the Tory’s from the flanks in Westminster. Just last month the Scottish Parliament voted in favour of a second independence referendum that would have only added to May’s woes as she struggled to convince Europe over the terms of UK’s exit from the Union.

And there was the Labour Party, the main enemy, facing the May government in the Commons but in a state of disarray with a lackluster leader still mouthing socialist shibboleths and trying to win the voters with more promises that would be hard to keep.

Theresa May saw the looming political landscape and decided the time was nigh to call an election before things began to fall apart. The latest polls showed that the Conservatives were 15-20 points ahead of Labour and who could blame her if she struck first like any political party would, making use of the prevailing political circumstances to its advantage.

Most probably she would win with her call for a stronger and united nation. But would she get the kind of majority that would strengthen her hand at home and give her greater leverage in the negotiations with the EU. While that is what she is counting on, the fact is that people here are getting more and more disgusted with politics and politicians just as voters in Sri Lanka are tired of the mounds of broken promises by politicians which are climbing as high as the mountains of garbage accumulated in Meethotamulla.

If May’s broken promise on regular elections might be excused as political expediency, there is a trail of other promises in the manifesto that seem to be falling by the wayside and leaving a trail of discarded pledges as the Tory Party does what is has always done – the shift of power to the wealthy and the already powerful.

While there are several manifesto pledges that now seem to have been binned, the most recent and perhaps the most serious as far as Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s political future is concerned is the dropping of a key budget proposal concerning national insurance contributions.

One is reminded of several proposals by UNP Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake in the 2016 and 2017 budgets that ran into trouble after President Sirisena and the SLFP had second thoughts about their impact on the country.

To speak of the Conservative Party of the UK and the UNP of Sri Lanka in the same breath is not unusual. They are comrades-in-arms (well not exactly comrades) in the International Democrat Union (IDU), that grouping of centre-right parties inclined to favour the rich and the powerful who are their biggest donors.

So dumping manifesto or election pledges may seem natural to the UNP whic promised the country a whole raft of political goodies at the presidential and parliamentary polls in 2015 only to betray the people before long.

The country was assured of good governance. Even if the UNP did not coin the word ‘yahapalanaya’ it certainly joined in celebrating the new form of government that was going to clean the country of corruption, nepotism, cronyism and a multitude of other sins practised by the ruling family and its associates before the yahapanites occupied the seats of power.

Why, this government was going to be cleaner than white sweeping away the abuse and misuse of power, refrain from wasting public funds, keeping the cabinet to manageable numbers and a host of other pledges that would indeed have made Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia.

The wonder is that a desperate people, longing for change after years of abuse by the ruling clan swallowed the promises that were never intended to be fulfilled and voted for politicians who were no strangers to breaking promises.

Hardly had the new president assumed office when UNP leader Wickremesinghe’s nominee as Governor of the Central Bank was embroiled in a bond scandal which still reverberates as the report of a commission of inquiry looking into the circumstances which led to what is purported to be an unprecedented scam is anxiously awaited.

Those who were scandalized – or so it was said – by nepotism seemed unmoved when the UNP finance minister planted his brother-in-law in high office in the Insurance Corporation until one day the corporation had two CEOs.

Those who complained about the country’s fiscal deficit and promised to tighten the purse strings – at the expense of a struggling citizenry – had no qualms at all about liberally spending public money on luxury cars for MPs and some public servants and upping their allowances while burdening the people with increased VAT.

VAT, if one might say so, a tragedy the last two years has been despite a somewhat freer democratic atmosphere for dissent and criticism. After the administration of the national carrier under the previous government ran into stormy weather this government appointed a committee headed by Attorney J.C.Weliamuna to inquire into SriLankan Airlines. The Weliamuna committee’s report pinpointed maladministration, abuse of privileges, misuse of funds, and several other acts where even diplomatic vehicles were misused and unpaid for cargo space utilised to dispatch packages to the presidential secretariat.

But the current chairman of SriLankan Airlines, appointed by the UNP palanites, and some other members of the board decided to ignore allegations of sexual misconduct and other abuses made in the Weliamuna report. The promises made to bring to justice the killers of Lasantha Wickrematunge and Wasim Thajudeen and those responsible for the abduction and assault of several journalists is dragging on with political lip service paid occasionally to the victims apparently to show some concern to a public angry over the attempts to stall the investigations.

The public was told that billions of dollars of public assets were robbed and efforts were under way to bring them back to the country. Instead what we are witnessing is the FCID being told not to stick its nose into procurements made after 2015.

