Inter Press ServiceHeadlines – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 27 May 2018 01:35:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Chile Debates Whether Citizens Should Profit from Generating Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy/#respond Sun, 27 May 2018 01:19:07 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155937 Chile has become a model country for its advances in non-conventional energy, and is now debating whether citizens who individually or as a group generate electricity can profit from the sale of the surplus from their self-consumption – a factor that will be decisive when it comes to encouraging their contribution to the energy supply. […]

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Commercial Habitat, a high-end home appliance store located in the upscale municipality of Vitacura, in the east of the Chilean capital, supplies part of its electricity consumption with energy generated from solar panels installed on its roof. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 27 2018 (IPS)

Chile has become a model country for its advances in non-conventional energy, and is now debating whether citizens who individually or as a group generate electricity can profit from the sale of the surplus from their self-consumption – a factor that will be decisive when it comes to encouraging their contribution to the energy supply.

A Senate committee has analysed whether to eliminate the payments to citizens for their surplus energy established in a law in force since 2012, in response to an indication to that effect from the government of socialist former president Michelle Bachelet (2014-March 2018), which her successor, the right-wing Sebastián Piñera, is keeping in place.

Now it is being studied by the Chamber of Deputies, which has been warned by leaders of environmental organisations that the proposal to eliminate payments to citizens who inject the surplus energy they generate into the grid will sentence these initiatives to death.

Gabriel Prudencio, head of the Ministry of Energy’s Renewable Energy Division, told IPS that the current government aims to make “distributed generation a major element in citizen power generation.”

“We will continue to encourage end users to be able to generate their energy because of the resultant benefits, but we must identify and avoid any inconvenience in terms of economy, especially for those who cannot install these systems, and for the sake of the security of the system,” he said.

Manuel Baquedano, president of the non-governmental Institute for Political Ecology (IEP), said “We hope that this proposal will not succeed and that we can continue with citizen-generated energy. Without the contribution of this sector, the goal of 80 percent non-conventional energy by 2050 will not be achieved.”

The expert believes that the authorities fear that citizen power generation, mainly solar, will become a business in itself and will not be used only for self-consumption and to cut the electricity bills of individuals or small businesses.

“They are legislating against a ghost,” he told IPS. “Energy should be born from thousands of connected points and by a system that allows buying and selling.”

The current installed electricity generation capacity in Chile, a country of 17.9 million inhabitants, is 22,369 MW. Of this total, 46 percent comes from renewable sources (30 percent hydropower), and 54 percent is thermal (21 percent coal).

All electricity generation is in private hands, most of it based on foreign capital. Consumption, which is constantly growing, reached 68,866 GW-h in 2013.

Revolution towards non-conventional sources

Chile’s solar and wind energy potential is 1,800 GW, according to a study by the Ministry of Energy and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GIZ).

If only five percent of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile were used to generate solar energy, 30 percent of South America’s electricity demand could be met, according to the Solar Energy Research Centre (SERC).

During Bachelet’s four-year term, Chile made an unprecedented leap in non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE), which went from contributing five percent of generation in 2013 to 20 percent in 2017.

“Solar energy showed the greatest growth, from 11 MW in early 2014 to 2,080 in late 2017, followed by wind energy, which grew from 333 to 1,426 MW,” said environmental engineer Paula Estévez in the book Energy Revolution in Chile, published by former Chilean Minister of Energy Máximo Pacheco on May 10.

According to Baquedano, “In the country’s energy revolution, the main thing is indeed the change towards renewable energy that took place. Chile’s energy mix is going to be 100 percent renewable at some point.”

Baquedano warned, however, that “the benefits of this energy revolution from the productive point of view have been only for the private sector and have not been passed on to the public sector.”

Prudencio said that “to date, there are approximately 16 MW of installed capacity of systems under Law 20,571 (payments to residential generators), which is equivalent to more than 2,600 operating projects throughout the country.”

A few cases in point

Ragnar Branth, general manager of Commercial Habitat, a high-end furniture and home design store in the municipality of Vitacura in eastern Santiago, installed solar panels on the roof to power a five-kW photovoltaic plant whose generation saves 13.5 percent in annual electricity bills.

“There is a benefit in the monthly fee, but the initial investment is quite significant. We’re talking about more than 20 million pesos (about 32,200 dollars) in the purchase of panels and their installation alone, and that is not compensated in savings until at least the fifth or sixth year of consumption,” he told IPS.

The Canela Wind Farm, with 112-m-high wind turbines and an installed capacity of 18.15 megawatts (MW), generates electricity with the force of the winds coming from the sea in the Coquimbo region of northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The Canela Wind Farm, with 112-m-high wind turbines and an installed capacity of 18.15 megawatts (MW), generates electricity with the force of the winds coming from the sea in the Coquimbo region of northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

“The government took a good first step with the cogeneration law. However, some adjustments are needed, including the recognition of 100 percent of the energy generated and some kind of benefit in the investment project,” he said.

“If the government wants this to spread and wants there to be significant cogeneration, there has to be a benefit in the investment or some form of tax reduction or benefit,” he added.

In the agricultural county of Buin, south of the city of Santiago, 99 citizen shareholders convened by the IEP financed the community project Solar Buin Uno that built a 10 kW photovoltaic solar plant connected to the grid.

Much of the energy is delivered to the Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST), and the rest is injected into the grid. But the local distribution company pays only up to 60 percent of the value of the kWh billed to the CST. That is, it pays for the surplus only a portion of what it charges its users.

The generation by individuals received a special boost with the Distributed (decentralized) Generation Law, in force since 2017, also known locally as citizen generation.

Andrés Rebolledo, the last energy minister in the Bachelet administration, explained to IPS that this law “aims to encourage and give signals for the generation by citizens and show that homes and small businesses can generate their own energy based on NCRE.”

The former minister said there has been “exponential growth” of citizen generators and stressed that the modification being debated by parliament raises the possibility that they could increase their potential from 100 to 300 kW, favouring small and medium enterprises.

“The objective and vision is that the progress that Chile has made in terms of NCRE generation at the level of large plants can also be taken advantage of at the citizen level and that in this way households can generate their own electricity, save on their electricity bills and at the same time contribute to a more sustainable model,” he said.

“This implies an effort to strengthen the distribution networks, to have another form of measurement so that households can manage their own consumption and generation and, ultimately, so that they can become prosumers, that is, for a household to be both a producer and a consumer of energy at the same time,” he said.

The former minister explained that the request for a debate in parliament “was intended to try to send out signals and offer incentives so that more people could make an investment and this could become accessible to all, always taking care that households do not turn this into a business but rather for their own consumption.”

But non-governmental organisations say it will be a setback if the payment received for the injection of energy into the grid generated by citizens is eliminated.

According to Sara Larraín, executive director of Chile Sustentable, the proposed modification “eliminates the payment for the energy surplus injected by the residential generator over its own consumption.”

That, she told IPS, “discourages households from investing in self-generation and recovering their investment in less time thanks to the retribution for the electricity fed into the grid.”

Speaking to members of parliament, Larraín said that the reform “is a monopolistic distortion in favour of distribution companies that already constitute a monopoly as concessionaires of the distribution service.”

The president of IEP, Baquedano, said that the installation of a second citizens’ plant in the north of the country was suspended pending the legislative decision, “because the model will not work if this legislation is approved.”

“There’s a question mark over what’s going to happen to the energy generated by citizens. The government will have to understand that if citizen energy runs out, the environmental movement will not keep quiet. The conflicts will return, that’s my thesis, and not just my thesis because we are also preparing the scenarios,” he concluded.

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Public-Private Pacts Open Doors to Climate Finance in Rwanda and Ethiopiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/public-private-pacts-open-doors-climate-finance-rwanda-ethiopia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=public-private-pacts-open-doors-climate-finance-rwanda-ethiopia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/public-private-pacts-open-doors-climate-finance-rwanda-ethiopia/#respond Sat, 26 May 2018 18:46:17 +0000 Ahn Mi Young http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155935 The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) presented the African model of a National Financing Vehicle in which the governments of Rwanda and Ethiopia have successfully promoted green growth and climate resilience, at an event May 25 on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in […]

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From left, Anthony Nyong, Director of Climate Change and Green Growth at AfDB, Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General of GGGI, Fisiha Abera, Director General of the International Financial Institutions Cooperation (Ethiopia). Credit: Ahn Miyoung/IPS

From left, Anthony Nyong, Director of Climate Change and Green Growth at AfDB, Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General of GGGI, Fisiha Abera, Director General of the International Financial Institutions Cooperation (Ethiopia). Credit: Ahn Miyoung/IPS

By Ahn Mi Young
BUSAN, May 26 2018 (IPS)

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) presented the African model of a National Financing Vehicle in which the governments of Rwanda and Ethiopia have successfully promoted green growth and climate resilience, at an event May 25 on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Busan, South Korea.

GGGI and AfDB signed a partnership to accelerate Africa’s inclusive and sustainable green growth.

“We will focus on Africa, as we are seeing a huge potential in Africa,” Hyoeun Jenny Kim, deputy director general of GGGI, said in her opening remarks.

“So far, we’ve worked very closely and very extensively with Ethiopia and Rwanda throughout the comprehensive stages of designing and developing projects as well as mobilizing funds,” she told IPS after the side event.

“We’ve so far worked only with a small number of countries… But these climate funding success stories in Rwanda and Ethiopia encouraged us to extend our reach to other Africa countries like Senegal, Uganda or Mozambique,” she added.

After a two-year stint as ambassador to Senegal, Kim, who previously worked at the OECD, joined GGGI in May as its new deputy director general, in charge of planning and implementation of 33 projects in 25 countries.

She emphasized the need for adopting locally relevant green growth paths in Africa, as well as mobilizing funds. “When I was working at OECD, I was seeing the agenda from a global perspective. [While in Senegal as a Korean ambassador], I have seen the unique and particular reality facing each African country. So I understand the need to adapt our climate resilience and green growth initiatives to fit the particular condition of each African country.”

The side event highlighted how Rwanda and Ethiopia have used public investment funding to bring aboard private sector investment with close cooperation with GGGI.

Hubert Ruzibiza, CEO of Rwanda’s Green Fund, revealed how Rwanda has successfully financed green growth and climate resilience through its National Fund for Environment and Climate Change (FONERWA), whose function is to identify and invest in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change that aligns with Rwanda’s commitment to building a strong green economy.

The fund has created about 137,000 green jobs, rehabilitated 19,304 area (ha) of land against erosion, and made about 28,000 families connected to off-grid clean energy.

“FONERWA has a global track record as the national financing mechanism by bringing together public and private sector investment,” Ruzibiza noted.

The side event also highlighted the GGGI-Ethiopia partnership to design, develop and implement Ethiopia’s political commitment to CRGE (Climate Resilience Green Economy), as well as its national financing mechanism called the Ethiopia CRGE Facility, which is the country’s primary financial instrument to mobilize, access and combine domestic and international, public and private sources of finance to support the institutional building and implementation of the CRGE Strategy.

“As we are raising the green growth and climate resilient funding, especially from small and medium-sized business that constitutes about 90 percent of our business, so are the number of projects increasing,” said Fisiha Abera, Director General of the International Financial Institutions Cooperation in Ethiopia.

GGGI has been working closely with the government of Ethiopia since 2010 to omplement its CRGE strategy. GGGI supported CRGE to mobilize a 60-million-dollar grant from the Adaptation Fund (AF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), as well as another 75 million in climate finance. Most recently, GGGI helped mobilize 300 million dollars from the international private sector for the Mekele Water Supply Project.

“The CRGE model shows the importance of the government’s political commitment in which the government takes a holistic national approach. So our advisers are working closely with a wide variety of government functions,” said Kim.

The AfDB and GGGI signed an MOU on the sidelines of the African Development Bank Group’s Annual Meetings in Busan to promote programs, conduct joint studies and research activities to accelerate green growth options for African countries, as well as to work together in the GGGI’s cities programs and the AfDB’s initiatives on clean energy, sustainable landscapes, green cities, water and sanitation, with the ultimate goal of strengthening climate resilience in Africa.

The MOU was signed by Kim of GGI and Amadou Hott, Vice-President, Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth, AfDB.

Ban Ki-moon, who previously served as the eighth Secretary General of the United Nations, took office as President of the Assembly and Chairman of the council of GGGI on March 27.

Headquartered in the heart of Seoul, GGGI has 28 member states and employs staff from more than 40 countries. Its areas of focus include green cities, water and sanitation, sustainable landscapes, sustainable energy and cross-cutting strategies for financing mechanisms.

AFDB is Africa’s premier development finance institution. It comprises three distinct entities: the AfDB, the African Development Fund and Nigeria Trust Fund NTF. Working on the ground in 44 African countries with an external office in Japan, the AfDB contributes to the economic development and the social progress of its 54 regional member states.

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Pompeo’s Iran Speech a Prelude to War?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/pompeos-iran-speech-prelude-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pompeos-iran-speech-prelude-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/pompeos-iran-speech-prelude-war/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 13:33:00 +0000 Stephen Zunes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155929 Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

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By Stephen Zunes
SAN FRANCISCO, May 25 2018 (IPS)

The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech this past Monday targeting Iran may have created a new benchmark for hypocritical, arrogant, and entitled demands by the United States on foreign governments.

The speech included gross misstatements regarding the seven-nation Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program, which Trump Administration unilaterally abrogated earlier this month.

More critically, it promised to impose “the strongest sanctions in history” against Iran, including secondary sanctions against governments and private companies which refuse to back the U.S. agenda, unless Iran changed a series of internal and regional policies. With the re-imposition of such sanctions, Iran will no longer have any incentive to stick to its part of the nuclear deal.

Most of the Iranian policies cited by Pompeo are indeed problematic, yet are hardly unique to that country. Furthermore, the failure to offer any kind of reciprocity effectively guarantees that the Islamic Republic will reject any changes in its policies.

For example, Pompeo demanded that Iran withdraw its troops from Syria—which are there at the request of the Syrian government—but made no demand that Turkish or Israeli forces withdraw their troops from Syrian territory. Nor did he offer to withdraw U.S. forces.

