Inter Press ServiceHeadlines – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 18 Dec 2017 15:55:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.4 Our Right of Passage Should be Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boatshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/right-passage-safe-migration-not-leaky-boats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=right-passage-safe-migration-not-leaky-boats http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/right-passage-safe-migration-not-leaky-boats/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 15:55:08 +0000 William Lacy Swing http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153598 William Swing is the Director General of IOM, the UN Migration Agency

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By William Lacy Swing
GENEVA, Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

“I’m a migrant, but didn’t have to risk my life on a leaky boat or pay traffickers. Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite.” Thus spoke United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in September 2017.

With a memorable turn of phrase, he captured what is perhaps one of the overriding challenges facing the world today. While we live at a time when a privileged elite considers global mobility virtually its birth-right, it is denied to countless others trapped in hopelessly bad economic or conflict circumstances.

But something else has changed to bring this self-evident reality into the grinding gears of global politics with often tragic consequences.

Not long ago a sort of insider/outsider code-of-conduct meant that what the elite got barely mattered to the global poor, who were only dimly aware of the opportunities to reach a better life beyond the confines of their country`s borders. That was then.

Today, the world’s greatest leveller, the smartphone—which now is in the hands of more than 2 billion across the world—continues to change all that. In less than a decade, smartphones have provided many outsiders with intimate knowledge of heretofore “elite” goings on.

What’s happening is that two coexisting, if starkly diverging realities are clashing on the same planet, turning the hitherto somnolent politics of many countries unpredictable—and, indeed, volatile.

On the one hand, freedom of movement is virtually guaranteed for a privileged and surprisingly broad global citizenry, for whom it has become natural to move safely, freely and relatively inexpensively around the world. This includes tourists, students, visiting family members, migrant workers from the global south (over 2 million Filipinos and 1 million Sri Lankans etc.) as well as the businesspersons who keep our globalized world humming.

What we so easily forget in the discourse about migration is that millions are traveling in ever greater numbers. They move safely and in an orderly way, passing through security on the way to the gate, checking Facebook feeds and instant messages as they go. Above all, they move in a regular way, with passports (and visas) in hand.

So why, one might ask, has migration become such a toxic issue, leading the news headlines and providing fuel for political populism?

Part of the answer may well lie in our brushing over the challenges of integration and being too quick to judge popular hostility towards migration as irrational or worse. Politicians ignore the values people adhere to at their peril.

Equally, if uninterrupted, global mass movements of people are seen to be so orderly, normal and beneficial for all that they do not draw comment, we will need to figure out how to cope with the majority denied mobility because of circumstances.

Hundreds of millions who are not part of the growing, truly global labor talent market find themselves outside looking in, and looking onto a world they can only dream of. They face enormous income disparities and hardships and no chance of getting a visa or a work permit.

It comes as no surprise then that vast armies of hopeful young migrants want to climb aboard the “leaky boats” referred to by the Secretary General. Pushed by lack of economic opportunity, often exacerbated by climate change, they too are vulnerable to the siren song of social media.

That’s where smuggling networks, human traffickers and modern day enslavers ply their trade these days with complete impunity. These cruel deceptions go unchecked, as the social media giants chase new markets in the global south

This is the type of migration that we see on the news and that at its worst has led to the shocking reality—first revealed by IOM—of African migrants being sold as slaves and indentured servants. As population growth and economic failure drive migrants to throw caution to the wind and leave their homes, the inevitable result is populism at the receiving end where communities are also struggling with unemployment and identity issues.

This is why I place so much hope in a global compact for migration, expected to be adopted at the end of 2018. It will be negotiated by Member States under the auspices of the United Nations and aims to address international migration in a comprehensive manner. The first planned inter-governmental agreement of its kind, it crucially is not expected to intrude on nation state sovereignty nor be legally binding, probably just as well given the tinderbox nature of the subject matter.

There is a great deal of existing common ground and it hinges on the understanding that migration isn’t so much a problem to be solved as a human reality to be managed. If we stop to think about the strict and mandatory rules which enable over 34.5 million flights per year that enable the equivalent of 44 per cent of the world’s population to take off and land safely, it should be possible to find some common rules in order to allow many more to travel, migrate and return home freely and safely. We need to offer hope to those facing economic despair, to provide legal pathways for more migrants or circular migration options for those who wish to work and return home.…because if we don’t come up with solutions the smugglers will do it for us, at great cost to human life and to the fabric of our societies.

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No Health Protection for Migrant-Women Healthcare Givershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-health-protection-migrant-women-healthcare-givers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-health-protection-migrant-women-healthcare-givers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-health-protection-migrant-women-healthcare-givers/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:51:47 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153596 While the media may be attracted by images of migrants drowning or sold as slaves, another flagrant but lesser-known drama is that of care workers, who are overwhelmingly women, often migrants, and who make a very large contribution to global public health, but are exposed to great health risks themselves with little or no protection, […]

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Credit: UN

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

While the media may be attracted by images of migrants drowning or sold as slaves, another flagrant but lesser-known drama is that of care workers, who are overwhelmingly women, often migrants, and who make a very large contribution to global public health, but are exposed to great health risks themselves with little or no protection, let alone basic labour rights.

Migrant women care workers buttress health systems in countries where there are shortfalls in health-care provision, while their own rights to health and well-being can be eroded and their health-care needs unfulfilled, the UN leading health agency reminded on the occasion of the World Migrants Day on 18 December.

These migrant women care workers act as “a cushion for states lacking adequate public provision for long-term care, child care and care for the sick,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Ageing in late industrial and middle-income economies, combined with rising demographic dependency ratios and female labour force participation, have led to emerging care deficits in many contexts in developed and developing countries, it explained.

“Around the world, more women are entering the labour force, taking them away from traditional unpaid caring roles in the home. Increasingly, immigrant women are being drawn into receiving country economies to care, often in informal settings, and frequently engaged by private households, without full access to social protection and labour rights.”

A striking fact is that fewer than 15 per cent of home-based long-term care workers are estimated to be formally employed.

For its part, the Organisation for Economic and Cooperation Development (OECD) International Migration Outlook 2015 reported on the percentage of foreign-born workers among the total home-based caregivers of long-term care in a number of industrialised countries.

These percentages amounted to nearly 90 per cent in Italy, around 75 per cent in Greece, over 65 per cent in Spain, and 50 per cent in Luxembourg.

WHO’s report deals with paid home-based care workers who attend to the varied needs of children, older people, people with disabilities and the disabled and the sick.

Shocking Facts

Here are some key facts provided by WHO:

— Those who are hired informally often lack the statutory labour rights accorded to them through a contract, including pensions and benefits, and may receive wages that are significantly lower than those paid for equivalent work in the formal health-care system,

— Migrant women care workers face particular challenges because of the vagaries of immigration laws in various destination countries, which often prevent them from entering the country legally or taking paid employment.

— This lack of legal status puts undocumented immigrants working in the care sector in many countries at risk of abuse by unscrupulous employers.

— The care sector itself is rendered unable to fully benefit from the work of immigrant workers who may want to provide in-home care but are unable to find a legal path to enter the country or obtain employment.

— Migrant care workers generally encounter harsher working conditions and have fewer rights and less adequate health coverage than do native workers. Because care work is frequently relegated to the informal sector, employees find that access to health care or insurance is not guaranteed but granted at the whim of employers.

In the United States in 2010, for example, almost one quarter of foreign-born workers employed in health care support jobs, such as nursing, psychiatric, or home health aides lacked health insurance themselves.

— Much has been written about the poor conditions that care workers, especially migrants, regularly face, including low wages, long hours, and inadequate housing and food for those who “live-in.” Many studies report that such work often entails lack of respect and status and even verbal, physical and sexual abuse,

— In the most extreme instances, when recruiters or employers confiscate workers’ passports and deduct travel costs and other expenses from their wages (or fail to pay them altogether), care work jobs become a modern form of indenture

— Many migrant women care workers experience poor reproductive and sexual health. There is also ample evidence that they are subject to physical violence, including sexual harassment/ assault and regular beatings.

For example, 44 per cent of Filipina migrants reported knowing another domestic worker who had experienced physical abuse, 27 per vent knew someone who had experienced sexual harassment, and 22.4 per vent knew someone who had been raped.

IOM marks International Migrants Day on 18 December with a series of worldwide events including a Geneva award ceremony for the Global Migration Film Festival. Credit: IOM

The Day

William Lacy Swing, director general of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), made an urgent call for “Safe Migration for a World on the Move” ahead of the International Migrants Day.

IOM plans to mark the Day with a series of worldwide events including a Geneva awards ceremony for the Global Migration Film Festival, which includes many public and private sector partners participating with IOM missions in over 100 countries.

In addition to film screenings in Geneva and New York, IOM also plans to participate in a UN leadership debate featuring UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres at Manhattan’s UNICEF House, touching on the global compact on migration, expected to be adopted by the end of 2018.

The UN leadership debate will explore the common ground on migration, rather than the divisions, said Swing. Despite often-sharp rhetoric, migration “is less a problem to be solved than a human reality to be managed.”

Planned UNICEF House events include the opening of the critically acclaimed art installation UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage (See: www.Together-in-NY.org), brining to life stories of refugees who have settled in the US by exploring past traumas through three-dimensional models of their homes mounted on suitcases they carried on their journeys.

Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boats

In an Op-Ed column penned for International Migrants Day: Our Right of Passage Should be Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boats), Swing wrote, “While we live at a time when a privileged elite considers global mobility virtually its birth-right, it is denied to countless others trapped in hopelessly bad economic or conflict circumstances.”

He warned that denial leads to “smuggling networks, human traffickers and modern-day enslavers who ply their trade these days with complete impunity.”

Hundreds of millions who are not part of the growing, truly global labour talent market find themselves outside looking in, and looking onto a world they can only dream of, Swing added. “They face enormous income disparities and hardships and no chance of getting a visa or a work permit.”

It comes as no surprise then that vast armies of hopeful young migrants want to climb aboard the “leaky boats” referred to by the UN secretary general, Swing continued, adding that driven by lack of economic opportunity, often exacerbated by climate change, they too are vulnerable to the siren song of social media.

“That’s where smuggling networks, human traffickers and modern day enslavers ply their trade these days with complete impunity. These cruel deceptions go unchecked, as the social media giants chase new markets in the global south.”

Just a quick reminder: a big power like the United States drew millions of migrants when it had an open-door policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Why the Rohingya Can’t Yet Return to Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/why-the-rohingya-cant-yet-return-to-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-the-rohingya-cant-yet-return-to-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/why-the-rohingya-cant-yet-return-to-myanmar/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 12:18:12 +0000 Azeem Ibrahim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153592 On Nov. 23, the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement to return the Rohingya refugees — more than 600,000 people who escaped from Rakhine state in western Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh — after ethnic cleansing carried out by Myanmar’s armed forces since August. Bangladesh is expected to compile lists of refugees […]

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A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature's Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature's Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Azeem Ibrahim
Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

On Nov. 23, the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement to return the Rohingya refugees — more than 600,000 people who escaped from Rakhine state in western Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh — after ethnic cleansing carried out by Myanmar’s armed forces since August.

Bangladesh is expected to compile lists of refugees wanting to return on a voluntary basis. Myanmar intends to verify each application to establish whether a refugee is eligible for repatriation. The returnees must provide copies of identity cards and documents certifying the address of their residence in Myanmar.

It might create the illusion of a policy decision by two governments moving toward addressing a shared refugee crisis. But the agreement is a hollow political gesture.

One of the first factors to consider is Myanmar’s verification process for a refugee to return. Myanmar’s military governments have had a consistent policy of either withholding official documentation from the Rohingyas or seizing and destroying the little documentation they had. A British government report documented how the Myanmar government changed its citizenship rules in 1989 and rendered the residency cards that most Rohingyas were carrying invalid. The government collected those invalid residency cards, but in most cases failed to provide the Rohingyas with the new residency cards. As a result, a majority of the Rohingyas in Myanmar did not have any official documentation at the beginning of this year.

Myanmar’s minister for resettlement, Win Myat Aye, has said that his country would be taking back no more than 300 refugees per day. At that rate, it would take over five and a half years for all the 600,000 Rohingyas to be allowed back in.
Most of the Rohingyas who fled for Bangladesh left under dire circumstances — their villages set on fire, their lives in peril. They made desperate runs with their children and elderly. How many would have had the luxury of time and safety to look for their documents before the exodus?

The agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar specifies that the refugees should be returned to their homes and property. It is highly improbable, because numerous Rohingya villages have been burned and their cattle and lands seized by their Buddhist neighbors.

And last week, Myanmar announced that it would be building camps for some of the returnees. It is unclear whether it is a serious policy proposal or yet another talking point. No details about the capacity of the proposed camps are available. What is known is this: Myanmar’s minister for resettlement, Win Myat Aye, has said that his country would be taking back no more than 300 refugees per day. At that rate, it would take over five and a half years for all the 600,000 Rohingyas to be allowed back in.

The other issue is that the resettlement has to be voluntary. Why would a Rohingya prefer moving from a refugee camp in a relatively safe country to a refugee camp in an intensely hostile country and depend upon safety from the very people who killed their families and burned their villages?

Several Rohingya refugees I met in the camps in Bangladesh did tell me that if they were granted citizenship and equal rights, they would return to Myanmar. But that seems improbable because of Myanmar’s long history of systematically depriving the Rohingyas of their legal and basic human rights.

The government of Myanmar has given no assurances about the legal status of the returnees nor spoken about guaranteeing their safety. They might simply end up being described as “immigrants from Bangladesh,” a phrase their persecutors all along used to describe them.

A recent statement from Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s military chief, about the proposed repatriation process has renewed fears about the safety of potential returnees. “The situation must be acceptable for both local Rakhine ethnic people and Bengalis, and emphasis must be placed on (the) wish of local Rakhine ethnic people who are real Myanmar citizens,” he said.