Why? Is it because more dirty linen will be uncovered and the yahapalanaya’s Mr. Cleans will themselves have to be sent to the cleaners?

If Theresa May broke a promise about not calling early elections, it is no great shakes. At least there are sufficient checks and balances in the British system to keep its politicians along the straight and narrow though there are instances of a few overstepping the declared limits.

But eventually they have to pay the price unlike in Sri Lanka where the public pays the price for electing representatives who hardly have a formal education and others who have taken refuge in politics fled at the first sign of a public exam.

Politics means different things to different people. To most who take to politics in Sri Lanka it is a well-paid job that rakes in more than the entitlements. Why strain yourself trying to pass exams when MPs get duty free vehicle permits which can be sold and ever-increasing perks for making promises at the behest of party leaders which one knows will be broken.

It is our politicians that make Sri Lanka the Miracle of Asia.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Prelude to a Spreading Nightmarehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/prelude-to-a-spreading-nightmare/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prelude-to-a-spreading-nightmare http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/prelude-to-a-spreading-nightmare/#comments Sat, 22 Apr 2017 07:29:14 +0000 Upashana Salam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150098 Farmers are seen carrying their crops affected by an early flash flood in Moulvibazar. Photo: Mintu Deshwara

Farmers are seen carrying their crops affected by an early flash flood in Moulvibazar. Photo: Mintu Deshwara

By Upashana Salam
Apr 22 2017 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The recent flash floods in the haor regions exemplify the threat of climate change that looms over Bangladesh. It signifies our national ignorance of climate change and its impact on haors and other disaster prone areas. On the occasion of International Mother Earth Day, we focus on why the fate of the haors, with their rich biodiversity and agriculture, should matter to the rest of the country.

The death of Tara Banu should have shocked the country. It should have forced us to sit up and take notice. But all it did was reconfirm that the life and death of farmers, the so-called lifeblood of our economy, does not affect the wider national conscience. At least not as much as the Shakib and Apu odyssey.

There was no Pahela Baishakh celebration for the farmers of the country’s northeastern region this year. Ironic when you think about it, because originally the first day of Baishakh was declared as the first day of the year to ease the burden of farmers, so that it could be easier for them to pay taxes. On Pahela Baishakh, we savoured our panta bhaat as usual without even realising that the farmers of our haor regions had to suffer the destruction of rice paddy fields in over one lakh hectares of land. Oh, the irony of it all!

Thousands of farmers like Tara Banu, who died of a heart attack after learning that flash floods had inundated most of her crops in Habiganj’s Baniachong upazila, lost vast areas of farmland when early flash floods destroyed them in the country’s northeastern region. Out of 20,070 hectares of land in haor areas, 19,500 hectares have been affected, and 87 embankments damaged. Moreover, the flash floods have reportedly caused damage to crops worth around Tk 6,000 crore.

Flash floods are not a new phenomenon for farmers of the haor regions of Habiganj, Sunamganj, Kishoreganj, Netrokona and other northeastern districts. As explained by Professor AKM Saiful Islam of the Institute of Water and Flood Management at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), water levels of the Surma River cross the 6.5 metre mark generally during April, causing flash floods. While farmers are usually prepared for such an occurrence every year as they harvest a major portion of the Boro crops before mid-April when the floods usually hit the region, they were completely taken by surprise by the early floods that inundated their farmlands on March 27.

Farmers sorting out the remains of their submerged Boro crops to use them as fodder at a village in Sunamganj. Photo: Sheikh Nasir

Farmers sorting out the remains of their submerged Boro crops to use them as fodder at a village in Sunamganj. Photo: Sheikh Nasir

It’s not just the croplands that have been affected by the flash floods. Thousands of fish were found floating in rivers in the initial aftermath of the disaster. And as if to exacerbate the plight of the haor farmers, hundreds of ducks have reportedly been found dead in Sylhet’s Fenchuganj and Hakaluki Haor, where duck farming is a major source of livelihood. Farmers like Anwar Miah and Abdul Quayum, who lost all of their ducks, call this a ‘plague’, a disaster that has ruined everything it touched. What is worrying is that the haor people are far from getting rid of this plague. Experts fear there ,may be a link between the toxicity of the water and possible exposure from open uranium pits across the border in India. Dr Nasrin Sultana, head of the Animal Science Department of Sylhet Agriculture University, further warns that if the fish and birds are consumed, it could be fatal to human beings as well – a warning that only adds to the worries of the stricken residents of the regions.