Pompeo similarly demanded an end to Iranian support for various militia groups in the region, without any reciprocal reduction of support for rebel groups by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or the United States.

And Pompeo demanded that Iran cease providing missiles to Houthi rebels, who have fired them into Saudi Arabia in response to Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign and siege of Yemen. There was no offer to end the U.S. policy of providing the bombs, missiles, jet fighters to Saudi and Emirati forces which have killed many thousands of Yemeni civilians.

Pompeo further demanded Iran provide “a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program,” despite the fact that this limited research effort ended more than fifteen years ago. Of course, there was no offer that the United States or its allies rein in their own nuclear programs. Israel, Pakistan, and India have never opened up their nuclear facilities to outside inspections, despite two U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on them to do so.

Though most arms control agreements have historically been based on some kind of tradeoff, Pompeo insists that Iran unilaterally cease its ballistic missile program while making no such demand of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, or other allies in the region. Nor is there any offer to limit U.S. ballistic missiles, even though U.S. missiles are capable of striking Iran while no Iranian missiles have the capability of coming anywhere close to the United States.

And while Pompeo was right to criticize the Iranian regime’s corruption, economic mismanagement, and human rights abuses, he expressed no qualms about the even worse records of U.S. allies in the region

Perhaps the most hypocritical demand in Pompeo’s speech was that Iran “must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government,” which the United States has repeatedly subverted for a decade and a half.

In fact, Iran is already in compliance to some of Pompeo’s other demands, such as stopping production of enriched uranium and allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency full access to its nuclear facilities. The Iran nuclear pact already limits Iranian stockpiles to an extremely low enrichment level of 3.67 percent, well below the 90 percent needed for weapons production, and guarantees extensive and intrusive inspections of all nuclear-related facilities.

It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which the Trump Administration claims the only recourse is war.

No nation can be expected to comply with such unilateral demands, particularly coming from a country which is responsible for far more destabilizing policies, civilian deaths, and weapons proliferation in the region than is Iran. Pompeo made his demands knowing they would be rejected.

And that may be part of a deliberate strategy. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in the not-too-distant future in which the Trump Administration claims that since “sanctions didn’t work,” the only recourse is war.

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Excerpt:

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

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Why Would an Immigrant Support Trump?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/immigrant-support-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=immigrant-support-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/immigrant-support-trump/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 12:17:44 +0000 Rose Delaney http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155922 Giuseppe DiMarco is 83 years old. He has recognized the U.S. as his home for over 30 years. In the aftermath of World War Two, DiMarco fled an impoverished farming town in Southern Italy in the pursuit of advancement and the promise of wealth he had never known. Whilst economic strife and extreme poverty drove […]

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Digital Revolution Holds Bright Promises for Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/digital-revolution-holds-bright-promises-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digital-revolution-holds-bright-promises-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/digital-revolution-holds-bright-promises-africa/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 11:43:05 +0000 Eleni Mourdoukoutas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155923 Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Techies in Lagos, Nigeria, work on an open-source project. Credit: Andela/ Mohini Ufeli

By Eleni Mourdoukoutas
UNITED NATIONS, May 25 2018 (IPS)

Internet penetration is creeping up in Africa, bringing the prospect of digital dividends to a continent long marked by digital divides.

“Africa has reached a penetration which has broken the barrier of 15 %, and that’s important,” says Nii Quaynor, a scientist who has played a key role in the introduction and development of the internet throughout Africa. He is known as the “father of the Internet” on the continent.

However, Africans have not developed the ability to produce enough software, applications and tools to give economies the dividends they sorely need.

The shift to low-cost submarine connections from satellite connections is less than a decade old. The new undersea fibres have led to a remarkable increase in data transmission capacity that drastically reduces transmission time and cost.

Today 16 submarine cables connect Africa to America, Europe and Asia, and international connectivity no longer presents a significant problem, reports Steve Song, founder of Village Telco, an initiative to build low-cost telephone network hardware and software. This has allowed countries to share information, both within the continent and worldwide, more directly. It has created more space for innovation, research and education.

“Networks have ended the isolation of African scientists and researchers. You now have access to information from the more developed countries, and this is changing the way people think,” says Meoli Kashorda, director of the Kenya Education Network.

Internet penetration on the continent has not kept pace with mobile phone diffusion. In 2016 only 22% of the continent’s population used the Internet, compared to a global average of 44%, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN agency that deals with issues concerning information and communication technologies. And only 11% of Africans could access 3G internet, which allows mobile operators to offer a high data-processing speed.

Access to technology

The ITU notes that the people most likely to have access to digital technology in Africa are males living in urban areas or coastal cities where undersea fibres are available.

McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, estimates that if Internet access reaches the same level of penetration as mobile phones, Africa’s GDP could get a boost of up to $300 billion. Other experts concur that better access to technology could be a game changer for development and the closing of the income inequality gap in Africa.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the richest 60% are almost three times more likely to have internet access than the bottom 40%, and those in urban areas are more than twice as likely to have access as those in rural areas, according to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016.

The World Bank’s development report of 2016 notes that digital dividends, which it describes as “broader development benefits from using these technologies” have not been evenly distributed. “For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access,” maintains the Bank.

Businesses that incorporate digital technologies into their practices will create jobs and boost earnings, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB). The bank reported in 2016 that two million jobs will be created in the ICT sector in Africa by 2021. Analyst programmers, computer network professionals, and database and system administrators will find jobs in the sector.

Although the World Bank paints a less rosy picture for digital dividends in Africa, the potential for millions of jobs in the sector is encouraging news for the continent’s youths, who make up 60% of Africa’s unemployed and are jobless at a rate double that of adults. Youths can easily take advantage of the jobs that digital revolution brings, says Bitange Ndemo, a former permanent secretary in Kenya’s ministry of information and Communication.

Technology can also help bridge inequalities caused by the education gap. According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), over one-fifth of children between the ages of six and about 11 are out of school, along with one-third of youth between the ages of about 12 and about 14. Almost 60% of youth between the ages of about 15 and about 17 are not in school.

On the bright side, as mobile Internet access expands, so will the Internet’s potential to narrow the continent’s education gap. E-learning continues to grow due to its affordability and accessibility.

In fact, IMARC Group, a market research company with offices in India, the UK and the US, reported earlier in 2017 that the e-learning market in Africa will be worth $1.4 billion by 2022. It will improve the education level of Africa’s workforce that will contribute positively to the continent’s economies.

Eneza Education, for example, a Kenya-based learning platform, surpassed one million users in 2016. The platform allows users to access learning materials using various devices. They can access courses and quizzes via text messages for only 10 Kenyan shillings ($.10) per week. Eneza caters to students and teachers in rural areas where opportunities are limited.

Also, Samsung’s Smart Schools initiative equips schools around the world with tablets, PCs and other devices, and builds solar-powered schools in rural areas. Currently 78 Smart Schools are operating in 10 African nations, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. The company’s strategy is to encourage underprivileged students to use digital devices.

With women 50% less likely to use the internet than men, some organisations are now making efforts to attract women to the digital world. Digital technologies can provide opportunities for women in the informal job market by connecting them to employment opportunities.

Analogue complements

High digital penetration is good, but good governance, a healthy business climate, education and health, also known as “analogue complements,” will ensure a solid foundation for adopting digital technologies and more effectively addressing inequalities, advises the World Bank. Even with increased digital adoption, the Bank says, countries neglecting analogue complements will not experience a boost in productivity or a reduction in inequality.

“Not making the necessary reforms means falling farther behind those that do, while investing in both technology and its complements is the key to digital transformation,” notes Bouthenia Guermazi, ICT practice manager at the World Bank.

Yet digital migration is receiving pushback from obsolete analogue operators who are concerned about the risks of digitizing. Automation poses a threat to those whose jobs can be done by cheaper and more efficient machines, a phenomenon that primarily affects already disadvantaged groups. For example, many banks and insurance companies have automated customer services.

The United Nations has set the goal of connecting all the world’s inhabitants with affordable, high-speed internet by 2020. Likewise, the African Union launched a 10-year mission in 2014 to encourage countries to transition to innovation-led, knowledge-based economies. This mission is part of its ambitious Agenda 2063, aimed at transforming the continent’s socioeconomic and political fortunes.

Rwanda is leading the charge via its Vision 2020 programme, which aims at developing the country into a knowledge-based middle-income country by 2020. Earlier this year, Rwanda rolled out its Digital Ambassadors Programme, which will hire and train about 5,000 youths to teach digital skills to five million people in the rural areas.

Unfortunately, digitization ranks low on the priority lists of many developing countries. And according to a recent report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), productivity gains from digitalization may accrue mainly to those already wealthy and skilled, which is typical in internet platform-based economies, where network effects (additional value for service as more people use it) benefit first movers and standard setters.

In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, an intergovernmental economic organization of 35 countries, where the digital economy has evolved the most, growing use of ICT has been accompanied by an increasing income gap between rich and poor.

The UNCTAD report also states that developing the right ICT policies depends on countries’ readiness to engage in and benefit from the digital economy, but the least-developed countries are the least prepared. To ensure that more people and enterprises in developing countries have the capacity to participate effectively, the international community will need to expand its support.

Guermazi urges leaders to develop a comprehensive approach to transforming their countries rather than rely on ad hoc initiatives.

“Digital dividends are within reach,” Guermazi insists. “The outlook for the future is bright.”

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI).

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Excerpt:

Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Ethiopia’s Green Growth Goals: A Launchpad for Wider Climate Action in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/ethiopias-green-growth-goals-launchpad-wider-climate-action-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopias-green-growth-goals-launchpad-wider-climate-action-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/ethiopias-green-growth-goals-launchpad-wider-climate-action-africa/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 10:13:45 +0000 Dex Agourides http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155916 Dex Agourides is Head of Programs - Africa & Europe, Global Green Growth Institute

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Ethiopia's Green Growth Goals: A Launchpad for Wider Climate Action in Africa

Landscape of Tetchia in Southern Ethiopia. Credit: GGGI

By Dex Agourides
May 25 2018 (IPS)

The vision for a sustainable future in Africa is being realized at a time of great possibilities and this vision is underpinned by a shift in continental focus towards sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development. This focus highlights strategic efforts towards poverty alleviation, resilience building, promoting sustainable infrastructure and, efficient management of natural resources.

With this, East Africa stands as one of the fastest growing region on the continent, with a projected economic growth rate of 5.9% in 2018 and 6.1% in 2019. Within the region, Ethiopia is amongst the top contributors to this growth, with notable growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) averaging 10.8% between 2003 and 2015 (Second Growth and Transformation Plan – GTP II 2015/16-2019/20).

East Africa stands as one of the fastest growing region on the continent, with a projected economic growth rate of 5.9% in 2018 and 6.1% in 2019. Within the region, Ethiopia is amongst the top contributors to this growth

Ethiopia’s rapid development is largely attributed to a public investment-led development strategy that has produced tangible growth and has measurably improved social circumstances.  These interventions have been guided by a series of targeted macro-economic planning instruments, namely, the First and Second Growth and Transformation Plans (GTP I 2010-2015 &GTP II 2015-2020), which outline the goals and benchmarks for Ethiopia to reach middle-income status by 2025.

Still, while inclusive growth and development is occurring, it has been differentiated in terms of distribution of gains across geographical regions and socio-economic groups.   This is partly attributed to the fact that Ethiopia has one of the most complex and variable climates in the world as a result of its location between various climatic systems and its diverse geographical structure.

Ethiopia, and its expanding socio-economic systems, are thus left vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change. So much so that by 2050, several key shifts in the climate are expected to develop, namely: Continued temperature increases; Annual rainfall variability and; Overall shifts in seasonal rainfall patterns.

Thus, climate change has the potential to leave the goals of reaching middle-income status by 2025, highly susceptible – the negative impact on the GDP is estimated to possibly reach 10% or more by 2050 – leaving the most vulnerable groups disproportionately impacted.

Recognizing the seriousness of this, Ethiopia stands committed to building a Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE), through developing a CRGE Strategy, which has been fully integrated into the GTP II at federal and sector levels. The CRGE embodies a political commitment to green growth nationwide as well as a realization that climate resilience is a core development priority for the future.

The CRGE is anchored in the following pillars: Sustained economic growth, at an average of 11% per annum (in real terms); Protection from the adverse effects of climate change and build resilience and; Limited emissions for this development trajectory and achievement a 64% reduction by 2030.  It is based on this that Ethiopia has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC’s), making it one of the first Least Developed Countries (LDC’s) do this, with one of the most ambitious targets set by any economy globally.

 

Ethiopia's Green Growth Goals: A Launchpad for Wider Climate Action in Africa

 

As such, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) has been supporting the Government of Ethiopia since 2010, with the development and implementation of its CRGE vision and strategy – developed at sector level for Agriculture and Forestry (2014) and for Water and Energy (2015).  GGGI’s in-country delivery model consists of embedded expert/advisory technical support and capacity building to support CRGE ambitions and remain responsive to the dynamic issues facing its full realization.

Interventions are in fundamental alignment of CRGE strategic priorities, namely incentivizing targeted interventions and focused investment approaches that go well beyond the notion of ‘growth at all costs.’ Interventions are instead anchored in the principle of shared responsibility in building long-term, sector-wide resilience capacity to achieve carbon neutral growth.

To help ensure the bold vision and ambitions of the CRGE are fully realized by all of its principal stakeholders, GGGI supported the establishment and operationalization of the CRGE Facility, the CRGE’s principal national financing vehicle, based in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MoFEC).

This work has been focused on supporting the facility with positioning itself to mobilize and channel resources for climate action from domestic, international, public and private sector sources and the capitalize bankable green growth projects.  In line with this, in 2015 and 2016, GGGI supported MoFEC attain direct access accreditation by the Adaptation Fund (AF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), respectively.

Further, in 2017, GGGI supported the Facility with the mobilization of USD 60 million from the AF and GCF and mobilization of USD 75 million from bilateral development partners towards Ethiopia’s large scale Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Implementation Program.

With all that said, as we move forward and continue to build on the milestones reached in Ethiopia thus far, we draw on key lessons to continue to develop, scale-up and replicate climate-smart interventions to collectively achieve transformation and advance green growth development in the country and on the continent at large.