All of this raises severe doubts about the agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Several Bangladeshi leaders I met in Dhaka after the agreement was signed seemed keen to send the Rohingyas without having given much thought to how they would achieve it. They regard the Rohingyas as a financial burden on their impoverished country and a potential security threat.

Bangladesh has tried to keep the Rohingya refugees in camps isolated from the rest of society to signal that they are not meant to live there for good. Bangladeshi politicians signed the agreement because from their point of view, any deal that might move some Rohingyas back across the border is a good deal.

For the civilian government of Myanmar and its de facto leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the refugee agreement is a public relations exercise to ward off international condemnation. Sources in Myanmar told me there is no communication between the military and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government on the issue. Without support from the military leadership, even if she would be so inclined, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi cannot stop the army from assaulting the Rohingyas.

The Rohingyas know it. And that is why there is not much in the way of a line to fill in resettlement forms around Cox’s Bazar. Staying in Cox’s Bazar is the best option for the Rohingyas at the moment. Bangladesh must let them stay and not try to push them back over the border into the hands of their persecutors.

Azeem Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Policy, is the author of “The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide.”

Encouraged by the author who is relentless in his efforts to draw international attention to highlight the hopeless state of the Rohingya, IPS is republishing his oped from The New York Times of Dec 6, 2017.

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Helping Nepal by Working Abroadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/helping-nepal-by-working-abroad/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=helping-nepal-by-working-abroad http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/helping-nepal-by-working-abroad/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 11:54:51 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153590 Every village in Nepal has someone who is working or has worked abroad. One third of the country's GDP comes from overseas workers. But there's a high price to pay.

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Rohan Tamang will soon leave for the Middle East. His mother Chameli Tamang says that the money he can earn there is needed for their house. Credit: Bikram Rai

Rohan Tamang will soon leave for the Middle East. His mother Chameli Tamang says that the money he can earn there is needed for their house. Credit: Bikram Rai

By Erik Larsson
Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

Only a few millimeters of corrugated metal keeps us apart from the advancing dusk.

Inside the shack, the family has strung cardboard boxes and pieces of cloth along the walls and ceiling to form some insulation from the cold of night.

Crowded in the shack are Rohan Tamang, his wife, their two year old daughter and his parents who all live together in the small village of Rayala, which is a three hour car drive south of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

There is the rippling sound of nearby streams as the village balances on the steep slopes of the Himalayas. Well-trodden paths connect the houses that still stand after the devastating earthquake two years ago.

Some effects remain visible. Collapsed roofs and cracks on the sides of buildings. There were over 9000 deaths.

Nepal is one of the poorest nations, and it is also the country that is most dependent on the money sent back by its population now making a living abroad.

This dependence on remittances has increased since the earthquake. Now 4 million Nepalese,  roughly one fourth of the work force, work abroad and generate almost one third of the GDP.

Rohan Tamang is standing in front of his house. He too has worked abroad. In Qatar, on a building site.

”I’ve been back for 26 months”

He is well aware of the exact length of time.

”When I came back I made up my mind to never go abroad again to find work”

But things have changed.

”In fourteen days I will return to Qatar”.

He has signed a two year contract to make aluminum parts for the construction industry. The salary is around 200 Euros per month. With the money he can save, the family will rebuild their house.

I ask the members of his family how they feel about it.

His mother, Chameli Tamang, leans into the window: a hole in the metal wall. ”We haven’t talked about this among us”, adding that her son had been to Qatar once before.

”It isn’t a big deal”, she continues, ”Things went well last time”

It is clearly a sensitive issue.

The countries most dependent on remittances from migrant workers

  1. Nepal 32%

  2. Liberia 31%

  3. Tadzjikistan 29%

  4. Kyrgyzstan 26%

  5. Haiti 25%


The figure, from UN, denotes the percentage of the GDP that comes from remittances
Rohan Tamang tells us of his lasting doubts before making the decision. He knows several people who not only did not get paid, but ended up instead with large debts. They had borrowed the money to bribe recruitment agents in order to get a job.

He flashes a Hollywood smile. Omit Gurang has a tailor made shirt and a smile that seems glued into place.

Arbetet Global visits the recruiting agency Sagun Overseas Services. The owner Omit Gurang shows us around the brick building in Kathmandu’s business district: Kalikasthan.

The whole place feels modern. Well-illuminated, clean, plenty of space and well furnished. Behind a counter two women are speaking to three men that hope to land jobs abroad.

Omit Gurand tells us that his firm has just recruited 100 construction workers who will soon depart for Qatar.

”Finding workers is no problem. We just put an ad in the newspaper or on Facebook and we get 300 applications right away.”

Then they can pick and choose. Preferably the workers should have training, should speak English and should have prior experience of migrant work in the Middle East.

We enter his office.

He sits at a massive wooden desk and continues by saying that they send between 1200 and 1500 workers overseas every year.

Middle East companies pay the recruitment agencies to locate workers. They also pay visa and travel costs. The only cost the workers need to do is to pay an administrative fee of around 80 Euros.

At least that is the official version.

In the villages Arbetet Global hear another story told.

Nepal

Capital city: Kathmandu.

Population: 29 million.

Labor force: 16 million, of which about 4 million (25 %) work in other countries.

Occupational trades: 69 percent work in agriculture, 12 percent in industry and 19 percent in services.

Literacy: Of the adult population over 15 years of age, 64% can read and write.

Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world. While the figures for unemployment are low, around 4%, many in the labor force are only partially employed with low salaries.

According to the World Bank, only 75% of Nepal’s population have a steady supply of electricity.
Villagers seeking jobs need to bribe the local agents in order to be offered a job. The amounts demanded vary greatly. Figures range from 600 to 2000 Euros. In a country where one fifth of the working population makes less than 2 Euros per day, the bribes are small fortunes.

The less qualifications, the higher the bribes.

Omit Gurang is aware of the bribe system.

”There are those who would pay 5000 euro for an overseas job”. ”Not with us” he adds, disclaiming any involvement, “but if you go to other agencies, this goes on all the time”.

He feels that there have been positive changes over the past year for the migrant workers and thinks that the ”Kalafasystem” which supplies the Middle East with laborers, is steadily on the way to disappearing.

How about the living standards for those that leave Nepal?

”Good! Some have even said they have swimming pools, but I haven’t seen that myself”

The liquor is served warm. It’s moonshine called Raksi, distilled from a mash of rice, banana and apple. A villager has opened their door and invited strangers into their home.

We are sitting on the floor, watching the daughter of the family fry vegetables over an open fire. The room is filled with smoke.

A curious neighbor comes in through the door. He’s in his fifties and slurs a polite hello. He is quickly handed a glass.

”In the evenings we invite each other over for a drink. I come here, then we go to my house. And on and on”, he says laughing.

The men share gossip about the villagers. Newly-wedded husbands are often on their way abroad in order to provide for the family they are starting. It’s a classic story, that doesn’t always end well.

In early 2017 the song ”Saili” became a huge hit in Nepal. One could hear it playing everywhere. In cities and in villages. In the bars and in homes. The song is about a young couple in love. The man says he shall travel abroad to work but that they will enjoy a happy family life when they turn 40.

The video for the song is five minutes of unending tears. The popularity of the song came through a recognition of both the words and the message: work first and then enjoy the fruits of labor in the future.

There is a lot of talk in Nepal about families that are being torn apart.

The next morning a group of men have gathered next to the bumpy road that passes through the village. The men stand around chatting. I suddenly catch a glimpse of Rohan Tamang among the young men. He says a cheerful hello.

”I’m just off to a nearby village to do some errands”, he explains.

There are still 13 days to go before he leaves for Qatar.

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Rohingyas: Lurching from Crisis to Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingyas-lurching-crisis-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingyas-lurching-crisis-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingyas-lurching-crisis-crisis/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 15:00:33 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153586 In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

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Newly arrived Rohingya people wait at an army camp in Sabrang in Teknaf on Nov. 29, 2017 before being shifted to a camp in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Newly arrived Rohingya people wait at an army camp in Sabrang in Teknaf on Nov. 29, 2017 before being shifted to a camp in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 16 2017 (IPS)

Ferdous Begum was cleaning her child after he had defecated in the open, using leaves she collected from a nearby tree at Bangladesh’s Teknaf Nature Park. The settlement is packed with Rohingya refugees who fled military persecution in Myanmar since August.

“Access to water is terrible here,” Begum said. “We’ve only a couple of hand-dug shallow wells and we don’t get enough water from the wells for so many people living in the camp.”“Initially we received patients with bullet, burn and stab injuries. Now we’re getting more patients with waterborne and cold-related diseases and the number is increasing.” --Dr. Dipongkor Binod Sharma

Other camps near Teknaf are also facing acute shortages of water, especially access to drinking and clean water, while aid workers face difficulties with hygiene management for the refugees crammed in squalid camps stretching from Teknaf to Ukhia in Cox’s Bazar.

The latest UN report shows an estimated 655,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, increasing the total Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar to 867,000 since Aug. 25.

The report said new arrivals were living in spontaneous settlements with increasing demand for humanitarian assistance, including shelter, food, clean water, and sanitation.

Ferdous Begum said her son was unwell last night, with a stomach upset. “Misfortune follows us anywhere we go,” Begum said.

Aid workers said refugees, especially pregnant women, lactating mothers and children were exposed to the risk of health hazards because of water shortages that led to poor hygiene management.

Diphtheria is rapidly spreading among Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned last week.

In one month, as of Dec. 12, a total of 804 suspected diphtheria cases, including 15 deaths, were reported among the displaced Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar.

The first suspected case was reported on Nov. 10 by a clinic of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Cox’s Bazar, according to the WHO.

A number of aid workers working in the field said hygiene was very important to prevent disease outbreaks in these overcrowded camps.

Many of the latrines made initially were already overflowing and faecal sludge was seen in the open in almost every camp. And many of the tubewells or hand-pumps are broken, shortening the supply of safe water.

Dr. Dipongkor Binod Sharma of Dhaka Community Hospital Trust, who has been working with Rohingya refugees since the latest influx began in August, said, “Initially we received maximum patients with bullet, burn and stab injuries. Now we’re getting more patients with waterborne and cold-related diseases and the number is increasing.”

Dr. Sharma said a large number of his patients were women and children suffering from acute malnutrition and anaemia, as most of the pregnant and lactating women were very young – many still in their teens.

“Hygiene is very crucial for them, but it seems they are not aware,” he said.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A Rohingya refugee named Gul Nahar rushed to a BRAC aid centre with her six-month-old boy, Mohammad Haras, seeking help. “He’s been suffering from high fever along with diarrhoea for the last 10 days,” Nahar said.

Nahar said the seven members of her family were living together in a single shanty room.

WaterAid Bangladesh country director Dr. Md Khairul Islam told IPS he was aware of water shortages in the camps in Teknaf. “The situation might be exacerbated when local farmers start irrigation for their crops in the area soon,” he added.

Executive director of the government’s Institute of Water Modelling, Professor M Monowar Hossain, told IPS there were plans to initiate a survey to ascertain the level of ground water there.

“It’s a part of the national survey… It’s not particularly for the Rohingya issue. [But] Until we do the survey, we can’t say there is any scarcity of water,” said Prof Hossain, a former dean of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).

Local people fear the presence of over half a million Rohingyas will put additional pressure on water sources and that would worsen the situation in the coming months.

They warned about a severe water crisis in the later part of winter, when the groundwater level naturally goes down.

Rohingyas in the Jadimora area said that they were trying to collect water from tubewells in local communities, but on many occasions they’d been barred.

In the absence of safe water, Rohingyas in makeshift camps in Damdamia Nature Park, Jadimora, Alikhali, and Unchiprang areas of Teknaf are collecting water from ponds, waterfalls and other untreated sources.

“Nobody is supplying drinking water for us. We collect water from a nearby pond,” said a Rohingya community leader in the Damdamia area, Rashid Ullah.

Many Rohingyas built makeshift shelters in forest preserves, felling trees and setting up shanties on hilly slopes. Other have taken refuge at overcrowded registered and unregistered camps.

The haphazard sprouting of camps makes it hard to supply safe drinking water to Rohingyas, aid workers said.

Department of Public Health Engineering officials said for the Rohingyas who took shelter in wild forests and hills, safe drinking water facilities like tube wells are nonexistent.

“We can’t say we have reached all Rohingyas with safe drinking water and other facilities as they are living scattered,” Refugee Relief and Repatriation commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam of Cox’s Bazar told IPS.

“Particularly in Teknaf, we wanted to relocate those Rohingyas facing shortage of water to other camps, but they were not interested,” Kalam said.

Aid workers say the Rohingya influx has slowed down, but several hundred refugees still arrive every day, adding pressure on both the government and humanitarian relief groups.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has constructed more than 3,800 latrines and 159 wells in six host community locations – Whykong, Palonkhali, Jaliapalong, Kutupalong, Rajapalong and Baharchora.

“Access to clean water and safe sanitation services is a problem for the communities hosting refugees in Cox’s Bazar,” said Alessandro Petrone, WASH Programme Manager for IOM’s Rohingya Response, in a statement earlier this month.

“A global and up to date WASH assessment providing a proper gaps analysis and an activities plan is urgently needed. IOM is developing a rated assessment tool and will deploy teams to the field in the coming days to support this work,” said Petrone.

The Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), of which IOM is a part, reported this week that the humanitarian situation for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh remained dire.

The inter-agency Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2017-18 identified the areas of WASH, health, nutrition and food security and shelter for immediate scale-up to save lives in both settlements and host communities, it said.

As per the HRP, the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar is highly vulnerable, many having experienced severe trauma, and are now living in extremely difficult conditions.