Haor areas like Hakaluki and Tanguar, designated as Ramsar sites of international importance for the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands, are home to a wide variety of wildlife species, some of which have already been declared vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered. This makes the changes in climate, and their subsequent effects on the regions, even more alarming.

Early flash floods in haor areas could be attributed to climate change, explains Professor Islam. “The intensity and frequency of extreme weather has been changing due to climate change,” he says, which affect agricultural productivity, land use practice, lifestyles and livelihoods of the haor areas.

According to a research study by the International Water Resources Association (IWRA), agricultural crops of haor areas are especially sensitive to different natural disasters, including flash floods, drought, storm surges, etc. Thus, “any alternation of rainfall and temperature cycle, as a result of climate change hampers agriculture production significantly” (A Study on Climate Change Impact on the Livelihoods of the People in Tanguar Haor, Bangladesh). A recent study by BUET also claims that pre-monsoon rainfall and its intensity will mostly likely increase in the future, with the probability of occurrence of flash floods likely to be higher in future due to climate change.

The claim of International Organisation for Migration that around six million people of Bangladesh have been displaced from their homes due to climate change should thus not come as a surprise. In fact, as a result of the flash floods, many farmers of Sunamganj, Kishoreganj, Netrakona, Habiganj, and other northeastern districts, have already sold their cattle and other valuables and left their homes in search of manual work in nearby towns. Farmers usually take agriculture loans to augment their meagre earnings, and it can take them years to repay these loans. And then when they are hit with a disaster of such scale, which makes it difficult for them to harvest even a kilogram of rice, they have no alternative but to sell their cattle and sometimes even their land to repay their loans.
Rashid Ali of Sunamganj heartbreakingly informed this paper (Havoc in Haor, April 14, 2017) that he had to sell four of his seven cows to repay loans he took to cultivate rice. Now he has no idea how to run his family. Under these circumstances, many farmers are forced to become climate refugees, constantly on the move in search of a shelter and an opportunity to earn a livelihood. It is again ironic that while loan defaulters who steal millions of taka from banks are allowed to stand tall and continue with their business in our society, farmers are regularly harassed to repay the relatively insignificant loans they take out and that too at a high interest rate.

This year, International Mother Earth Day, which calls for a collective responsibility to “promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social, and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity” as stated in the 1992 Rio Declaration, will focus on environmental and climate literacy. Which brings us to the question: despite being one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, how literate is Bangladesh about climate change and its effects? We know that there is a ‘thing’ called climate change and that we get aid and grants from international organisations and countries to combat its immensely negative impacts, but how aware are we about these impacts? Do we really care that if we are not careful, if we fail to understand why the fate of the haors will eventually affect the fate of the whole country, we can literally go under?

According to a study titled ‘Predictors of Public Climate Change Awareness and Risk Perception Around the World’, by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, while 90 percent of the public is aware of climate change in developed economies in North America and Europe relatively few are aware of the issue in many developing countries, even though “many do report having observed changes in local weather patterns.” According to the study, while “40 percent of adults worldwide have never even heard of climate change, this rises to more than 65 percent in some developing countries like Egypt, Bangladesh and India.”

Our ignorance regarding climate change and its impacts is probably what enables immense corruption when it comes to mitigating climate change. Locals of haor areas allege that the embankments, which were supposed to protect them from such natural disasters, were faulty, accusing those responsible of construction and repairing works of the embankments surrounding haor areas of corruption. At a roundtable at Dhaka Reporters Unity, farmers further blamed the rising of riverbeds by siltation as one of the main reasons why the flash floods were able to completely destroy the crops. Contractors who built the embankments were hired by the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), and thus it was the responsibility of the said board to ensure that they completed their work in due time and with utmost diligence. A job they failed to do. As a result of faulty, and in some cases absent, embankments, flood water entered croplands from all sides.

According to a leading Bangla daily, the BWDB sought bids for 28 embankments in 116 packages in the last two years; however, the contractors they hired did not manage to complete even 20 percent of the work for which Tk 800 million was disbursed. Deputy Director of ACC, Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, while stating that they will be launching a probe into allegations of graft over Sunamganj embankments, also alleged that three engineers and contractors “plotted together to embezzle Tk 250 million without doing anything for the projects.” The report further accused the contractors of bribing the officials with 5 percent commission for securing the works and 15 percent for clearing of bills. The ACC has already formed a committee to check whether fraud was indeed responsible for the wide-scale devastation in haor areas, and the executive engineer of BWDB in Sunamganj, Afsar Uddin, has been withdrawn for his alleged involvement in corruption.