Our work moving forward shall continue to be focused on interventions that: Are aligned with Ethiopia’s key national strategies and implementation plans and anchored by its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); Demonstrate real potential for transformational impact and; Demonstrate replicability/scale-up potential at national and continental levels, towards further unleashing climate smart opportunities in Africa.

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Excerpt:

Dex Agourides is Head of Programs - Africa & Europe, Global Green Growth Institute

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Energy Cooperatives, Fogged Mirrors for Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/energy-cooperatives-fogged-mirrors-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=energy-cooperatives-fogged-mirrors-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/energy-cooperatives-fogged-mirrors-latin-america/#respond Thu, 24 May 2018 15:57:18 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155911 “It made me angry that a company from outside the region was making money from renewable energy and I wondered why people weren’t getting involved,” says Petra Gruner-Bauer, president of the German co-operative SolixEnergie. So Gruner-Bauer, founder of the organisation, began to raise awareness among her neighbours in Wörrstadt, a city in the western state […]

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Public buildings and businesses, such as this organic vineyard in the town of Ingelheim-Großwinternheim in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, have embraced renewable energy in Germany to encourage citizen participation, create local employment, promote the local industry and protect the environment. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Public buildings and businesses, such as this organic vineyard in the town of Ingelheim-Großwinternheim in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, have embraced renewable energy in Germany to encourage citizen participation, create local employment, promote the local industry and protect the environment. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
WÖRRSTADT, Germany, May 24 2018 (IPS)

“It made me angry that a company from outside the region was making money from renewable energy and I wondered why people weren’t getting involved,” says Petra Gruner-Bauer, president of the German co-operative SolixEnergie.

So Gruner-Bauer, founder of the organisation, began to raise awareness among her neighbours in Wörrstadt, a city in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, about what a co-operative was, the importance of citizen participation and community benefits.

“I wrote down on a piece of paper the things that needed to be changed and tried to convince people, and they got involved. It’s the power of people. We are at the same time members and entrepreneurs, we focus on making sure that each person receives renewable energy,” she told IPS in an interview.

The cooperative, which has 116 members, was set up in 2011 and has already developed two solar panel projects and a wind farm, generating more than seven million kilowatt-hours a year, benefiting 5,000 people in a town of 30,000.

To become a co-op member, the minimum investment is 1,022 dollars, and this year the rate of return on capital is less than one percent.

This co-operative is one of 42 of its kind operating in the energy sector in Rhineland-Palatinate, a state that has been a pioneer in the development of alternative renewable energy sources in Germany, generating 10,000 jobs. Nearly 50 percent of the region’s energy supply is based on renewable sources.

At a national level, energy co-operatives currently comprise 900,200 members, with an investment of some 1.83 billion dollars.

In 2016, German individuals and co-operatives owned 31.5 percent of the renewable energy facilities, making it the segment that receives the most investment in the energy sector, according to a study published in February by the German consulting firm Renewable Energies Agency.

German co-operatives have been instrumental in the progress made towards the country’s energy transition by fostering citizen empowerment, producing energy locally, providinga source of socio-economic wellbeing and reducing polluting emissions.

Of the basket of alternative energies, 36 percent of electricity generation comes from renewable sources, such as wind power, biomass, solar, hydroelectric and waste.

The energy transition, through a gradual replacement of fossil fuels with environmentally friendly alternatives, is part of the mechanisms established at the global level to contain global warming.

“Energy co-operatives are a very safe and easy way to participate in the energy transition, investing little money. They are highly decentralised, they help strengthen the local value chain, encourage public support for the transition and unleash financial potential,” Verena Ruppert, president of the Network of Citizen Energy Co-operatives of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, told IPS.

This network brings together 24 members, 22 of which are energy co-operatives, which in turn comprise 5,000 individuals and more than 200 businesses, communities and religious organisations. The members of the co-operatives have invested some 85 million dollars in solar roofs, wind farms, biogas plants and residential retrofit projects.

Based on wind and solar energy, Germany is moving towards a future based on alternative energy sources, such as with this private wind farm in the city of Wörrstadt, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Based on wind and solar energy, Germany is moving towards a future based on alternative energy sources, such as with this private wind farm in the city of Wörrstadt, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

These energy cooperatives have a favourable environment in Germany, which facilitates their leadership in this field, as is also the case in Australia, Denmark and the United States, leading models in the industry.

Hurdles faced in Latin America

In contrast to Germany, in Latin America these co-operatives have not taken off, except in a minority of countries, despite the benefits they offer.

In countries such as Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, laws related to co-operatives recognise their role in various sectors, such as energy, but electricity regulations create barriers blocking their development.

The legislation does facilitate a role for co-operatives in countries such as Argentina and the Dominican Republic, while Bolivia, Colombia and Costa Rica also have regulations aimed at promoting such participation.

In Argentina, a country of 44 million people, energy co-operatives date back to the 1990s and already cover 16 percent of the domestic market, with some 500 electric co-operatives comprising more than one million members, according to figures from the Buenos Aires Federation of Electric and Public Services Co-operatives.

In 2016, the government of the northern province of Santa Fe created the Prosumidores– a play on words combining “producers” and “consumers” -Programme, which finances citizens who go from being mere consumers to also becoming producers who generate electricity and sell their surplus to the grid.

Brazil, for its part, has provided financial incentives since 2016 for distributed (decentralised) small-scale solar energy systems to enable individuals and businesses to generate their own electricity.

Costa Rica has also promoted this model, with four co-operatives accounting for nine percent of national power distribution and six percent of Costa Rica’s electricity generation.

This is highlighted in a report published in September 2017, “Renewable Energy Tenders and Community [Em]power[ment]: Latin America and the Caribbean“, prepared by the international Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (Ren21).

These Costa Rican entities generate some 400 megawatts – mainly from hydroelectric power plants and a small volume of wind power -, comprise more than 200,000 members, provide electricity to some 400,000 customers and employ almost 2,000 workers.

Since 2015, Chile has also been promoting participatory generation through the government’s Energy Commune programme, which seeks to promote efficiency through the use of local renewable energies and for which it has created a community fund.

So far, the initiative manages eight projects in six municipalities and has organised two calls for proposals for more than 112 million dollars for the benefit of 34 communities.

The German transformation formally started in 2011, based on six laws that favour alternative generation through a surcharge for producers, the expansion of the electricity grid to encourage the incorporation of renewables and cogeneration to take advantage of energy wasted in fossil fuel facilities.

The reform of the Renewable Energy Law, in force since January 2017, set a fixed rate for the sector – fundamental for the progress made in renewables – and created auctions for all sources.

The changes reward those who generate electricity at a lower cost, impose generation caps, and limit the setting of fixed tariffs only for cooperatives and small producers.

But in Latin America, community energy ventures face legal, technical and financial barriers.

In Mexico, the Electricity Industry Law, in effect since 2014, makes it possible to launch local projects generating less than one megawatt, but virtually excludes them from the electricity auctions that the government has held since 2016.

At least 12 countries in the region organise renewable energy auctions that, because of their financial, technical and business requirements, exclude cooperatives, preventing them from further expansion.

That’s not the case in Germany, where they are now aiming for a new stage.

“The transition needs heating and transportation. We don’t want to focus only on power generation, but also on environmental protection,” said Gruner-Bauer, whose organisation is now moving into electric car sharing to reduce use of private vehicles.

Ruppert said they can cooperate with Latin American organisations. “But it’s a decision of the board of directors. We can help, but first we need to know the needs of co-operatives,” he said.

The REN21 report recommends reserving a quota for participatory citizen projects and facilitating access to energy purchase agreements, which ensures the efficiency of tenders and the effectiveness of fixed rates for these projects.

In addition, it proposes the establishment of an authority for citizen projects, capacity-building, promotion of community-based energy projects, and the establishment of specific national energy targets for these undertakings.

This article was made possible by CLEW 2018.

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Unlocking Private Finance for Developing Countries’ Green Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/unlocking-private-finance-developing-countries-green-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unlocking-private-finance-developing-countries-green-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/unlocking-private-finance-developing-countries-green-growth/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 11:03:03 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155894 Climate finance has never been more urgently needed, with massive investments in climate action required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoid the devastating effects of a warmer planet. However, it is an open secret that public financing mechanisms alone are not enough to meet the demand for climate finance, especially for […]

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St. Vincent and the Grenadines has installed 750 kilowatt hours of photovoltaic panels, which it says reduced its carbon emissions by 800 tonnes annually. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has installed 750 kilowatt hours of photovoltaic panels, which it says reduced its carbon emissions by 800 tonnes annually. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, May 23 2018 (IPS)

Climate finance has never been more urgently needed, with massive investments in climate action required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoid the devastating effects of a warmer planet.

However, it is an open secret that public financing mechanisms alone are not enough to meet the demand for climate finance, especially for developing countries whose cost to implement their conditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and transition to low-carbon economies is pegged at 4.3 trillion dollars.Scaling up and accelerating innovative approaches to climate finance from multiple sources, including the private sector, has emerged as a key strategy to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

This is a huge price-tag when compared to the Green Climate Fund (GCF’s) current coffers, which are still being counted in billion terms. The GCF is one of the designated UNFCCC financial instruments created at COP 17 in Durban, South Africa.

Therefore, scaling up and accelerating innovative approaches to climate finance from multiple sources, including the private sector, has emerged as a key strategy to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement through long-term and predictable climate-smart investments.

It is for this reason that the World Bank and partners has been organising platforms in which ways of leveraging public resources with private sector financing are discussed.

One such platform is the Innovate4Climate, launched in 2017 in Barcelona. It serves as an integral part of the global dialogue on climate finance, sustainable development, carbon pricing and markets.

This year’s event, set for Frankfurt from 22-24 May, with four thematic areas, convenes global leaders from industry, government and multilateral agencies for a one-day Summit, workshops and a Marketplace, to work and dialogue on development of innovative financing instruments and approaches to support low-carbon, climate-resilient development pathways.

The Business Case for Climate Investment

Under this pillar, the focus is on the important role of the private sector to fight climate change. It explores climate-related business opportunities such as how to create markets for climate investments, and which approaches are effective in de-risking investment opportunities.

At the meeting, this stream is set to showcase sustainability and climate-resilient initiatives of business associations and industries, present models of collaboration and partnerships between public and private sector, as well as analyse trends and new initiatives in mobilizing development/climate finance, to match developing country investment needs with private sector capital.

A classic example under this theme is the GCF blended model—the use of four financial instruments: concessional loans, equity, grants, and guarantees that can be used through different modalities and at various stages of the financing cycle. Debt and equity instruments help close a specific financing gap for specific projects and programmes, thus bringing more projects and programmes to fruition, while guarantees help to crowd in new private sector financing from multilateral development banks, national development banks, and others.

“We are starting to see it already with the GCF,” says Fenella Aouane, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI’s) Principal Climate Finance Specialist. “They put out the 500-million-dollar private sector facility…they have gone into the market for the entirety of the private sector globally, they put out a call for proposals to spend up to 500 million. Now relate that to the fact that in a single board meeting in February, they approved projects worth 1 billion.”

NDC Implementation—policies and finance

Another central theme of the Innovate4Climate conference this year is focusing on improving access to finance and support for capacity building to successfully implement countries’ NDCs. This stream targets initiatives aiming at getting “further-faster-together” for NDCs implementation.

The key questions revolve around how to improve access to available funding and mobilize new sources, to strengthen climate finance readiness and accelerate disbursement of climate finance, how to increase and sustain ambitions, and ensure accountability and how to reduce transaction costs through standardisation and simplifying processes.

Innovation for Climate Resilience

Technology is a crucial component of the Paris Agreement’s means of implementation pillar. There is no question that innovative technologies and financial instruments are changing the narrative of climate change resilience. Thus, this stream presents achievements and models in climate smart agriculture, climate action in cities, and disaster risk management among others.

And in relation to the theme of technology, Tony Simon, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), recently emphasised the importance of adopting locally-relevant options that enhance agricultural productivity, for example, in relation to climate change adaptation and mitigation through exploring innovative finance instruments.

“Explore innovative finance instruments,” said Simon at the UNFCCC organized first regional Talanoa which was part of the Africa Climate Week, held in Nairobi in April 2018. “Private equity offers a huge amount of money. Use the money from CTCN and other sources to pull in other funds and use that as an opportunity to blend financing for climate change initiatives.”

Climate Market and Metrics

Under this theme, the focus is on the contribution of market-based approaches to efficient and cost-effective climate change mitigation. Delegates will discuss current and future trends around practical outcomes of international negotiations on Article 6 (voluntary cooperation on mitigation and adaptation actions). The theme also seeks to understand what can be expected from aviation and shipping.

“One area where forestry hopes the private sector may be interested is—the airline industry is currently trying to decide how it will offset its emissions as an industry and one way that might do this is through the purchase of carbon offsetting assets so that could be forestry in the form of some level of carbon credit,” GGGI’s Fenella told IPS. “If they do this, then there will be a possible clear return for investors.”

While the Innovate4Climate conference gets underway in Frankfurt next week, it seems the private sector approach by GGGI is already paying dividends. According to its 2017 Annual report, GGGI helped mobilize over half a billion dollars for green investments that aim to support developing countries and emerging economies transition toward environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth.

It contributed to the mobilization of 524.6 million dollars in green investments in Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Rwanda and other countries in which the Seoul-based international organization operates.

“This is a record achievement for GGGI, representing more than 11 times the organization’s actual budget in 2017,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, GGGI Director-General. “Working closely with partner countries over the years to develop and implement policies that enable the environment to for green growth investment, GGGI is now demonstrating its growing capacity to access and mobilize finance for projects that deliver strong impact.”

With GGGI technical support to design and de-risk bankable projects, of the total amount mobilized, 412 million came from the private sector.

And just to highlight some countries in Africa, in Ethiopia, GGGI produced a pipeline of projects for the Mekelle City Water Project that helped attract 337 million dollars from the international private sector, while in Rwanda, GGGI catalyzed a 60-million investment from the private sector for a Cactus Green Park Development Project in Kigali, to support Rwanda’s secondary cities program.