The limited WASH facilities in the refugee established settlements, put in place by WASH sector partners, including UNICEF, prior to the current influx, are over-stretched, with an average of 100 people per latrine, the report said.

New arrivals also have limited access to bathing facilities, especially women, and urgently require WASH supplies including soap and buckets.

Given the current population density and poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, any outbreak of cholera or Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD), which are endemic in Bangladesh, could kill thousands of people residing in temporary settlements, the report warned.

he series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh is supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

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Using Data to Combat Prejudice Against Immigrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/using-data-combat-prejudice-immigrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=using-data-combat-prejudice-immigrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/using-data-combat-prejudice-immigrants/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:31:53 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153583 What are the contributions of migrants to trade, to the economy of their countries of destination and origin? This is an angle that is generally ignored in the international debate on the subject, which usually focuses more on issues such as the incidence of foreigners in crime or unemployment. In order to discuss these and […]

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Participants in the first Forum on Migration,Trade and the Global Economy held in the old Immigrants’ Hotel in Buenos Aires, where the Argentine government used to accommodate the thousands of Europeans arriving to the country in the 19th century and the early 20th century, a symbol of the positive reception that migrants once enjoyed. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Participants in the first Forum on Migration,Trade and the Global Economy held in the old Immigrants’ Hotel in Buenos Aires, where the Argentine government used to accommodate the thousands of Europeans arriving to the country in the 19th century and the early 20th century, a symbol of the positive reception that migrants once enjoyed. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 16 2017 (IPS)

What are the contributions of migrants to trade, to the economy of their countries of destination and origin? This is an angle that is generally ignored in the international debate on the subject, which usually focuses more on issues such as the incidence of foreigners in crime or unemployment.

In order to discuss these and other questions, international experts met in Buenos Aires on on Thursday, Dec. 14, at the first Forum on Migration, Trade and the Global Economy.

Not coincidentally, but to highlight the links between both topics, the event was held a day after the end of the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), also held in the Argentine capital.

“Migration is treated today in the world almost as a police matter. We stress the need to address the issue a different way, analysing the favourable economic outlook, especially in international trade,” said Aníbal Jozami, president of the Foro del Sur Foundation."Migration is a complex social and economic phenomenon, so you have to be very sophisticated in how you speak about migration to people. It's very difficult to explain that maybe those people are unemployed today, but in the future they will be bringing positive skills and knowledge to society." -- Marina Manke

This Argentine non-governmental organisation, which promotes diversity, organised the event together with the Geneva-based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

There are some 244 million migrants in the world today – around three percent of the total population – according to figures provided by Diego Beltrand, the IOM regional director for South America.

The number of migrants grew by an estimated 300 percent over the last 50 years. Different kinds of evidence of their economic contribution, something that is usually ignored, were presented at the forum.

This lack of knowledge about the positive impact of migration is the reason why, Beltrand said, “freedom of trade has been widely recognised around the world, but not freedom of movement for people.”

According to a study presented by the IOM during the forum, migrants contribute nearly 10 percent of the world’s GDP and are especially helpful to their countries of origin at times of economic crisis through remittances, which exceed 15 percent of national GDP in countries such as El Salvador and Honduras.

The IOM also estimates that migrants generate six trillion dollars worldwide. Meanwhile, the remittances they send to their countries of origin reach 15 billion dollars per year, according to Resedijo Onyekachi Wambú, from the African Foundation for Development.

Another prejudice challenged was that most immigrants aspire to very basic jobs. Stefano Breschi, a professor at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, revealed that in the last two decades, high-skilled migration grew by 130 percent against an increase of just 40 percent for the low-skilled.

Why then do politicians from all destination countries of the world try to win votes by promising more restrictions against foreigners, against all empirical evidence?

For Marina Manke, head of the IOM’s Labour Mobility and Human Development Division, “Migration is a complex social and economic phenomenon, so you have to be very sophisticated in how you speak about migration to people. It’s very difficult to explain that maybe those people are unemployed today, but in the future they will be bringing positive skills and knowledge to society.”

Manke is a Russian woman married to a German man. She emigrated to Germany, which she visits every weekend as she now works in the Swiss city of Geneva.

“My family in Germany see a large number of migrants in Berlin and it worries them. We need to be patient. Maybe there is a negative impact in the short term but over long periods migration is a broadly positive phenomenon,” she told IPS.

The event was held in the old Buenos Aires Immigrants’ Hotel, a building near the port which has been turned into a museum. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Argentine government gave free accommodation there to families who had just arrived after long sea journeys.

Argentina is a country whose founders set their sights on attracting immigrants. The National Constitution, written in 1853, promises equal opportunities “for all men of the world who want to live on Argentine soil.”

Thus, between 1881 and 1914 more than four million foreigners arrived, who represented more than a quarter of the population in 1895, as can be read in the museum. The majority of these immigrants were from Italy, Spain and other European countries.

Today things have changed, and Europe is the destination sought by millions of immigrants as it tries to close its borders.

“The major problem in Europe is that we find that the data is not reflected in the public discourse. If you look for information, you generally find a neutral or positive picture of migration’s role in the labour market and economy,” said Martin Kahanec, professor of public policy at the Europea University Centre in Budapest.

“In the debates related to Brexit in the UK, for instance, all of the narratives were not founded in data: migrants take our jobs, they abuse our welfare,” the Slovak expert told IPS.

“Although economic arguments are used in the debate, what really drives this debate is fear.”

Europe is the main destination for migrants from Africa, the continent that exports the most people. Every year, between 15 and 20 million young Africans join the labour market and a high proportion cannot find a job and are impelled to leave their country, according to figures provided during the forum, setting out on journeys where death can prevent them from reaching their destination.

South America, on the other hand, received praise for its recent immigration policies.

Since 2009, efforts were made to strengthen the regional integration process with freedom of movement agreements for citizens of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay.

This made it possible for more than two and a half million citizens from other countries in Latin America to obtain residency permits, according to data from the IOM Regional Office for South America, based in Buenos Aires.

In the case of Argentina, the National Director of Migrations, Horacio García, said that since 2012, more than 1,350,000 residence permits have been granted.

García, however, warned that it is necessary for the State to get involved in the integration of immigrants into the labour market, a topic that today is being neglected.

“It is necessary to identify those regions of the country where there are job opportunities, so so they can contribute to development, their skills are used and the pressure is taken off urban areas,” he said.

Like other countries in the region, Argentina recently received large numbers of immigrants from Venezuela who are fleeing the economic, political and social crisis in that country.

Argentine sociologist Lelio Mármora, who specialises in migration questions, estimated that in the last year and a half alone, some 40,000 Venezuelans have settled in Argentina.

However, openness towards immigrants is not common in the world. Mármora was one of those who most emphatically condemned the “difference between the freedom that exists for the movement of goods and for the movement of people.”

“Everyone applauded the fall of the Berlin Wall and today we have about 20,000 kilometers of walls and fences that prevent people from passing from one place to another,” he complained.

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Civil Society Meeting Calls for Solidarity, Radical Change to Deal with Global Criseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-meeting-calls-solidarity-radical-change-deal-global-crises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-meeting-calls-solidarity-radical-change-deal-global-crises http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-meeting-calls-solidarity-radical-change-deal-global-crises/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:52:01 +0000 Amy Taylor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153581 Amy Taylor is Chief Networks Officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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Amy Taylor is Chief Networks Officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

By Amy Taylor
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 15 2017 (IPS)

Our strategies have failed us. We can no longer respond to the crises facing us in the same way. We have to be more radical, more creative — together — to build the future we want.

This was one of the resounding messages to emerge from a key global gathering of more than 700 leading thinkers, influencers and doers from more than 100 countries in Suva, Fiji in early December.

Organised by global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and the Pacific Islands Associations of Non-governmental Organisations (PIANGO) and including a diverse set of events by more than 40 partner organisations, International Civil Society Week 2017 brought to the world stage critical issues from the Pacific region such as the reality of climate change for small island states. This, whilst delegates made personal connections that we hope will translate into global solidarity.

We heard repeatedly about the transformational power of connecting across regions and thematic areas of work. Many said that the experience had changed them; they had a new understanding of the struggles of our brothers and sisters in the Pacific Islands. In short, we achieved what we set out to do.

But ICSW, organised under the theme, “Our Planet. Our Struggles. Our Future”, also brought home the gravity of our responsibility to act on this knowledge, to address the urgent, inter-related challenges threatening our planet and our humanity before it is too late.

The conversations that took place within the “Our Planet” programme track took us beyond the usual discourse on the Paris Climate Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We heard about how an economic system built on greed and exploitation is creating unequal societies, perpetuating climate change and threatening livelihoods, food security and political stability.

But these are abstract concepts. It was the emotional and passionate accounts from Pacific Islanders whose homes, traditions, cultures and very identities are under threat that brought home the real and urgent nature of the challenge. Climate change is not some futuristic scenario depicted in a sci-fi film, it is happening right now with devastating consequences.

The “Our Struggles” programme track explored the extent of the global crisis of democracy and clampdown on people’s rights. We learned that more than half the world’s people live in countries where it is very difficult to exercise the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly. This alarming and growing trend is limiting civil society participation and progress on social justice struggles from rising inequality to women’s rights.

Moreover civil society efforts to create peaceful societies are being threatened. President Trump’s recent announcement that the United States now considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital (disregarding international law) was made the same day that International Civil Society Week partners hosted an event on illegal settlements and land rights in Palestine.

The bright sparks of hope during the week were found in the “Our Future” track, which considered how we can innovate and support new leaders. We were reminded of the importance of giving young people the space and trust they need to drive this change.

We learned how to develop ‘sharing economies’ that build a sense of community where distrust prevails. We heard about the divestment campaign from fossil fuels that challenges the economic system propping up the extractive industry. Perhaps most importantly, we reconfirmed the need to build solidarity across diverse movements, mobilisations and initiatives.

It’s time to do things differently, to take on challenges collectively and in a holistic way. And if there’s one thing we hope ICSW 2017 delegates take home with them, it’s the willingness to stand together and take bold actions.

One concrete initiative that exemplifies this aspiration is the Declaration on Climate-Induced Displacement that was launched during the CIVICUS World Assembly on the final day of the conference. The Declaration was drafted by a cohort of global and Pacific Island organisations representing civil society, development actors, human rights defenders, faith-based organisations, environmental activists and progressive governments.

The intention is to build an influential, global movement in support of the inclusion of climate-induced displacement in the global compact for migration to be adopted by the United Nations General Assembly next year. If we succeed, it is because together, we are stronger.


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji, 4 December through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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“We Need to Be Strong” – Award Spotlights Courageous Journalistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/need-strong-award-spotlights-courageous-journalists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-strong-award-spotlights-courageous-journalists http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/need-strong-award-spotlights-courageous-journalists/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:00:06 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153578 As press freedom becomes increasingly limited, journalists are frequently finding themselves in more dangerous predicaments than ever before. Every year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) honors courageous journalists from around the world at the International Press Freedom Awards. “Journalists around the world face growing threats and pressure,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Those […]

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Awardees Pravit Rojanaphruk, Patricia Mayorga, Afrah Nasser with Joel Simon and Christiane Amanpour. Credit: CPJ/Barbara Nitke

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 15 2017 (IPS)

As press freedom becomes increasingly limited, journalists are frequently finding themselves in more dangerous predicaments than ever before.

Every year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) honors courageous journalists from around the world at the International Press Freedom Awards.

“Journalists around the world face growing threats and pressure,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Those we honor are the most courageous and committed. They stand as an example that journalism matters.”

Among the awardees is award-winning Yemeni reporter and blogger Afrah Nasser, who noted that being a journalist in Yemen is like walking through a minefield.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) found that the Houthi rebel group is the second biggest abductor of journalists following the Islamic State. When they are not victims of air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition, journalists are constantly at risk of detention, forced disappear-ance and assassination.

“I was getting death threats – even subjected to my family – and I was also getting pressure from my family out of protection and love not to write,” Nasser told IPS.

In 2011, as the uprising began in Yemen, Nasser started writing about human rights viola-tions and gender issues in the country, which were soon followed by death threats due to her critical coverage of the regime.

She became a political refugee in Sweden later that year where she now lives and continues to report on Yemen.

“I always believed in the strong power of stories… Freedom of expression is a very vital tool for any community to bring change,” Nasser said.

Though women are often expected to talk about soft topics, Nasser said that she had to express herself.

“I’m not a male, white, Western journalist writing about Yemen…I thought that nobody would take me seriously,” she told IPS about her reaction to CPJ’s award.

But she took the opportunity to highlight the plight of Yemenis and call for international action.

“Being here is not to represent Yemeni journalists only but all Yemenis who feel abandoned by world leaders and international media that are not covering their suffering sufficiently…let’s make sure international media are on the right side of history,” Nasser told attendees.

Like Nasser, Patricia Mayorga also had to seek protection after her colleague was killed in the northwestern state of Chihuahua.

Miroslava Breach Velducea, who covered politics and crime in Chihuahua, was shot eight times in March. A note was found at the crime scene which read, “For being a snitch.”

Mayorga worked alongside her, reporting on the links between politics, corruption, and organized crime. After publishing a story about political candidates ties to organized crime, both Mayorga and Velducea began receiving threats.

“In this moment, I don’t feel fear. I felt courage that I wanted to shout there needs to be justice. But at the same time, you feel like you are living under anesthesia and you have to sort of give yourself up to the experts…because everything got worse,” she told IPS.

Soon after Velducea was killed, Mayorga sought refuge in Peru.

She noted that organized crime was not the only issue for journalists, but also the government’s campaign to silence media on reporting on the reality on the ground.

“When reporters start to question the government, the government starts using surveillance against them. They do campaigns to discredit and criminalize them,” Mayorga said.

“Press freedom isn’t just for journalists, it’s for the people,” she continued.