We can cry foul and debate the morality of the authorities who are supposed to be protecting the public from disasters of such magnitude. But does that help Tara Banu and thousands of farmers who lost their homes, their livelihoods to a disaster that could have been tackled? Our helplessness lies in our ignorance, in our inability to care, and our tendency to neglect. The Mother Earth that we hope to save lies in our very heartlands, the areas that give us so much but continue to be ignored and exploited. And until we seriously start focussing on these areas and listening to the cries of the farmers and fishermen who help run this country, the crisis will not be limited to the haor or coastal regions. So we can wait until climate change and the corruption surrounding it finally hits urban areas where the ‘educated’, the ‘civilised’ people live, or we can do everything in our power to ensure that does not happen. The choice is that simple.

The writer is a member of the editorial team, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Coast Improves Readiness for Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/nicaraguas-south-caribbean-coast-improves-readiness-for-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nicaraguas-south-caribbean-coast-improves-readiness-for-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/nicaraguas-south-caribbean-coast-improves-readiness-for-climate-change/#comments Sat, 22 Apr 2017 01:41:32 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150081 A dock in the coastal community of Laguna de Perlas, in the municipality of Bluefields, which owes its name to its location along the longest coastal lagoon in Nicaragua, 40 km north of the city. Coexistence with maritime, river or lake water is part of life in the South Caribbean Region, but climate change is compelling the local population to make changes. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

A dock in the coastal community of Laguna de Perlas, in the municipality of Bluefields, which owes its name to its location along the longest coastal lagoon in Nicaragua, 40 km north of the city. Coexistence with maritime, river or lake water is part of life in the South Caribbean Region, but climate change is compelling the local population to make changes. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

By José Adán Silva
BLUEFIELDS, Nicaragua , Apr 22 2017 (IPS)

The effects of climate change have hit Nicaragua’s Caribbean coastal regions hard in the last decade and have forced the authorities and local residents to take protection and adaptation measures to address the phenomenon that has gradually undermined their safety and changed their way of life.

Bluefields, the capital city of Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Autonomous Region, has endured a series of hurricanes, floods due to heavy rains or storm surges, droughts, environmental pollution and general changes in temperatures, which have caused economic damages to the local population.

The latest catastrophic event along Nicaragua’s eastern Caribbean coast was Hurricane Otto, which was a category 2 storm on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale when it hit in October 2016.

The structural damages and heavy flooding were the same as always, but something changed for the better: there were no fatalities, wounded or missing people in Nicaragua.“The population in this area has suffered a lot due to climate change, not only because of the hurricanes and flooding from the sea and rivers, but due to the climate variability. They have lost crops because of droughts or too much rain. They used to know how to interpret the signs of rain, but not anymore.” -- Guillaume Craig

The 10,143 people from the 69 coastal communities directly affected in the South Caribbean Region survived with no injuries, having taken refuge in shelters set up by the governmental National Agency for Disaster Management and Prevention (SINAPRED).

This was due to the gradual development of social awareness in the face of climatic events, according to Ericka Aldana, coordinator of the non-governmental international organisation Global Communities’ climate change project: “Citizens Prepared for Climate Change”.

“Historically, Nicaragua’s South and North Caribbean regions have been hit by natural disasters due to their coastal location and environment surrounded by jungles and big rivers which have served as means of transport. But with climate change the vulnerability increased, and it was necessary to make an effort to change the mindset of the population,” Aldana told IPS.

Her organisation, together with the civil and military authorities, have organised conferences, discussion forums and environmental awareness campaigns, in addition to prevention and coastal community rescue plans in the entire South Caribbean Region.

The two autonomous Caribbean coastal regions represent 52 per cent of the territory of Nicaragua and are home to 15 per cent of the country’s 6.2 million people, including a majority of the indigenous and black populations.

Aldana said that in the coastal communities, especially Corn Island and Little Corn Island, located in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Bluefields, the waves changed due to the intensity and instability in wind patterns.
This makes it difficult to maneuver fishing boats, alters fishing cycles, drives away the fish, and erodes the coasts of the two small islands.

On Little Corn Island, local resident Vilma Gómez talked to IPS about the threats posed and damages caused by the change in ocean currents, winds and waves.