Role of Multilateral Banks

The discussion on green economic growth and the increasing need for private sector climate financing cannot be complete without mentioning the role of multilateral banks. According to the World Bank, concessional climate finance is one critical strategy under this pillar, to support developing countries to build resilience to worsening climate impacts and to catalyzing private sector climate investment. Through this approach, collectively, the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) increased their climate financing in developing countries and emerging economies to 27.4 billion dollars in 2016 – including more than 11 billion from the WBG.

From an African perspective, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has been instrumental to the green growth discourse and the need for African countries not to follow the fossil fuel development pathway.

And in its efforts to foster a green growth economic pathway, in 2014, the AfDB released the first-ever Green Growth Framework—to function as a foundational reference document for its work on green growth. The bank was therefore instrumental in the formulation of Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI).

The initiative, which came out of COP21 and subsequently approved by the African Union, aims at delivering 300GW of renewable energy by 2030.

The AfDB also played a key role in de-risking one of Africa’s gigantic multi-billion-dollar solar power investment in Ouarzazate, Morocco, an example of a green growth economic model, which requires multi-million-dollar investments that cannot be done by public financing alone.

Mustapha Bakkaoury, president of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), told delegates at COP 22 that his country’s renewable energy revolution would not have been possible if multilateral partners such as the AfDB had not come on board to act as a guarantor for financing of the project.

About the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

Based in Seoul, GGGI is an intergovernmental organization that supports developing country governments transition to a model of economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive.

GGGI delivers programs in 27 partner countries with technical support, capacity building, policy planning & implementation, and by helping to build a pipeline of bankable green investment projects.

More on GGGI’s events, projects and publications can be found on www.gggi.org.

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When Two Becomes One: Blending Public and Private Climate Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/two-becomes-one-blending-public-private-climate-finance/#comments Wed, 23 May 2018 05:27:21 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155888 With the landmark Paris Agreement now almost two years old, funding for climate-related activities continues to be a challenge. However, efforts have been underway to bring two seemingly very different sectors together to address climate change. While developed countries have committed to channeling 100 billion dollars to developing countries by 2020, trillions may be needed […]

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The Erie Shores wind farm in Ontario, Canada. Credit: Denise Morazé/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 23 2018 (IPS)

With the landmark Paris Agreement now almost two years old, funding for climate-related activities continues to be a challenge. However, efforts have been underway to bring two seemingly very different sectors together to address climate change.

While developed countries have committed to channeling 100 billion dollars to developing countries by 2020, trillions may be needed in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

“Trying to address climate change at current financing levels is like walking into a Category 5 hurricane protected by only an umbrella,” said head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Patricia Espinosa during a conference.

“Right now, we are talking in millions and billions of dollars when we should be speaking in trillions,” she continued.

Achieving the ambitious climate goals set out by the international community will require major financial investments by both the public and private sectors in order to fill funding gaps.

It also requires coming up with ways for the two sectors to work together.

“International organizations such as the Global Green Institute (GGGI) and development banks are trying and testing different structures, different methods of financing, different blends of public and private financing all the time. And occasionally, things work,” GGGI’s Principal Climate Finance Specialist Fenella Aouane told IPS.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), set up by UNFCC, was given an important role to serve the Paris Agreement and has since used public investment to mobilize private finance towards low-emission, climate-resilient development.

In March, the GCF approved concessional funding to 23 projects in developing countries valued together at 1 billion dollars.

“This large volume of projects for both mitigation and adaptation – and the additional USD 60 million for readiness support – shows that GCF is ready to shift gear in supporting developing countries to achieve their climate goals…. The projects adopted here will make a real impact in the face of climate challenges,” said GCF Co-Chair Paul Oquist.

Aouane echoed similar sentiments about GCF’s efforts to IPS, stating: “They are testing the waters but that was a very good move by the GCF to say if we’re going to get the private sector, we have got to start dealing with them.”

And waving a magic wand won’t get the private sector, whose sole purpose is to make profits, to funnel money into climate mitigation and adaptation.

“[We need] to make projects more attractive for private sector investment. Reduce the costs, reduce the risks, and do a few using that concessional funding to show that they worked,” Aouane said.

Already, successes can be seen in renewable energy development.

With the help of concessional finance and continued political will, there has been a boom in renewable energy development across the world, opening the door to more players.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the private sector paved the way in renewable energy investment in 2016, providing 92 percent of funding compared to 8 percent from the public sector.

This has helped rapidly reduce the cost of renewable energy, which is set to be cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020.

In fact, solar and wind energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels in many parts of the world.

The forestry sector, on the other hand, is finding it more difficult to attract investments, Aouane told IPS.

“Forestry is a struggle in the sense of what is return, where do you make your money in a project?” she said.

But there is an ongoing initiative by the aviation industry that could help protect forests, Aouane noted.

In an effort to offset its carbon emissions, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has looked to buy credits from projects that reduce emissions such as forestry.

This could not only help level out their emissions, but also help nations protect their forests from deforestation and ensure biodiversity.

“If they do this, then there will be a possible clear return for investors in forestry because they will be able to purchase the forest and then sell the emission reduction assets to an airline who will pay for it. If the price is sufficient, then it’s attractive enough for the private sector,” Aouane said.

The idea has been controversial, however, with environmental groups noting that the move is not enough to substantially offset or reduce emissions.

The environmental group Fern also found that the Virgin Atlantic airline’s carbon offsetting projects in Cambodia have actually led to local residents being “exploited and kicked off their land,” while another project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by Austrian Airlines and the San Diego Airport has resulted in increased deforestation.

Other challenges arise when bringing together two very different sectors with different goals, Aouane said.

“Using some World Bank finance and some GCF finance is relatively simple because they are both heading in the same direction culturally. But when the private sector gets involved, there can often be an issue with trying to get mindsets to work together,” she told IPS.

“You can imagine that the mindsets are very different about how you put a deal together and how you actually get the motives right that the project is right for everybody,” Aouane continued.

The GCF provides a model for bringing the two sectors together, and its new projects could help the private sector become even more involved. But it will take time, Aouane said.

“There is work happening, but I think quite often people forget how long it takes for things to change…but it will get done,” Aouane said.

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A Natural Climate Change Adaptation Laboratory in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 23:19:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155880 The small pulp mill that uses native fruits that were previously discarded is a synthesis of the multiple objectives of the Adapta Sertão project, a programme created to build resilience to climate change in Brazil’s most vulnerable region. The new commercial value stimulates the conservation and cultivation of the umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and umbú-cajá (Spondias […]

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Two workers manually select umbús-cajás, in the factory of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, in Pintadas, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, while the fruit is washed. It is the slowest part of the production of fruit pulp from fruits native to the semi-arid ecoregion, in a project with only female workers. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two workers manually select umbús-cajás, in the factory of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, in Pintadas, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, while the fruit is washed. It is the slowest part of the production of fruit pulp from fruits native to the semi-arid ecoregion, in a project with only female workers. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
PINTADAS, Brazil, May 22 2018 (IPS)

The small pulp mill that uses native fruits that were previously discarded is a synthesis of the multiple objectives of the Adapta Sertão project, a programme created to build resilience to climate change in Brazil’s most vulnerable region.

The new commercial value stimulates the conservation and cultivation of the umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and umbú-cajá (Spondias bahiensis) fruit trees of the Anacardiaceae family, putting a halt to deforestation that has already devastated half of the original vegetation of the caatinga, the semi-arid biome of the Brazilian northeast region, covering 844,000 square km.

“I sold 500 kilos of umbú this year to the Ser do Sertão Cooperative,” Adelso Lima dos Santos, a 52-year-old farmer with three children, told IPS proudly. Since he owns only one hectare of land, he harvested the fruits on neighbouring farms where they used to throw out what they could not consume.

For each tonne the cooperative, which owns the small factory, pays its members 1.50 Brazilian reals (42 cents) per kg of fruit and a little less to non-members. In the poor and inhospitable semi-arid interior of the Northeast, known as the sertão, the income is more than welcome.

“A supplier managed to sell us 3,600 kg,” the cooperative’s commercial director and factory manager, Girlene Oliveira, 40, who has two daughters, told IPS.

Pulp production also generates income for the six local women who work at the plant. It contributes to women’s empowerment, another condition for sustainable development in the face of future climate adversities, said Thais Corral, co-founder of Adapta Sertão and coordinator of the non-governmental Human Development Network (REDEH), based in Rio de Janeiro.

The pulp mill began operating in December 2016 in Pintadas, a town of 11,000 inhabitants in the interior of the state of Bahia, and its activity is expanding rapidly. In 2017, it produced 27 tonnes, a figure already reached during the first quarter of this year, when it had orders for 72 tonnes.

But its capacity to process 8,000 tonnes per day remains underutilised. It currently operates only eight days a month on average. The limitation is in sales, on the one hand, and of raw material, whose supply is seasonal and therefore requires storage in a cold chamber, which has a capacity of only 28 tons.

Girlene Oliveira, commercial director of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, monitors the fruit pulp packaging machine, with a capacity to fill a thousand one-litre containers per hour, but which is underutilised by a limitation in sales and in the storage of frozen fruit. But the initiative is still a success for family farmers from Pintadas in Bahia, in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Girlene Oliveira, commercial director of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, monitors the fruit pulp packaging machine, with a capacity to fill a thousand one-litre containers per hour, but which is underutilised by a limitation in sales and in the storage of frozen fruit. But the initiative is still a success for family farmers from Pintadas in Bahia, in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In addition to umbú and umbú-cajá, harvested in the first quarter of the year, the factory produces pulp from other fruits, such as pineapple, mango, guava and acerola or West Indian cherry (Malpighia emarginata), available the rest of the year. Also, it has five other kinds of fruit for possible future production and is testing another 16.

The severe drought that hit the caatinga in the last six years caused some local fruits to disappear, such as the pitanga (Eugenia uniflora).

The Productive Cooperative of the Region of Piemonte de Diamantina (Coopes), whose members are all women, is another community initiative born in 2005 in Capim Grosso, 75 km from Pintadas, to process the licuri palm nut (Syagus coronate), from a palm tree in danger of going extinct.

More than 30 food and cosmetic products are made from the licuri palm nut. Its growing value is also helping to drive the revitalisation of the caatinga, vital in Adapta Sertão’s environmental and water sustainability strategies.

This programme, focused on adapting family farming to climate change, has mobilised nine cooperatives and some twenty local and national organisations over the last 12 years in the Jacuipe River basin, which encompasses 16 municipalities in the interior of the state of Bahia.

It was terminated in April with the publication of a book that tells its story, written by Dutch journalist Ineke Holtwijk, a former correspondent for Dutch media in Latin America and for IPS in her country.

Having more than doubled milk production on some of the farms assisted by the programme, winning 10 awards and introducing technical innovations to overcome the six-year drought in the semi-arid ecoregion are some of the programme’s achievements.

 Thais Corral, co-founder of the Adapta Sertão project, autographs a copy of the book that tells the story of the initiative, for Josaniel Azevedo, director of the Itaberaba Agroindustrial Cooperative. The programme "broadened our horizons," based on a vision of environmental sustainability, says the farmer in Pintadas, in the northeast Brazilian state of Bahia. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Thais Corral, co-founder of the Adapta Sertão project, autographs a copy of the book that tells the story of the initiative, for Josaniel Azevedo, director of the Itaberaba Agroindustrial Cooperative. The programme “broadened our horizons,” based on a vision of environmental sustainability, says the farmer in Pintadas, in the northeast Brazilian state of Bahia. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Brazil’s semi-arid region covers 982,000 square km, with a population of 27 million of the country’s 208 million inhabitants. The region’s population is 38 percent rural, compared to a national average of less than 20 percent, who depend mainly on family farming.

The programme’s legacy also includes the training of 300 farming families in innovative technologies, the strengthening of cooperativism and a register of family farms to sustain production throughout at least three years of severe drought.

A focus on the long term, with adjustments and the incorporation of factors discovered along the way, was key to success, said Thais Corral about the programme, which was broken down into four phases over the last 12 years.

Starting in 2006, under the title Pintadas Solar, it tried to introduce and test solar pump irrigation, to meet the demands of women tired of transporting heavy buckets to water their gardens.

“But the solar panels and equipment were too expensive at the time,” said Florisvaldo Merces, a technician working for the programme since its inception and now an official of the municipality of Pintadas in the agricultural sector.

Problems such as salinisation of the soil because of the brackish water from the wells and the difficulty in maintaining the equipment were added to the emergence of other agricultural issues to extend assistance to small farmers and the area of intervention to other municipalities in addition to Pintadas.

Problems such as the salinisation of the soil by brackish water from the wells and difficulty in maintaining the teams were added to other agricultural issues of emergency to extend the assistance to small farmers and the area of intervention to other municipalities, in addition to Pintadas.

Credit, the production chain, cooperatives, water storage and climate change dictated other priorities and transformed the programme, including its name, which was replaced by Adapta Sertão in 2008, when the Ser do Sertão Cooperative was also created.

Florisvaldo Merces is an agricultural technician who has worked in the Adapta Sertão programme since its creation in 2006 and has specialised in water issues. Simplifying complex technologies ensures the success of the project to improve productivity and the lives of family farmers in the inhospitable Sertão, in Brazil's semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Florisvaldo Merces is an agricultural technician who has worked in the Adapta Sertão programme since its creation in 2006 and has specialised in water issues. Simplifying complex technologies ensures the success of the project to improve productivity and the lives of family farmers in the inhospitable Sertão, in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Research, conducted in partnership with universities, found that the temperature in the Jacuipe basin increased 1.75 degrees Celsius from 1962 to 2012, compared to the average global rise of 0.8 degrees Celsius, while rainfall decreased 30 percent.

The programme had to test its strategies and techniques in the midst of the longest drought in the semi-arid region’s documented history, as a formula capable of sustaining production and maintaining quality of life as climate problems worsen.

It tries to respond to the challenge with the Intelligent and Sustainable Smart Agro-climatic Module (MAIS), the model for planning, productivity improvement, mechanisation and optimisation of inputs, especially water, in which Adapta Sertão trained 100 family farmers.