Mexico continues to be the Western Hemisphere’s deadliest country for the media. An estimated 100 journalists have been murdered since 2000.

“Two months before they killed her in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, Miroslava Breach and I asked ourselves why we kept going. She refused to be complicit, and I refused to betray the people who had put their trust and final hope in journalism,” Mayorga told attendees.

“We need to be strong because Mexico needs us to be strong and clear.”

Other journalists who were honored were Thai reporter Pravit Rojanaphruk, Cameroonian corespondent Ahmed Abba, and managing editor of PBS NewsHour Judy Woodruff.

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Civil Society Activists Speak Out– Despite Threatshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-activists-speak-despite-threats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-activists-speak-despite-threats http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-activists-speak-despite-threats/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 13:49:12 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153575 They are young, smart and willing to take the rough road. Victor, Jubilanté and Khaled are independent fighters who speak out with a force that could possibly change the appearances of their countries, and beyond. These ‘sparks of hope’ were awarded with the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards for their contributions to civil society. Nigeria, […]

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Victor Ugo dedicates the award he won to all Nigerians coping with mental illness. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Pascal Laureyn
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 15 2017 (IPS)

They are young, smart and willing to take the rough road. Victor, Jubilanté and Khaled are independent fighters who speak out with a force that could possibly change the appearances of their countries, and beyond.

These ‘sparks of hope’ were awarded with the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards for their contributions to civil society. Nigeria, Guyana and Egypt already heard about them, the award will make their endeavors known internationally—and it’s high time to hear these inspiring voices.

Creating awareness for mental health in Nigeria. Motivating young creatives in Guyana to speak out using digital media. Defending human rights and freedom of speech in Egypt. These are some of the missions they have dedicated their lives to. Victor Ugo, Jubilanté Cutting and Khaled al-Balshy received the yearly award in Fiji last week.

The Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards seeks to promote individuals and organizations for their excellence and bravery in creating social change. “They inspire compassion and empathy at a time of growing fear, xenophobia, and hate speech,” says Graça Machel, the former First Lady of South Africa.

During the International Civil Society Week (ICSW)— highlighting a conference organized by CIVICUS in Fiji’s capital Suva – the winners had the opportunity to capture a large audience eager to learn about their projects. The interest was overwhelming and often left them exhausted after the daily rounds of interviews and panel discussions. The fourth winner of the prestigious prize – the philanthropic Guerrila Foundation of Germany – was not present in Fiji.

Every year, CIVICUS – a civil society organizations alliance – brings the ICSW to another location to “promote and defend a more just and sustainable future.” Fiji hosted the 2017 event, highlighting the potential and problems of the Pacific.

Victor Ugo (Nigeria) – Best organization of civil society

Victor has the confident stride of a young man with proven achievements while walking from venue to venue at the conference in Suva. He shows no trace of the depression he once suffered from. He was diagnosed with the condition almost 4 years ago. And he was lucky, he got treatment. Most Nigerians who have psychiatric ailments never get help.

Victor Ugo patiently answers questions of interested journalists: “The award makes us more desirable.” Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

“Mental healthcare is none existent in Nigeria,” explains Victor. “There is no knowledge. Not just illiterate people, but also university professors think that mental illnesses are caused by evil ghosts. Patients get punished for their disease.”

As a consequence of the stigma, mental health facilities are really poor. “There are only 200 psychiatrists in Nigeria, a country of 186 million people,” an exasperated Victor says. “And many of them go into banking because they can’t find a job.”

After his depression the young doctor founded the Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI). Two years later, it has become Nigeria’s largest mental health organization. MANI combats the stigma, creates awareness and promotes services for mental health. “Most people don’t know the symptoms and that it can be treated.”

Therefor MANI encourages conversation on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are platforms used for online campaigns on depression, bipolar disorders or bullying. “We explain how a depression feels like. We make people talk about it,” says Victor. Patients share their experience, family and friends can ask for help. “We try to find people who want to talk about it. We call them our ‘champions of mental health’.”

Media sometimes spread misconceptions about mental health or ignore it completely. “We correct the media so that it is understood that it’s about diseases,” the young man explains. “Suicide, for example. We teach the press how to report on suicides without encouraging it.”

MANI is also creating an online platform to link doctors to patients, like Uber does with drivers and passengers. When a patient asks for help, a therapist in the area is alerted. They can make an appointment after they agree on the price. The platform will be launched next year.

“Today, in villages, patients are still being flogged and chained because of traditional beliefs,” Victor sighs. The taboo needs to be broken. “The less stigma, the more people will ask for help. That will create a market that can encourage more students to become a psychiatrist,” says the hopeful award winner. He dedicates the award to all Nigerians coping with mental illness. “The award makes us more desirable. Everybody wants to join.”

Jubilanté Cutting (Guyana) – Youth Activist Award

At just 19, Jubilanté Cutting founded the Guyana Animation Network (GAN) to help empower young people with skills in digital media and animation. During the conference in Fiji, she was not only promoting the business model of GAN but also trying to inspire. When the stylishly dressed young woman engages in discussions on civil society, she easily impresses people with her enthusiasm and motivational calls to action.

Jubilanté Cutting: “We help children to think out of the box, to learn something about themselves and express themselves.” Credit: Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

“I got the spark when I was 17, at a workshop on art, technology and animation in Trinidad and Tobago. There I met many talented people who were pushing out Caribbean style media products. It was an explosion of talent, it made my creative juices flowing. Although I noticed quickly that I’m not very talented as an animator. But I do have a talent for networking, I decided to focus on that and help to develop Guyana’s digital and creative industries,” Jubilanté concludes.

Two years later, the young law student created GAN. In its first year GAN has reached than 3,500 people through summer camps, events, talks in schools and social media. The main purpose is to change a way of thinking. “Art is still seen as a hobby, not as a professional career,” says Jubilanté who taps her fingernails on the table out of frustration.

“But digital creatives can have a profitable career. If we could attach a price on creativity, many people would already be millionaires. We have to embrace creativity as more than just fun and teach people how to monetize it.”

And no better way to learn new skills and creative mind sets than to start at a young age. “Children are an important target for us,” Jubilanté points out. “Our society is ignoring the young ones. I use every forum I get to emphasize this. Children are born in the digital age. We have to learn them to use that technology in a responsible way. That’s why our organization opens its doors to children, because we acknowledge how transformational they are,” says the young woman.

Jubilanté tells enthusiastically what happened at one of her workshops. When teaching software to create digital graphics, the children aged 6 and 7 were quicker than the older ones to grasp the complicated tool. “Children are unafraid to learn, that’s critical for creative development. But books only teach them things in a structured way. We help children to think out of the box, to motivate them to learn something about themselves and express themselves.”

It took Jubilanté and her team of co-workers and volunteers a year to get the attention of the government. “We need more infrastructure, training and equipment to break the barriers for development. The Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Award won us the recognition of the government and it draws attention to Guyana and the whole Caribbean. Now people know that something is happening there with digital media.

At her 21, Jubilanté is already a force that drives things forward on sheer will power. GAN is only one year old, but she is thinking big. “I want to spread the Caribbean culture. Everyone already loves Bob Marley and Rhianna. I will make them love Caribbean animation and promote our own artists.”

Khaled al-Balshy (Egypt) – Individual Activist Award

Khaled al-Balshy is a prominent human rights defender and journalist fighting to protect free speech. In Egypt, that is no easy job. The government has increasingly cracked down on the press and has become one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists. In a nation where media are under constant attack, Khaled is struggling to defend freedom of the press.

The journalist is gifted with the calmness necessary to face hardship. Khaled knows all too well how an Egyptian cell looks like. He has a suspended 1 year sentence for harboring journalists wanted for expressing critical views. His news website al-Bedaiah is blocked. He was accused for “insulting the police” on social media. The courts have 10 pending cases against him. These are just a few of the harassments he has grown accustomed to.

“The situation in Egypt is one of the worst in the world. More than 12 journalists have been murdered in the last three years. More than 20 are in prison, some without clear accusations. Many others are being stopped from writing and publishing,” Khaled explains for the umpteenth time. He gives many interviews at the conference in Fiji, always with the same energy and indignation.

Known to be an ardent defender of press freedom, Khaled leads numerous initiatives for the detained and disappeared journalists. “I write about their cases. I visit their families. We organize meetings and we create groups that helps lawyers with the legal process.” Sometimes that leads to success. “When a journalist is released, we are happy. But only for a few minutes. Sometimes they have spent years in prison without a clear accusation.”

“This absurd dictatorship is feels threatened, why else would they imprison us?” Khaled continues. “They are afraid of us. When we write, we make a change. If we just tell the truth all the time, that change will come. We did this with Mubarak, we can do it again with al-Sisi,” says Khaled. “The only way to protect freedom of expression is to exercise it and to denounce the violations against it.”

“When I knew I won the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Award, I was sad for 3 days. I’m getting an award, while people are spending years in prison. My son convinced me that this award is for everyone, for the people I’m fighting for. It’s a message to the imprisoned journalists that their voices can break through prison walls.” The Tunisian translator wipes tears off her face when she repeats his words in English. Her country had a successful uprising, the one in Egypt has failed.

But Khaled has hope. He will continue to fight. “I want to make that change for my son, he is making me do this.”


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji, December 4 through December 8 for International Civil Society Week..

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Climate Change Threatens Mexican Agriculturehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/climate-change-threatens-mexican-agriculture/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-threatens-mexican-agriculture http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/climate-change-threatens-mexican-agriculture/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:07:21 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153569 Azael Meléndez recalls the tornado that in May 2015 struck his hometown of San Gregorio Atlapulco, in Xochimilco, on the outskirts of Mexico City. “I had never seen anything like it, and I asked my parents, and they said the same thing,” the farmer told IPS. The tornado lifted fences protecting gardens in the area, […]

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Mexican agriculture has begun to feel the impacts of climate change, affecting the productivity of some staple foods in the local diet. The photo shows a vegetable street market, with products that go directly from the producers to consumers, in the west of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

Mexican agriculture has begun to feel the impacts of climate change, affecting the productivity of some staple foods in the local diet. The photo shows a vegetable street market, with products that go directly from the producers to consumers, in the west of Mexico City. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

Azael Meléndez recalls the tornado that in May 2015 struck his hometown of San Gregorio Atlapulco, in Xochimilco, on the outskirts of Mexico City.

“I had never seen anything like it, and I asked my parents, and they said the same thing,” the farmer told IPS.

The tornado lifted fences protecting gardens in the area, whose name means “place in the middle of the water” in the Nahuatl language, and which is located on the south side of greater Mexico City, which is home to 22 million people.

For Meléndez, who has a horticultural project with two other farmers, this is one of the manifestations of climate change, “which has devastated the area along with urbanisation.” The group uses the ancestral method of “chinampas” to grow lettuce, broccoli, radish, beets and aromatic herbs.

They grow crops on an area of about 1,800 square metres, harvesting about 500 kilograms of products per week, which they sell to 10 restaurants, in the wholesale market in the capital and tianguis (street markets)."Agriculture is highly dependent on local weather conditions and is expected to be very sensitive to climate change in the coming years. In particular, a warmer and drier environment could reduce agricultural production.” -- Eduardo Benítez

Water shortages, an unstable climate, proliferation of pests, infrequent but more intense rainfall, hail and the effects of human activities are affecting an area that is crucial for the supply of food and for climate regulation in the Mexican capital, says a study by the international environmental organisation Earthwatch Institute.

The system of chinampas, a Nahuatl word that means “the place of the fertile land of flowers”, was practiced by the native peoples long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 15th century.

The Aztec technique is based on the construction of small, rectangular areas of arable soil to grow crops in the microregion’s wetlands, with fences made of stakes of ahuejote (willow), a water-tolerant tree typical of this ecosystem.

The chinampa method is used on a total of 750 hectares, where about 5,000 farmers work.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) classifies it as one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), for preserving agrobiodiversity, helping farmers adapt to climate change, guaranteeing food security and fighting poverty.

But not only this microregion is affected by climate change. Indeed, it is difficult to find a place in Mexico that is not exposed to it.

The May report “Estimates of potential yields with climate change scenarios for different agricultural crops in Mexico”, by the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change, projected a decline in rainfall in the country.

The report, focused especially on crops of corn, beans, wheat, soybeans, sorghum and barley, found that water productivity is decreasing for most crops, which means water requirements will increase in the medium term. It also found yield loss for the seven crops, especially marked in the case of corn, beans and wheat.

In the southern state of Chiapas, farmers are already facing water shortages, sudden and heavy rains, floods and rising temperatures.

“The areas need water, we need water for the land, renewed soil, because that is the baseline. And it’s not exclusive to Chiapas, it is happening throughout Mexico,” Consuelo González, a farmer in Chiapas who grows corn on 40 hectares of land, told IPS.

González, a representative of a producers committee for her state, said there are also problems of deforestation and bad agricultural practices.

Chiapas, the second-poorest state in the country, has a sown area of 1.42 million hectares and 62 crops. Among its main products are corn, pastures, coffee, sugar cane, bananas, mangoes, beans and oil palm, which account for nearly 90 percent of the state’s total production.

The 12 most important crops produce 10.11 million tons. In the case of corn, the yield reaches 1.5 tons per hectare, half of the national yield of 3.2 tons, due to the size of the plots and low level of mechanisation.

In 2010, the region passed the Law for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the State of Chiapas, and one year later it implemented the Climate Change Action Plan.

In its nationally determined contribution (NDC), incorporated two years ago in the Paris Agreement on climate change, Mexico included strengthening the diversification of sustainable agriculture among the measures to be adopted by 2030.

Among the instruments to achieve this goal, it establishes the conservation of germplasm and native species of corn and the development of agroecosystems through the incorporation of climatic criteria in agricultural programmes.

In its NDCs, the country pledged to reduce its polluting emissions by 22 percent by 2030, compared with 2013 levels.