As an example, she said that she has seen almost four km of coastline submerged due to the erosion caused by waves over the last 30 years.

The municipality of Corn Island, comprised of the two islands separated by 15 km, with a total area of 13.1 square kilometres, is one of the most populated areas in Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Autonomous Region, with about 598 people per square kilometre.

Part of the central region of the city of Bluefields, in Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Autonomous Region, from the access pier to Bluefields lagoon, with buildings at the water’s edge. The municipalities’ urban and rural residents learned to raise their houses on pilings, among other measures to face the increasingly frequent floods. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

Part of the central region of the city of Bluefields, in Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Autonomous Region, from the access pier to Bluefields lagoon, with buildings at the water’s edge. The municipalities’ urban and rural residents learned to raise their houses on pilings, among other measures to face the increasingly frequent floods. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

Gómez said that on her island, infrastructures such as seawalls was built with government funds, to contain the coastal erosion, the damage in wetlands, the shrinking of the beaches and the impact on tourism, which together with fishing make up 90 per cent of the municipality’s economic activity.

But in her opinion, they are futile efforts in the face of the strength of the sea. “I believe that if this continues this way, in a few years the island will become uninhabitable, because the sea could swallow it entirely after contaminating the water sources and arable lands,” lamented Gómez.

Other communities located near Bluefields Bay and its tributaries suffer ever more frequent storm surges and sudden floods, that have destroyed and contaminated the wetlands.

But once the shock and fear were overcome, the population started to try to strengthen their capacities to build resilience in the face of climate change, said Aldana.

Guillaume Craig, director of the environmentalist organisation blueEnergy in Nicaragua, is involved in the project “Citizens Prepared for Climate Change”, in which authorities, civil society and academia together in Bluefields carry out campaigns to strengthen the Caribbean communities’ response capacity to the impacts of climate change.

“The population in this area has suffered a lot due to climate change, not only because of the hurricanes and flooding from the sea and rivers, but due to the climate variability. They have lost crops because of droughts or too much rain. They used to know how to interpret the signs of rain, but not anymore,” Craig told IPS.

As a result, he noted that “the wells dry out in January, when that used to happen in April, the rains in May sometimes fall in March, or do not occur until July. It is crazy, and the local people did not know how to handle it.”

After years of training and campaigns, the locals learned to apply techniques and methods to save water, plant crops resistant to the changes, and techniques for building in coastal areas, which started to suddenly flood due to storm surges or heavy rains.

Climate change has already cost the communities a great deal: a fall in the production of basic grains, a loss of biological diversity and forest resources, water shortages, degradation of soils, salinization of wells, floods in low-lying coastal areas and landslides, among other phenomena.

“The rise in temperatures is affecting people’s health and producing cardiac problems, increasing the populations of vectors that carry diseases, erosion by sea waves and loss of soil, and increasing energy consumption and the risk of fires. The rise in the water level is driving up the risks,” said Craig.
Bluefields, originally a pirate base of operations, is 383 km from the capital city, Managua, and can only be reached by air or by boat along the Escondido River from the El Rama port, located on the mainland 292 km from the capital.

The population of just over 60,000 people is multi-ethnic: Creoles, mestizos (mixed-race), Rama and Garifuna peoples, and descendants of English, French or Asian immigrants.

It faces a bay that serves as a barrier to the sea’s direct waves, and is surrounded by rivers and lakes that connect the region with the Pacific Ocean and the North Caribbean. The elevation above sea level is barely 20 metres, which makes it especially vulnerable.

Marlene Hodgson, who lives in the impoverished coastal neighborhood of El Canal, on the outskirts of the city, told IPS that she and her family have been suffering from the bay’s swells for years.

“Sometimes we did not expect it and all of a sudden we had water up to the waist. Now we have raised the house’s pilings with concrete and dug canals and built dikes to protect it. But we have also become aware of when they come and that allows us to survive without damages,” said the woman of Creole ethnic origin.

After the storms, many houses in the area were abandoned by their occupants, who moved to higher and less vulnerable lands.

The phenomenon also disrupted the economy and the way of life of the traditional fishers, said Alberto Down.

“Just 20 years ago, I would throw the net and in two hours I would get 100 fish,” he told IPS. “Now I have to spend more in fuel to go farther out to sea and I have to wait up to eight hours to get half of that. And on some occasions I don’t catch anything,” said the fisherman from the 19 de Julio neighbourhood, one of the most vulnerable in this area forever threatened by the climate.

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