The aim is to “turn farmers into entrepreneurs, who record all production costs,” said Thiago Lima, a MAIS technician in sheep-farming, who now intends to apply his knowledge to his 12-hectare farm.

“Transforming complex technologies into simple ones” is the solution, Merces told IPS.

“The promoters’ sensitivity to talking with local people, carrying out research and not coming with already prepared proposals, favouring actions in tune with local forces,” was the main quality of the programme, acknowledged Neusa Cadore, former mayor of Pintadas and now state representative for the state of Bahia.

“But there was a lack of alignment with the government. We did everything with private stake-holders, foundations, cooperatives and local authorities, always hindered by the government. Ideally, Adapta Sertão should be adopted as a public policy for climate-resilient family farming,” Corral told IPS.

The company Adapta Group, created by the other founder of the programme, Italian engineer Daniele Cesano, will seek to spread the MAIS model as a business.

But Corral disagrees with the emphasis on dairy farming, which has presented the best economic results, but which requires 18 hectares and large investments, excluding most families and women, who prefer to grow vegetables. Also, she says that not enough importance is placed on the environment and thus long-term resilience.

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$1.7 Trillion Global Spending on Military in 2017: Highest since End of Cold Warhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/1-7-trillion-global-spending-military-2017-highest-since-end-cold-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=1-7-trillion-global-spending-military-2017-highest-since-end-cold-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/1-7-trillion-global-spending-military-2017-highest-since-end-cold-war/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 16:55:14 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155877 According to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in total, countries around the world spent $ 1.739 billion on arms in 2017. Although there was a marginal increase of 1.1 percent rise in real terms on 2016, the total global spending in 2017 is the highest since the end of […]

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According to the latest report by SIPRI, countries around the world spent $ 1.739 billion on arms in 2017, the highest since the end of the cold war

A military helicopter flying during a drill. Credit: Simon Fitall

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 22 2018 (IPS)

According to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in total, countries around the world spent $ 1.739 billion on arms in 2017. Although there was a marginal increase of 1.1 percent rise in real terms on 2016, the total global spending in 2017 is the highest since the end of the cold war.

This is an unprecedented amount of resources. The spending in 2017 represented 2.2 percent of global domestic product (GDP) or $ 230 per person. The ‘military burden’, which is “the military expenditure as a share of GDP” and which “assesses the proportion of national resources dedicated to military activities and the burden on the economy”, has fluctuated from a post-cold war high of 3.3 percent in 1992 to a low of 2.1 percent in 2014.

The five biggest spenders in 2017 were the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India, which together accounted for 60 percent of global military spending. The United States alone accounted for more than a third of the world total in 2017 ($695 billion) and it spent more than the next seven highest spenders combined, confirming the fact that the country can retain itself as the most powerful nation – in terms of military – in the world.

Looking at the US trend, there is a clear difference between the Obama and the Trump administration. US military expenditure had fallen each year since 2010 and substantially did not change in 2017 from 2016. However, the military budget for 2018 has been set by the Trump administration at a considerably higher level ($700 billion).

 



Regional trends

Looking at the regional trends, in the Middle East, because of a lack of accurate data for Qatar, Syria, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen, SIPRI could not estimate the total military spending in this region in 2017. Between 2009 and 2015, military expenditure of countries in this region increased by 41 percent, although it then decreased by 16 percent between 2015 and 2016 because of the fall in oil prices.

The spending increased again in 2017 by 6.2 percent with Saudi Arabia being the largest military spender in the region and the third largest in the world, following the US and China. Turkey increased its military expenditure by 46 percent between 2008 and 2017 while the last available estimate for the UAE’s military spending is for 2014, when it was the second largest military spender in the Middle East ($24.4 billion). After some years of decline, Iran could increase its military spending between 2014 and 2017 by 37 percent, mainly due to the gradual lifting of European Union and United Nations sanctions, which brought benefits to the Iranian economy. Israel’s military spending increased by 4.9 percent to $16.5 billion in 2017 (excluding about $3.1 billion in military aid from the USA). Today Israel is one of the 10 countries with the highest ‘military burden’ in the world (4.7 percent of GDP).

Military spending in Asia and Oceania reached $477 billion in 2017, a 3.6 percent higher than in 2016 and 59 percent higher than in 2008. These high levels make the region the second largest spender after the Americas. The largest increases in military spending between 2008 and 2017 were those of Cambodia (332 percent), Bangladesh (123 percent), Indonesia (122 percent) and China (110 percent). China’s military spending in 2017 ($228 billion), accounted for 48 percent of the regional total.

Europe accounted for 20 percent of global military expenditure in 2017, at $342 billion. The spending in Europe was 2.2 percent lower than in 2016 and marginally higher (1.4 percent) than in 2008. France’s spending fell by 1.9 percent to $57.8 billion; the British military spending rose by a tiny 0.5 percent to $47.2 billion, while Germany’s spending rose by 3.5 percent to $44.3 billion, its highest level since 1999.

In Africa, military expenditure was marginally down in 2017, by 0.5 percent to $42.6 billion or 2.5 percent of global military spending. North Africa’s military spending was an estimated $21.1 billion in 2017: the first annual decrease since 2006. Algeria, Africa’s largest spender, decreased its budget by 5.2 percent between 2016 and 2017 to $10.1 billion. Nigeria’s expenditure fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, despite the ongoing military operations against the terrorist group Boko Haram. Its spending was $1.6 billion in 2017.

 



Military expenditure vs aid to developing countries: a huge gap

These data, combined with other key information on budget spending from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), show that the portion of GDP that OECD countries spend every year for the military, is much higher than the one dedicated to the ‘Official Development Assistance’ (ODA). The latter is defined as “government aid designed to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries”. According to OECD, “loans and credits for military purposes are excluded [from ODA]” and this aid “may be provided bilaterally, from donor to recipient, or channelled through a multilateral development agency such as the UN or the World Bank”.

The gap between military expenditure and ODA in OECD countries is incredibly deep in most cases. For example, Turkey spends more than twice as much for its military budget rather than for aid to developing countries: 2.2% of GDP for its military and 0.95% for ODA. The gap is even greater in the case of Israel: 4.7% for the military budget and an insignificant 0.10% for ODA. The US spends 3.1% of its GDP for the military and 0.182% for ODA. Only a few countries follow the opposite trend. Luxembourg, for example, in 2017 spent twice as much for ODA (1.00% of its GDP) rather than for its military budget (0.5%).

Analysts, activists and policymakers worldwide have often criticized this allocation of resources. Regardless of the freedom of each country to spend its budget in the way it prefers in order to guarantee security for its citizens, there is an important aspect to note. Anton Chekhov once said: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there”. This principle, which then took the name of ‘Chekhov’s gun’, was paraphrased as “once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired”, someday soon.

A global military expenditure of over $1.7 trillion clearly represents much more than a simple “pistol on the wall”. The likelihood to have a conflict caused or fuelled by those arms produced by that $1.7 trillion global budget, is higher than ever.

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Swedish PM ahead of the ILO Conference: It’s not arm wrestlinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/swedish-pm-ahead-ilo-conference-not-arm-wrestling/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=swedish-pm-ahead-ilo-conference-not-arm-wrestling http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/swedish-pm-ahead-ilo-conference-not-arm-wrestling/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 09:05:17 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155867 ILO’s annual conference is about to begin in Geneva. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven chairs the Global Commission on the Future of Work which seeks to bring about a UN strategy for the world’s entire labour market. He sat down for an interview with Arbetet Global.

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Swedish PM ahead of the ILO Conference: It’s not arm wrestling

Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven. Credit: ILO

By Erik Larsson
STOCKHOLM, May 22 2018 (IPS)

There’s not one answer, no single solution, Stefan Löfven replies to a question about what the most important focus for the global labour market was.

– But it must work much better than what it does today. It must be more inclusive and safer.

The Swedish Prime Minister adds that it is important that more women gain employment and that youth unemployment is reduced, and that the world’s nations create better systems for primary and further education.

ILO

The International Labour Organization, ILO, is the UN agency for the world of work.
The elementary goal of ILO is to fight poverty and promote social justice. Its role is to improve employment and workplace conditions across the world, and to protect union freedom and rights.

The ILO is a conventions-based organisation with more than 180 conventions.

Signatories to ILO’s conventions must report back about its work to implement the rights. The nations must allow national representatives of the employer and employee organisations the opportunity to comment on the reports.
Reports for the eight basic conventions about human rights, which Sweden has ratified, must be submitted every two years.

Source: ILO

Global Deal
Stefan Löfven’s initiative, which seeks to ensure the benefits and profits of globalisation help more people.

Employees should enjoy better conditions, businesses larger profits, and countries should see reduced social unrest.
The road to get there is through a broader social dialogue – negotiations, that is. The Global Deal framework offers opportunities for partnership projects to ensure countries sign ILO conventions and large companies sign global agreements.

19 countries, close to 30 unions and businesses, as well as 15 or so organisations have joined Global Deal.

Source: Swedish goverment
Since August 2017, Stefan Löfven is one of the two chairpersons of ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work.
He is tasked with designing a global strategy for developing the international labour market.

Last week, he was paired with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was appointed the second chairperson.

The change followed a scandal, after Stefan Löfven’s previous co-chair Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the President of Mauritius, was caught buying luxury shoes and jewels with a charity organisation’s credit card.

The revelation didn’t only lead to her forced resignation as president in March, but also to her standing down from ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work, which was then led by the Swedish Prime Minister alone for a few months.

When Stefan Löfven met his new partner, the South African President, at ILO’s Geneva headquarters this month, it was a reunion of sorts.

Like Löfven, Cyril Ramaphosa has a union background and has met the former Swedish chairman of the Swedish union IF Metall several times in his previous role as leader of the South African National union of Miner Workers.

Thus, it is two former union leaders that will lead work on a plan on how to shape the world’s labour market.

The big question is whether the world’s employers – who often dislike regulation – will have stronger ammunition against their recommendations.

Stefan Löfven dismisses such speculations.

– First of all, Ramaphosa has represented both sides. He has been a union leader, but also business leader. Secondly, this is a broad commission. The commissioners have a broad range of backgrounds and employers are also represented. So, it will be the commission as a whole that will stand behind the report, Stefan Löfven tells Arbetet Global in an interview, conducted by telephone.

ILO’s annual conference begins in Geneva on 28 May.

There, the world’s nations, unions and employer organisations will meet to discuss labour market issues. There won’t be any global legislation, but the UN agency will develop conventions, ”lists of shame” and other soft tools to shape the labour market.

One topic listed for discussion this year, is what needs to be done to reduce violence against women and men at work.
An important Swedish topic is also on the agenda.

One of Stefan Löfven’s largest international initiatives is his proposed ”Global Deal” to strengthen a social dialogue between nations, unions and businesses.

The first ILO Conference of the year will discuss whether Global Deal will be included in an official report that would make it an UN tool. It would be a way to ensure the initiative would live on beyond the Swedish Prime Minister’s tenure.

But it has been questioned. Many employers don’t want to see further regulations of a global labour market.

The PM says it’s hard to predict whether Global Deal can become a UN tool.

– I can’t assess the chances of that happening, but ILO is built on tripartite cooperation and it would be strange if ILO could not express that this is an important issue, he says.

– This is not arm wrestling to determine a zero-sum game. It’s about creating good conditions for everyone. If employees enjoy good conditions, businesses profit from productivity gains and society benefits in turn.

The entire UN – of which ILO is part – has been affected by a reduced US contribution. Everyone has had to cut costs. The question is how it will affect the design of a global labour market.

– That’s really difficult to answer as I don’t know what cuts will be required by the ILO.

Of course, it’s unfortunate to have to cut funding for multi-lateral agencies at a time the globalisation is accelerating.
The labour movement is naturally interested in finding regulations of a global labour market. It’s also not unexpected that businesses are opposed to regulations.

However, a growing question is to what extent ILO is able to affect the labour market in the face of growing nationalism.

– Despite elements of nationalism, the economy works on a global level.

This year’s meeting in Geneva can be considered a warm-up ahead of ILO 100-year anniversary next year, which will bring many leaders from across the world.

The goal is to complete the Future Report by then, but many considerations need to be made before then.

The Indian labour market, where many work in agriculture, is vastly different to the Swedish, and digitalisation also brings significant changes.

– We have a final meeting in November, to discuss the final report, says Stefan Löfven.

A large portion of ILO’s work is about trying to strengthen democracy and employee workplace rights.

At the same time, the trend today is the reverse. In 70 countries, democracy deteriorated last year, according to a report by think tank Freedom House.

The freedom of the press is also under threat in several countries, and dictatorships use terminology such as “fake news” to defend themselves against audits.

– There is always an element of that. There’s always those going in a different direction, but it’s our responsibility to work for democracy.

Translation: Liselotte Geary

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Excerpt:

ILO’s annual conference is about to begin in Geneva. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven chairs the Global Commission on the Future of Work which seeks to bring about a UN strategy for the world’s entire labour market. He sat down for an interview with Arbetet Global.

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Media Watchdogs Fear a Chill in Slovakiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/media-watchdogs-fear-chill-slovakia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=media-watchdogs-fear-chill-slovakia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/media-watchdogs-fear-chill-slovakia/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 00:03:37 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155863 International media watchdogs, EU politicians, journalists and publishers have condemned Slovak police investigating the murder of a local journalist after one of his colleagues claimed she was interrogated for eight hours before being forced to hand over her telephone – potentially putting sources at risk. Czech investigative journalist Pavla Holcova had travelled from Prague to […]

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Mass protests in Slovakia in the wake of the killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova led to the resignation of the country's Prime Minister, Interior Minister and head of police. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Mass protests in Slovakia in the wake of the killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova led to the resignation of the country's Prime Minister, Interior Minister and head of police. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, May 22 2018 (IPS)

International media watchdogs, EU politicians, journalists and publishers have condemned Slovak police investigating the murder of a local journalist after one of his colleagues claimed she was interrogated for eight hours before being forced to hand over her telephone – potentially putting sources at risk.