That year, Mexican agricultural activity released 80.17 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By 2020, emissions of this potent greenhouse gas are expected to reach 111 million.

By 2030, the goal is to curb agricultural and livestock emissions to 86 million tons.

“Agriculture is highly dependent on local weather conditions and is expected to be very sensitive to climate change in the coming years. In particular, a warmer and drier environment could reduce agricultural production,” said Eduardo Benítez, assistant representative of Programmes at the FAO Partnership and Liaison Office in Mexico.

Among other consequences of climate change, he mentioned to IPS a higher prevalence of fungi and pests, soil transformation, less availability of land and water for agriculture and alterations in agrobiodiversity.

“They give something, but it’s not enough,” Meléndez said about the government’s support for helping the “chinamperos” – farmers who grow crops using the chinampa method – adapt to climate change.

“It has cost us a lot of work. We carry out prevention work, such as using biological filters, to raise water in the channels to a certain level for irrigation. We try to regulate the temperature with meshes of different sizes that provide shade for the crops,” he explained.

One of the problems lies in the lack of coordination among Mexican institutions, as shown by the assessment of the Government’s 2014-2018 Special Programme on Climate Change (PECC), implemented by the government to address the phenomenon.

This analysis shows that the Information System of the Cross-cutting Agenda that operated between 2009 and 2012 is not working since the programme came into force in 2014, which prevents a “close follow up” of the progress of its 199 lines of action.

In addition, it found that the National Climate Change System has not addressed the question of connecting programmes, actions and investments at the federal, state and municipal levels, with the PECC.

González, based on her experience as a farmer, recommended silvopastoral (combining forestry and grazing) systems to maintain the plots. “There are areas that can be well preserved. We focus on soil conservation. Another solution is agroecology,” to restore soils and preserve resources, she said.

FAO and the government Agency for Marketing Services and Development of Agricultural Markets (ASERCA) are working on a project of early warnings for agriculture based on agrometeorological information to monitor the climate impacts on food production and availability.

The aim is for this data to be available to “policy-makers, financial and risk management institutions and mainly to producers. Thus, public policy can be oriented in actions such as the promotion and use of crop insurance or the activation of contingency funds,” said Benítez.

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SLIDESHOW: Tales of the 21st Century – Rohingyas Without a Statehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/153539/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=153539 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/153539/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:42:36 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153539 IPS journalists have been reporting from the camp areas within Bangladesh. They have met and spoken to many Rohingya families and learned first-hand what happened to them - the women, children and men - and what their hopes are for the future. Our journalists captured images from far and wide that reflect the agony and fears of the Rohingya who are living in dismal conditions.

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Two Rohingya children carries firewood crossing Tamru canal that has divided Bangladesh and Myanmar along Bangladesh's Naikhong chhari border in Bandarban district. Several thousand Rohingya people are still staying i no man's land along Naikhongchhari border. Credit for all photos: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Two Rohingya children carries firewood crossing Tamru canal that has divided Bangladesh and Myanmar along Bangladesh's Naikhong chhari border in Bandarban district. Several thousand Rohingya people are still staying i no man's land along Naikhongchhari border. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By IPS World Desk
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

The world has witnessed innumerable images of the long walk to ‘freedom’ of Rohingya women, children and men. Some trudged for endless hours and days, many carrying elderly parents and babies in baskets, with the women suffering the unimaginable trauma having been victims of rape, torture and harassment.

Some of them took boats and drowned, others floated their children in oil drums, not knowing how to swim. They fled their burning homes in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, crossing over to Bangladesh, stateless, homeless and hopeless.

These images, which spoke a thousand words, shocked the world. The United Nations described the tragedy as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. Over 600,000 Rohingya are now in living in camps Bangladesh, cared for by local and international NGOs, United Nations organizations such as IOM and government entities.

What lies at the root of this humanitarian crisis? Why have so many people been forced to flee their homeland? The exodus began in August after Myanmar’s security forces responded to Rohingya militant activities with brutality.

The Rohingya tragedy has been unfolding for decades, going back to 1948, when Myanmar gained independence. As the Rohingya felt insecure and feared genocide, amid growing international concern, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was appointed by the Myanmar government led by Aung San Suu Kyi to find ways to heal simmering divisions between the Rohingya and Buddhists.

In its final report, the commission urged Myanmar to lift restrictions on movement and to provide citizenship rights for the Rohingya in order to avoid fuelling ‘extremism’ in Rakhine state.

So, what must be done? While there are no simple solutions, Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed a deal for the possible repatriation of Rohingya Muslims. The question now is can they safely return to their lands and homes – many of which were burned to the ground – and live as free people with the same rights accorded to Myanmar’s Buddhist majority?

 

A partial top view of Balukhali and Kutupalong camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A partial top view of Balukhali and Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

A group of Rohingya children emerge from a nearby religious school in Kutupalong camp. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A group of Rohingya children emerge from a nearby religious school in Kutupalong camp. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

Rohingya women at Kutupalong camp. There are now over a million refugees in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Rohingya women at Kutupalong camp. There are now over a million refugees in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

A Rohingya woman at Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A Rohingya woman at Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

A Rohingya woman and child at Kutupalong camp, about 35 km from Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A Rohingya woman and child at Kutupalong camp, about 35 km from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

A dysfunctional tubewell in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

A dysfunctional tubewell in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

 

Rohingya women line up for aid. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

Rohingya women line up for aid. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

 

Rohingya women line up for food rations at Leda camp in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Rohingya women line up for food rations at Leda camp in Cox’s Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

 

Cotton used for menstruation dried on roofs of shacks in Kutupalong Camp. Credit: Umer AIman Khan/IPS

Cotton used for menstruation dried on roofs of shacks in Kutupalong Camp. Credit: Umer AIman Khan/IPS

 

Rohingya women of Balukhali camp embarking on the trek to the toilets. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

Rohingya women of Balukhali camp embarking on the trek to the toilets. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

 

 

Girls taking religious education lessons at a Madrasah in the camps. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

Girls taking religious education lessons at a Madrasah in the camps. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

 

Newborn children in the Rohingya refugee camps. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

Newborn children in the Rohingya refugee camps. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

 

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

 

Two Rohingya children carries firewood crossing Tamru canal that has divided Bangladesh and Myanmar along Bangladesh's Naikhong chhari border in Bandarban district. Several thousand Rohingya people are still staying i no man's land along Naikhongchhari border. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Two Rohingya children carry firewood crossing Tamru canal that has divided Bangladesh and Myanmar along Bangladesh’s Naikhong chhari border in Bandarban district. Several thousand Rohingya people are still staying i no man’s land along Naikhongchhari border.
Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

A Rohingya boy shows his Myanmar currency at Shahparir Dwip in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed / IPS

A Rohingya boy shows his Myanmar currency at Shahparir Dwip in Cox’s Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed / IPS

 

Rubina (extreme left) along with her friend at the Islamic School at Kutupalong camp, home to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Rubina (far left) along with her friend at the Islamic School at Kutupalong camp, home to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature's Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature’s Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

The series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh is supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

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Rohingya Refugees Endure Lingering Traumahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-endure-lingering-trauma/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-refugees-endure-lingering-trauma http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-endure-lingering-trauma/#comments Thu, 14 Dec 2017 14:24:19 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153560 In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

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Rubina (extreme left) along with her friend at the Islamic School at Kutupalong camp, home to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Rubina (far left) along with her friend at the Islamic School at Kutupalong camp, home to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

Twelve-year-old Rubina still struggles with the horrors she witnessed in her homeland in Myanmar before fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh three months ago.

Despite reaching the relative safety of a refugee camp at Kutupalong in Bangladesh’s southeast town of Cox’s Bazar – now home to nearly a million ethnic Rohingya people, mostly women and children, who fled military persecution in Myanmar – Rubina suffers from post-traumatic stress caused by the harrowing experiences back in her country.

Conservative estimates by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) state at least 6,700 of Rohingya deaths have been caused by violence, including at least 730 children under the age of five
“Barely a night passes without nightmares,” she told IPS at an Islamic school in the camp where she comes every day to learn the Quran.

“I’m fine as long as I’m with my friends, but sometimes I feel alone even amidst a crowd… I can’t forget anything that I have seen.”

Rubina was orphaned in the latest spate of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. She fled to Bangladesh along with her grandparents and three siblings after her parents were hacked to death by local Buddhist people in the presence of the army.

Rubina is among thousands of others who endured similar ordeals.

Different NGOs and aid groups are now working in more than a dozen camps stretching from Teknaf to Ukhia in Cox’s Bazar. A 45-kilometre drive reveals settlement after settlement, with thousands of bamboo and tarpaulin shanties lining both sides of the hilly road.

Nur Mohammad, 12, witnessed soldiers killing his father. “My father, a fisherman, tried to escape by running away, but the military chased him and shot him to death,” said Mohammad, who was staying at his maternal grandparents’ house in Shahporir Dwip. Mohammad’s father was a Myanmar national and his mother was Bangladeshi.

“As soldiers chased my father, my mother and I ran for cover through a jungle… we ran and walked for several days until we reached Bangladesh,” he said. “Sometimes I wake up at night and I feel like soldiers are knocking on the door… In that moment, I forget I’m in Bangladesh.”

Twelve-year-old Rohingya boy Nur Mohammad holds up Myanmar currency in Shah Porir Dwip. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Twelve-year-old Rohingya boy Nur Mohammad holds up Myanmar currency in Shah Porir Dwip. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

The latest figures by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicate that 647,000 Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh since the latest spate of violence in Rakhine that began in August. The Bangladesh government estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Rohingyas were already here before the current influx.

A Rohingya community leader, Dil Mohammad, now lives in a camp in the no-man’s-land between Bangladesh and Myanmar at Tambru of Naikhongchhari in Bangladesh’s Bandarban district. He told IPS that women and children were the worst victims of violence.

Dil Mohammad, who has a degree in psychology from Yangon University (1994), worries about the future of those children, and especially young women, who will carry emotional scars from their experiences.

Though the Myanmar military denies it, many rights groups and UN officials have confirmed deliberate and planned atrocities, including murders, gang rapes and arsons against the Rohingyas.

“In most cases, children saw the brutality and the wrath of military against the Rohingyas, but many women were also showing the signs of brutality as they were raped and abused by the military and others,” said a Rohingya man, Mohammad Faisal, at a settlement at Teknaf Nature Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Faisal’s teenage wife Hajera, who was expecting her second baby, said they were lucky to have escaped with other family members, and everybody was safe and alive.

“I saw a soldier killing a baby – just throwing it onto the ground. I can’t forget the scene. I have a one-year-old baby girl,” Hajera said. “It could be my daughter… I tried to erase it from my mind, but I can’t. When I close my eyes I see the military man killing the baby and hear the baby crying.”

In most cases, women were unable to share their experiences with others, she said. “They can’t tell people how they have been abused, so they will bear their trauma [in silence],” Hajera said.

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature's Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature’s Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

An aid worker at a centre of Save the Children, who asked not to be named, told IPS about the children she worked with. “They come here and spend the whole day making new friends and playing with them, but they need time to recover fully,” she said.

Professor Tasmeem Siddiqui of Dhaka University, the founder and chair of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit in Dhaka, said, “Those who are coordinating there must build up leadership from the community, especially women’s leadership.”

“Trauma management is a big challenge after any genocide. People can’t easily forget what they have seen. It should be handled very carefully with the people who have expertise in those fields,” she told IPS, adding, “I don’t think there is a very systematic co-ordination among the groups working in the Rohingya settlements.”

As women and children were the primary victims, women and children from their community should be engaged, along with the experts, so that the victims can speak up without inhibition, she said.

For women, trauma and sexual assaults are not the only issues to be addressed. In this vast stretch of unprotected settlements, they face other risks, from hygiene, and sanitation to trafficking.

Rohingya people interviewed for this story didn’t fear the type of attacks they faced in Myanmar, but said there were still opportunists who would try to exploit the helplessness of the Rohingya women and children who were struggling to survive.

“Besides systematic aid work by groups with expertise, community participation is essential for the protection of women and children,” Professor Siddiqui stressed.

Bangladesh and Myanmar recently signed a deal regarding repatriation of Rohingya. Many see the step as a ray of hope, but others who have suffered from decades of poverty, underdevelopment and sectarian violence at home were more cynical.

Even 10-year-old Mohammad Arafat expressed doubts. “They killed my father in front of me. My mother and I escaped,” he said. “If we go back there, they will kill us.”

The series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh is supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

 

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Money Talks at One Planet Summit in Parishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/money-talks-one-planet-summit-paris/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:27:17 +0000 Paris Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153552 As funding to combat climate change has lagged behind lofty words, the One Planet Summit in France this week invited governments and business leaders to put money on the table. The result was a significant number of international pledges – both for investment in green energy and divestment from fossil fuels – as various sectors […]

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Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the One Planet Summit in Paris. Credit: AM

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the One Planet Summit in Paris. Credit: AM

By Paris Correspondent
PARIS, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

As funding to combat climate change has lagged behind lofty words, the One Planet Summit in France this week invited governments and business leaders to put money on the table.

The result was a significant number of international pledges – both for investment in green energy and divestment from fossil fuels – as various sectors responded to the call from French President Emmanuel Macron for urgent action.Some of the drive at the summit came from small island states, which have been battered by recent hurricanes and other disasters.

“We’re not going fast enough,” Macron said at the Dec. 12 summit, which he co-convened with the United Nations and the World Bank. “Some countries present will see their territories disappear. We all have to move forward… The time is now.”

French multinational insurance company AXA announced that it plans to have 12 billion euros in green investments by 2020 and that it would divest 2.4 billion euros from certain coal-company activities.

Meanwhile the World Bank Group (WBG) highlighted its funding of projects in India for street lighting; in West Africa to tackle “coastal erosion, flooding and climate change adaptation”; in Indonesia regarding geothermal-power development; and with the Global Covenant of Mayors in a new “Cities Resilience Programme” (CRP).

“Over the next three years, the CRP will leverage $4.5 billion in World Bank loans to catalyze billions in public and private capital for technical assistance, project co-financing and credit enhancement,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

He said that the programme would essentially “act as an investment banker for cities to structure programs to address their vulnerabilities to climate change”.

Kim also announced that the World Bank would not be financing upstream oil and gas after 2019, but that in “exceptional circumstances”, consideration would be given to such financing in the “poorest countries” where there is a clear benefit in terms of “energy access for the poor”.

The bank said it was on track to meet its target of 28 percent of its lending going to climate action by 2020.

With these and other announcements, the One Planet Summit, held two years after the signing of the landmark Paris Agreement, aimed to add momentum to the push for adequate financing of climate adaptation and mitigation, said some observers, while others termed it a public-relations exercise.

The summit brought together heads of state, local government representatives, non-governmental organizations – and schoolchildren. Journalists were out in force, alongside United Nations delegations, at the Seine Musicale venue, an imposing new arts centre on an island in the river Seine, just outside Paris.

Government leaders arrived by boat with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Macron and Kim, the co-convenors, for a packed afternoon of panel discussions and speeches, following morning events.

“Technological progress has already revealed the falsehood that responding to climate change is bad for the economy,” said Guterres. “Finance could be, should be and will be a decisive factor.”

Some of the drive at the summit came from small island states, which have been battered by recent hurricanes and other disasters.

Caribbean representatives announced the launch of a 8-billion-dollar investment plan to create the world’s first “climate-smart zone”. The bodies involved include the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and private groups, forming a “Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition”.

The goal is to find a way “to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments”, the Caribbean Development Bank said.

Juvenel Moȉse, Haiti’s president and a participant at the summit, spoke of the vulnerability of the region, emphasizing that all the islands are suffering from the impacts of climate change. He said that Haiti was in a “very fragile zone”.

American actor Sean Penn, also present, said he had got involved in helping Haiti to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country, and he said more financing was needed.

“I call on all those gathered to stand with Haiti,” he urged.

Meanwhile, Canada and the World Bank Group said they would support small island developing states to expand their renewable-energy infrastructure to achieve greater access to energy and to decrease pollution.

In side events around the summit, groups such as the International Development Finance Club (which groups 23 international, national and regional development banks from across the world), highlighted their “green financial flows”.

The group said that in 2016, IDFC members made new commitments representing 173 billion dollars in finance, an increase of 30 billion from 2015.

The eve of the summit, Dec. 11, was titled Climate Finance Day, and it was also the 20th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol. Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change (UNFCCC), told journalists that the long years of negotiations had provided a framework in which all sectors of society could take action, as governments “cannot do it alone”.

She said there was a growing sense of urgency, especially after recent extreme weather events that had seen some communities “losing everything they have built throughout their lives”. More support was needed for adaptation, she and other officials noted.

At the summit, the Agence Française de Développement – an IDFC member — signed accords with Mauritius, Niger, Tunisia and the Comoros – as part of the agency’s Adapt’Action Facility.

With financing of 30 million euros over four years, Adapt’Action seeks to “accompany 15 developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, in the implementation of the Paris Agreement regarding adaptation,” the agency stated.

An official from Niger spoke compellingly of problems that included desertification. The country has been cited as an example of France not doing enough for its former colonies, and political analysts question whether that will change under Macron.

The European Union meanwhile said that its External Investment Plan (EIP) is set to mobilise some 44 billion euros to “partner countries in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood” by 2020.

Among its goals, the EIP aims to “contribute to the UN’s sustainable development goals while tackling some of the root causes of migration,” according to the EU.

Regarding Asia and the Pacific, officials at the summit said action by countries in the region were “encouraging”. Heads of state included the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Fiji, who spoke of their climate initiatives. Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the country was among the first emerging states to offer a green bond.

The international nature of the summit made the U.S. absence even more noticeable. As U.S. President Donald Trump had announced earlier this year that the country would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, he was not invited, French officials said.

Other American climate figures were present, however, such as businessman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

Bloomberg said that around the world, businesses were taking “responsible” action because investors want to put their money in environmentally friendly companies.

Still, for some NGOs, not enough is being done, and the summit was more of what they had heard before.

“If governments and business are sincere in their commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement, they would cease their financing of dirty and harmful energy projects around the world and would instead accept their responsibility for providing public finance to address climate change instead of letting business dictate the agenda,” said Meena Raman of Third World Network.

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Shedding Diplomacy, Roberto Savio Speaks about Fear as a Tool to Gain Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:17:39 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153533 This op-ed by Roberto Savio, IPS founder and President Emeritus is adapted from a statement he made as a panelist on Migration and Human Solidarity, A Challenge and an Opportunity for Europe and the MENA region held on 14 December at the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

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This op-ed by Roberto Savio, IPS founder and President Emeritus is adapted from a statement he made as a panelist on Migration and Human Solidarity, A Challenge and an Opportunity for Europe and the MENA region held on 14 December at the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

At the outset my thanks to Dr Hanif Hassan Ali Al Kassim, and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy who lead the Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue for organizing this panel discussion at a critical moment in history. The Centre, is one of the few actors for peace and cooperation between the Arab world and Europe. As a representative of global civil society, I think it will be more meaningful if I speak without the constraints of diplomacy, and I make frank and unfettered reflections.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The misuse of religion, of populism and xenophobia, is a sad reality, which is not clearly addressed any longer, but met with hypocrisy and not outright denunciation. Only now the British are realizing that they voted for Brexit, on the basis of a campaign of lies. But nobody has taken on publicly Johnson or Farage, the leaders of Brexit, after Great Britain accepted to pay, as one of the many costs of divorce, at least 45 billion Euro, instead of saving 20 billion Euro, as claimed by the ‘brexiters’. And there are only a few analysis on why political behaviour is more and more a sheer calculation, without any concern for truth or the good of the country.

President Trump could be a good case study on the relations between politics and populism. Just a few days ago the United States has declared that they are withdrawing from the UN Global Compact on Migration. This has nothing to do with the interest or the identity of United States, which has built itself as a country of immigrants. It has to do with the fact that this decision is popular with a part of American population, which is voting for President Trump, like the evangelicals. I have here to show the message they are circulating, after the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is what it is said in the Bible. If we recreate the world described in the bible, Jesus will make his second coming to earth, and only the just will be rewarded. And therefore they think that Trump brings the world closer to the return of Christ, and therefore he acts for the good of their beliefs. Evangelicals are close to thirty million, and they strongly believe that when the second coming of Jesus will happen, he will recognize only them as the believers who are on the right path. Trump is not an evangelical, and he has shown little interest in religion. But, like each of his actions, he is coherent with his views during the campaign, which brought together all the dissatisfied people catapulting him into the White House. Everything he does, is not in the interest of the world or of the United States. He is just focused on keeping the support of his electors – those who do not come from big towns, academia, media and the Silicon Valley. They come mainly from impoverished and uninformed white electors, who feel left out from the benefits of globalization. They believe those benefits went to the elite, to the big towns and to the few winners, and believe that there is an international plot to humiliate the United States. So, climate change for them and Trump is a Chinese hoax ! During the first year, Trump can well have a shocking approval rating of 32%, the lowest in history for a President of United States. But 92% of his voters would re-elect him. And as only 50% of Americans vote, he can conveniently ignore general public opinion.

It is not the place here to go deeper into American political trends. But Trump is a perfect example to see why a large number of Europeans, or even countries like Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic, are ignoring the decisions of the European Union on migrants, and why populism, xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise everywhere.

Fear has become the tool to get to power.

Historians agree that two main engines of change in history, are greed and fear.

Well, we have been trained, since the collapse of communism, to look to greed as a positive value. Markets (no man or ideas), was the new paradigm. States were an obstacle to a free market. Globalization, it was famously said, would lift all boats, and benefit everybody. In fact, markets without rules was self-destructive, and not all boats were lifted, but only yachts, the bigger the better. The rich became richer, and the poor poorer. The process is so speedy, that ten years ago the richest 528 people had the same wealth of 2.3 billion people. This year, they have become 8, and this number is likely to shrink soon. All statistics are clear, and globalization based on free market is losing some of its shine.

But meanwhile we have lost many codes of communication. In the political debate there is no more reference to social justice, solidarity, participation, equity, the values in the modern constitutions, on which we built international relations. Now the codes are competition, success, profit and individual achievement. During my lectures at schools, I am dismayed to see a materialistic generation, who do not care to vote, to change the world. And the distance between citizens and political institutions is increasing every day. The only voices reminding us of justice and solidarity, and are voices from religious leaders: Pope Bergoglio, the Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu, and the Grand Mufti Muhammad Hussein, just to name the most prominent. And with media who are now also based on market as the only criteria, those voices are becoming weaker.

After a generation of greed, we are now in a generation of fear. We should notice that, before the great economic crisis of 2009 (provoked by greed: banks have paid until now 280 billion dollars of penalties and fines), xenophobe and populist parties were always minorities (with exception of Le Pen in France). The crisis created fear and uncertainties, and then immigration started to rise, especially after the invasion of Libya in 2001 and Iraq in 2013.We are now in the seventh year of the Syrian drama, which displaced 45% of the population. Merkel is now paying a price for her acceptance of Syrian refugees, and it is interesting to note that two thirds of the votes to Alternative Fur Deutschland, the populist and xenophobe party, comes from former East Germany, that has few refugees but an income, which is nearly 25% lower. Fear, again, has been the engine for change of German history.

Europe was direct lyresponsible for these migrations. A famous cartoonist El Roto from El Pais, has made a cartoon showing bombs flying in the air, and migrant’s boats coming from the sea. “We send them bombs, and they send us migrants”. But there is no recognition of this. Those who escape from hunger and war are now depicted as invaders. Countries who until few years ago, like the Nordic ones, were considered synonymous with civic virtues, and who spent a considerable budget for international cooperation, are now erecting walls and barbed wire. Greed and fear have been so successfully exploited by the new nationalist, populist and xenophobe parties, that now they keep growing at every election, from Austria to the Netherlands, from Czech Republic to Great Britain (where they created Brexit ), and then Germany, and in a few months, Italy. The three horses of apocalypse, which in the thirties were the basis for the Second Wold War: nationalism, populism and xenophobia, are back with growing popular support, and politicians openly riding them.

But what is shocking is that we have now a new element of division: religion, which is widely used against immigrants and should instead unite us. Religion has always been used to get power and legitimacy. Common people never started the wars of religion in Europe but by princes and kings. A few years ago we did commemorate the expulsion first of the Jews, and then of the Moors, from Spain, where they lived in harmony and peace with the Christians, forming a civilization of the three cultures. And a few weeks ago, there was a great march in Warsaw, ignored by the media, with 40.000 people, many coming from all over Europe and the United States. They marched in the name of God, crying death to the Jews and Muslim.

But while Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and Jew religious leaders engage in a positive dialogue for peace and cooperation, a number of self-proclaimed defenders of the faith, are bringing fear, misery and death. And it should be clear that we have no clash of religions. It is a clash of those who use religion for power and legitimacy. And they ride an unrealistic historical dream. To return to a world, which is gone, where mines will reopen, the country will go back to its former glory: a world, that dreams not of a better future, but of a better past. Africa is going to double its population, with 80% of its population under 35 years; while in Europe it will be just 20%. There is no hope for Europe to be viable in a global economy and in a competitive world, without substantial immigration. Yet, to speak about that in the political debate, is now a kiss of death.

In conclusion, I must stress that we face a sad reality, which cannot be ignored any longer, even if it is not politically correct. Ideals have always been used to gain support, even from those who did not believe them. And historians teach us that in modern times humankind has fallen into three traps: In the name of God, to divide and not to dialogue; in the name of the nation, often to rally support and bring citizens to wars; and now, in name of the profit. I think it is time to make new alliances, and launch a great powerful campaign of awareness on the false prophets, with mobilizations of media, civil society and legitimate politicians, to educate citizens that immigration must be regulated, as it is a necessity, with which Europe must live.

We must establish policies, and even after Trumps leaves the global Compact, like he left the Paris Agreement on climate change, he will remain an isolated voice, while citizens will strive for a better world, with no fears, based on common values. We must take an unpopular but vital action for education and participation. It will be unpopular and difficult we know. But if we do not take this road, human beings, who are the only ‘animals’ who do not learn from past mistakes, will again go through blood, misery and destruction.

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South Sudan: a Nation Tormented by a Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:05:56 +0000 Kujiek Ruot http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153553 I come from Panyijar County, South Sudan, just south of where famine was declared in February this year and one of thousands of places badly hit by the conflict which enters its fifth year today. With each year the fighting continues, the hopes that I and my fellow South Sudanese had when voting for independence […]

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Oxfam in South Sudan

By Kujiek Ruot, Oxfam, South Sudan
PANYIJAR COUNTY, South Sudan, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

I come from Panyijar County, South Sudan, just south of where famine was declared in February this year and one of thousands of places badly hit by the conflict which enters its fifth year today. With each year the fighting continues, the hopes that I and my fellow South Sudanese had when voting for independence in 2011 are dimmed.

Home has become a place where our worst memories are made in recent times. Another year passes and I wonder if I should start to ignore it, to move on and avoid more hurt. But how can you forget home? This is my home. My South Sudan.

Let me tell you a bit about my home.

If I ask you to imagine what my old home looked like, most people would picture the bad bits. You might think of the fighting that has forced people to flee for their lives, of barren lands, and of the suffering that thousands of people are currently going through.

But for me, Panyijar was always somewhere completely different; a beautiful and natural place with some of the kindest people around. It’s because of these memories that I cry when I see what is happening there today.