Czech investigative journalist Pavla Holcova had travelled from Prague to Bratislava on May 15th believing she was going to help Slovak police with their investigation into the murder of her former colleague, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, in February this year."It starts with a phone, then a laptop, then interview notes and what is next?...Journalism is the canary in the coal mine. If it dies in these countries, then ‘European-ness’ will have died." --Drew Sullivan

But she said after she arrived she was questioned for eight hours by officers from the Slovak National Crime Agency (NAKA) repeatedly asking about the investigative reporting network she works with, her past work and links between Slovak business people and senior politicians.

They also demanded she hand over her mobile phone so they could access data on it.

When she refused she says she was threatened with a 1,650 Euro fine and police produced a warrant to confiscate the phone. She said she agreed to give them the phone but having failed to retrieve data from it when Holcova refused to give them passwords, they took it saying they would use Europol forensic resources to get past its passwords and access the information inside.

News of the interrogation and requisition of Holcova’s phone brought widespread condemnation from groups like Reporters Without Borders, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which Holcova, and previously Kuciak, has worked with, MEPs and other groups.

Meanwhile, in Slovakia, publishing houses and dozens of editors from local newspapers and media outlets put out a joint statement demanding Holcova’s phone be returned to her immediately, reiterating the legal right to protection of journalists’ sources and calling on Slovak police to explain their conduct.

However, they say it is not just Holcova they are defending.

Beata Balogova, Editor in Chief of the Slovak daily newspaper ‘Sme’, told IPS: “This isn’t just about Pavla, it goes further than that. We need to know whether they [the police and prosecutor] think what they have done is in line with the laws of this country.”

As in some other countries in Central Europe, media watchdogs have pointed to an alarming erosion in press freedom in Slovakia in recent years with journalists facing denigration and abuse from the government and intimidation by local businessmen.

Meanwhile, many local media outlets have been bought up by oligarchs and there are serious doubts about the political independence of the country’s public broadcaster. Criminal libel prosecutions are also a permanent threat to journalists’ work.

Kuciak was shot dead by a single bullet to his chest and his fiancée by a single bullet to the head in his home east of the capital Bratislava in late February.

At the time of his death, Kuciak and Holcova had been working on a story about the links between the ‘Ndrangheta mafia and people in Smer, the senior party in the Slovak governing coalition.

In the days after the killing, there was feverish speculation about mafia or political involvement in the murder and that it had been carried out as a clear warning to other journalists.

Balogova and other Slovak journalists believe that by taking Holcova’s phone, police may have been sending a signal to journalists.

“It could have been to tell journalists that they are being watched or to try and frighten them,” she said.

There has also been speculation that the police may have been trying to get information so they can move to try and cover up links between failings in the investigation and senior figures in the Slovak police and judicial system.

In their statement, Slovak publishers and editors said: “Taking into account that many suspicions which arose after the murder of Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova point directly to representatives of criminal justice institutions, the rigorous protection of sources is more important than ever, especially when there is a risk this information could be abused.”

Drew Sullivan, Editor at the OCCRP, told IPS that the police may have been acting on orders from politicians.

“Justice is still political in Slovakia,” he said. “It is possible the ruling political party, which is more concerned about the news stories which created the protests [after Kuciak’s murder and which forced the Prime Minister’s resignation] than they are with Jan’s murder, is dictating the police‘s approach.”

And Marek Vagovic, editor in chief at Slovak news site Aktuality.sk, Kuciak‘s former employer, told the Slovak daily ‘Novy cas’: “Looking at the nature and links between those in power who control the criminal justice institutions, I don’t believe this is about investigating a double pre-meditated murder.

“I fear that in taking Pavla Holcova’s mobile phone they have a different aim: tracking down her informants so they can find out what she was working on and can warn politicians, oligarchs and members of organised crime under suspicion.”

In a statement, the Special Prosecutor’s Office, which issued the warrant to take Holcova’s phone, said that Holcova had willingly given up her phone to police and that the device had been taken solely to try and find Kuciak’s killers.

It stressed that the warrant was issued to help the investigation and not to impinge on any of Holcova’s rights as a journalist.

But Slovak lawyers and constitutional experts have questioned the police’s approach, arguing that any information relating to Kuciak’s murder found on the phone would probably not be admissible as evidence if it was accessed without Holcova giving them the password to it.

Following media attention, the Special Prosecutor’s Office said on May 18th it would send the phone back to Holcova as soon as possible and that after it was taken no attempt was made to bypass its security and access its data. But it defended the police’s conduct, saying that looking to obtain data in the phone was “a necessary and logical” step in the investigation.

It also said that Holcova would be asked to attend further questioning in the future as a witness in the investigation. Holcova, though, has said she will “consider very carefully” any future meetings with Slovak investigators.

Whatever the intentions of the Slovak police were, their actions will have had an effect, although perhaps not the one they would have been expecting if they were attempting to frighten journalists.

“It may affect how sources interact with us,” explained Balogova. “Sources speak to journalists because they believe that we can and will protect their identities. But now they may be worried that journalists cannot protect their sources. So, will they still talk to us?

“But [the police’s actions] may also have the opposite effect – journalists will just be more careful now in how they communicate with people and go about their work.”

The incident made headlines abroad and was noted in the European Parliament which has been closely following the Slovak media environment since Kuciak’s murder and the subsequent mass protests which forced the Slovak Prime Minister, Interior Minister and, eventually, the head of the police force to resign.

MEPs suggested it would have further damaged the reputation of the Slovak police, which is widely perceived as endemically corrupt and at senior level linked to powerful local business figures suspected of criminal activity.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, said in a statement: “We thought that after the murders of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova that the Slovak government would do all it could to allow journalists to carry out their daily work and that we would see them as partners in the common fight against corruption and crime.

“Unfortunately, today we can see that, despite the Slovak government’s assurances, the opposite is happening.”

But perhaps just as importantly, the treatment of Holcova could have ramifications beyond Slovakia, potentially emboldening neighbouring governments which, critics say, are leading their own crackdowns on critical media.

Press freedom in Poland and Hungary has receded dramatically over the last few years, according to local and international media groups, with both countries’ rankings in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index plummeting.

Governments seen as populist, increasingly authoritarian and corrupt have used legislation, taxes on independent media, takeovers, forced closures and, some believe, security service surveillance, to try and silence critical news outlets, they claim.

When asked whether he thought other governments in the region could start using similar methods following what happened to Holcova, OCCRP’s Sullivan told IPS: “Absolutely. It starts with a phone, then a laptop, then interview notes and what is next?

“There is an increasing erosion of journalism rights in the East of Europe. Hungary, Slovakia and Poland have become problematic states where independent journalism is dying.”

He added: “We’ve seen this [Slovak police treatment of Holcova] and worse in Eastern Europe, Russia and the CIS states. It is something we kind of expect from drug states, captured states and the autocracies in those regions. But we haven’t seen it with a European Union member.”

And he called on the EU to act to uphold its core values. “This is a growing splinter in the eye of Europe and the European Union needs to act decisively if it doesn’t want to lose its European values. It can’t have members denying basic values.

“If this is allowed to continue, it will lead to …. further repression of journalism. Journalism is the canary in the coal mine. If it dies in these countries, then ‘European-ness’ will have died. These are states that are fundamentally becoming undemocratic. We need media there chronicling this.”

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Upholding International Law in the Context of International Peace & Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/upholding-international-law-context-international-peace-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=upholding-international-law-context-international-peace-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/upholding-international-law-context-international-peace-security/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 16:57:00 +0000 Dr Amrith Rohan Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155858 Ambassador Amrith Rohan Perera is Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations

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Ambassador Amrith Rohan Perera is Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations

By Dr Amrith Rohan Perera
UNITED NATIONS, May 21 2018 (IPS)

The Security Council debate last week – on “Upholding International Law within the context of Maintenance of International Peace and Security – took place at a crucial moment when the strengthening and invigorating of collective measures for the maintenance of international peace and security has become an imperative.

H.E. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera

The fabric of the global order is increasingly coming under threat with the rise of flash points, conflicts and the spread of the spectre of terrorism and violent extremism.

It is vital that member states forge new and innovative partnerships in the context of preserving international peace and security. In doing so, governments must act under the imprimatur of the law.

This is the foundation upon which a peaceful, equitable and prosperous international community is built. Therefore, it must be the common responsibility of all member states to strengthen the international order based on the respect for International Law.

If we are to strengthen International Law amidst these challenges, then we must ensure that there is equality before the law; a guarantee of independence of international judicial mechanisms; and, that legal remedies remain accessible to the most vulnerable among us.

It is vital that all states have an equal opportunity to participate in the international law making process. This is the essence of the evolution of modern international law, from its classical origins, as a law that governed a limited community of states prior to decolonization. It is also a principle that protects all states, especially developing countries, from the harshness of an empirically unequal world.

Upholding International Law within the context of maintenance of International Peace and Security requires absolute adherence to Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations: namely the core principles of sovereign equality of States and non-interference, the prohibition on the threat or use of force and the obligation to settle international disputes peacefully – through recourse to peaceful methods of dispute settlement – such as by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, or other peaceful means as set out in Article 33 of the UN Charter.

The efficacy of international law in preserving international peace and security, would require the achievement of a global consensus, which must necessarily factor in the hopes and aspiration of all states and not that of a select few.

Historically, the General Assembly and its Legal Committee (Sixth Committee) have provided a platform for the effective and equitable participation of all states in the international norm creating process.

Judge Hisashi Owada, Senior Judge and President Emeritus of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) drew our attention to another vital aspect and clearly underlined the importance of the organs of the United Nations acting in concert within their respective spheres of functions as stipulated in the Charter. Their synergies must be harnessed in achieving our collective goal of maintenance of international peace and security.

In today’s world, disputes that threaten the international order have complex political and legal dimensions and in addressing such issues, the key organs of the United Nations, the Security Council, the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice can make a collective contribution and strengthen international peace and security.

The contribution that the International Court of Justice has made over the years in the field of maintenance of International Peace and Security has been invaluable. I wish to make particular reference to the advisory opinion of the Court on the question of the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

Greater recourse to the advisory jurisdiction of the Court in addressing critical and complex issues with political and legal ramifications is an option that could be usefully pursued in matters relating to international peace and security.

As pertinently observed by Judge Owada, in the course of the Security Council debate, in exercising its advisory jurisdiction, the Court is expressing “an authentic legal opinion” in order to clarify legal issues to the other organs of the organization.

Let me also state that this debate is also an opportunity for Member States to recognize the invaluable work of the principal legal organ of the United Nations – the International Law Commission, as it celebrates its 70th anniversary here in New York, and to pay tribute to its invaluable contribution over the years in the codification and progressive development of international law.

Its pioneering work on the draft Code of Offences against peace and security of mankind, on the draft statute of an International Criminal Court have been path breaking and have set the pace for the current developments in the area of international criminal responsibility.

Items on its current agenda such as Universal Jurisdiction, Immunity of State Officials from Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction and Genocide are of particular significance in this regard.

In conclusion, Sri Lanka wishes to draw the attention of the Council to the challenges faced by developing States in its full and effective participation in the multilateral treaty making process.

This is an area where the UN can and must play a crucial role, in particular, by assisting States with capacity building, and thereby contribute to the universality of International Law making.

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Ambassador Amrith Rohan Perera is Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations

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Can Preventive Diplomacy Avert Military Conflicts?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/can-preventive-diplomacy-avert-military-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-preventive-diplomacy-avert-military-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/can-preventive-diplomacy-avert-military-conflicts/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 13:29:44 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155855 In the paradoxical battle against military conflicts, is preventive diplomacy one of the political remedies that can help deter wars before they break out? Miroslav Lajcak, President of the UN General Assembly, points out that prevention takes many forms, and it must tackle conflict at its roots – before it can spread. “This means stronger […]

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Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak delivers a speech after he was elected as president of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, May 31, 2017. Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, May 21 2018 (IPS)

In the paradoxical battle against military conflicts, is preventive diplomacy one of the political remedies that can help deter wars before they break out?

Miroslav Lajcak, President of the UN General Assembly, points out that prevention takes many forms, and it must tackle conflict at its roots – before it can spread.

“This means stronger institutions. It means smart and sustainable development. It means inclusive peacebuilding. It means promoting human rights, and the rule of law.”

At a recent three-day Forum on Peace and Development, sponsored by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the Swedish Foreign Ministry, participants came up with several responses, including international mediation, pre-conflict peacebuilding, counter-terrorism — and, perhaps most importantly, sustainable development that aims at eradicating poverty and hunger.

Lajcak cites a recent World Bank-United Nations report, titled “Pathways for Peace”, that argues in terms of dollars and cents: that for every $1 spent on prevention, up to $7 could be saved – over the long term.

Speaking on the “Politics of Peace” – the theme of the SIPRI forum which concluded May 9—he said: “Peace can be political. It can be complicated. And it can be messy. Mediators do not have an easy job.”

Jan Eliasson, chairman of the SIPRI Board of Governors and a former Swedish Foreign Minister, points out that “aside from saving and improving human lives, studies suggest that investing $2 billion in prevention can generate net savings of $33 billion per year from averted conflict”.

And according to a World Bank survey, he said, 40 percent of those who join rebel groups do so because of a lack of economic opportunities?

“It is time for us all to get serious about prevention and sustaining peace if we are to achieve the peace envisioned in the SDGs by 2030. Policy makers must focus efforts on prevention, committing additional resources and attention to the highest risk environment,” said Eliasson, a former UN Deputy Secretary-General.

In an introduction to the “Politics of Peace,” SIPRI says targeted, inclusive and sustained prevention can contribute to lasting peace by reducing the risk of violent conflict.

“Unfortunately, the political will to invest in prevention is often lacking where it is needed most,” notes SIPRI.

The UN’s peacekeeping budget for 2017-2018 is estimated at a staggering $6.8 billion. But how much does the UN really spend on preventive diplomacy?

At a high level meeting on peacebuilding last month, several delegates emphasized the concept of prevention. But complained about the failure to aggressively fund such prevention.

Asked how one could explain that “meagre resources, a little bit over $1 million” is being devoted to preventive diplomacy, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters April 25: “I think that’s a question perhaps to those who allocate the budget. The Secretary General has repeatedly called for greater resources and greater emphasis to be put on prevention.”

Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya told IPS, today’s violent conflicts are complex, trans-border and multi-dimensional in nature.

Similarly, the causes and patterns of conflict are also complex and intertwined with ethnicity, dispute over boundaries, and competition over scarce resources, weak governance systems, poverty, socioeconomic inequalities, environmental degradation, etc.

The complexity of violent conflict, he argued, makes it prolonged, deadly, and economically costly to the countries which experience conflicts.

According to Collier et. al (2003), “by the end of a typical civil war, incomes are around 15 per cent lower than they would otherwise have been, implying that about 30 per cent more people are living in absolute poverty” due to conflict. And according to the same authors, conflict would also lead to a permanent loss of around 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Chatterjee also pointed out that the main damage of conflict emanates from its adverse effects of diverting resources from the productive sector to violence and destructive activities.

“These widespread conflicts are imposing an enormous cost not only to the countries where conflicts are raging but also to their neighboring countries, which often end up hosting refugees crossing the borders to seek a safe-haven. This further results in considerable economic and environmental problems for the host countries.”

He said armed conflict and violence are increasingly complex, dynamic and protracted. Over 65 million people were forcibly displaced in 2016 alone. Many conflicts have endured for decades; others have repercussions well beyond their immediate area.

Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Executive Director of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) told IPS that after so many wars and so much destruction, “I’m stunned that governments still think that weaponry is the pathway to peace and security.”

“When individuals are able to weaponize a car, a bus or truck, hi-tech missiles aren’t going to solve the problem. We need to be looking at the root causes and drivers.”

She said this brings up issues of gross inequality, rising extremism that’s fostering un-belonging, and other issues relating to education, mental health and so forth.

She asked: “What does it cost to build schools in Northern Nigeria so kids have a chance of a future? What does it cost to develop state of the art environmental programs that can preserve water and enable farmers to grow crops, so they aren’t forced to migrate to cities and be jobless and desperate?”

Globally, over 260 million children and youth are not in school, and 400 million children have only primary school education, according to UN estimates released last week. If left unaddressed, the education crisis could leave half of the world’s 1.6 billion children and youth out of school or failing to learn the most basic skills by 2030.

Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his Envoy on Global Education, Gordon Brown, received a petition signed by some 1.5 million young people calling for more investment in education. The petition was delivered by three youth activists from India, Kenya and Sierra Leone.

In the aftermath of the Cold War, said Naraghi Anderlini, “we recognized that human security was integral to state security. The 9/11 attacks threw us off course and we entered a realm of perpetual war and retaliations. Yet at the core sits issues of human security, dignity, legitimate grievances and aspirations. State failure is central to everything we see – from corruption to excessive violence and being absent in basic service provision.”

She warned that “governments can try to hide behind their bluster, weaponry and techno-wizardry but we are hurtling towards a new unknown, but this will not be the path to peace.”

The tragedy is that ordinary people, civil society actors in communities everywhere, have the answers and solutions, she argued.

“They have rolled up their sleeves and with limited resources they are doing extraordinary work. They raise uncomfortable truths for this reason, governments and even the UN system don’t bring them to the table. They provide ‘side events’ and agree to host them on the margins of major summits.”

But the citizens are not marginal, they are at the very center of any state. And civil society organizations that enable citizens to contribute to solving problems should be equal partners in the space of decision making globally, she declared.

Chatterjee told IPS the other emerging threat to the global community is violent extremism which has not only sets in motion a dramatic reversal of development gains already made, but also threatens to stunt prospects of development for decades to come, particularly in border lands and marginalized areas as well as affecting developed countries.

To support prevention of conflict and violent extremism; it is important to focus on the root causes, drivers of conflict and radicalization, which are intertwined with poverty, social, cultural, economic, political and psychological factors.

Extremism, which often evolves into terrorism, has its origin in poverty and human insecurity, which is partly linked to exclusion, marginalization and lack of access to resources and power, he noted.

A recent UNDP report – “the Road to Extremism”- which is based on extensive data collected from East and West African countries, revealed that poverty and marginalization to be the main factors that drive young people to join extremist groups. The study also found that the tipping point is how the government treats the community and the youth.

In addressing both violent conflict and extremism, Chatterjee said, it is important to invest in prevention because attempting to address the problem once it has erupted will cost more and huge amount of resources. And, it will also be complicated, as in the case of Somalia or the Central African Republic (CAR).

That is why the UN Secretary General’s reform agenda emphasizes preventing violent conflicts before they erupt into full-fledged crises. The Secretary General’s agenda also links conflict to SDGs, and the principle of leaving no one behind espoused by the SDGs is a critical condition for sustainable peace and prosperity, said Chatterjee.

He said this approach will strengthen institutions to sustain peace as the best way to avoid societies from descending into crisis, including, but not limited to, conflict, violent extremism and ensure their resilience through investments in inclusive and sustainable development.

“The bottom line is without peace, little or nothing can be achieved in terms of economic and social progress and without development it would be difficult to achieve sustainable peace,” declared Chatterjee.

Asked for his reaction, Dan Smith, SIPRI Director, summed it up as follows: “In general I think that a Norwegian politician, Erik Solheim, now head of UNEP, put it well when he said, at a public meeting many years ago, in response to a question about why prevention is not emphasised more, something along these lines: “Because, to my knowledge, no politician has ever been re-elected on the basis of preventing a war that might not have happened in a faraway country that none of her or his voters have ever heard of.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 10:17:58 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155846 Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’ For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate […]

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Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Security - Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR AND SYDNEY, May 21 2018 (IPS)

Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’

For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate economic growth, presuming that a rising tide will lift all boats, no matter how fragile or leaky. Most believe that market liberalization, property rights, and perhaps some minimal government infrastructure provision is all that is needed.

Tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food. As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security

The government’s role should be restricted to strengthening the rule of law and ensuring open trade and investment policies. In such a business-friendly environment, the private sector will thrive. Accordingly, pro-active government interventions or agricultural development policy would be a mistake, preventing markets from functioning properly, it is claimed.

The possibility of market failure is denied by this view. Social disruption, due to the dispossession of smallholders, or livelihoods being undermined in other ways, simply cannot happen.

 

Flawed recipes

This approach was imposed on Africa and Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s through structural adjustment programmes of the Bretton Woods institutions (BWIs), contributing to their ‘lost decades’. In Africa, the World Bank’s influential Berg Report claimed that Africa’s supposed comparative advantage lay in agriculture, and its potential would be best realized by leaving things to the market.

If only the state would stop ‘squeezing’ agriculture through marketing boards and other price distortions, agricultural producers would achieve export-led growth spontaneously. Almost four decades later, Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential.

Examining the causes of this dismal outcome, a FAO report concluded that “arguments in support of further liberalization have tended to be based on analytical studies which either fail to recognize, or are unable to incorporate insights from the agricultural development literature”.

In fact, agricultural producers in many developing countries face widespread market failures, reducing their surpluses needed to invest in higher value activities. The FAO report also noted that “diversification into higher value added activities in cases of successful agriculture-led growth…require significant government intervention at early stages of development to alleviate the pervasive nature of market failures”.

 

Avoidable Haitian tragedy

In the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, former US President Bill Clinton apologized for destroying its rice production by forcing the island republic to import subsidized American rice, exacerbating greater poverty and food insecurity in Haiti.

For nearly two centuries after independence in 1804, Haiti was self-sufficient in rice until the early 1980s. When President Jean-Claude Duvalier turned to the BWIs in the 1970s, US companies quickly pushed for agricultural trade liberalization, upending earlier food security concerns.

US companies’ influence increased after the 1986 coup d’état brought General Henri Namphy to power. When the elected ‘populist’ Aristide Government met with farmers’ associations and unions to find ways to save Haitian rice production, the International Monetary Fund opposed such policy interventions.

Thus, by the 1990s, the tariff on imported rice was cut by half. Food aid from the late 1980s to the early 1990s further drove food prices down, wreaking havoc on Haitian rice production, as more costly, unsubsidized domestic rice could not compete against cheaper US rice imports.

From being self-sufficient in rice, sugar, poultry and pork, impoverished Haiti became the world’s fourth-largest importer of US rice and the largest Caribbean importer of US produced food. Thus, by 2010, it was importing 80% of rice consumed in Haiti, and 51% of its total food needs, compared to 19% in the 1970s.

 

Agricultural subsidies

While developing countries have been urged to dismantle food security and agricultural support policies, the developed world increased subsidies for its own agriculture, including food production. For example, the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) supported its own farmers and food production for over half a century.

This has been crucial for ensuring food security and safety in Europe after the Second World War. For Phil Hogan, the EU’s Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner, “The CAP is at the root of a vibrant agri-food sector, which provides for 44 million jobs in the EU. We should use this potential more”.

Despite less support in some OECD countries, farmers still receive prices about 10% above international market levels on average. An OECD policy brief observed, “the benefits from agriculture for developing countries could be increased substantially if many OECD member countries reformed their agricultural policies. Currently, agriculture is the area on which OECD countries are creating most trade distortions, by subsidising production and exports and by imposing tariffs and nontariff barriers on trade”.

 

Double standards

If rich countries can have agricultural policies, developing countries should also be allowed to adopt appropriate policies to support agriculture, to address not only hunger and malnutrition, but also other challenges including poverty, water and energy use, climate change, as well as unsustainable production and consumption.

After all, tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food.

As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security.

Hence, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to agricultural development, requiring the same rules to apply to all, with no regard for different circumstances, would be grossly unfair. Worse, it would also worsen the food insecurity, poverty and underdevelopment experienced by most African and other developing countries.


Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.
Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.

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“Outsiders” in Focus at French Film Festhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/outsiders-focus-french-film-fest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outsiders-focus-french-film-fest http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/outsiders-focus-french-film-fest/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 21:10:30 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155838 The usual big-name directors were absent this year from the Cannes Film Festival in southern France, creating space for cutting-edge films from Asia, Africa, small European states, and the Middle East. Most of these films put the focus squarely on stories about outsiders, highlighting issues of exclusion, disability, racism and gender inequality (including in the […]

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A scene from the film Rafiki, which was banned in Kenya. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

A scene from the film Rafiki, which was banned in Kenya. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

By A. D. McKenzie
CANNES, France, May 19 2018 (IPS)

The usual big-name directors were absent this year from the Cannes Film Festival in southern France, creating space for cutting-edge films from Asia, Africa, small European states, and the Middle East.

Most of these films put the focus squarely on stories about outsiders, highlighting issues of exclusion, disability, racism and gender inequality (including in the film industry). The result was a festival with some of the most engaging movies in the last five years, alongside the trademark glitz.

The winners in the two main categories of the event, which ran from May 8 to 19, exemplified the concentration on the underdog. Manbiki Kazoku (Shoplifters) by Japanese director Kore-Eda Hirokazu won the Palme d’Or top prize, from among 21 films, while Gräns (Border), by Iranian-born Danish director Ali Abbasi, was awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize, beating 17 other movies. The latter category recognizes films that stand out for their originality, and many critics agreed Gräns was remarkable.

“We feel that out of 2,000 films considered by the Festival, the 18 we saw in Un Certain Regard, from Argentina to China, were all in their own way winners,” stated the jury, headed by Puerto-Rican actor Benicio Del Toro.

“We were extremely impressed by the high quality of the work presented, but in the end we were the most moved by … five films” (including Gräns), the jury added

Full of suspense, Abbasi’s movie tells the story of a “strange-looking” female customs officer who has a gift for spotting, or sniffing out, travellers trying to hide their contraband and other secrets, and it takes viewers on her journey to discover who she really is.

We see her experiencing verbal abuse from some travellers, and we slowly discover the exploitation she and people like her have suffered, while also learning about her origins, and seeing her fall in love and deal with appalling crime.

Based on a short story by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, and with superb acting, the film combines romance, dark humour and the paranormal to deliver a subtle message about the treatment of people who are different and society’s behaviour towards those most vulnerable, among other subjects.

A second film that won a major award in the Un Certain Regard category also dealt with “difference” and the acceptance of one’s individuality. Girl by Belgian director Lukas Dhont is a first feature about a boy who dreams of becoming a ballerina, exploring the journey of a trans-teen with a passion for dance. Victor Polster, the 15-year-old actor who plays the title role with poignant credibility, won the best actor award, while Girl also won the competition’s Caméra d’Or prize for best first film.

A scene from the film Girl. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

However, Rafiki (Friend), a movie that some critics expected to receive a prize, had to be satisfied with the extended standing ovation it received from viewers at the festival. The film – about love between two young women – is banned in Kenya, despite being the first Kenyan film selected for screening at the festival.

Director Wanuri Kahui said she was moved by the appreciation the film received, telling reporters that people are eager to watch a “joyful” and “modern” African movie, away from the stereotypical images of poverty and disaster.

Regarding the ban, she tweeted in April: “I am incredibly sorry to announce that our film RAFIKI has been banned in Kenya. We believe adult Kenyans are mature and discerning enough to watch local content but their right has been denied.”

Apart from the Palme d’Or winner (about a family of shoplifters), the films that generated widespread buzz in the main competition included Arabic-language Yomeddine, directed by Cairo-born A.B. Shawky, and featuring a leper in Egypt, and BlacKkKlansman, by African-American director Spike Lee, which won the Grand Prix, the second highest honour at the festival.

A scene from the film Yomeddine. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

Yomeddine stood out for its choice of subject and for portraying and employing persons with disabilities. Viewer and British actor Adam Lannon called the film “beautiful and brilliant”, adding that it was “excellent” to see “actors with disabilities working on screen”.

The film’s main character, Beshay, is a man cured of leprosy, but he has never left the leper colony where he has been placed by his family since childhood. When his wife dies, he sets out in search of his roots, with his loyal donkey. He is soon joined by an orphan boy named Obama, whom he has been protecting, although he would rather have been alone.

What follows is an uplifting road movie across Egypt, with a series of tear-jerking encounters on the way and echoes of “Don Quixote”. Shawky’s first feature has some flaws in that certain elements seem too predictable, but he scores overall with his appeal for humanity and inclusion.

The director Spike Lee on the set of his film BlacKkKlansman. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

The director Spike Lee on the set of his film BlacKkKlansman. Photo courtesy of the Cannes press office.