Panyijar County sits in the heart of huge swamps, some of the largest in the world. The waters are dotted by dozens of small islands, with lilies and natural vegetation floating in between. Rare eagles compete with the roosters to wake you in the morning. Not much plastic has reached here yet, so the waters are clear of rubbish.

The people of Panyijar have maintained the natural state of this palm tree-laden land. Were South Sudan a peaceful and developed nation, tourism would be a big earner here! And then there are the people.

Panyijar is famous for its culture of giving and sharing. Caring for others is encouraged from childhood. People tell folk tales of the perils of greed to discourage selfishness. It has even been known for families to trace the lineage of potential spouses for meanness, before getting married.

I remember you could move from one corner of the county to the next, meeting friendly faces all the way. You worried little about where to find food or a place to spend the night: someone would always welcome you. Because people had more, they had more to share when others were in need.

I cannot say there were no challenges before the conflict, but Panyijar was peaceful at least. Today, it’s a different story; a story of crisis. When the guns started blazing, thousands of people fled to the islands where they found some kind of safety but little to survive on except boiled water lily bulbs. With few latrines and clean water difficult to find, deadly diseases and suffering have followed.

The talk of the towns was once of cattle arriving from towns nearby. Now you hear of desperate people arriving, forced to flee from their homes. Diseases seem to be killing more than ever.

When, as a child, I felt unwell in the morning, my mother would give me some herbs and by late afternoon I would be back in the field playing with friends. The difference? Back then I ate nutritious food until I was full to the brim, but now the children are almost always hungry.

Food production has declined. There are few places safe enough to farm and fewer young people to do the work as many of them have been sucked into the conflict. We all keep giving and sharing whatever we may have, but with less to go around, our efforts are stretched thin.

It’s heart-breaking to see the state of a place with such huge potential. On my recent return I saw some signs that there can be better days. Community gardens set up with Oxfam’s help were flourishing, supplying some of the only vegetables in the markets.

It can’t be enough to feed the ever-growing population of the islands, but hopefully in better times more people will adopt them. I want nothing more than this place of natural beauty and wonderful people to grow and flourish.

For now, we must avert disaster. Aid agencies like Oxfam are doing all they can to stop things getting even worse and we must all keep working together to bring back my home’s lost glory and better times for South Sudan.

Peace is where it all begins.

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In Defense of Uganda’s Imprisoned Journalistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/defense-ugandas-imprisoned-journalists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=defense-ugandas-imprisoned-journalists http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/defense-ugandas-imprisoned-journalists/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 10:47:16 +0000 Angela Quintal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153544 The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has included eight staffers of the controversial Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper in its 2017 global census of imprisoned journalists. Some may disagree with that decision. After all, Red Pepper arguably endangered the lives of LGBTQ Ugandans by splashing the names of “200 top homos” across its pages back in […]

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Senior editors and directors of Uganda’s Red Pepper tabloid newspaper crowd the dock during.

By Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator
DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has included eight staffers of the controversial Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper in its 2017 global census of imprisoned journalists. Some may disagree with that decision.

After all, Red Pepper arguably endangered the lives of LGBTQ Ugandans by splashing the names of “200 top homos” across its pages back in 2014 when President Yoweri Museveni toughened criminal penalties for gays.

Outside of the country some accused the daily of hate speech but at home the government of course said nothing.

Now the tables are turned. Museveni’s authoritarian administration has cracked down hard on Red Pepper for republishing a story by a Rwandan outlet alleging a Ugandan plot to overthrow Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.

Red Pepper‘s critics may view the arrests and prosecution of the eight journalists as poetic justice but that misses the bigger point. The Ugandan media is under tremendous and continuous pressure from an administration that attempts to silence critical and independent voices, and this crackdown is yet another attempt to intimidate the press.

That is why we, the World Association of Newspapers local media and press freedom organizations, as well as competitors and commentators, among others, have condemned the Red Pepper raid.

As the country’s Africa Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) has stated: “Our defense of the tabloid is not to endorse its approach to journalism, but rather to highlight what Uganda’s Supreme Court has called ‘the greater danger of smothering alternative views of fact and opinion”.

“Those who are celebrating the silencing of Red Pepper should remember that some of the offences preferred against the directors and editors, such as ‘offensive communication’, are as much a threat to ordinary Ugandans …. If these charges are allowed to stand against Red Pepper, we shall be in trouble because they can easily be preferred and allowed to stand against any of us,” said ACME executive director, Peter Mwesige.

Police accused Red Pepper of publishing information prejudicial to “national security” in its November 20 edition. It reproduced an article by a Rwandan online publication Rushyashya under the headline ” M7 plotting to overthrow Kagame“. M7 is a nickname for Museveni who has ruled Uganda for 31 years.

The original charge of treason was dropped, but the journalists face seven other counts, including offensive communication, libel and disturbing the peace of Museveni, his brother Gen. Salim Saleh and Security Minister Henry Tumukunde.

The police’s anti-terrorism unit raided the offices and some editors’ homes; arrested management and senior staff; confiscated their tools of the trade, including computers and cellphones forced staff to hand over their passwords, sealed the office premises and declared it a crime scene.

More than three weeks after the arrests, Red Pepper has not been allowed to resume publishing, its staff, including those who were not charged, cannot earn a living and the company is unable to conduct business and pay the bills. The eight also remain in jail.

Police spokesman Emilian Kayima rejected criticism that the police were heavy-handed, saying its action was “very proportional and very professionally done”.

The effect of the State’s sledgehammer approach is felt beyond Red Pepper and is widely regarded as a tool to intimidate other journalists into self-censorship and to toe the government line, according to editors interviewed by CPJ, as well statements by media freedom organisations, cited above.

Haruna Kanaabi, the executive secretary of the Independent Media Council of Uganda, told CPJ: “What they (the authorities) did was to take the hammer to beat the mosquito.”

The Daily Monitor’s executive editor Charles Bichachi, said the “state seems to be using the detention to intimidate them, to harass them, and send a message to the rest of the media”.

“That is why we should speak out …because if the government gets away with holding Red Pepper editors, they will come for the rest,” he told CPJ.

However, Information Minister Frank Tumwebaze does not believe that the arrests are a threat to media freedom.

“When people have been charged in courts of law then it means that the state has given them an opportunity to get justice and defend themselves. Nobody is above the law, whether a journalist or any other citizen,” Tumwebaze told CPJ.

The State’s apparent bullying tactics appears to be succeeding. The Observer reported on December 7 that the management of Top Radio & TV had banned opposition politicians & other voices critical of government from all its shows.

Meanwhile, the Uganda Communications Commission, has directed various media houses to suspend programs or dismiss presenters considered critical of government, The Observer reported.

Police have also recently summoned editors of the Monitor publications and New Vision and interrogated them about articles they published.

It is clear that Uganda’s media, not only Red Pepper, is under siege and ordinary Ugandans are the poorer for it.

[Additional reporting by Muthoki Mumo, CPJ East Africa correspondent]

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Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/arming-poor-countries-enriches-rich-countries/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:35:42 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153534 Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales; held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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The iconic statue of a knotted gun barrel outside U.N. headquarters. Credit:Tressia Boukhors/IPS.

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY/KUALA LUMPUR , Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

Although the Cold War came to an end over a quarter century ago, international arms sales only declined temporarily at the end of the last century. Instead, the United States under President Trump is extending its arms superiority over the rest of the world.

The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by 63 per cent while Saudi Arabia’s rose a staggering 212 per cent
Meanwhile, some fast-growing developing countries are now arming themselves much faster than their growth rate. Such expensive arms imports mean less for development and the people, especially the poor and destitute who constitute several hundred million in India alone.

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s had raised expectations of a ‘peace dividend’. Many hoped and expected the arms race to decelerate, if not cease; the resources thus saved were expected to be redeployed for development and to improve the lives of ordinary people.

But the arms trade has continued to grow in the new millennium, after falling briefly from the mid-1990s. And without the political competition of the Cold War, official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries fell in the 1990s. Such ODA or foreign aid only rose again after 9/11, the brutal terroristic attack on US symbols of global power, only to fall again after the global financial crisis.

 

Arms sales

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) latest report on the world’s arms trade offers some revealing new data. The volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2012–2016 was 8.4 per cent more than in 2007–2011, the highest for any five-year period since 1990.

As Figure 1 shows, international arms exports rose steeply until the early 1980s, after a brief decline during 1955–1960. It fell once again from the mid-1980s as Mikhail Gorbachev sought to end the Cold War which had diverted resources to military build-ups in developing countries.

Foreign sales of military arms and equipment across the world totalled $374.8 billion in 2016, the first year of growth (by 1.9 per cent), after five years of decline. American companies had a $217.2 billion lion’s share of foreign arms sales. Seven out of ten of the world’s top arms companies were American, earning $152.1 billion, with Lockheed Martin leading with $40.8 billion.

 

Arms Sales: Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries - Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017) Note: The bars show annual totals while the line shows the five-year moving average, with each data point representing an average for the five-year period ending that year. The SIPRI trend-indicator value (TIV) measures the volume of international transfers of major weapons.

Figure 1. International transfers of major weapons, 1950–2016. Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017) Note: The bars show annual totals while the line shows the five-year moving average, with each data point representing an average for the five-year period ending that year. The SIPRI trend-indicator value (TIV) measures the volume of international transfers of major weapons.

 

Arms exporters

The five biggest exporters during 2012–2016 were the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany (Figure 2).

 

 

Arms Sales: Arming Poor Countries Enriches Rich Countries - Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017)

Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database (20 Feb. 2017)

 

US exports of major weapons increased by 21 per cent during 2012–2016 compared to 2007–2011. The major destination was the Middle East which accounted for 47 per cent. The USA exported major weapons to at least 100 states during 2012–2016, significantly more than any other supplying country.

Russian major weapons exports increased by only 4.7 per cent. It sold weapons to only 50 states, with exports to India alone accounting for 38 per cent. Meanwhile, China’s exports increased by 74 per cent, as its share of global arms exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 per cent. China’s arms exports to Africa grew most, by 122 per cent, to account for 22 per cent of its total arms exports.

 

Arms importers

The five biggest importers were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Algeria. Indian arms imports increased by 43 per cent. Its imports during 2012–2016 were far greater than those of its regional rivals, China and Pakistan, as Pakistan’s arms imports declined by 28 per cent compared to 2007–2011. UAE imports increased by 63 per cent while Saudi Arabia’s rose a staggering 212 per cent! Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of US weapons followed by South Korea.

India, the world’s largest arms importer, has more of the world’s abject poor (280 million) than any other country, accounting for a third of the world’s poor living below the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day. Using a US$3.10 a day poverty line, more appropriate for a middle-income country, the number of poor in India goes up dramatically to 732 million.

A study in 2014, led by the former chairman of the Indian Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, C Rangarajan, estimated that 363 million, or 29.5 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion people, lived in poverty in 2011–2012, i.e., on less than Rs 32 daily in rural areas, and below Rs 47 a day in urban areas.

Asia and Oceania was the main importing region in 2012–2016, accounting for 43 per cent of global imports, followed by the Middle East, with 29 per cent, and African states accounting for 8.1 per cent. Between the two five year periods, arms imports in Asia and Oceania increased by 7.7 per cent and in the Middle East by 86 per cent. Arms imports by European states fell by 36 per cent while African arms imports declined by 6.6 per cent.

Tensions in Southeast Asia have driven up demand for weapons. Viet Nam’s arms imports increased by 202 per cent, pushing it to become the 10th largest arms importer in 2012–2016 from being 29th in 2007–2011. This was the fastest increase among the top ten importers. Philippines’ arms imports increased by 426 per cent while Indonesia’s grew by 70 per cent.

 

Fuelling conflicts

Six rebel groups are among the 165 identified recipients of major weapons in 2012–2016. Even though deliveries to the six accounted for no more than 0.02 per cent of major arms transfers, SIPRI argues the sales fuel conflicts.

Conflict regions alone accounted for 48 per cent of total arms imports to sub-Saharan Africa. According to SIPRI, governments fighting rebel groups used major arms against anti-government rebels.

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Bangladesh Aims at Middle-Income Status by 2021http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/bangladesh-aims-middle-income-status-2021/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladesh-aims-middle-income-status-2021 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/bangladesh-aims-middle-income-status-2021/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:14:03 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153526 The environmental challenges facing Bangladesh, described by the United Nations as one of the world’s “least developed countries” (LDCs), are monumental, including recurrent cyclones, perennial floods, widespread riverbank erosion and a potential sea level rise predicted to put about 27 million people at risk over the next two decades. But the first National Country Investment […]

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Bangladesh. Credit: FAO

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

The environmental challenges facing Bangladesh, described by the United Nations as one of the world’s “least developed countries” (LDCs), are monumental, including recurrent cyclones, perennial floods, widespread riverbank erosion and a potential sea level rise predicted to put about 27 million people at risk over the next two decades.

But the first National Country Investment Plan for Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (CIP-EFCC), released December 13, provides a detailed road map for sustainable development that encompasses reduction in poverty, improving environmental and human health benefits and increasing resilience to climate change, among others.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, herself with strong environmental credentials, has endorsed the plan ratified at the highest levels of the National Environmental Council, pointing the way for other developing countries to emulate and follow in the footsteps on Bangladesh.

Described as a “strategic tool,” the plan is anchored to, and aligned with, the vision of transforming Bangladesh from a LDC to a middle income country by 2021, nine years ahead of the UN’s targeted date of 2030 to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The plan, which will enable Bangladesh to monitor and assess the state of the environment, as well as investments in the context of climate change, also provides an avenue for multi sector policy dialogue and coordination for investment in CIP-EFCC – where state agencies, private sector, and civil society are able to advance areas of common interest, including in the forestry and timber sector.

Marco Boscolo, Forestry Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organzation of the United Nations, and former Chief Technical Advisor of the project, told IPS that it was hard to underestimate the size of environmental challenges of Bangladesh.

“Every year, only due to riverbank erosion, tens of thousands of people lose their land and livelihoods, spurring a lot of internal migration, mostly towards cities. Landslides, cyclones and floods make headlines every year during the monsoon season,” he said.

The reasons are complex. Flooding is not a new phenomenon in Bangladesh. Because the country is a flat delta, the monsoon season has always brought some level of flooding. However, climate change (more severe storms and cyclones) and trans-boundary water issues have exacerbated the problem, said Boscolo.

“The pressure on the land is huge. To get a sense of the level of population pressure in Bangladesh one can imagine that, if the whole population of the earth (about 7.6 billion) would be put all in the USA, the population density would be less than what is now in Bangladesh,” he declared.

Asked what Bangladesh needs to implement the SDGs, and also battle natural disasters, Boscolo said that with the adoption of SDGs, countries have sanctioned that most development challenges are cross-sectoral in nature.

Addressing the threat of climate change, tackling poverty and food security, addressing environmental degradation are not and cannot be the exclusive mandate of individual ministries and agencies, he pointed out.

“Unfortunately, in Bangladesh (as in many other countries), there is still a strong sectoral divide in terms of both structure, planning and budgeting which deters coordination and learning. Cross sectoral investment frameworks are essential to implement the SDGs.”

He said the Country Investment Plan (CIP) on the environment, forestry and climate change includes about 30 SDG indicators in its results framework.

Meanwhile, facts and figures on the state of the country’s environment are staggering: about 15 million people in Bangladesh alone could be on the move by 2050 because of climate change induced sea level increases and increases in areas under standing flood water.

With the highest population density of any non-city state globally, Bangladesh will have limited ability to absorb the internal movement of people, which will then lead to the external movement of Bangladeshis.

At the same time, saline intrusion (up to 8 km by 2030) resulting from sea level rise will create a significant reduction in agriculture productivity. https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/83337/CSA_Profile_Bangladesh.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Temperature increases are already having a negative effect on yield of rice and other vegetable crops. By 2050 pulse yields under climate change are 8.8% lower than the projected value if climate change did not occur.

“This is followed by wheat and oilseed-rapeseed with 6.4% and 6.3%, respectively, as the greatest reductions in yield. By 2050 rice, yields of vegetables (as a group), and other crop11 (including jute) are 5.3%, 5.7%, and 3.3% less than the NoCC value in 2050, respectively.”

Additionally, extreme weather conditions (floods and cyclones) are expected to increase in frequency and intensity in Bangladesh. Losses related to the 2007 and 2009 cyclones were estimated at around two million metric tons of rice, enough to feed 10 million people.

The south, southwest, and southeast coastal regions of Bangladesh are increasingly susceptible to severe tropical cyclones and associated saltwater intrusion. https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/83337/CSA_Profile_Bangladesh.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Pollution can account for as many as one in four deaths. Extremely poor air quality, polluted food and water systems and industrial toxins all contribute to this scenario. http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/environment/2017/10/20/pollution-can-account-one-four-deaths-bangladesh/

Asked about the importance of the CIP, Boscolo told IPS the five year CIP, which took two years to develop, responds to a growing need for an investment framework that allows for resources to be more targeted for environmental improvements, better coordination among agencies, and regular monitoring of the impacts of these investments.

He said the CIP had been designed to help the Government realize its policy objectives by guiding investment choices in their Annual Development Programs.

The plan has identified at least 46 agencies that implement 170 projects directly related to the environment, forestry and climate change. While those projects are worth some $5.0 billion, an additional $7.0 billion are needed by 2021 to meet development targets, such as those set in the Government’s seventh Five Year Plan.

Areas such as environmental governance, pollution control, and the management of natural resources were found to be particularly underfinanced, he noted.

“These additional investments are needed to ensure that the country’s economic development, which has progressed at a rate of over six percent per year, will continue and to ensure the health and well-being of the general public while safeguarding the environment,” Boscolo added. http://www.bd.undp.org/content/bangladesh/en/home/library/crisis_prevention_and_recovery/climate-protection-and-development-budget-report-2017-18–.html

Asked what is urgently needed to help implement the SDGs, Boscolo said improved targeting of climate change (CC) and environmental funds to activities that will have the greatest effect in mitigating the effects of CC and improving the environment.

Additionally, there has to be improved coordination and synchronization of CC and environment funding; increases in internal and external CC funds, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) etc; increased knowledge of the effect of CC and environmental pollution and the potential impact that targeted investments could have and improved governance structures to lead better CC and environmental investment in Bangladesh.

In particular, he said, there is a need for capacity enhancement within relevant organizations (e.g., General Economics Division, Planning Commission, Prime Minister’s Office’s relevant directorate and ministries like agriculture, disaster management, water resources etc.) which might be helpful.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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A Voice of Inspirationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/a-voice-of-inspiration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-voice-of-inspiration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/a-voice-of-inspiration/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 15:12:30 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153476 The lights are switched off and the dirty dishes are being cleaned. But on their way home, the participants of the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) still have a lot to chew on. Last week they collected new ideas and insights on civil society during the week long global event. For the first time ICSW was hosted in the Pacific, to focus on some of the world’s most vulnerable islands.

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By Pascal Laureyn
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

More than 700 activists gathered in Suva, Fiji’s capital, to explore the latest trends – from climate change to human rights, from innovation to social justice. Anything that can help empower and mobilise citizens. The lively debates in panel discussions, workshops and lectures made the event look like a carnival of creative new ideas and tested knowledge.

The Innovation Lab brought together human rights defenders to share their tools, tactics and strategies. Oxfam addressed the long term problems that the 300 nuclear tests in the Pacific had caused. And the Public Interest Registry taught participants how to inspire donors to give and supporters to take action.

A lot of attention went to activist stars like Kumi Naidoo (Greenpeace, CIVICUS, …), Helen Clark (former prime minister of New Zealand) and José Ramos-Horta (former president of Timor-Leste). The youthful and charming winners of the ‘Nelson Mandela – Graca Machel Innovation Awards’ won many hearts when the annual prize was handed out.

Special focus on the Pacific

For the first time this global event was hosted in the Pacific. The conference focussed on the plight of small islands affected by rising sea levels and more frequent and extreme weather.

“The peoples of the Pacific, like those in other small island states, have to tackle the devastating impacts of climate change alongside other development challenges,” says Danny Sriskandarajah, secretary general of CIVICUS.

CIVICUS, an alliance for citizen participation, organized the conference in cooperation with PIANGO, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisation.

Fiji has taken a leading role in the Pacific to address climate change. The republic has already presided over the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23) in Bonn and co-hosted the UN Oceans Conference in New York earlier this year. It collaborates closely with other Pacific states and territories.

Brianna Fruean, a 19 year old student from Samoa, is one of the Pacific Climate Warriors, a cooperation between 12 island nations. “My grandfather liked to take me to the markets to look at the rich variety of fish. But the corals are devastated due to climate change. If you go to the fish markets now it’s not so plentiful anymore. That’s how my passion for climate change began.”

“It is critical that every person on this planet recognizes the importance of what is going on in the Pacific,” says Danny Sriskandarajah. “Everybody must act. Whether it is change in their consumption behavior or putting pressure on their local and national authorities.”

Many inspirational voices

Speaking at the closing event, Joanna Kerr – the Canadian head of Greenpeace – said that the problem of climate change will require enormous civil society mobilisation to address. “The problem is so huge it can be hard to stay optimistic. But the hope and resilience of the Pacific gives us hope.” She applauded the ordinary Pacific peoples’ appreciation for climate change.

Another inspirational voice of hope was that of Victor Ugo, a Nigerian doctor. He came to ICSW to collect his ‘Nelson Mandela – Graca Machel Innovation Award’ for his work on developing awareness on mental health in Nigeria. He experienced several eye-openers at the conference.

“I’m eager to go home and try out all the things that I’ve learned here in Fiji. I want to help people with mental illnesses to speak out so they can achieve something in their communities. There is still an awful lot of work to do in Nigeria on mental health. But challenges are not restrictions,” Ugo said.

If conferences are about motivating people to keep on going forward, then ICSW has done its job.


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific and small island states who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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Libya: Up to One Million Enslaved Migrants, Victims of ‘Europe’s Complicity’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/#comments Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:37:53 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153523 “European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya. In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International […]

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In Libya, dozens of migrants sleep alongside one another in a cramped cell in Tripoli's Tariq al-Sikka detention facility. Credit: UNHCR/Iason Foounten

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

“European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.

In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International (AI) details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.

The Geneva-based UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that the number of migrants trapped in Libya could amount to up to one million, and it is now rushing to rescue the first 15,000 victims through a massive repatriation emergency plan. A major airlift is underway as IOM starts flying 15,000 more migrants from Libya before year end.“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses... they are complicit in them” -- John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, AI’s Europe Director, on Dec 12.

“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses,” Dalhuisen affirmed.

“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognise that refugees exist, said Dalhuisen, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused.

Another EU ‘Shame’ Pact

AI’s revelation of such collusion between the European Union and Libya comes amidst a worldwide wave of denunciations against the measure adopted in 2016 by the EU member states –particularly Italy—aiming at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean.

These measures have been implemented with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders, AI said, adding that Europe’s cooperation with Libyan actors has taken the following three-pronged approach:

Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration, which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.

Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.

Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.

UNHCR teams in Libya have been responding to the urgent humanitarian needs in and around Sabratha, a city located some 80 kilometres west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Credit: UNHCR

“Auctioned as Merchandise”

Meanwhile, after shocking images showing an auction of people were captured on video, UN human rights experts have urged the government of Libya to take immediate action to end the country’s trade in enslaved people.

“We were extremely disturbed to see the images which show migrants being auctioned as merchandise, and the evidence of markets in enslaved Africans which has since been gathered,” the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement.

It is now clear that slavery is an “outrageous reality” in Libya, they affirmed, adding that the auctions are reminiscent of “one of the darkest chapters in human history, when millions of Africans were uprooted, enslaved, trafficked and auctioned to the highest bidder.”

Slavery, Trafficking, Extortion, Rape, Torture…

The UN human rights experts also warned that migrants in Libya are “at high risk of multiple grave violations of their human rights, such as slavery, forced labour, trafficking, arbitrary and indefinite detention, exploitation and extortion, rape, torture and even being killed.”

“The enslavement of migrants derives from the situation of extreme vulnerability in which they find themselves. It is paramount that the government of Libya acts now to stop the human rights situation deteriorating further, and to bring about urgent improvements in the protection of migrants.”

The UN member states must “stop ignoring the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, must urge countries to suspend any measures,” they urged.

AI, a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries campaigning to end human rights abuses, has also warned that the criminalisation of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in “mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.”

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) provides lifesaving equipment to Libyan authorities as part of a wider intervention to strengthen the Government’s humanitarian capacity. Credit: UN Migration Agency

“Horrific Treatment”

Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to detention centres where they endure “horrific treatment,” AI warned.

Up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres. Migrants and refugees interviewed by Amnesty International described abuse they had been subjected to or they had witnessed, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, extortion, and unlawful killings, at the hands of the authorities, traffickers, armed groups and militias alike.

Dozens of migrants and refugees interviewed described the “soul-destroying cycle of exploitation” to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the Libyan Coast Guard consigns them. Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money, AI informs.

“If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard. Agreements between the Libyan Coast Guard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow the boats to pass through Libyan waters without interception, and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.”

Libyan Coast Guard officials are known to operate in collusion with smuggling networks and have used threats and violence against refugees and migrants on board boats in distress, AI has denounced.

IOM Moves to Relieve Plight of Migrants

Backing an African Union-European Union plan, adopted in the two blocs’ summit (29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire), IOM’s director general William Lacy Swing committed his organisation to fully support this initiative to alleviate the plight of thousands of migrants trapped in Libya.

In the wake of “shocking reports about rampant migrant abuse and squalid and overcrowded conditions across multiple detention centers” in Libya, talks at the AU-EU Summit led to a major stepping up of measures to tackle smuggling and mistreatment of migrants on the central Mediterranean migration route, which claimed 2,803 migrant lives to drowning this year alone, IOM on 1 December informed.

IOM is now rapidly scaling up its voluntary humanitarian return programme, which has brought more than 14,007 migrants back to their home countries so far in 2017.

A large-scale airlift is already underway in which IOM expects to take a further 15,000 migrants home from detention in Libya by end of the year. The establishment of a planned joint task force with all concerned parties is aimed at ensuring that the migration crisis in Libya is dealt with in a coordinated way.

“Scaling up our return programme may not serve to fully address the plight of migrants in Libya, but it is our duty to take migrants out of detention centers as a matter of absolute priority,” IOM director general Swing said.

He added that IOM intends to work with all UN partners and ensure proper coordination and prompt referral of any persons for whom return may not be suitable. These initiatives come following the IOM director general’s discussions with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, as well as with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini and UN Secretary General.


Addressing the UN Security Council, Secretary-General António Guterres highlights the need for global solidarity to tackle the security challenges in the Mediterranean.

Up to One Million Migrants Trapped in Libya

To date IOM has registered more than 400,000 migrants in Libya, and it estimates their number to be more than 700,000 to 1 million. The scaling up of the assistance will also include migrants wishing to go back home but who are not in detention centers.

“Large numbers of migrants are held in overcrowded detention centers, in conditions that fall far short of basic and humane standards. A large number of those migrants have expressed a wish to return to their countries of origin and IOM is now scaling up its air operations out of Libya to assist those men, women and children who may wish to return home.”

IOM’s initial effort will focus on 15,000 migrants, which it aims to help return and reintegrate in countries of origin before the end of the year. “This is a choice people make voluntarily, hoping for a new start at home,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s chief of Mission in Libya.

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