For Spike Lee, anger at racism comes across clearly in his latest film, which is the story of a real-life African-American policeman who managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan in Colorado. Lee incorporated recent events in the United States in the movie, particularly the killing of Heather Heyer as she protested a white-supremacist gathering in Charlottesville.

At his main Cannes press conference, Lee slammed the current U.S. administration, in a speech full of expletives. “We have a guy in the White House … who in a defining moment … was given the chance to say we’re about love and not hate, and that (expletive deleted) did not denounce the Klan,” he told journalists.

Gender issues were also raised at the festival, with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements never far from movie-watchers’ consciousness, as is the global scarcity of female directors. Only one film directed by a woman (The Piano by Jane Campion) has ever won the Palme d’Or, and women have long been underrepresented at the directorial level.

During the event, 82 women working in the movie sector took over the famous red-carpeted stairs to protest that inequality. Their number was an indication that since the Cannes festival officially began in 1946, following World War II, just 82 movies by women directors have been selected for competition. In contrast, 1,645 films by male directors have been chosen.

Led by the five women on this year’s competition jury, including jury president Cate Blanchett and American director Ava Duvernay, the protest coincided with the screening of Les Filles du Soleil (Girls of the Sun), a movie by French director Eva Husson about a group of female fighters in Kurdistan.

This was just one of several protest events. A few days later, black women working in the French film industry also denounced the lack of quality roles. Sixteen women who have contributed to a book titled Noire n’est pas mon metier (Being black is not my profession) made their voices heard on the red carpet.

“We’re here to denounce a system that has gone on too long,” said Senegalese-born French actress Aïssa Maïga, who described how black actresses tended to be cast only in certain roles.

Among the three women directors in the main competition, Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki took home the biggest award – the Prix du Jury for Capharnaüm, about a boy who sues his parents for bringing him into the world.

In a moving speech, Labaki called for everyone to do more to protect children and ensure their education. “A loveless childhood is the root of all suffering in the world,” she said.

By the time the festival wrapped up with a performance from singers Sting and Shaggy on May 19 (the same day as the Royal Wedding in England), it seemed that both filmmakers and the public were yearning for lasting change, and different stories.

Follow A. McKenzie on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale

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Shipping and Industry Threaten Famed Home of the Bengal Tigerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 11:23:43 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155835 Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site. Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, […]

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A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 19 2018 (IPS)

Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site.

Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium, radium and many more into the waters. They’re killing plankton – a microscopic organism critical for the survival of marine life inside the wild forest."Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem." --Sharif Jamil

Scientific studies warn the sudden drastic fall in the plankton population may affect the entire food chain in the Sundarbans in the near future, starving the life in the rivers and in the forest.

The latest incident involved the sinking of a coal-loaded cargo ship on April 14 deep inside the forest, popularly known as the home of the endangered Royal Bengal Tigers, once again outraging environmentalists.

Despite strong opposition by leading environmental organizations vowing to protect the biodiversity in the Sundarbans, which measure about 10,000 square kilometers of forest facing the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh in South Asia, policy makers have largely ignored conservation laws that prioritise protecting the wildlife in the forest.

Critics say influential businessmen backed by politicians are more interested in building industries on cheap land around the forest that lie close to the sea for effortless import of the substances causing the environmental damage.

Divers from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) have traced the latest sunken vessel lying some 30 feet deep underwater, but they have not been able to salvage the ship.

It is the third to have capsized in less than two years in the ecologically sensitive region, some of which remains untouched by human habitation.

The deadliest accident occurred on Dec. 9, 2014. Amid low visibility, an oil tanker collided with a cargo vessel, spilling over 350,000 liters of crude oil into the Shela River, one of the many tributaries that crisscross the forest – home to rare wildlife species like the Bengal Tiger and Irrawaddy dolphin.

Then, in May 2017, a cargo ship carrying about 500 metric tons of fertilizer sank in the Bhola River in the Sundarbans. In October the same year, a coal-laden vessel carrying an almost equal weight of coal sunk into the meandering shallow Pashur River.

Each time toxic materials pollute the rivers, the government comes up with a consoling statement claiming that the coal has ‘safe’ levels of sulfur and mercury which are the main concern of the environmentalists.

Outraged by official inaction, many leading conservationists expressed their grievances at this “green-washing.”

Sharif Jamil, Joint Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon or BAPA, told IPS, “I feel ashamed to know that such a scientifically untrue and dishonest statement of one cargo owner (safe level of sulfur and mercury) was endorsed by our government in their reports and acts which significantly damages the credibility of the government and questions the competency of the concerned authorities.”

“Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem,” he said.

Jamil criticized the state agency responsible for protecting the environment, saying, “The department of environment or DoE has responsibility to monitor and control the pollution by ensuring punishment to the polluters. We have not witnessed any action from DoE so far, in this case particularly.”

While coal may not be as environmentally destructive as crude oil spill, the commercial shipping path across the Sundarbans has a long track record of disasters.

Professor Abdullah Harun, who teaches environmental science at the University of Khulna, told IPS, “The cargo ship disasters are proving to be catastrophic and destructive for the wildlife in the Sundarbans. We have already performed a series of studies titled ‘Impact of Oil Spillage on the Environment of Sundarbans’.

“Laboratory tests showed startling results as the toxic levels in many dead species and water samples were found way beyond our imagination. The most alarming is the loss of phytoplankton and zooplankton diversity and populations. Both these are known to play vital role in the food chain of the aquatic environment.”

Professor Harun fears that the embryos of oil-coated Sundari seeds, decomposed as a result of the spillage across 350 square km of land, will not be germinating. Sundari trees make up the mangrove forest and it has specialised roots which emerge above ground and help in gaseous exchange.

He said, “A primary producer of the aquatic ecosystems, source of food and nutrient of the many aquatic animals, has been affected by the oil spill in 2014. The aquatic population will be decreased and long-term impacts on aquatic lives like loss of breeding capacity, habitat loss, injury of respiratory organs, hearts and skins will occur.”

He said, “Our team of scientists tested for the fish larvae population. Before the 2014 disaster we found about 6,000 larvae in a litre of water collected from rivers in the Sundarbans. After the disaster we carried out the same test but found less than half (2,500 fish larvae) in the same amount of water. This is just one species I am talking about. Isn’t it alarming enough?”

Following the latest incident, the government imposed a ban on cargo ships using the narrow channels of the Pashur River where most of the vessels sail. But there are fears that the ban will only be a temporary measure as seen in the past. After the December 2014 oil spill, a similar ban on commercial cargo was lifted soon after.

These ‘ban games’ on cargo vessels will not solve the underlying problems in the Sundarbans. Several hundred activists recently marched towards the mangrove forest in Bagerhat to protest plans to build a coal-based power plant near the Sundarbans near Rampal. The activists called on the government to stop construction of the proposed 1.3-gigawatt Rampal Power Plant, which is located about 14-km upstream of the forest.

Environmentalists are also worried about rapid industrialization near the Sundarbans. The Department of Environment (DoE) has identified 190 commercial and industrial plants operating within 10 kilometres of the forest.

It has labeled ‘red’ 24 of these establishments as they are dangerously close to the world heritage site and polluting the soil, water and air of the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Eminent environmentalist Professor Ainun Nishat, told IPS, “My main worries are whether the main concerns for safety of the wildlife in the forest is being overlooked.”

Professor Nishat said, “If we allow movement of vessels to carry shipments through the forest then I like to question a few things like, where does the coal come from? What do we do with the fly ash from cement and other materials? How and where do we dispose of the waste and do we have the cooling waters for safety?”

“What we need is a strategic impact assessment before any such industrial plant is established so that we can be safe before we repeat such mishaps,” said Nishat.

Statistics from the Mongla (sea) Port Authority show that navigation in the Sundarbans waterways has increased 236 percent in the last seven years. This means vessel-based regular pollution may continue to impact the world’s largest mangrove habitat’s health even if disasters like the Sundarbans oil spill can be prevented.

Increasing volume of shipping and navigation indicates growing industrialisation in the Sundarbans Impact Zone and the Sundarbans Ecologically Critical Area, which in turn will increase the land-based source of pollution if not managed.

The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which hosts range of animals and fish like fishing cats, leopard cats, macaques, wild boar, fox, jungle cat, flying fox, pangolin, chital, sawfish, butter fish, electric rays, silver carp, starfish, common carp, horseshoe crabs, prawn, shrimps, Gangetic dolphins, skipping frogs, common toads and tree frogs.

There are over 260 species of birds, including openbill storks, black-capped kingfishers, black-headed ibis, water hens, coots, pheasant-tailed jacanas, pariah kites, brahminy kite, marsh harriers, swamp partridges and red junglefowl.

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“What do you Become When you Shoot to Kill Someone who is Unarmed, & not an Immediate Threat to You?”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/become-shoot-kill-someone-unarmed-not-immediate-threat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=become-shoot-kill-someone-unarmed-not-immediate-threat http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/become-shoot-kill-someone-unarmed-not-immediate-threat/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 12:17:00 +0000 Zeid Raad Al Hussein http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155825 Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, addressing a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem

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Hamas says the demonstrations are meant to draw attention to the harsh conditions in Gaza. Credit: AFP

By Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein
GENEVA, May 18 2018 (IPS)

Appalling recent events in Gaza have called this Council into Special Session. Since the protests began on 30 March, 87 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli security forces in the context of the demonstrations, including 12 children; 29 others, including three children, were killed in other circumstances. And over 12,000 people have been injured, more than 3,500 of them by live ammunition.

The violence reached a peak on Monday 14 May, when 43 demonstrators were killed by Israeli forces – and the number sadly continues to climb, as some of the 1,360 demonstrators injured with live ammunition that day succumb to their wounds. These people, many of whom were completely unarmed, were shot in the back, in the chest, in the head and limbs with live ammunition, as well as rubber-coated steel bullets and tear-gas canisters.

Israeli forces also killed a further 17 Palestinians outside the context of the five demonstration hot spots. Together, this figure of 60 is the highest one-day death toll in Gaza since the 2014 hostilities.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Credit: UN photo

This was not “a PR victory for Hamas”, in the reported words of a senior Israeli military spokesman; it was a tragedy for thousands of families. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also described the demonstrators as being “paid by Hamas”, and has said the Israeli security forces “try to minimize casualties”.

But there is little evidence of any attempt to minimize casualties on Monday. Although some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, used sling-shots to throw stones, flew burning kites into Israel, and attempted to use wire-cutters against the two fences between Gaza and Israel, these actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force.

The stark contrast in casualties on both sides is also suggestive of a wholly disproportionate response: on Monday, on the Israeli side, one soldier was reportedly wounded, slightly, by a stone. Killings resulting from the unlawful use of force by an occupying power may also constitute “wilful killings” – a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Palestinians have exactly the same human rights as Israelis do. They have the same rights to live safely in their homes, in freedom, with adequate and essential services and opportunities. And of this essential core of entitlements due to every human being, they are systematically deprived.

All of the 1.9 million people who live in Gaza have been penned in behind fences and have suffered progressively more restrictions and greater poverty. After 11 years of blockade by Israel they have little hope of employment, and their infrastructure is crumbling, with an electricity crisis, inadequate health services and a decaying sewage system that constitutes a threat to health.

They are forced to seek exit permits from Israel for any reason, including for specialised health care, and many of those permits are denied or delayed – including permits for the majority of the demonstrators shot by Israeli security forces this week.

Israel, as an occupying power under international law, is obligated to protect the population of Gaza and ensure their welfare. But they are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanised by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appears officials do not even consider that these men and women have a right, as well as every reason, to protest.

Nobody has been made safer by the horrific events of the past week.

The human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory continues to deteriorate. Settlement building has again accelerated this year, together with rising settler violence. Demolitions of private property continue, including punitive demolitions, which constitute a deplorable form of collective punishment.

The small Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar, just east of Jerusalem, is at high risk of forcible transfer. This week, the villages of Beita and Nabi Saleh were subjected to closures and restrictions on movement following clashes with the Israeli forces. Israel also continues to detain large numbers of Palestinians, including children, although under international law the detention of a child must be a measure of last resort.

I also deplore the widespread and unprincipled use of detention without trial – described as “administrative detention” – and violations of fundamental fair trial guarantees. And the deficit in accountability for alleged extrajudicial killings and other violations, as previously reported by the Secretary General and my Office, undermines confidence in Israeli justice.

I therefore endorse calls made by many States and observers for an investigation that is international, independent and impartial – in the hope the truth regarding these matters will lead to justice.

Those responsible for violations must in the end be held accountable. In this context, as in all conflicts where impunity is widespread, unless ended by a peace settlement, excessive violence – both horrifying and criminal – flows easily from the barrel of a gun; becomes normal, destroying the occupied perhaps, but something crucial too in the occupier.

What do you become when you shoot to kill someone who is unarmed, and not an immediate threat to you? You are neither brave, nor a hero. You have become someone very different to that.

And then there is the fear and hatred – those dreadful twins, prolific in the manufacturing of violence and human suffering, now transforming into a psychosis, on both sides, more tightly spun, and more corrosive. And to what end? So we will all be destroyed?

The occupation must end, so the people of Palestine can be liberated, and the people of Israel liberated from it. End the occupation, and the violence and insecurity will largely disappear.

I urge Israel to act in accordance with its international obligations. Palestinians’ right to life, their right to security of the person and rights to freedom of assembly and expression must be respected and protected. All individuals’ right to health must be respected and protected, regardless of the context in which they may have been injured.

The rules of engagement for Israel’s security forces must be in line with Israel’s international obligations, and I urge that they be published. Children should never be the targets of violence and must not be put at risk of violence or encouraged to participate in violence.

I again remind all concerned that lethal force may only be used in cases of extreme necessity, as a last resort, in response to an imminent threat of death or risk of serious injury.

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Excerpt:

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, addressing a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem

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Indigenous Peoples Recover Native Languages in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 09:22:22 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155818 Ángel Santiago is a Mexican teenager who speaks one of the variations of the Zapotec language that exists in the state of Oaxaca, in the southwest of Mexico. Standing next to the presidential candidate who is the favorite for the July elections, he calls for an educational curriculum that “respects our culture and our languages.” […]

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